Death of a handbag

My handbag died the other day. It was actually more of a satchel than a handbag – one of those diagonally slung travel bags; hardy, comfortable. As a substitute, I’ve been using a baby pink eco-friendly shopping bag from a clothing store in Beijing. It sucks a little bit. I spend minutes rifling around for things that I used to be able to just reach in for. I’ve had to turn the car around a few times to go back for things I forgot. It always confused me when women made a big deal over handbags, but I’m beginning to understand…

The “wallet, phone, keys” combination is at the heart of day-to-day freedom, but even the healthiest beating heart needs a strong, sturdy chest if it’s to be of any use.

Enter the humble handbag. It’s the assistant that keeps your shit together, the escort that stops the bulge in your pants, the item of expandable holding that might even give you +1 agility and +2 charm. Picking a replacement receptacle was no easy task; you need the right balance of size, shape, weight, practicality and beauty.

Size most definitely counts here. A bag too big is cumbersome like a rude guest at a dinner party, but a bag too small won’t hold the extra essentials needed for a full day out. I don’t like transferring things from bag to bag, so a ‘one size fits all’ purchase is my only option. Which means having to find the right shape and weight too. Nothing too bulky to tuck under the arm, no straps so thin they cut into my arm when the bag is full.

On practicality, pockets are a blessing. I would very much like to not rummage around for a lost 2-dollar coin please. And as for beauty, my new bag must certainly be beautiful. But what does ‘beautiful’ mean?

When I was a kid, I obsessed over pretty things. For no real reason. I didn’t really like Barbie, but I loved collecting her clothes. I kept My Little Ponies long after I got over them because they made me think of all the starry-eyed friendship, love, peace, goodwill and courage of the animated series. Such innocent ideals captured in over-priced, mass-produced plastic toys. It’s about the symbolism, for me. A crappy toy is only beautiful when it represents a good feeling. A person’s face is only beautiful when they have good character underneath. And so on.

I chose the Pan Am Mini Explorer because of its simplicity and because the other Pan Am bags were way too big. Lucky me, I found a shop that ships to Australia for a fair price – it’s in case anyone’s interested. No, this isn’t an ad for Pan Am or teeNYtee; I just wanted to share this first-world shopping adventure.

Since you tolerated this whole self-indulgent blog entry, here are some wicked things to check out: