July 12, 2001
The Biggest Purse in the World


Wedding Anxiety Dream #43,897,621:

David has just finished hauling the laundry baskets into the apartment -- four or five loads total, from the looks of it -- and now he is standing in front of the sofa, sorting our clean clothes into neat, organized little piles.

Towels. Pillowcases. Socks. Underwear. Jeans. T-shirts. Bike shorts.

At one point he stops all of his busy sorting and folding and organizing, and he holds up what appears to be a child's plain white christening dress. (Either that or a Barbie nightgown, maybe.)

"Look!" he says happily. "I washed your wedding dress for you!"

End of Dream.

      *      *      *      *      *      *

I am now the proud  --  if slightly embarrassed  --  owner of what may very well be The Biggest Purse in the World.

I'm not kidding. This sucker is huge.  I've seen car interiors, frankly, that weren't as roomy and luxurious as this purse. Entire leprechaun families could probably set up housekeeping inside this purse, and still have room to add a second bathroom, a deck, a mother-in-law apartment and a koi pond in the backyard.

It truly is The Biggest Purse in the World.

The amazing thing about it, though, is that a purse was just about the last thing in the world I planned to buy yesterday, when I walked to Sears during my lunch hour. In fact, I wasn't planning to buy anything at all: I was simply attempting to flee the Totem Pole Company (and the latest round of Stoopid Chick Wars) for one blissful hour and seventeen minutes. And since I can't exactly pop into Le Oakland Grille for a triple bacon cheeseburger these days  --  or into the Hauf Brau for a couple of trendy microbrews  --  walking to Sears seemed like as good a lunch hour time-waster as any.

Once I found myself standing in the middle of a department store, though, I figured I might as well "look around" a little.

(Isn't that the way it always starts? You tell yourself you're just going to "look around" a little ... ?)

I needed a pair of earrings for the wedding, for one thing, to replace the cheap plastic pearls I'd ordered online. (Tip #43,897,621 for all prospective brides out there: DON'T order your bridal jewelry off the Internet. It's never as pretty as it looks on the website ... if you're not home to sign for it, you're gonna have to make a special trip to the FedEx office ... plus it's so cheesy you can't even give it to your daughter for Christmas next year.)

At that point, the idea of purse-shopping had not yet crossed my mind.

And why should it? Until now I have been perfectly content with my standard midsize shoulder-strap model. Yes, it's a little worn around the bottom ... and the zipper only zips three-quarters of the way across ... and one strap is fastened with an old diaper pin I found on a sidewalk in Berkeley in October 1998. Yes, it's a struggle, sometimes, to fit all of my Maybelline and my spare No Nonsense and my hardcover copy of "Dreamcatcher" into its cramped and messy interior. And no, it doesn't exactly say Smart confident young businesswoman on the go! (Mostly it says Cheap lazy middle-aged businesswoman with a DIAPER PIN holding her purse together.)  But it's comfortable, and it's reliable, and it gets me where I need to go.

Besides, I've always secretly thought big purses were stoopid, and unnecessarily ostentatious, and that they denoted a lack of forethought and organization on the part of the woman who hauls it around. If *I* can cram my lunch, my tennis shoes and my entire waterproof mascara collection into one standard midsize shoulder strap model ... why can't other women do the same?

Nope. No purse-shopping for this super-frugal, incredibly-organized Bride-to-Be. I was there to buy earrings.

And then I accidentally walked through the Accessories Department.

The Biggest Purse in the World was displayed, right at eye-level, at the very end of the handbag aisle. The thing about this purse that caught my attention first -- besides the fact that it was as big and black and shiny as a hearse  -- were all of the groovy accessories spilling out of the top of it.  A matching billfold! A portable umbrella! A mirror! A personal organizer/calendar/address book!

Not one but TWO zippered cosmetic bags!

And  --  the clincher for me  --  a second purse ... a tiny clone of The Biggest Purse in the World. The smaller purse can be detached and carried separately when you're not in the mood/wouldn't be caught dead/don't have the upper-body strength to carry a Posturepedic-sized handbag over your shoulder all day.

