Tuesday, December 22, 2009


As a lover of all things leather, colorful, and inexplicably large, C walks into Neiman Marcus and is ready for her entire being to sing.

For all things handbags, of course.

It's a daunting task, stumbling into the accessories department on the weekend. Husbands gone rouge. Babbling, wide-eyed teenage girls with matching bags dipped into the iconic seasonal brand of choice. Screaming babies. Mothers attempting to evade putting their kids on leashes and completely frazzled while doing so. And of course, the sales associate that can be a variety of flavors: disinterested, unamused, ready for lunch, and if you're incredibly lucky, amazing.

It's a jungle out there, kids, and we haven't even touched the bag yet.

C is patient though. After being assaulted by an army of fragrances, C's mother is ready for battle with her own shopping bag locked and loaded and ready to be used as a proper weapon and, more importantly, her sensitive, Oprah-ready, friendly face in case a purchase cannot be made. A devastating thought, of course.

"You're a young woman."
"I know."
"You need something young and -"
"Really, mom?"

Mom grins her way into a lead, through sale tables and post-seasonal items to the front of the bag display with too much enthusiasm. C watches warily and hopes that this isn't some made for TV movie or an hour of Paradise Lost.

The assorted trends, colors, sizes, house names, multiples, and multiples of multiples is overwhelming. C paces in front of the shelves, circles smaller displays, and accidentally steps on her mother's foot several times, which results in this exchange:

"Good job."
"I didn't - I didn't mean to. Oh, look!"

C holds up a bag in her hands, multifunctional and vibrantly covered in a patent, leather pattern that is neither easy to describe but much more willing to burn C and her poor mother's eyes. We will not talk about where C found this bag. However if one were to use their imagination, the place of such a handbag would be not in the front with the other but behind seas and seas of colors and prices, covered and shelved away. Think Island of Lost Toys, only handbags with a Lifetime twist.

Of course, Mom sighs and wrinkles her nose in complete disgust.

"You need a boyfriend," she says seriously, and looks over at C with some worry. It's the kind of worry that all mothers have when the prospect of grand kids and white weddings are threatened by a single, glaring fashion faux pas. And while it very well could be a translation of an 'ugly, ugly, ugly, let's please move on' face, C's mother is onto something.

We define ourselves in many ways and expressing that definition often manifests in other ways, intentional or not. Top. Bottom. Shoes. Jacket. Hair up. Hair down. Gold and silver. Polish with color or not. The perfect bag is very much a part of the system. Big and small. Leather, fabric, or mixes. Just like words and gestures, a bag is another part of the statement, of you yourself, and possible memory of adding something new. The perfect bag doesn't completely define you, but definitely doesn't take away anything.

So the question is this: what did C really pick?

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