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Solving the mystery of the purse
A Woman's View
Judi Tabler

While recently out of town at a Wichita Music Theater event, we parked the car.
It was hot.
I slung my purse over my shoulder as we left the car, and set off over the hot pavement to the entrance door.
Entering the auditorium, I side-stepped carefully, avoiding toes, as I moved past seated people until I reached my seat number. I plopped down, and slid my large purse between my legs and under the seat as best as I could. It stuck out a ways into the walking area, and whenever someone said “excuse me” as they sidled past me to their seat, I lifted the purse to my lap.
After the play, I picked up my sidekick, the purse, and headed for the car. The heat hit like a blast as we walked to the car, and I couldn’t help but notice how burdensome the purse was.
I never once needed anything from that “strapped bucket of junk” during the entire time.
What is our thing with these purses? Why do we carry them? What do we think we need that we haul them everywhere we go?
I got curious and did some sleuthing.
Women’s purses have not been around forever.
The word “purse” comes from the Greek word, “bursa” meaning “hide” or “leather.”
Purses began in early times as small carried sacks, eventually evolving into small hidden sacks, then became pockets, and finally wound up as handbags. They were first practical considerations, (size, security) and then aesthetic (decorations).
Their purposes depended on the society in which the person lived — a peasant might carry seeds or food, and a city dweller might carry some sweet smelling herbs to hold off against bad smells.
The word “pocket” also comes from the same definition for “bursa.” A “pocket” is a small pouch and comes from the word “pocca” and the two words were used interchangeably — pocca, pocket, bursa, pursa.
The men mainly used their simple pockets to hold coins, while women sewed hidden pockets in their skirts for their needs.
Later, the pocket became an accessory and carried outside of their clothing. Then, in the 20th century, the purses became larger, had more features including small mirrors, glass pouches, and outside pockets.
It started as a pocket or pouch; then as a deep pocket in a skirt, and finally as a separate, decorative stitched case. Having a “pocket” meant that a woman might keep personal items (letters, a journal, tools, (scissors, needles, a pen) and even toilet articles (smelling salts, eau de cologne) on her person.
So what was so important that I would lug this heavy purse with me to a concert?
Well, first, it contained my lipstick, my gum, and my phone. It held my tissues, my pens, a checkbook, and my Kindle. It held change, my wallet, a container of ibuprophen, a fingernail file, some cough drops, and a banana.
You never know when you might need a banana.
As I asked around this past week, I searched for women who might willingly let me see in their inner sanctums — their purses.
It’s rather intimidating to expose oneself, you know. A purse is a very personal item.
I did however discover tweezers and nail clippers, guns, (conceal and carry), a bag of Kitty Treats, coupons, perfume, and a pheasant feather.
Fred continually reminds me to keep track of my cell phone.
“Put it in your pocket,” says he.
But you see, we women don’t have pockets in most of our clothes. The extra bulk is not welcome on our clothing. So I carry a purse. That’s what I do.
And why do I carry all that stuff inside? I don’t have a clue.

“A Woman’s View” is Judi Tabler’s reflection of her experiences and events. She is a wife, mother, writer, teacher, grandmother, and even a great grandmother. Contact Annie at pprarieannie@gmailcom