Having an adult bag was always a fantasy of mine. It’s pretty lame as far as childhood fantasies go, but for some reason, being a fancy and competent lady with a leather purse was specifically something to which I aspired. When I was very small, I’d drag one of my grandmother’s retired purses around the house, filling it with empty gift cards and spare keys that my mother would offer. The concept of having a bag filled with things I needed, or perhaps merely needing things at all, seemed very adult. And at that age, “adult” was a glamorous word that conjured images of lipstick-wearing women who were always digging around in their leather sacks for house keys or change for the parking meter because they always had somewhere to be. And ostensibly, they always had something hiding in depths of their purse that would become a savior for an unforeseen obstacle. Purses were secret weapons, helping women become superheroes. To me, they were like wormholes into dimensions of an adulthood that I could only dream about—or see come to life via Kirstie Alley’s early ’90s filmography.
And yet, when I was actually at an age where I had things to carry and having a purse became a necessary accessory, I didn’t treasure it. I didn’t become that woman who had a bag full of useful, pretty things. I just became someone who lugged around a sack filled with exposed tampons, melted gum, corroded pennies, mystery sand, and lipstick runoff. Every time I’d get something from my bag, my hand would come out sticky or covered in pen ink. The novelty of the lady bag had worn off, until recently.
At a cafe, I noticed someone who reminded me of the kind of woman I fantasized about being. As she rooted around her bright yellow purse, I could hear the delicate clink of glass beauty products. As she dug for a pen to sign the check, she revealed an agenda book, a very sophisticated lipstick tube, a shiny compact mirror, and a small old book. She embodied exactly what I longed to be as a child. She had her shit together. She was prepared for everything. She was fashionable and cared for herself. She was organized and cultured. I was so in awe, I asked her where her bag was from and went home and ordered myself the very same one. In that moment, I realized that my messy bag was a reflection of my messy life. Starting with a fresh bag was the best way for me to give myself a fresh start, mentally. And so I filled my bag with my favorite products. I took care of them. I cleaned them. And having an organized bag started to inspire a mentality that felt a bit more, well, organized.
If a peek at what’s in your bag reveals who you are (and is also a strange never-waning internet trend), I wondered what my bag said about me now. I spoke with Doreen Corrado, a clinical social worker with a strong intuition about what bag contents can say about their holders. Here’s what was in my bag when it was analyzed: The purse (that I copied from the woman in the cafe) is the cross-body Giselle by Aimee Kestenberg, around which I tie a silk scarf from Mod Cloth to make it my own. Inside, I’ve got a Shinola journal used solely to take notes for my novel, which I take with my favorite Ban.do flower pen. I’ve also got a Poketo agenda book, a tiny old E. E. Cummings poetry book that was my dad’s when he was young, a watercolor painting my boyfriend made, and a small rock from a trip we took. Then there’s my calming chakra oil from The Fifth Veda, Little Barn Apothecary refreshing face mist, a Ban.do compact mirror, Excedrin, Frost mints, Glossier lip balm, Beem United noise-cancelling earbuds, Mophie phone charger, Dagne Dover card case, and a mostly melted Luna bar.
And here’s what Doreen had to say about it: The bag itself is significant in a way that reflects the juxtaposition of the modern young professional identifying with women of her past, another generation whom she saw as put together, and who inspired her to be, too. This is a woman who is very traditional and sentimental. The contents of this purse are of a girl who also lives a busy life; she is definitely a girl on the go, ready for what life throws her. A Luna bar for quick nutrition, music to listen wherever, phone charger, agenda notebook and pens for that impromptu thought or phone call, Excedrin, chakra oil (a bit of a twist here… a very Eastern approach to calm and zen). Never forgetting those last-minute dates with her special person or business meetings, face refresher spray, mirror, lip and cheek balm, and mints in hand. Yet the portrait is not one-dimensional. In addition to that young busy professional, she is also a bit of a traditionalist, with a sentimental book of poetry from her dad (a remnant of being a daddy’s girl) smoothly blended with a watercolor painted by her boyfriend and a pebble from a meaningful trip. This young woman is multitasking her life, ready to ride every wave.
Was Corrado’s read accurate? Well, as with all things in life, what you get out of your bag is a direct result of what you put into it. And I’m ready to ride those waves, purse in hand.