A Handbags Purpose is Not Dictated by Cost

I wrote this article back in 2007, when I was writing a regular editorial column for The Leader Newspapers in New Jersey.

I stumbled upon it recently and was so amused by the concept that I thought I’d share it with all of you. It remains unchanged from its original publishing. Jennifer and I each got a good laugh out of it again – I hope you all do as well.


My good friend Jennifer has an unhealthy obsession. No, it’s not with food or cigarettes or even alcohol. It’s with pocketbooks. Yes, you heard me correctly – pocketbooks; over 20 different varieties to be exact. As most men will attest to, it’s hard to understand the complicated world of women’s handbags. After all, I have but one wallet which seems to match with everything I own and typically lasts for decades even when it grows worn out and dated.

I’ve never been one for fashion, as was evident by the “shiny shirts” I used to wear in college, but as I’ve been told, you simply can’t have one pocketbook and expect it to match with everything. I always thought that black accomplished that feat. Silly me.

According to the book Carried Away: All About Bags (Farid Chenoune), the first real incarnation of this amazingly popular accessory came around the late 18th century. But since a purse, handbag, pocketbook, whatever you call it, is essentially a pouch, they’ve been used for as long as humans have been walking around the earth. And though pocketbooks have typically been relegated to the female race, men have been known to carry something smaller, an alternative to a backpack – our society humorously calling such items “manbags” or “murses”.

Recently, Jennifer, my wife and I were out having dinner and I couldn’t help but notice the size of her bag. At first I thought maybe she was leaving home for a few days as this massive piece of luggage made its home on a nearby chair. Imagine a pocketbook that required its own resting place.

As we were just about to leave, I watched on in amazement as she sifted through her luggage, I mean pocketbook, for what seemed like ten minutes searching for her car keys. After she shook it up and down and dug through its contents for a few minutes, I finally had to ask her “Jennifer, what’s in the bag?” She quickly replied “Just hair spray and a few hard candies.” I guess the complete contents would have taken much too long to list without the assistance of an Excel spreadsheet and a pie chart, so her response was understandable.

I suppose a bag that size might have some usefulness though. My late grandmother, god rest her soul, always found it helpful for taking home those extra dinner rolls and jellies from the diner.  And if my wife wasn’t around the other night, I probably would have asked Jennifer to shove the leftover Italian bread in her purse.

The other day, while shopping with my wife at a discount clothing store, I experienced one of the greatest sticker shocks of my life. While she was in the dressing room trying on a few things, I sat on a nearby bench (no doubt placed there for husbands patiently waiting) which just so happened to be facing a shelf filled with pocketbooks. Dozens of them in fact.

Unimpressed by their appearance, I glanced at the tag expecting to find the price $19.99. Boy am I naïve! The cost of this flamboyant, and in my opinion, ugly pocketbook was $225.00! The sad part? That was a discounted price! The original cost was well over $400. I don’t pay that much money per month for my car loan and yet there obviously must be people in the world who are willing to carry that kind of money around on their shoulders.

Years ago, I wrote a similar article about the store Bloomingdales and how my wife and I were given a gift certificate for $50. I was amazed to find that a simple, unadorned, button down white shirt was $125. With the way I typically drip tomato sauce or salad dressing on my clothes, you’d find me in tears if I knew I paid $125 for something and then needed to throw it away.

I guess my point is this. Now knowing some of “what’s in the bag”, does it really matter if it costs you $10, $50 or $100 if they all serve the same purpose? But as I said, I’ve never been one for fashion and spending my hard earned money on materials whose sole purpose is to impress others doesn’t really make much sense to me. I’d rather save that money to go on a nice vacation or renovate my kitchen or, dare I say, make a donation to a worthy cause more deserving of the money than my shoulder is.

Thankfully, Jennifer isn’t one of those shallow, materialistic people. She’s just crazy for pocketbooks – no matter what their cost. It’s a hell of an obsession just to carry around some hair spray and a few hard candies.