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Michiana Chronicles writers bring portraits of our life and times to the 88.1 WVPE airwaves every Friday at 7:45 am during Morning Edition and over the noon hour at 12:30 pm during Here and Now. Michiana Chronicles was first broadcast in October 2001. Contact the writers through their individual e-mails and thanks for listening!

Michiana Chronicles: My lips are pursed

Jeanette Saddler Taylor

Some topics are small; some topics shatter the earth. This topic may not be of interest to everyone, but to some, it can open a dissertation. This topic is a first world topic, and it may seem small, but on the right day it can shatter someone’s earth. This topic is handbags. As a small child, what my niece, Madonna, referred to as a “pocketpurse.” Not a wallet, but in the way of a small child a curious word-hybrid of words she had heard used: purse and pocketbook. She was about 3 and so proud of her new straw Easter “pocketpurse.”

Some thoughts on purses that need discussion: Fitting rooms, Costs, Material, Size and fit, Season and occasion.

Have you ever bought a handbag, taken it home, and discovered that it doesn’t “fit?” Your regular day-to-day impedimenta won’t fit into it without it looking crammed, misshapen, and unsightly. If it will close at all, that is. Why are there not carrel-type stations where you can dump your stuff onto the counter and then try to fit it into the handbag under consideration? It would be such a boon to civilization.

Cost is another consideration: “Now, how much would you pay?” How badly do you neeeeed/want it? There are purses that cost upwards of $50,000. Those won’t be coming home with me, but I do have a fantasy of my honey, Larry, leaving work for the day and upon his return, my cheerfully reporting that I sold our home and got four lovely handbags. That one is right up there with Jack, the cow and the magic beans: a fairytale. Interestingly enough though, the slightly more expensive, but within reason, model often gives the best value for longevity.

Just in case cost didn’t strike a chord of crisis of conscience, let us think about the material from which said purse is constructed. There is a trend toward a product labeled as “vegan leather.” It’s supposed to be a kind-to-animals construction material. No animals die to produce the material, but consider that it is a petroleum-based product and weigh those elements and outcomes. Also consider that many cows, sheep and pigs are killed each day for food consumption. What happens to their hides? Does vegan leather cause them to be wasted? When I was a hippie youth, I had a homemade corduroy bag that I loved hugely. It perfectly met my needs, and I thought that it looked very cool, a la Cher, but the cotton probably was poorly harvested. There’s no winning this one.

Size and fit are functions of need, fashion, and occasion. On a day-to-day basis, we have circled back to the fitting-station. For security there are crossbody or backpack models. For hands-free convenience, there is a shoulder bag. (We’re not even going to discuss fanny packs.) and for style there are satchels and clutches. When I first married when a young woman, I thought, “Oh, how nice! I won’t have to be burdened with a purse. My husband has keys and money. I’ll just put a handkerchief and lip gloss into my pocket and be ready to go.” What can I say? The reality was that he was giving me things to put into my purse so that he wouldn’t have to carry them. I was so naïve.

Season and occasion are critical too. Straw and florals for summer, suede for winter. Those tiny clutches for “fancy:” (Back to the handkerchief, lipstick and maybe an emergency $20 bill as the contents.) Big, honkin’ totes for the days when you just want to have everything that you own at hand because the day is going to be full of the unexpected and you want to be prepared.

Like magazines, there also is a museum for everything and in Little Rock, AK, there is a purse museum. Look up more about this online, grab your “pocket purse,” and consider heading on down.

Music: Vivaldi Four Seasons 1st Movement "Spring"

Jeanette Saddler Taylor lives and writes in South Bend where she is retired, but is active in several community organizations.