I used to think that a woman could be defined by what kind of handbag they carried.
Like most, I started with a book bag for school. It was so exciting to fill it each year with fresh school supplies, tissue boxes, and lunch. Morphing into womanhood started in middle school and into high school, carrying a rather over-sized draw-string tote. Deeply layered were cosmetic bags, hair accessories, a comb and brush, hairspray, a butane curling iron, wallet (empty of course, I didn’t really have a job but it matched the tote), a spiral note-book that my best friend and I passed in the hallways, an array of gel pens, body spray, mix-tapes, and a collection of tampons because even if I didn’t need one at the moment, there would be someone who did in the girls’ bathroom. And I never pass up an opportunity to be a hero. College was less about size and more about image. I bought a designer handbag with my first real paycheck. Neatly organized inside was the matching wallet (of course), calendar, lipstick, my first checkbook, and a collection of business cards. The smell of the leather put a smile on my face and I couldn’t help but stroke the soft pebbled lightly tanned leather. I felt accomplished and professional. Then came motherhood and I traded professional for practical, a black micro-fiber diaper duffle. Seriously, who can carry everything in a diaper “bag” unless it is the size of a grocery bag or maybe a trash bag? My first daughter was almost 9 weeks premature and had reflux which required me to bring a change of clothes for her and for myself everywhere. Mixed in with our wardrobe were breast pads, a mini-pump, bottles, snacks, toys, diapers, baby wipes, diaper ointment, a changing pad, chap stick (no lip stick because I might get a smear of pouty pink across my face from a rogue arm flailing around while nursing) my giant wallet and checkbook duo, and a book for the off chance she would fall asleep in the car and I would park in the shade some where, roll down the windows and read. Then I upgraded to the diaper tote when I had to lug around enough stuff for two children, especially since the first one was now potty training when the second child was born (not sure which was worse, the reflux or pee-pee clothes). It didn’t take long to abandon the large bags as soon as diapers and potty training had ceased in order to avoid compliance with “Mommy/Honey could you put this in your purse for me?” I am finally carrying a sleek clutch that just fits my lip gloss (still no lipstick because it hinders my ability to randomly kiss my children), cell phone, id, cash card and credit cards. Most of the time.
I used to think it was important to define a woman, to “figure her out”, until recently. Today, after reading my first post, someone asked me what my blog was really going to be about, what was the common thread that was going to define my writing, what was the purpose of writing? Did I want to write about motherhood, being a wife, writing inspiration, etc.? I must confess that I climbed into a defensive black hole and spent much of the day trying to define this blog, trying to define myself. Anxiety overwhelmed rational thought because all I could hear was my inner whining of “I don’t have a common theme…I don’t do anything consistently…” There just wasn’t a clear image of which handbag I should be carrying. I don’t know if it was the result of a long day of deep reflection or deep glasses of Pinot Noir that brought me to this currant conclusion. I am the common thread. Each day requires a different bag, sometimes more than one: the musician’s gig bag, a tote bag of books, notebooks and pens, the professional purse or the sleek clutch. But at the end of the day – it is always me carrying the bag. I’ve learned to quit “defining” other women, because it is just a polite way to say “judge” or “speculate”. There really isn’t much we can predict about anyone by what kind of bag they are carrying because only the contents tell the story. It is the contents that I am going to focus on…it is the sum of all the contents that carry me.