If Handbags Could Chat (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

The Mama Kat prompt that I ended up with this week (via random.org) asks, “What do the contents of your handbag/purse ‘say’ about you?” Oh boy.


When my sister-in-law Ann got her RN degree in May 1993, she had worked so hard. She had two young children and was very pregnant with a third. She chose to spend the graduation gift money she had received on a Dooney & Bourke handbag. Ann, my mother-in-law, some other female relatives and I were standing at Dillards looking at the options when she pointed out the one she liked the most. I said, “That doesn’t look like a “mom of three” purse.” Meaning it didn’t look that practical – no little pockets on the outside to hold stuff, and kind of sleek and trendy looking. She said, in a tone that was a unique combination of flippant and reflective, “Thanks a lot,” as in “thanks for reminding me that I am giving my body, brain, and heart to three little beings on top of being a wife, earning an RN degree, and all of that.”

She got the purse. She loved the purse. When she passed away in her sleep six months later, one of the first things my mother-in-law said was, “I am so glad she went ahead and got that purse that she wanted and she enjoyed it.” I was too.

When Kat asked what my purse says about me, I wondered how I could respond without repeating my sock drawer blog. I decided that I would turn the topic around just a bit to “If my purse were threatened with replacement by a high-end handbag, how would it respond?” Let’s call my purse, for short, B.U.P. for Black/Brown Utilitarian Purse. Let’s say that some handbag fairy has decided to bestow upon me a $400 “high end” purse carrying a girl’s name (you know, a “Kristen” or a “Natalie.”)

The B.U.P.:

B.U.P. to “Natalie”:
Natalie, here are the reasons why it’s just impossible for Paula to be “into” you:
A) She just doesn’t care that much. When her purse was stolen out of her car, she was unable to tell the police anything except, “It was a black thing that I got from Target.”
B) If you don’t have a carrying handle, a shoulder strap (for times when she needs to carry you “city style” to avoid getting mugged), and an outside pocket for her cell phone and Blackberry, no amount of exotic leather trim will make her love you.
C) She will not change purses to match her outfits. So you’re going to be at a party, with all of your brass/walnut brownness going on, and she will be wearing black pants, a silver shirt, silver accessories, and black shoes. Your other high-end named handbag cousins, on the arms of their perfectly coordinated owners, will smirk at you from beneath their clasp closures.
D) She actually knows you and your type pretty well. When it is her job to mystery shop at the store where you are sold, it is a true acting exercise for her to pretend she cares about studded leather trims or chain-link hardware.
E) Between you and me, I don’t mind getting insulted by all the times she throws in the wadded up gum and other questionable substances that come with being the mother of a boy. You, though — you know that would gross you out.
F) If given the option of spending $30 on someone like me or $400 on someone like you, she would, even if she had the money, take the purse for $30 and apply $370 to the trip she has planned to Guatemala to visit the child her family sponsors.
Natalie, maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ll find myself languishing here on the dresser watching the cat fantasize about the great big world out there while you and Paula go to work and play. Maybe you’ll grow on her and she’ll be more susceptible to the smell of “luxurious leather” than I would have predicted. If so, I guess I should let you in on the fact that you’ll be listening to a lot of audiobooks as you drive around town.
Books like this:

12 thoughts on “If Handbags Could Chat (A Mama Kat Writing Workshop Prompt)

  1. Once upon a time, in my former life as a newspaper reporter in the pre Iphone era, I carried my Jimmy Hoffa Bag. It was a large black “leatherette” bag that big shoulder straps. In it, I carried several reporter notebooks, a wallet, numerous pens, pencils, marketers, an umbrella, a raincoat, a two-way radio and often a second pair of shoes. I always told people that if I dug deeply enough into the bottom of the bag, I'd likely uncover Jimmy Hoffa.

  2. Hi there, I'm visiting from Mama Kat's. My purse reveals my scatterbrainedness, but I'm with you – I just don't care that much about purses. Touching story about your sister-in-law. I'm glad that she got the purse that she did care about.

  3. So ironic – my sis and I were shopping just a few days ago & talking about purses & what they say about me. Right now, I'm carrying a lime green faux-croc “statement” purse. It cost me $16 at Walmart.:-) Analyze that!

  4. I laughed and cried! Such a sweet story about your SIL and a nice way to remember her.

    I didn't know where this prompt would take me either, but I found it very interesting to actually have to acknowledge all the stuff I carry around. And for what?! Well… one never knows 🙂

  5. This was a great post! The story about your sister in law re-affirms my decision to make more choices lately for myself as a woman, and less in light of practicality/being a mom.. a simple thing like a purse or a pair of shoes I would really enjoy. And the speaking about purses and their contents was insightful too. Great response to the prompt! And thank you so much for your comment on my blog!

  6. Nicely done from a touching and thought provoking start into a humorous way to answer the prompt.

    I forced myself into a smaller handbag so I'd probably get “you want to fit what in here?!” although that is probably better than the “do you really need that as well?!” that the old one would have given me 😀

    Thank you for visiting.

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