The Goddess Speaks
East Coast trip forces purse quest
Yesterday I went shopping for a black purse. With winter trips to the East Coast in my future, I had acquired a black coat and black shoes. But I'm a one-man, one-purse kind of woman, and my nifty tropical handbag with palm trees probably wasn't going to work in the Land Without Color.
Not being up on the latest fashion, and somewhat delusional about the actual cost of being in style, I had thought this to be a simple matter of walking into an outlet store, pointing at the desired item, plunking down 40 bucks and driving home with the goods.
I was very much mistaken on all counts. The first thing I learned was that every purse that meets any kind of fashion criterion these days is either minuscule or huge. Either you carry one credit card and a tiny cell phone and nothing else, or you pack your household goods into something covered in pockets, straps, chains, metal studs, hooks and so much bling that even I, who am not intimidated easily, was frightened by the commitment to size, weight and metal.
"I just want a plain black purse," I explained to yet another tall and scary-looking anorexic salesgirl, who obviously could fit her whole wardrobe into the smaller of the two available purse sizes. She looked down her nose at me -- and I'm not short -- and pulled out something that looked like a dominatrix laundry tote. Black, no bling, but scary just the same.
"No," said I, "just a plain black medium-size purse." After some thought she bypassed the glitter appliqué items, and the patchwork jobs running $450, to show me a nice, fairly plain black bag on the clearance rack.
"Three-hundred dollars on the clearance rack?" choked I. Lucky me, I had the opportunity to be both poor AND out of style.
I did eventually find a reasonably priced plain purse, and of course it did come off a clearance rack, because if you want a plain purse, you might as well resign yourself to being on last year's fashion agenda. But the whole exercise of trying to fit my Hawaii sensibilities of being practical into a mainland point of view that a purse isn't just a bag for carrying wallet, cell phone and water -- but a personal statement -- well, it was exhausting.
Why on earth would you want either a purse so small you can't stow much of anything useful in it, or a purse so heavy with bling and barnacles that you need a crane to lift it? I am quite happy now with my medium-size plain black purse, which I plan to use only on the East Coast, where color marks you as either weird or a tourist or both.
My funky and well-loved tropical number isn't quite ready for retirement yet, however, and I have become, suddenly, a two-purse person. But I still kept the same old man.
Cris Rathyen teaches English at Moanalua High School.
The Goddess Speaks
is a feature column by and about women. If you have something to say, write "The Goddess Speaks," 7 Waterfront Plaza, Suite 210,
Honolulu 96813 or e-mail email@example.com.