Jan 11 2007

Old Bag

Typical Texan handbag. I put Bert in it when we go to tea at the Ritz. Foto by Stingray.

I may have inadvertently given the impression that I am against carrying things around in bags. Nothing could be further from the truth, for I am an aunt of action. What could be more inspiriting than knowing your emergency whoopee cushion is just a flick of a zipper away? Not that I endorse prop comedy or anything.

It is true that I denounce tiny handbags because they hold less than nothing, require the commitment of an entire limb from which to dangle, and infantilize the bearer with their darling pre-teen cuteness.

Until such time as bags are made obsolete by technology (I predict miniaturization, perhaps, or Star Trekkian devices, strewn around the town like Baby GAPs, that can replicate whatever you might need while away from your lair), it is difficult to see a way around baggin’ it. For the spinster aunt, at least, it is injudicious to quit the bungalow without a copy of Peterson’s field guide to Texas birds, a giant camera, a device called “Mr T In Your Pocket” that plays said 70’s celebrity’s pithy catch-phrases at the push of a button (“Don’t gimme no back-talk, sucka!”), 3 days’ emergency rations, an inflatable raft, a packet of stickers that say “THIS DEMEANS WOMEN,” and the Oxford English Dictionary (Unabridged). And a box of Tic-Tacs. And a flame-thrower.


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  1. donna

    Well, the Tic Tacs you could fit in the tiny purse…. and I think some of those supermodel zero size types do live for three or so days on Tic Tacs…

  2. Becker

    I see Bert has acquired a taste for pre-Columbian pottery. Or is that a Holgafied juggling pin?

  3. Andy

    “I pity da fool!”

  4. Jodie

    I bet you could even get Bert in that bag if you tried.

    My kid is convinced that Mr. T can best all comers, including bands of marauding pirates, space aliens, Darth Vader, ninjas, Genghis Khan, poisoned pie, and Elvis.

  5. becky

    Small handbags always remind me of the pocketlessm female attire so prominent in Victorian clothing. Otherwise, what’s the point – if I can’t toss a book into the bag along with my other Collection of Stuff it’s simply too small.

  6. Twisty

    Mr. T Vs Everything

  7. Chris Clarke

    I would like to take this opportunity to announce the establishment of the “Buy Twisty Faster a copy of Kenn Kaufman’s Field Guide to Birds ASAP Fund.”

  8. Twisty

    “Kenn Kaufman’s Field Guide to Birds”

    Only if it weighs over 8 pounds.

  9. Jen

    Oh Twisty…I wish you WERE my spinster aunt! :)

  10. scratchy888

    I carry a briefcase when I have to carry books and paper and pen or something. I really despise carrying anything. I also have some good pants with pockets in just above the knees. I am able to put my carkeys in them.

  11. Bitey

    Where can I get some of those stickers?

  12. Urban

    Now that’s a bag!

    I am pretty sure I could have fit my entire 20kg migration luggage allowance into it. It would certainly see me through a three-week holiday.

  13. aymayzed

    A handbag?

    /Edith Evans

  14. aymayzed

    And youtube has the goods


  15. Twisty

    “A handbag?/Edith Evans”


  16. hk-reader

    The OED in a purse! I presume it’s the proper one, not the 2 volume Shorter OED.

    I love you Twisty!

  17. hk-reader

    Oops, I wrote without reading thoroughly. Of course the unabridged.

    BTW – Interesting documentary by Lauran Malkasian “In the Bag” (1997) – women discuss their handbags, what they carry in them, and how they feel about them.

  18. rebecca

    Oh, I want to get some of those stickers, too.

  19. aymayzed

    “Of course the unabridged”
    Perhaps hk-reader, you were thinking of the micrographed one-for-nine all-in-one “Compact”?

    Of course the space saved in the handbag would then be taken up with the magnifying glass needed by the old bag to read it with.

  20. kate

    Some females in my family and then well meaning but misguided male partners afterward attempted to get me to warm up to handbags, but no doing.

    Being that I repeatedly forget items not inserted into a pocket attached firmly to my clothes, any carrying device that isn’t as large as a backpack or briefcase gets left behind.

    I also would protest that it seemed restrictive to have to obey some mandatory law of femininity that states:

    “All those born with ovaries shall upon their ability to walk upright unassisted shall have upon their person, at all times, when in public, a bag into which they shall carry sundry items including, face paint or powders, colored wax for lips, hair brush, mirror and house key. Identification card, bank cards , cash and/or car keys allowable if permission granted from suitable male cohort or relative.”

    And this was enough to make me decide that ‘handbags’ carried way to much baggage for me to want to carry, even at the tender age of 8 or 10.

