⇒ Because ANY basket of fabric and cloth with a mechanism that enables portability and storage can be a ‘bag’, let me state for the sake of this article, that when I say ‘bag’, I’m referring to handbags or what most call ‘purses’, one of the primary necessities for most women. Predominantly, women.
Bags, for all their unique designs, shapes and sizes, all follow the same general rules. All owners of a handbag, or many, encounter similar experiences. I can’t go into all of them right now, but bag owners are already listing the things in their heads and there will be some correlations.
I have gone through many different types of bags, and along the way the purpose a bag has to serve for me has changed. In my youth, I preferred bags that were lightweight, had a long strap so I could hang it diagonally across my torso and was long enough to fit a standard-size feminine wallet/clutch, because I went out a lot then, I needed to have all my belongings in one place, I didn’t want to be weighed down and I didn’t want my shit to get stolen off me so easily. Now, I don’t mind a tote bag which I prefer for work, because I need the space for books and my lunch Tupperware, and it got the compartments that I need for my smaller stuff. I have a blue long-strap bag that I’ve had for more than three years (shout out to Mr Price or MRP, as they’re calling themselves now). It’s preferable for informal social settings.
So my reason for having handbags has changed, but one thing is for certain: no matter how I try to organise the things in my bag, everything in its place, disarray follows. The more volume the bag can hold, the more trouble you have on your hands. In my bag, the wallet/purse is supposed to go in the main area alongside phone, a pen I seldom use because there is a better one at work but keep anyway in case and my iPod; smaller items like earrings, SD card reader and lone coins go in the tiny pouches on one side; and in the zipped pocket on the other side, the cloth I use to clean my spectacle lenses, three tubes of lipstick, ID booklet, half-eaten Kit Kat and stray pantyliner all reside.
But, by the end of the day, coins among crumbs of matter I can’t identify (Is it chocolate? Is it gravel?) are at the bottom of my bag. One of my tubes of lipstick is exposed and made contact with the DAMN CRUMBS. Some pages in my ID booklet are dog-eared. My iPod has been on the whole f**king time playing music for nobody but the bacteria that may reside in my bag. And my phone unlocked itself and opened Instagram (with my mobile data enabled). Everything just be going to shit inside my bag.
With all of this happening and me feeling powerless to allay the chaos, I have to roll with it. And just hope everything is on my person before I leave the house each morning. The jumbled-up state of my bag contents puts me in a stressful situation of “not finding something” that is actually in there, because stuff is not organised neatly and my hand somehow keeps missing the thing. For example, my Gautrain card. I need this to get on the train to get half of the way to work. Without it, I’m stranded.
A couple of times, I’ve found myself panicking when I can’t feel it, because a lot of other stuff is in the way or the card is wedged between some things that conceal its existence. It’s rough, because the last thing I want is to not find it (or think I can’t find it), then tell my mother she must turn around back to the house so I can look for it (in a pocket of a coat I wore some other day), then endure her bitter vitriol about how unorganised I am and how I’m costing her petrol because she has to go back to the house and how because we should’ve left by now, we’ll be caught in the worst part of traffic.
I’ll be feeling like the shittiest person in the world by the time I get to work.
So I need to be extra sure, or else I’ll end up leaving the house without some vital possessions (almost every possession that exists inside my bag is vital to me). But I have given up trying to keep my bag in order. If everything is meant to be all over the place, then I guess that’s how it must be (except my phone being on IG without my knowledge and crumbs on my lipstick, fugg dat!).
I thought about it some more, keeping in mind one of the key tenets of the lore in one of my favourite anime Fullmetal Alchemist.
*cue swooshing sound* Booming male voice: FULLMETAL ALCHEMIST!
‘Ichi wa zen, zen wa ichi’, which is literal Japanese for “One is all and all is one”. Everything is made up of something, no one thing can exist without all the infinitesimal things that make it “it”. The universe we live in right now is expansive and is bigger than anything we could try to conceive in our minds. But at the same time, it is smaller than other things that exist in the cosmos. Also, there are little universes that make up many of the things in our natural world.
Have I lost you? Okay, let’s keep going.
My bag is a small universe, everything inside it (though they are inanimate, non-living things) seem to follow an order that I couldn’t begin to comprehend. As much as I’d try to clean out my bag (I realise I do this more for myself, to prove that I am not disorganised, rather than to actually organise anything), it reverts to how it was before. Lipsticks fall out of their assigned places, phone buttons are pressed unknowingly, receipts get stomped on until the ink fades; such is life of the universe in a handbag.
I think I might actually be disturbing the fabric of space and time in my bag by trying to put things neatly. After all the larger universe we know we live in is not sorted in any type of way. For all the centuries that humans have been gazing out yonder, we haven’t found planets to be organised and placed together according to size, atmospheric conditions or colour, right? The stars in the sky are not in a grid, Earth follows an elliptical path when it revolves around the Sun, and most of all, there is no predetermined date of when the heat death of the universe is gonna go down. It could be between tomorrow and the next thousands of years. I think us Earthlings been had it coming for decades now.
Nothing in nature is certain, planned or organised. It just is, and it’s better left that way. I’ll keep moving things around, but I no longer give a damn if things are not where I expect to find them (except the lipstick though; those have to be closed, hidden and far from the crumbs!).
When I think about the state of my bag, it now makes sense to me why some women don’t want people to be looking through their bags or demanding to know what’s inside. Hasn’t someone said that a woman’s handbag and its contents can tell you a bit about her personality? I wonder what mine says about me.
“Keeps things in her bag that she may not actually have a need for. So Bossadi may be overly cautious and feels a need to be prepared for everything, to the point of forgetting the more important, pressing issues.”
“As for the crumbs at the bottom… well, she just likes to stash food like the greedyguts she is. She claim she don’t know what that stuff is, but she do. STOP HIDING FOOD.”