My Midlife Crisis Handbag

Let me tell you about my new purse. It is glossy red like a 45-year-old’s convertible. Exactly as shiny and red as cherry pie filling. Like raspberry lip gloss with a handle.

I was out looking for shoes, as is my wont, and had been sorely disappointed by the selection of size 11s at Winners. On my way out of the store, through my veil of tears, I spied handbags.

My last post about handbags was when I spilled the photocopier toner on the bag I was using to carry things to work and then I bought an indestructible $5 Value Village gold leather purse. Yeah, it’s still around. It was indestructible, remember? But what I’ve actually been using to carry stuff around in is a wee handbag that perches at the top of my stroller, in the folds of the sun canopy when the sun canopy is not canopying. Holds wallet, keys, lip balm, gum, tissues and right within reach so that if the baby’s in the carrier I don’t have to do a very difficult low squat.

Actually the squat isn’t the problem, it’s getting back up that is up to fate most days.

In other words, I do not need a new purse. For someone who goes to 1. playgrounds 2. Safeway 3. toddler dance class once a week 4. Superstore on weekends, I am all set with my purse solutions.

This did not stop me from looking at every single purse at Winners. Every single one. I touched purses that cost $150. They were buttery soft leather. I touched tiny corduroy bags that reminded me of my misspent youth. I touched ugly fake-leather briefcase types. And then, suddenly, this bright red unnatural fibred purse jumped out at me. It has a lining of nylon cheetah print.

I won’t say I HAD to buy it because obviously I did not have to buy it.

In fact, I really had to battle myself to buy the purse. It is Not Me at all, or the Me I persist in thinking I am despite evidence to the contrary. The Me I think I am is practical, frugal, no-nonsense. She does the right thing, works hard and doesn’t complain. She rotates the tires on her car on time.

In other words, I am not my father. No, my father would never buy this purse, even if he was the kind of person who carried a purse. (He is not. He drives a truck instead.) My father, if he carried a purse, would be carrying the same purse he bought for a fair price in 1977. If the purse ain’t broke, reinforce it with stainless steel so that mother will NEVER wear out, that would be my dad’s approach.

Despite it being completely impractical and Not Me, I carried the purse around with me while i touched other purses, darker purses, purses with more pockets, purses that would go better with my uniform of jeans and black t-shirt. I stood in front of the mirror with it over my shoulder and imagined myself at the playground, in the rain, spit up splashed on my hair. It was incongruous, to say the least. But I couldn’t put it down. And in the end I thought back to my horoscope for the week, where Rob said to practise being a “cocky wacko” (like Aquarian Sarah Palin but never mind) and the choice, then, was obvious.

I brought it home, put it on the counter, smiled lovingly at it.

“What…is…THAT?” said Saint Aardvark.
“My new purse,” I said.
“No, really,” he said, “is it for Trombone? To practise his zippering?”
“Nope,” I said. “It’s mine.”
“Have you lost your mind?” he asked. I had no good answer.

This purse is amazing. Even though I am the one in charge of putting things in the purse, I am still delighted by the things that come out. It is magic like the bag of Mary Poppins. The same wallet, keys and tissues go in and come out, but now they are tinged with excitement, touched by cheetah print, lightly glossed by red patent. I catch a glimpse of my purse, sitting against the orange of the buggy (by the by, this is not a colour palette I recommend if you are sensitive to what the kids used to call “clashing”) and I cannot help but smile because it is so ridiculous.

All of it, my whole life, the daily grind of it, is ridiculous and exciting and often laughable and I forget that it is. I forget because in the moment I describe my life as challenging and dull and even, some days, excruciating. In the moment I often feel exhausted and troubled and like I am being tossed about by gale force winds but I know someday, fates willing, I will look back at this time and laugh. I guess I decided it would be more like The Real Me to laugh now, not wait 10 or 20 or 30 years.

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