  21. ginmar

    Dude, never trust anybody who doesn’t carry a big bag. Or at least a bag big enough for at a minimum, one or two books. Plus music. And stuff. I could invade a small country with what’s in my bag. Actually, I have invaded small foreign countries with w hat’s in my bag. It’s actually very comforting to be able to pull reading material, lunch, and a beverage from one’s bag.

  22. kate

    Ginmar: Or a gun. I once had purchased a gun from someone in my wilder days and was advised that a purse would be a good place to carry such. But with my tendency to forget things, that thought was a bit frightening. I got rid of the gun, since unlike you, I wasn’t fortunate enough to have had training on using one and feared the consequences of having it ripped from my hands or not having the nerve to use it quick enough.

  23. whyme63

    My dad’s cousin wrote about her partner’s “purse” for Purse Stories–I’ve always loved this little story, and it helps me remember Tommie.


  24. kate

    My partner in my construction company constantly has a bag with him wherever he goes; a castaway shopping bag which he will recycle to carry all his worldly possessions to the job site or wherever.

    He doesn’t stuff things in his pockets and suffer to carry the rest like I do, nope he’s got his man-purse, a wrinkled white plastic shopping bag carrying his extra glasses, a pile of spare pencils and pens, his lunch, maybe a snack, a newspaper and possibly other items he deems he may need.

    Admonishments such as, “Don’t forget your purse!” do not fluster him or cause him embarrassment no-sir, just a “Oh yeah.” and the following recovery.

  25. Ron Sullivan

    “Kenn Kaufman’s Field Guide to Birds”

    Only if it weighs over 8 pounds.

    For that you need Sibley, the ID and the behavior guides, together. Don’t leave home without them.

    For those dainty lightweight days, the National Geographic guide is much improved in the newest edition, just btw.

  26. Ron Sullivan

    Tsk. Didn’t close my tags; I must’ve been born in a barn.

  27. Naz

    You’ve mentioned the itty bitty straps that can only go over wrists and elbows but what about that other irritating thing about women’s handbags – the fact that most of them have just one compartment. My current everyday bag – bought in a fit of madness – has just one main compartment so everything gets mixed up inside. Sometimes I have to up-end it and throw everything out to find what I need. My old bag – which was filched by an immoral moviegoer – was bought in the men’s section of Quicksilver. It had a separate compartment for everything – books, pens, toiletries, medication, miscellaneous cards, wallet, and an attachment for my house keys. You never had to dig around for anything, and you could wear it slung over one shoulder, it fit snugly against your side, leaving both arms free. *sigh* Lost it four years ago and have yet to find a suitable replacement.

  28. ginmar

    Kate, you have to handle them a lot and learn how to respect them. You also have to be prepared to use them if it comes to that. There’s nothing wrong with not wanting to do that. A gun tends to escalate things in most situations. I like to carry cameras myself these days.

  29. Emma Goldman

    Reading materials (including a backup, for when I finish this one), lunch, beverages for the day, a change of clothes, glasses (for when my contacts start to shrivel my eyes), a notebook, at least one writing implement . . . and handball clothes, back when I used to play. I particularly like Trager bags–they’re made in the U.S., they’re WELL-made, and their customer service is unbeatable (they made a bag for me in a custom color, because I was bored with their available options).

  30. Sylvanite

    Personally, I’m holding out for the invention of Portable Holes. Just like in D&D.

  31. FemiMom

    Thanks to those who have mentioned carrying food. My bag holds a bottle of water and a snack. I am too busy & frugal to stop at Starbucks and deal out seven bucks for a snack.
    People with bags are PREPARED. I just need to get some of those Twisty stickers for my bag, so I will be better prepared to Blaim with abandon.

  32. Buffalo Gal

    My preferred bag is a backpack. Holds enough provisions and reading materials for a short siege, and leaves the hands free. Wallet with cash and essential cards, plus house keys and pocket knife, go into the pockets. If the bag gets snatched, I can still buy lunch and get into the house. I don’t buy clothes that don’t have pockets. I’m sure it was a patriarch who decided that women’s clothes shouldn’t have pockets, so we’d be tied to a losable piece of luggage.

  33. jezebella

    dang. the new anti-spam protocol keeps snagging me.

    First, please give us a link for “this demeans women” stickers! Pretty please? I have a yen to stick one on every church door in this bog-forsaken town. I’m going to need a crate of ’em. Also I’d like to put them on all the “fashion” magazines at the gym.

    Second, Naz, they now make purses with little squeeze-lights sewn into the lining, near the zipper, so even though your stuff is all piled into one compartment, you can find it with your tiny flashlight. Or if you want an organizer-bag with multiple designated pockets, try Levenger or Travelsmith, they should have what you are looking for.

