As long as I can remember, I've been a Big, Honkin' Bag girl. Even back in junior high and high school, my purse was large enough to hold a few paperback books, an umbrella, a bottle of soda and my Walkman along with several tapes (and those of you who are of a certain age, like me, will recall that back in the day, Walkmen were ginormous - a far cry from the itty-bitty iPods of today) as well as the "typical" purse items, like a wallet, make-up, etc. For a brief stretch in college, I way, way downsized to a wallet/keychain combo, but that didn't last more than a semester before I gave up and went back to the big bag. As a mom, I've found the big bag comes in very handy, and as the mom of a kiddo with SPD, especially so. While many other moms out there may carry such items as wet wipes and band-aids, I've also got mini-containers of Play-doh and other good, sensory items like that for a fidgety, sensory-seeking kid. Oh, and the band-aids, well, I don't have just one or two. Over the past five years, I've learned to carry a wide variety of sizes, shapes and styles. Need a Princess "tattoo" band-aid? Who do you want, Ariel or Jasmine? Ripped the skin clear off your knee? I've got the giant, rectangular ones - with or without the built-in antibiotic goo. (These especially have come in handy several times with my kiddo, whose bare knees have never met a sidewalk or chunk of asphalt they didn't like.) How about a Diego or Curious George for that cut on your finger? Check! When the kiddo was younger, I also carried a baggie with a spare diaper/pull-up, scented disposal bag and a mini-pack of wipes, just in case I was without the spares in the diaper bag or the mini-van. (I was a firm believer in always having a spare for my spare, back in the Pre-Potty Trained days.)
The reason I raise this topic right now is because I bought a new bag yesterday and I've just finished transferring stuff from my old purse into the new one. Now, I know there are women out there who have Many Cute Handbags - women who switch from one bag to another to suit their whim or match their outfit or mood. I am not one of these women. I'm definitely a more Utilitarian Handbag kind of gal. I do have a "dressy" black clutch that I will use on those very infrequent occasions when I am going out to a fancy shindig, but that happens maybe once or twice a year at best. While my grandmother was a strict "matching bag, belt and shoes" woman who tried her hardest to instill the same fashion ethic in me, I have strayed far from that particular rule. (Well, first off, I rarely wear belts these days, and secondly, my choice of footwear is generally either my Birks or a pair of clogs or boots, all somewhere in the brown family. The only exception to this is church on Sundays, and now that I think of it, I generally wear my Birks or clogs or boots to church, too...) I do occasionally have a small twinge of "Grandma is rolling over in her grave" when I'm slinging my brown bag over my shoulder in a black-based outfit - especially for church, but I shrug it off and head on my way.
Yes, my brown bag. My beloved, gigantic, prepared for war, I-can-fit-a-small-child-in-there brown bag. My most recent purse was a brown leather (pleather? it sure wasn't too expensive anyhow) messenger bag from Target. It was large, it was roomy, it had convenient storage compartments for all my stuff. I could even toss my camera in there with room to spare. Sure, it's heavy when fully loaded, but I'm used to it, having carried a Big, Honkin' Bag for decades now.
I have rules for my bags. Obviously, they must be large. They must have a shoulder strap that is long enough to allow the bag to rest about hip-high. My mother gave me a lovely handbag for my birthday two years ago, it was large, brown, and a gorgeous, real leather - it even was a Cool Brand (not that I recall what brand name it was) - this was a bag that Carrie Bradshaw et al might be seen carrying with pride. Unfortunately, it had short handles, so when I did put the straps up onto my shoulder, the bag was wedged underneath my armpit. Ew. I believe it is meant to be carried on one's forearm (and indeed, I've seen several of the same style carried just like that in the Star Tracks section of People's website), but that just doesn't work for me. It feels awkward and impeding of movement and with all the stuff I lug around, uncomfortably heavy, too. Hence, the shoulder strap-hip length rule.
I have found one style of bag once that isn't a shoulder strap-hip length bag that works for me. Two years ago, my handbag purchase (again from Target) was actually a leather backpack. I mourned its passing (one of the shoulder straps blew) because I'd gotten very used to having both hands/arms free without a bag dangling at my hip. It was quite helpful when toddler-wrangling, yet I still had all my Stuff with me, too. I envy those women who can go purse-less or who can carry a teensy-tiny, cute, little bag. I've got friends who don't carry any bag at all, but along with my envy, I just don't get how they can get by without all the necessary stuff. It befuddles me as much as I long to have the freedom of no purse to contend with. The backpack is the closest I've been able to come to No Bag at All, yet still have all my stuff.
This brings me to my current handbag. (Hmm, do you think I've now said "handbag" enough times to drive away any possible men that might be reading this? I guess I just assume that only women read my blog, anyhow...) Yesterday, Hubby, the kiddo and I ventured to the outlet mall in search of a sunhat for the kiddo for our upcoming vacation (we're going to Disney World, woo!), along with some other odds and ends. I've sort of been on a quest for a new bag for a few months now. The downside to buying inexpensive purses at Target, especially when they're subjected to heavy, daily use, is that eventually, they wear out. My messenger bag purse has been held together with a fair amount of superglue for a few months now. With our upcoming vacation, I'd been keeping an eye out for another backpack-style bag, but had yet to find one that is big enough to carry what I need to carry and also not utterly heinous looking. Not an easy quest, let me tell you. This bag is my dream bag, but the price tag on it means that I will not be placing my order at LL Bean until after I collect my lottery winnings. I have yet to find a more reasonably priced knock-off of my dream LL Bean bag, so I've been looking for a backpack like the last one I got at Target (which alas, is no longer available, because believe me, I've checked) instead.
Now, the outlet mall has a Wilson Leather store. I decided I'd pop in and check out the offerings. While Hubby and the kiddo sat on a bench outside the shop, growing more and more grumpy as they baked in the sun, I perused the selection of backpacks as quickly as I could. I found one, marked down from $98 to $19, that seemed like it would fit the bill, though it was significantly smaller than my messenger bag. The lure of the good deal (look! It was NINETY EIGHT DOLLARS and I'm getting it for ONLY NINETEEN!) and the need for a backpack coupled with the sight of my increasingly impatient family sweating on the bench outside finally overwhelmed me and I bought the backpack. Hubby was dubious when I showed him my purchase. "It seems kinda small, dontcha think?" I waved off his misgivings - clearly, his brain was addled from all that sun - and we went on our way.
Which brings me to this morning. I did The Big Transfer, moving stuff from the messenger bag over to the backpack. As it turns out? It's kinda small. Everything that I need fits, with some modifications - one container of Play-doh instead of three, not carrying my contact lens solution unless I happen to be wearing my contacts, that sort of thing. My wallet takes up a lot more room in the inside pouch than I had thought it would, so I think my next step will be to buy a smaller wallet (my wallet's been on the verge of total disintegration for aeons now) to free up some more room inside. (No, I will not admit to Hubby that the backpack I got is too small. Let's just keep that between us, shall we?) That way, I can carry this backpack for at least a few months - until Hubby forgets that I just bought it, and then I can get a new, bigger bag. This is my plan and I'm sticking to it, unless the LL Bean Fairy delivers one of my dream bags to my doorstep or I win the lottery. (Which, incidentally, is hard to do as I don't buy lottery tickets unless the Megamillions jackpot is over $100 million. I mean, really, why bother trying to win the lottery if it is only a few million, right?)
Those of you who are Cute, Little Purse women, or even No Bag at All women, how do you do it? How do you have the things you might need without carrying a BHB, especially if you're a mom? Please share your secrets - maybe it will help me adjust to the too-small backpack! Otherwise, when the time comes that I buy yet another BHB in a few months, at least I'll be happy I only spent $19 on the too-small backpack currently sitting downstairs in the kitchen.