Handbags aren’t my thing. They never really have been. I remember the first purse I ever owned. It was a Minnie Mouse-shaped clutch that my aunt and uncle gave to me as a gift when I was maybe six or seven. I thought it was the most remarkable thing this side of the Mississippi. But I quickly found out that I couldn’t possibly run as fast as the neighborhood boys and hold onto my new treasure at the same time. And climbing a great white oak with one hand was certainly out of the question. So my new, shiny purse stayed in a drawer gathering dust and eventually became my old, forgotten purse.
Not much changed as I grew up. Handbags were often left on the sidelines. They weren’t on my radar in high school, or in college for that matter. And it’s not because I didn’t like fashion. Quite the contrary. I spent half of high school sitting in detention for reading Vogue in class. But I liked living simply and carrying only what I could manage. And my style wasn’t wrapped up in one item.
It wasn’t until my early 20s that I started experimenting with bags — partly because of a sense of expectation and partly to explore what femininity meant to me. For years, I tried on all different kinds for size: evening clutches, compact crossbodies, slouchy hobo bags, polished top handle bags, sleek bucket bags, you name it. Nothing fit me, especially the It bags. Those were the worst offenders of all. I wasn’t interested in showing off a status symbol. It felt forced, and phony. Like I was playing dress up in someone else’s stuff.
Purses slowed me down and made me fidget. I was always leaving them in a restaurant or worrying that I would. And I could never find anything inside them. I’d reach down into a black abyss for my keys and come up with crinkled spearmint gum wrappers, a leaky Bic pen, cracker crumbs, Kleenexes, a makeup compact, scratched sunglasses, tampons that came out of the wrapper, a handful of old receipts from God-knows-when, loose ibuprofen pills, knotted headphones or a mangled vanilla ChapStick that may or may not have been mine. I just needed my keys!
Fed up, I started to leave my handbag at home. I felt free as can be, but there were a few hiccups along the way. One summer night, in particular, I was getting ready to go dancing with my girlfriends at a bar in the Lower East Side of Manhattan. I was in a mad dash and the clock was ticking. I threw on a floral babydoll dress, a black felt hat and little black cowboy boots that just covered my ankles. I knew I didn’t want to deal with a bag while I was flaring around on the dance floor, but I didn’t know where the heck I was going to put my things. There wasn’t a pocket in sight, and I didn’t have time to change. Frantic, I duct-taped a small, leather credit card holder to my ankle. I went around and around. Then I shoved in some cash, my license and a house key and ran out the door. I thought I was so clever. That is, until I went home with a handsome Frenchman and completely forgot that I had an indestructible contraption glued to my leg. Try explaining that one.
Luckily, I have my bag-less routine down pat now. This time, it doesn’t involve Home Depot accessories. On a day-to-day basis, I carry my license, credit card and Metro pass in my right, back pocket. My keys, iPhone and on occasion, a travel-size tampon, are in my left. If I’m wearing a dress, it probably has pockets. So do my blazers, capes, jackets and skirts. As for all the other “necessities,” I leave them at home or in my desk at work. Surprisingly, you don’t need five Band-Aids, a bottle of Purell, a sewing kit, an iPad or lip gloss for most days. You’ll survive. And, guess what, you may even like it.