  34. Q Grrl

    I second Ron Sullivan.

    It is pointless to carry a single field guide, dare I say, irresponsible. One must also include binoculars, behavioral references, seasonal bird lists, pen and paper (or if diehard, pencil and paper, to account for rain), one slightly bruised and utterly forgotten apple, appropriate container of H2O, change of socks, compressed roll of TP, etc.

    Not that I know ANY of this from personal experience.

    And, not that I envy that bag at *all*. Nope. Nada. What bag? I don’t see a bag! Harumph.

  35. magikmama

    My “theory of handbag evolution” is this: the reason women are encouraged to carry handbags is that upon breeding, everyone seems to assume that remembering any sundary items that ANYONE might need.

    I’ve seriously had total strangers yell at me when I’ve been out in public with my children, and could not produce tissues upon request.

  36. slownews

    The giant bag is absolutely necessary to include umbrella, file folders, notepad, diapers, and snacks in addition to personal items (midwestern working mom reporting). However, the little stuff that gets inaccessible and mangled down at the bottom has been made accessible in neat categories by the miraculous color mesh bags by Walker. Just saying here is a vastly useful product, in bright colors that stand out in the black hole that is most large bags. Lightweight, too.

  37. thebewilderness

    In the skinny girls thread below Arse Poeitca provided this link.


    These stickers say “This Insults Women”

  38. yankee transplant

    Did you print those stickers yourself? What a great idea.

  39. Twisty

    RE: the stickers. Yeah, I had’em printed. I can’t remember where; it’s been a while. But if you google “stickers” there are about 457 sites that offer cheepo sticker printing. I think I got 100 for like 15 bucks. Although it took over a month for’em to show up.

  40. cypress

    Walker bags! I am so grateful.

    my friend Lauri calls her bag a murse, she being of the butch persuasion, and liking contractions.

  41. kate

    Anybody wanna make up some stickers, I’ll buy a pack, just say so.

  42. jnthnu

    Twisty, as if your inimitable and endlessly smashing (in both the colloquial british-ish sense and the what-to-do-with-the-patriarchy-we-live-in sense) writing style weren’t enough to hold my rapt attention on a near-daily basis, here you have finally provided the pièce de résistance, the proverbial icing on the cake and in the bag.

    A portable, talking, shut up fool, whatchu lookin’ at sucka Mr. T device, now c’mon. You are just the damn coolest.

    Next time I’m in Austin I’m asking nice to hang out and have lunch with you.

    Of course, you can stop making a mental note about being out of town that day or even potentially obtaining a {taser, restraining order, extra 6-pack of decent beer}; the last time I was in Austin was over 7 years ago, and that was the only time thus far during my tenure on Planet Misogyny (or Earth, or Gaia, or whatever they’re calling it now.) At the time I was also still too pissed off about the whole Ann Richards thing (by which I mean her presence in the State Capitol Building – specifically, the still-fairly-recent and sudden lack thereof) to properly enjoy any of the food.

    To get back to the point, well, your point: yeah right on, and I really do loathe small woman-bag-things, especially the little cutesy pursey leather pretty things that look so great with a pair of heels… in the trash. Large to giant, baggy, useful, kitchen-sink or just necessity (you’re damn right a talking Mr. T device is a necessity, fool!) -toting genderless bags/backpacks/messenger bags/whatever. Me, I’m highly enamoured of my rather large bike messenger style bag that I pack an insane amount of stuff into especially when actually venturing forth by related human-powered vehicular pedal-locomotion. If it’ll make anyone oppressed by our male supremacist society feel even marginally, near-imperceptibly better to hear me refer to it as either a Man Bag or a purse (though I think it’s technically too large to qualify as a purse on all accounts) – just ask.

  43. jnthnu

    Those stickers are great. I’ve been wanting for a while to make a few of my own, nice big bumper-sticker sized “SEXIST”, “OFFENSIVE TO WOMEN”, and a few others to have on hand – you know, in case I might happen to feel like, er – embellishing the occasional* advertisement.

    * yes, I’m sad to say, that was indeed sarcasm.

    Oh, and on my Ann Richards timeline thing – no, 7 years doesn’t quite add up right, but I guess I was buggin’ about that for a few years. Seems I’ve been hatin’ on gee dubya for a long long time now; usually I think I’m no good at predicting popular trends.. *sigh*

  44. Ann Bartow

    slownews Jan 12th, 2007 at 1:34 pm

    The giant bag is absolutely necessary to include umbrella, file folders, notepad, diapers, and snacks in addition to personal items (midwestern working mom reporting). However, the little stuff that gets inaccessible and mangled down at the bottom has been made accessible in neat categories by the miraculous color mesh bags by Walker. Just saying here is a vastly useful product, in bright colors that stand out in the black hole that is most large bags. Lightweight, too.

