Cathy Hamilton: Perfect purse is too much baggage

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I am carrying the handbag from hell. (Note to male readers: Yes, this is a column about pocketbooks. But, there’s a payoff, if you’ll just hang in. Here’s a hint: It involves my husband’s “man purse” from 1975.)

My handbag seemed like the perfect gift when I received it on my last birthday.

The handsome, over-the-shoulder model in supple, saddle brown leather seemed like the ideal accessory.

It had a built-in organizer with slots for my credit cards and driver’s license, a handy cell phone holder and two outside pockets for my keys. There were three pen slots, a metal business card dispenser, matching leather key fob and four — count ’em — four zippered pouches.

That’s where the hellish part comes in. With so many compartments to store everything in an organized fashion, an unorganized mess like me can spend half her life rummaging through the darn thing.

Case in point: When I leave a store, restaurant or party, I insist on having my car keys in hand, at the ready, before exiting the building. This, as my family can attest, is a practice that borders on the pathological.

There I’ll be in the self-service line at the market — 10 impatient shoppers in line behind me — rooting around in my purse like a squinty-eyed mole in search of my keys.

Why, you might ask, wouldn’t I save the digging until I reach the car?

Because, I would reply, that would make me an easy target for thieves, carjackers and people who cruise parking lots, pointing and laughing at women rooting around in their bags like squinty-eyed moles.

Then why, you might persist, wouldn’t I simply put the keys in the same, designated pocket every time, so as not to repeat the molelike behavior? Because, I would answer, that is the dumbest question I’ve ever heard, and you should be embarrassed to have asked it.

The point is, there is no perfect purse. They’re either too big or too small, with too few or too many pockets, and a strap that’s too long or too short. But what’s my alternative, the fanny pack?

(Let me say this for the record, and I think I speak with some authority here: There is no scenario imaginable in which a fanny pack, worn around the waist of a human being — male or female — is a good idea. I know I’ll take some flack for this, but I’m standing my ground.)

“A good bag is hard to find,” I complained to my husband recently, as I burrowed for keys in the dark movie theater while the credits rolled. “You don’t carry a purse, so you don’t understand.”

“Hey, I carried a purse in college, remember?” he said, forgetting I’d spent years in therapy trying to erase the visual from my mind.

“That doesn’t count,” I snapped, as the memories rushed back. “You just used it to sneak beer into the Bonnie Raitt/Jackson Browne concert and almost got us arrested. Besides, it didn’t suit you. Not with your coloring.”

“Don’t remind me,” he answered, still obviously embittered. “It was my roommate’s, anyway.”

Wow. I never knew that. I always thought it was his man purse. I’d forgiven him the purchase because, after all, it was 1975. But now I had to deal with the reality of my 20-year-old future husband asking his roommate, “Hey, can I borrow your purse? I’ve got a hot date.”

Whoa ...

But back to the handbag from hell. I simply cannot carry this impractical purse any longer, no matter how supple its saddle brown leather or how cool the matching key fob.

So I embark on yet another quest for the perfect pocketbook.

The be-all, catch-all I’ve been searching for my whole life. The purse that will magically organize me, keep my keys at the ready and parking lot hooligans at bay.

A bag that’s neither too big nor too small, doesn’t have too many or too few pockets, or a strap that’s too long or too short.

If it exists in this world, I’ll make it my life’s quest to find it.

As for the old purse, well, that saddle brown does complement my husband’s eyes. And there is that Coldplay concert coming up …

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