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Excess Baggage
Congratulate me -- this is my 100th Odd Angles column! To celebrate, I'm going to break two promises I made to myself: Never self-reference the column (see previous) and never open with a definition (see following).

Purse: a receptacle (as a pocketbook) for carrying money and often other small objects. Pocketbook: a purse; a handbag.

I checked those after a telephone conversation with my sister, who made a point of distinguishing the two words. Maybe I should slip those definitions into her PURSE.

Me: "So I looked in my purse and ..."

Sister: "Hold on --- your purse?"

Me: "Yeah, my pur ..."
Sister: "A purse! Well, aren't you hot stuff?"

Me: "I do feel a little warm, but my doctor says it's normal considering ..."

Sister: "What, you're too good for a pocketbook? That's what it was when you lived here [New York]."

I gave her opinion some thought, because I respect my elders. Sure, she's my elder by two minutes (we're twins), but as I age, minutes balloon into years. By the time I hit 50, she'll be in her late 60s. I got input from Sue, a friend who lived in New York for 50 years before retiring to Florida. "A purse? Who are you kidding, it's a pocketbook. What are you, some kind of idiot?"

She was right ... about the pocketbook issue, not the idiot part. In Virginia it's a purse; in New York, a pocketbook, unless it's associated with a horse race, in which case it is a purse. If I bet on it, it's last. A friend of Sue's calls it a handbag. We agreed that was idiotic.

No matter the name, women are sensitive about their, er, purcketbag. My Aunt Anna was never seen without hers. My (older) sister and I can't remember a time when she wasn't clutching her purse. I think Aunt Anna was buried holding it, which isn't a bad idea. I plan on having directions to heaven in mine -- an arrow pointing up should do the trick.

A little online searching found countless articles and books about handbags: historical, fictional, informational, analytical. Lots of people have dissected the true meaning of one's carryall. One blogger suggests women "give some extra thought to what you carry by finding out what each style typically represents and what your handbag says about you."

Although I'd have guessed my years-old Kohl's clearance backpack-style bag said cheap, apparently it shows that I am "warm and young at heart." Luckily, it doesn't reflect sagging shoulders, which is why conventional shoulder bags slide off me quicker than an insult about me saying "purse."

Interestingly, all of the friends I polled (four) prefer big tote-style bags. They are, that blogger concludes, fun, generous, sociable and refined. Thanks to my lousy backpack, I'm only young at heart (read: old) and warm (read: hot flashes; see young at heart and hot stuff). No wonder I only have four friends. Here I thought it was because I'm opinionated and self-referencing.

My friend Linda carries a huge bag to fit her "book, checkbook, wallet, comb, address book, keys, cell phone, chap stick, etc."

Etc? What else is there, her favorite chair? I've seen her bag. Heck, people on the space station have seen her bag. It's so big, she has to buy a seat for it when she flies.

Which brings me to my next column: The Pocketbook Placement Dilemma. From restrooms to restaurants, where do we stow it?

[April 1, 2009]

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