This would be be perfect for the honeymoon! said a little voice inside my head. You can leave the *big* purse in the hotel room, and then take the *mini-purse* out with you while you're visiting the Whalebone-Corset Museum!

I picked up The Biggest Purse in the World and slung it experimentally over one shoulder, just to see how it felt. It was surprisingly lightweight, considering its size: it tucked itself neatly and comfortably under my arm, like it belonged there. I poked around the interior a little bit. Plenty of room for a Calistoga and a People Magazine, said the little voice ... and it would probably still fit under the seat in front of you.

By that point, of course, the OTHER little voices in my head had begun chiming in with the dissenting opinion.

  • You don't need a new purse! said the dissenting voice.
  • You don't want a new purse!
  • You don't need OR want a new purse with more groovy accessories than *you* have!
  • You promised David you would be careful about money for the next little while!
  • You promised YOURSELF that you would be careful about money for the next little while!
  • David will kill you totally dead if you come home with this purse! *

* disclaimer: this last one is not true.
david would NOT in fact kill me totally dead if i
came home with a new purse.
if i came home with a puppy or a kitten
or a small Asian-American child, maybe ...
but not with a purse.

But by then it was too late. I was sold. The next thing I knew, I was standing at the register, handing the sales clerk my credit card.

("Wow! That's a REALLY BIG purse, isn't it?" she exclaimed. "It's for my daughter," I lied, red-faced.) 

Once I got back to the office  --  with my enormous new purse safely stowed in a Sears shopping bag, along with a pair of pearl earrings, a pearl bracelet, a floral print skirt and two blouses that I didn't need/didn't want/couldn't afford  --  I faced the next big challenge. How do I smuggle home The Biggest Purse in the World without David seeing it? He's certainly going to notice if I get into the car lugging this leather behemoth under my arm ... and the truth is that I'm not sure I'm ready to admit to owning it, let alone admit to buying it for myself.

How do you conceal a thing like that?

And the answer, of course, is that you don't conceal it. For one thing, "concealing" things from the man you are going to marry in eight days, nine hours, 48 minutes and 18 seconds is a bad idea ... especially when your relationship, until now, has always been built upon a foundation of trust, honesty and total partnership in all things. For another thing, I am not required to explain or justify or "conceal" something I purchased with my own money. It's not like we're the Ricardos, forcryingoutloud.

And for another-another thing ... why go to all the trouble of "concealing" something when you can hide it in plain sight?

You simply stuff your old reliable standard midsize purse inside The Biggest Purse in the World (along with all of the other merchandise you purchased during lunch: god knows there's enough room in there) ... and then when your fiance shows up, you climb into the Subaru, sling the purse into the backseat, and give him a deep, lingering *hello* kiss ...

... with one hand on his thigh. 

(Trust me. Even if he notices The Biggest Purse in the World, he isn't likely to say anything about it at that particular moment.)

Later in the evening  --  when dinner is over, and things have settled down, and the atmosphere around the apartment is all mellow and relaxed and honest and stuff  --  you can drag the clothes and the jewelry out of their hiding place in the closet and lay them on the bed and in your very best Thank god THAT'S over with tone of voice say "Whew! I'm almost done with all of my trousseau shopping!" He'll be so impressed with your powers of organization/shopping savvy (and so confused by the word "trousseau," which he believes either has something to do with mushrooms or feminine hygiene products -- he's not 100% sure which) that he'll probably wind up thanking you for buying this stuff.

Finally  --  as the pièce de résistance  --  you can show him The Biggest Purse in the World.

"Look, Honey!" you can say. "I've solved our carry-on problems!"

If you say this with the right combination of spritely conviction and earnest self-congratulation  --  and if you're mostly-naked when you say it  --  it's probably not going to even occur to him to wonder 'WHATcarry-on problems?  I didn't know we had carry-on problems.'

Plus he isn't likely to yell at you  --  or laugh at you --  for buying The Most Ridiculously Enormous Purse in the World.

one year ago: ouch therapy

throw a rock