    Hmm, this reads a lot like catalog copy. Maybe it was the invocation of “miraculous” as an adjective or perhaps that final “Lightweight, too” but color me suspicious.

  45. jnthnu

    And lastly, I’ll have you know that the simple audio clip located at http://www2.blogger.com/profile/12817681005418882371 was in place well before I was aware of aforementioned-and-deified Mr.T-inator, though probably not well before your awareness/fascination with the T-man hizzelf.

    This is, of course, a point I’d be loathe to belabor as you have been on the planet slightly longer than I; any 11-to-13 year old obsession of mine (hardly unique among my peers) with the A-Team nothwithstanding.

    I love it when a blog comes together.

  46. JC

    A bag (capacious) is an essential part of my life I’m afraid. I do so admire those women (and men) who can go through their day with only car keys and some folded bills, but I am, alas, incapable of such a life. I am a terrible forgetter of things and unless I have a bag absolutely jam-packed with things I might need (asthma puffer, pen, painkillers, tissues, hanky, money, tampons, water, library card, makeup*, etc) I can guarantee I will spend at least some part of my day cursing myself roundly for having forgotten something.

    I agree with some on the whole one compartment thing. My way around that is to have bags within the bag. My smaller bags tend to be brightly coloured so I can find them in the (too often) black interior of the larger bag.

    Also, all my handbags have straps long enough to be worn over the shoulder, leaving my hands free. I will not buy a bag unless it meets that essential criterion.

    * For those days when I am required to play some unexpected bit-part in the costume drama that is my workplace.

  47. grr kitty

    Books and snacks are a definite necessity. My spinster aunt reading glasses to help with the former. My bird guide stays at work because I have a windowsill feeder there and we’re perched on the edge of a wildlife preserve. The birds here are way more diverse than those I see at home. Weapons are prohibited here, but I still carry a gigantic Swiss Army knife (it is an heirloom and has sentimental value) and a purse-size cattle prod. Four other gals and I are part of a belly-dance troupe (if you know me, this is HILARIOUS) so I have my half-soles and a hip scarf or two because we’ll colonize a conference room with a lockable door & practice at lunch.

  48. L

    I carry a little bag. Not because I like little bags, but because I have back and shoulder troubles. I carried large bags for years, and now my body’s paying the price. Carrying a little bag means I can carry only what I absolutely need for the day: you know, money, keys, mace, whatever. Little bags don’t always mean a woman’s a fool. Sometimes she’s just got a sore back.

  49. JoAnne

    I carry the real necessities in my pockets: wallet, change, keys, a small bottle containing several kinds of OTC pills, lipstick, pen, and notepad. Add a pad or two at the appropriate times. Reading material and such goes in my small backpack. Luckily I’m fairly wide in the butt department, so it all seems to fit.

    But why the fuck can’t women’s clothes have pockets above the waist? It’s bad enough that they put tiny or no pockets in the pants, unless you’re wearing jeans. No, it has to be impossible to get your wallet out if you’re sitting down (like in the car trying to pay for parking) because no women’s jackets have inside pockets. I wouldn’t mind wearing a man’s jacket but they just don’t fit.

    I guess it blocks the view of the boobies, or might make them look uneven, which would of course be totally unacceptable.

  50. Harpie

    I prefer Rodent Kapur’s 4 dimensional purse.

    Also, I generally carry a backpack. That will hold the necessary book, lunch, wallet, etc. If I’m feeling really adventurous, a PetPocket allows the parrot and me to go biking, but then I have to stuff my wallet in a pocket and hope for the best.


    I have an awesome men’s jacket that has about ten pockets, that can fit my binoculars, bird book, food, thermos; but it DOESN’T fit right. I’m going to try to add another couple of buttons to make it fit like a jacket, not a blazer. Alas, if you want clothing with a good number of pockets, you generally have to go with the men’s clothing and bear with it being too long, tight across the hips, big in the waist, etc.

  51. clew

    There are patterns for women’s jackets with many subtle pockets, some above the waist. They’re usually called “shopping” or “travel” jackets, for which IBTP.

  52. Harpie

    Oooh, shopping…

  53. a man

    ha ha…you try to be superior to men, yet you sit around this silly blog talking like you are all alexandras the great. pathetic

  54. Twisty

    Zing! This clever unpunctuating a man sure showed us.

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