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Hanging up the handbag
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Hanging up the handbag

I can’t remember when exactly in the pandemic it happened, but I’ve basically stopped carrying a purse.

I know I’m not alone: a Facebook friend recently posted about this, and it elicited a lot of responses. Early pandemic lockdowns rendered my bags useless; I wasn’t going anywhere and, if I was, it was out for a walk. When I started venturing out more, I liked the unencumbered feeling of not carrying a purse. I felt free.

After all, for most outings, a basic formula is all that’s required: phone, keys, wallet/cards — and, in COVID times, mask.

When you have a purse, it becomes: phone, keys, wallet/cards, mask — plus sunglasses, lip balm, a bunch of receipts, a reusable bag, several lipsticks, a pen, a cough drop that has wiggled out of its wrapper and is now covered in the mystery lint endemic to purses, tampons, Kleenex, a mirror, more receipts, a reusable straw, a water bottle, a tangled ball of earbuds, a phone charger, a wad of fast-food napkins in case you run out of Kleenex, a crusty mascara you should probably throw out, medications, your partner’s medications and, if you have kids, wipes, a sprinkle of loose Goldfish crackers, and some toy they insisted on bringing with them but cannot possibly carry any longer. A purse packed as though you are about to head out on a 26-hour road trip and not, you know, a Superstore run.

American comedian Iliza Schlesinger has a bit about how women have a “designated search claw” to comb through the “seventh layer of hell that is the bottom of your bag. It’s just a graveyard of dismembered pens. There’s coins. Why is there always a Nature Valley granola bar crumbled at the bottom?” (Always!) 

Not carrying a purse is great, 10/10 would recommend. I feel streamlined, navigating a friction-free existence — like an assassin. Or a man.

That’s why, when True North Sports and Entertainment tweeted out a reminder about its “no bag” policy in the fall, I was a bit surprised about the angry responses — especially considering there are child-care/medical exceptions and, in fact, the venue permits clutch-sized purses, which can actually fit a shocking amount if you Tetris it all in there.

Fans line up to enter the Canada Life Centre in October. (Jessica Lee / Winnipeg Free Press files) Reporter: Mike

While a few critics rightly pointed out that such a policy is a pain for people who have arrived to the arena from somewhere or have used active transportation to get there, many tweets were a variation on a theme: what about tampons?

OK, what about tampons? How many tampons do you realistically need for a hockey game — even one that goes into overtime? Was your purse packed by the team of NASA engineers who sent Sally Ride to space with 100 tampons

I would argue that purses themselves are the real tool of the patriarchy, here, putting the onus of preparedness for any scenario on the shoulders — quite literally — of women. We’re expected to haul around the contents of an entire Shopper’s Drug Mart in a bag that could comfortably house a small terrier because, what, we are socially and culturally expected to look a certain way and anticipate the needs of others? Get outta here.

Also, have you seen women’s clothing? There’s a reason “thanks, it has pockets!” has practically become a clichéd response to a compliment about a dress: pockets are so rare as to be a pleasant surprise. My niece dropped a “thanks, it has pockets!” on me at three years old. Maybe if we had some dang pockets we wouldn’t need aquarium-sized bags on our person.

I do own some beautiful bags, and I still use them when the mood strikes (and sometimes you really do need a day’s worth of items when you are out of the house). But I like the feeling of not being bogged down by my mental load made visible, because what is a purse if not a receptacle for expectations and responsibilities?

Still, I don’t think the handbag — either as a status symbol and utilitarian item — is going anywhere. Purse revenues were already rebounding as of last fall. But I’ll tell you this: my next bag will be a fanny pack.

Jen Zoratti

Jen Zoratti, Columnist

Jen Zoratti

Reading/Watching/Listening

I binged Inventing Anna, the Netflix miniseries from Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal) about Anna Delvey a.k.a. Anna Sorokin, the fake German heiress that conned her way into the upper echelons of New York society and swindled everyone from friends to banks out of money. She was arrested in 2017 and sentenced to four to 12 years in prison in 2019. Inventing Anna is based on a New York Magazine article by Jessica Pressler, who also wrote the article that inspired the 2019 film Hustlers.

Julia Garner, left, and Anna Chlumsky in ’Inventing Anna.’ (Nicole Rivelli / Netflix / The Associated Press)

I followed the Anna Delvey story at the time — which dovetailed with a larger pop cultural obsession with grifters of all stripes — so I was excited to see the Shondaland take. The amazing Julia Garner (Ozark) plays Anna Delvey, absolutely nailing her strange Russian-German accent and her cockeyed confidence. Anna Chlumsky plays a fictionalized version of Pressler named Vivian Kent, who becomes obsessed with Anna’s story — and Anna herself.

It’s a dishy story well told — each episode focuses on a different mark — but if you’re looking for a realistic (or ethical) portrayal of journalism, this… isn’t it. (This is a good piece by another reporter who covered the Delvey trial.)

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