My husband, Brian blatantly refuses to open a lady’s purse. He says they’re, “too intimate, like standing in someone’s personal space.” Even if you just ask him to grab the keys, he will bring you the purse and let you find the keys. I first noticed this habit when we were dating, at the time I thought he was just scared he would find a tampon but as I’ve grown older, and I find my purse filled with unusual things, I tend to agree with him. A ladies purse is private.
When I initially contacted dozens of women and girls asking the question, “What’s in your purse? Tell me everything” I expected to learn about generational and lifestyle differences. Rather, I was struck by the intimacy of the question, by knowing the contents of an individual’s purse, one gets a glimpse of who they are, what they value, how they spend their time and who they love.
In this piece I would like to expose the secret things we carry, and embrace the idea that they are ever changing.
Purse of 3-year-old girl
Two quarters, a bottle cap, three buttons and an acorn.
Purse of 12-year-old girl
Entire make-up bag, sunglasses, sunscreen, ear buds, a small bottle of Tylenol, a stick of deodorant, rubber-bands for her braces, orange nail polish, hair straightener, fourteen hair ties, a wallet, and a pair of knee pads.
Purse of 18-year-old girl
A stick of deodorant, lip gloss, car keys, an iPhone, a wallet, a condom, Dairy Queen name tag, three headbands, ear buds, a small mirror, two tampons, purple mascara, a blue pen, a mini-perfume, two restaurant receipts, and one movie stub.
Purse of 25-year-old mother of 2
Six grocery receipts, three Hot Wheels cars, a plastic ball, car keys, two diapers, a pack of wipes, baby sunscreen, a cherry chapstick with a missing cap, a broken pen, four loose fruit snacks covered in cracker crumbs, a hair band, an expired coupon for diapers, a broken necklace, and a small piece of plastic that I don’t recognize. It looks like it might have fit inside something bigger and round at some point.
Purse of 31-year-old single mother of 4
Coupon for a free McDonald’s drink, purple eyeliner, purple mascara, lipstick, tweezers, a flip phone, a small bottle of Aleeve, car keys, pantyhose, a box of Musinex, a broken wireless mouse, an overdue power bill, day-care paperwork, a black pen, a Snickers bar, a pay stub, two bobby pins, a wallet, a doctor reminder for the baby, seven grocery receipts, one auto parts receipt, one dime and one penny.
Purse of 42-year-old mother of 5
Four 8 oz. bottles of water, one sippy-cup, five diapers, two packs of wipes, two pacifiers, a baby rattle, two teething toys, a box of thumbtacks, lotion, pack of gum, coin purse, six small rubber bands, a comb, a flip phone, a gift certificate for a box of chocolates, vial of tea tree oil, 2 old cheese sticks, package of crackers, 2 ticket stubs for school picnic, grocery receipt, a blank envelope and a child’s spelling test.
Purse of 61-year-old grandmother
A pack of gum, a checkbook, coin purse, a classic chapstick, mini Vaseline, two lipsticks, a mini lotion, mini hand sanitizer, hearing aid batteries, cuticle cream, small mirror, a sleeve of Tums, nail clippers, mini-measuring tape (grand-kids love to play with miniature things), eye drops, a box of matches, dental wax, car keys, a black iPhone, a clothespin, two mini Twix bars, three cough drops, three band-aids, two pantyliners, a small package of Kleenex, a small notebook, three black pens, one Target receipt, and a bottle of heart medication.
Purse of 75-year-old grandmother
A wallet, a pack of Kleenex, two receipts from clothing stores, three restaurant receipts, small hand sanitizer, a pill-box with daily medications, a tiny perfume, a lipstick, a small mirror, nail clippers, hand cream, a blue pen, a silver iPhone, and 103 dollars in cash.
My purse, is also full of diapers, baby sunscreen, children’s toys, pay stubs and fruit snacks. That is the phase of my life at the moment. Looking at my purse, you’d assume I’m busy and that I spend my days in the sun with little children who require sunscreen, clean diapers, tummies fed, and almost all my attention. My purse also has acorns in it that little hands ask me to hold and a necklace made of pipe cleaners. One might also correctly speculate that at this point in my life, I am loved beyond measure.
Children fill our lives and our purses with so much more than we ever imagined we could carry. It’s such a brief time that we hold so much in our arms. A newborn for a month, an infant for a precious year, a toddler for two messy little years, a preschooler for another two, a child for five, a pre-teen for another three and a teenager for another five wonderful years… and then, they’re gone. And they take with them so many of the trinkets, notes, ticket stubs, and receipts that we have gotten so used to carrying.
We may find that we don’t know what to put in our purses without them.
While I often fantasize about the day I don’t have to carry diapers in my purse, I must remember to enjoy this time where it is necessary because it’s a honor to raise these children. It’s a privilege to carry this purse filled with the evidence of so much love.