What’s Inside Our Purses Says A Lot… But Not Everything

38145fd3-c8f6-4f94-9b51-e239c8ba657dIn front of us, piled on a highly glossed wooden table, was an assortment of keys, lipsticks, mascaras, and hand creams. There was one tube of foot cream, two bottles of Advil, one bottle of Excedrin, and assorted prescription drugs. There were tea bags, nail files, perfume, hair brushes, make up, one extra large bobby pin, a dozen hair elastics, pens, several bottles of hand sanitizer, packs of gum, credit cards, receipts, tissues, dental picks, cash, coins, reading glasses, barrettes, bandages, and yes, tampons (wishful thinking, perhaps?)

The pile was a social experiment of sorts.  While waiting for our salads to arrive, my friends and I agreed to empty out the contents of our purses at a local restaurant.  We wanted to see what we travelled with every day.

When a tennis ball and two golf balls came out of my friend’s over-sized bag, I was half expecting that she would next pull out a floor lamp, a la Mary Poppins.  “that’s Interesting,” one of us commented.

“The balls are to exercise my feet for my planta faciatis,” she explained, and I had a good laugh, because I’d been there, done that. I was hardly one to pass judgment on the contents of anyone else’s handbag. I had four pair of reading glasses in mine.

But I wondered as we sat there, “does what we carry in our purses say anything about where we are in our lives?”  Admittedly, we carried a large assortment of beauty, styling and drugs.  But as I finished lunch and drove home, all I could think of was a book I had read so many years ago. “The Things They Carried,” by Tim O’Brien, is a brilliant novel about the emotional burdens of a Vietnam War platoon, as seen through the things the men in the platoon carried with them.

What we carry at midlife has only a little bit to do with what is in our purses.  It is more about what we talked about over lunch.  It became clear that we carry a lot more around with us than lipsticks and tennis balls:

We carry laughter.  We are itching for that moment where we can let out a great big belly laugh.

We carry a need to be loved; a person to curl up with at night.

We carry a need for good sex… but not every night.

We carry a need for a good night’s sleep.

We carry strong shoulders that can be leaned on by our friends.

We carry big egos and big insecurities.

We carry a need to be heard.

We carry a need to read a great book.

We carry a need to nourish our bodies with good healthy food, and then spoil ourselves with chocolate.

We carry the memories and expectations of lost parents, spouses and other loved ones.

We carry the hope that our children will find the right person to love and that someday—a day not too far away– they will give us grandchildren.

We carry a desire for a good haircut and an excellent colorist.

We carry the hope that we will have time the time to do the things we really want to do.

We carry willpower.

We carry stability.

We carry empathy.

We carry about 10 pounds more than we would like to carry.

We carry an ability to get things done.

We carry the need to make the world a little bit better.

And for sure, we carry purses that are way too heavy.

After lunch, my friend started to apply the bright orange lipstick she found at the bottom of the bag, but the rest of us nixed it.  “Lose that color,” we told her, “it’s awful.”

So I guess we also carry some honesty with us as well, at least when it comes to friends and lipstick colors.

Ronna Benjamin

Ronna Benjamin

When BA50’s Managing Editor and Partner, Ronna Benjamin, turned 50, she had an epiphany. After 28 years of practicing real estate law at both a large downtown law firm and then solo at her own firm, Ronna realized how much she loved writing and how much she hated lawyering. She jumped into the world of writing at betterafter50.com and never looked back. Ronna writes humorously about the things BA50s are concerned about – personal experiences with adult children, the illnesses and quirks of aging parents and in-laws, and their own mental, emotional or physical health issues (READ: insomnia, anxiety, and bulging waste line). She is an active BA50 with her pulse on what BA50s care and are talking about from politics to the most recent episode of Downton Abby. A native Bostonian who loves to spend time with her husband and three adult children, Ronna also enjoys sailing, cooking, running, and biking, and she tolerates skiing so she is not left home during family vacations. 

  5 comments for “What’s Inside Our Purses Says A Lot… But Not Everything

  1. Lynne
    May 20, 2014 at 7:27 am

    Not going to lie–4 women and no one had chocolate in their purse? How is this possible? I thought everyone carried chocolate or other food assortments in their purse. If what we carry in our purse says something about us, mine says I’m a chocoholic. I’m OK with that.

    • Ronna Benjamin
      May 20, 2014 at 8:18 am

      Ha! You are right— it must have been an off day….not even a granola bar that day!

  2. leslie
    May 20, 2014 at 8:08 am

    A caring but modest person contains the secrets not willing to share out of respect for other’s who are having a difficult time. This person, a good person/friend respecting privacy, carries secrets of heartbreak for the misfortunes and hardships endured by her friends whose pocketbooks have been emptied except for the lining that is the keeper of the secrets. Bursting inside, and eager to help those who must find their own way in their world which they are not ready to share, they must face the difficulty of taking one step at a time. Life is not all about kitchen sink within our pocketbooks. Life is about the linings that also define our feelings for those we wish would open up, share, and allow friends to walk along their side and laugh at lunch!

  3. May 20, 2014 at 4:46 pm

    That was a good book with a lot of impact. All the good qualities you list can be found in the items we carry. I friend may need an Advil, bandaid, hand sanitizer etc that they didn’t have with them. Share a heartbreak? A tissue is passed or mascara or lipstick. All needed to be some one who cares.

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