The Pursuit of the Perfect Purse By Gabby Friedenthal

Sitting at the park, with Marian, my friend, I’m struggling with my purse, plunging into her depths, pulling strange things out like grimy food laden forks and a boy’s toy; scrounging at the bottom in a desperate attempt to find my ringing phone. I’m frustrated, then really pissed at this purse, this supposed “it” purse, this purse I was sure was “the right one” after all my years of searching.

But, no! There is a fatal flaw in what I thought was so right. How long am I supposed to wrestle with the imperfection of my purse ? Am I a weirdo for caring? Is there such a thing as a purse that wears perfectly ? Is it unfair to ask that my bag hold, without ever sagging, what I need to be held ? Of course, left pocket! Sunglasses? Side inseam! Fifty cents for the meter? Front pouch!

But, at least for me, this doesn’t exist, or I haven’t found it – a precision in a purse that makes my life smooth and easy. I thought money was the missing link. Money was supposed to buy purse happiness. Look at all those damn movie stars or the rich ladies jostling about Beverly Hills with Prada or Coach or Kate Spade. The media swears these are the happy ones, the people who found the purse nirvana.

So, I bought it. My newest brown leather satchel comes from Bloomingdales. I got myself a name brand at fifty percent off original price,(plus I had a $50.00 gift card.) It still cost me $100.00. Let me tell you, looks and supposed social stature can be deceiving. She’s got so much happening, this posh purse of mine, without a solid core to keep her together. The blings and whistles wind up getting in my way. Too many pockets. Too many zippers. AND, the stitching is beginning to come undone. This princess purse is unable to stick with me through the grease and grime, the throwing on the floor in many a public restroom, the general hard knocks that come with my everyday living.

My husband Mark has kept his wallet, his sturdy wallet from Target, for the last ten years. I never, ever, hear talk about it. Is there something to actually be learned from the other side?

But, what would hold the random letters from school my kids hand me at pick up time? What would accommodate the stray snack or bottle of water in case of emergency? Where would the mound of crumpled receipts sit?
A therapist once told me that what we all need in our lives is a container, a place inside where we can hold ourselves with love, care and understanding. She said that’s why I was paying her the big bucks, because she was in the business of helping me to find and fix my “inner container.” So, why then the obsession with my outer trappings?
I’m glad it’s the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah. It’s a time of taking stock of your life, of self reflection, of setting intentions to make yourself a better person in hopes of making a better world. Rosh Hashanah has brought with it good things this year. Number one, it makes me think of the Jewish bible, the Torah. And here, in this holy scripture, is where I ultimately come to peace with my pocketbook problem. Right there in the very first chapter, Genesis, is the saga of Adam and Eve. Yes, let’s think about Eve for just one moment. She opted for the juicy red apple and ruined it for the rest of us. If Eve had resisted temptation, maybe we’d ALL be living a blissful life and sitting pretty in purse perfection.

I’m better when I understand my dilemmas. Somehow, a solid understanding makes me feel like I’m on equal footing with the hurdles my life can present me with. Rosh Hashanah, again, has been my path to true understanding. It’s Rosh Hashanah dinner at my sister’s house with the usual suspects I happen to like a lot, but see only once a year. It’s an intimate group and we’re on our second glass of vino to make sure 5771 is a good one. The conversation comes full circle – all about the kids, jobs, parents, life’s pressures, and yes, finally to tie it all together…..purses.
“It’s the journey not the destination that’s important. I’m happy to die trying to find the ultimate purse” one of my favorite family friends shares. Her mother, whom I admire a great deal, echoes her daughter’s sentiments. “Yah, you have to relinquish control around this one. You have to just get to a place where you say ‘Fuck it! There’s no such thing as a flawless purse.’ You might as well quit trying and just enjoy the ride.”

Funny, it’s that same message that seems to be following me wherever I go these days. That line about the journey being what’s important. And here it is, the start of a new year, a most excellent time to embrace the message. My first act of evolution for this Jewish New Year, therefore, will be to embrace and even enjoy my journey, wherever it may lead,  (perfect purse or otherwise!)

Editor’s Note: In regard to envying the other gender, it’s known that women get a pain in the neck (from carrying overstuffed purses) and men get a pain in the butt ( from sitting on overstuffed wallets). So, depending on which you think worse, there’s plenty of pain to go around. Maybe we could just lighten our individual loads. L’Shanah Tovah!

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