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My last column was about handbags, specifically what they're called (purses or pocketbooks) and how they look (tote/social or backpack/warm). Here is some feedback I received:

1. "I thought only grandmas had 'pocketbooks.'" I forwarded that to my pocketbook-calling sister.

2. "I went to a small bag with no wallet and no checkbook, only a little purse for essentials." A wallet isn't essential? I had no idea Paris Hilton read my column.

3. "My mom had an obvious fake when she came back from a trip to New York City. When I mentioned it to her, she said, 'It's real -- they took me in the back room to let me pick it out.'" Interestingly, during the same trip her mother met a very nice gentleman named Bernie Madoff.

4. "I'm a big bag person myself. I could probably win at 'Let's Make a Deal.'" If you get this reference, you're old enough to call it a pocketbook (see No. 1).

5. "My mother never let go of her handbag. Even in poolside pictures she posed with the bag." Maybe Mom thought it could double as a flotation device.

When it comes to exploring a subject, I could shame Magellan. So I will continue to wring out this topic by talking about pocketbook placement. My friend Heather offered this illuminating (re: black light) information: "I don't put my bag on the floor anymore, not since I read about the 10 most unsanitary places. The bottom of your handbag is one of them if it's on the floor." She went on to mention a certain trace substance. We're all adults: It was ca-ca-doody. [Note to self: Keep pocketbook off floor and never, ever, touch Heather's bag.]

A troublesome location for purse placement is a public restroom. Why does the most germ-infested room this side of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have the least options for stowing a woman's purse?

One woman recently confessed that when there's no hook on the stall door, she hangs her handbag around her neck. It sounds more like a feedbag at that point. I wonder what she does when biking and can't find a place to put her Schwinn. If mounting a hook is too challenging, building managers should install Silkwood-style showers to decontaminate the bottoms of pocketbooks.

Dining areas provide more places to store a purse. There's the restaurant floor, although that's off limits thanks to my friend's top 10 gag list. Another option is the table, where my sister puts hers -- makes sense if her purse is made of glass, filled with water and holds flowers. Then there's a chair, but that brings its own issues.

Cynics would "never put a pocketbook on the back of the chair -- for sure some seedy character will swipe it in a New York second." That from my New York cousin.

My British friend says, "I am in awe of people who feel comfortable hanging their bag on their chair. I also get a burning desire to steal it."

Another told me her sister-in-law "always hung it over a chair until it was stolen and she had identity-theft problems for months." That makes me question the true identity of my British friend, Jane Doe.

Those less jaded will hang pocketbooks on chairs without concern for theft or gravity. "When I go out for lunch or dinner," Sue from Roanoke e-mailed, "my purse will pull the chair onto the floor because of its weight." Anything heavy enough to take down a chair isn't a purse, it's a portable storage container with a side pocket.

In movie theaters, many women put purses on neighboring seats, covered by a coat. That method is convenient, secure, and has the added bonus of providing a privacy barrier from other moviegoers. If that's not possible, my friend Terry puts her purse in her seat. She either has a very small purse or a very small, er, seat.

Many of us hang our purses on our knees, the preferred choice for me. However, lately I find myself frequently switching knees because of the strain on my legs. I should probably lighten my purse ... or start jogging. Maybe a wallet isn't essential.

My friend in Florida concludes, "The only solution is to come back in my next life as a man, but by then, men will all be carrying a pocketbook and I'll still have the same problem."

[April 15, 2009]

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