Sassy at seventy: A woman’s life is her handbag

Nov 29, 2022
Contents of woman's bag. Source: Getty

In an episode of a recent television series, two women, afraid they are being stalked by a killer, decide to pack a bag and hide out in the country. The main character is waiting outside her house when the second woman drives up, gets out, takes the first woman’s bag and slips her handbag off her shoulder, and puts both in the boot.

“No!” I cried. No woman allows her handbag to be put in the boot, especially a woman afraid for her life, and doubly so for one with two small children she wants to stay in contact with. Your mobile is your lifeline in times like that. “Plot device,” I grumbled. The screenwriter obviously needed the woman not to be able to answer the call from two other friends warning her another friend could be the killer.

Must have been a male screenwriter. A woman writing the scene would have had the first woman grabbing back her handbag but have the mobile slip out unnoticed into the dark depths of the boot. Because women carry their lives in their handbags. Well, all the women I know do. And visit chiropractors. And need neck, shoulder, and back massages. Because there’s a lot of weight in a life. 

When I was young I could get by with a hanky, lipstick, money, and keys. No mobiles then so I didn’t have to take that into account. So a small handbag was adequate. Or even pants pockets.

Nowadays some handbags are so huge you could hide a tent in them. House and car keys, roller door remote, mobile, hair brush, touch-up makeup, wallet filled with so many plastic cards that if you put it in your pocket your pants would slide down to your knees. Diary for those not tech savvy enough to record their appointments on their mobile (me). Kindle to read while you’re waiting at the doctor’s because there’ve been no magazines in surgeries since Covid began. My generation still carries money, something almost laughable to younger generations. Plastic bag in case you forget to take one to the supermarket. Medications. Spare knickers. The list goes on.

My friend Sylvia likes a cross-body bag so her hands are free. Unfortunately not for me – my boobs seem to be in the wrong place. I like a shoulder bag but my shoulders look more like a dachshund’s than a bulldog’s so I have to keep raising the one side so the bag doesn’t slip off. Which means another visit to the chiro. A backpack bag would be the answer if I could find one that is smaller than I am.

Sylvia loves handbags. She has one for every occasion. And more for occasions, she will probably never get invited to. She can’t resist going into a handbag store even when she’s telling herself “I. Do. Not. Need. Another. Handbag”. But her feet take her there like she’s a pre-programmed robot. And a “Sale” sign acts like an accelerator.

On the red carpet at some swanky Hollywood awards recently, some of the stars carried handbags so small they probably only held half a line of cocaine. All very “In”, but you can bet there was a lackey in the wings with a real bag holding the essential tissues, lipstick, hairspray, extendable selfie stick, etc. 

When discussing medieval stories with my writer friend Laree recently, she dived into her handbag and brought out a weaving disc used in medieval cord or braid making. Knowing her dedication to in-depth research for her stories, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see her bring out a dagger, poison, and a bag of healing herbs. But I guess her eye drops, ointment, bandaids, soap sheets, masks, and sanitiser were the modern-day equivalent. Just to make sure I understood her girl guide’s enthusiasm for being prepared, she also brought out a face washer, hot chocolate sachet, foldup shopping bags, and a folding fan. I was waiting for the rabbit to appear on her next grab but remembered she was writing medieval, not magic realism.

My dream is to find a backpack-style bag that is lightweight, has plenty of zippered compartments and wide, comfortable straps that don’t dig into my shoulders, has an easy-to-reach pocket for my mobile, keeps its shape, looks stylish, and isn’t enormous.

What’s that you say? I should listen to that song from The Man of La Mancha? Oh. That’s right. The Impossible Dream.

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