Photo: Lucia Giacani

My Alarming Big, Heavy Pocketbook

This is a true story.

The other day I got into my car and threw my big pocketbook on the empty passenger seat beside me. When I went into gear, the “Fasten Your Seatbelt” alarm sounded. I immediately panicked thinking I might be in one of those investigative “20/20” segments that warn you to always look in the backseat before pulling out of a mall parking lot.

In full disclosure, here is the pathetic reality about the alarm going off: the drama was created by my pocketbook. It was so heavy that the seat registered it as a human being who needed to have their seat belt fastened.

The blaring questions are, “Why do I carry such a huge pocketbook; and why does it weigh as much as a third grader?”

I reflected back to when I was 7-years old and carried a small white basket-pocketbook with yellow plastic mini-daffodils glued on top. When the latch was unhinged, there was a lovely pouch of blue gingham. This little treasure box that I hung daintily from my wrist (just like mommy) contained everything a young girl would need at any given moment: a Mickey Mouse hankie, a roll of fruit Lifesavers and a plastic comb. Nothing more. Life was simple. Life was good. Now that I was a grownup, where had I gone wrong?

When I returned home from the mall, I emptied my pocketbook to see if there were any clues. I had three pairs of reading glasses in heavy cases, one pair of reading sunglasses, a few (hundred) lip glosses in shades that could carry me from summer through winter palettes, my wallet with a year’s worth of parking quarters in the change pocket, a few scroungy reporter’s notebooks and a hefty spiral notebook. Why do I carry 15 rollerball pens? Is the cosmetic mirror necessary? (I need to start applying lipstick by feel.) Eight mini-hand creams from hotels. (You’d be surprised at how heavy they get in bulk.) And I thought I had finished reading “Me Talk Pretty One Day” (by David Sedaris). (I did. Why was I still lugging around the book?) I also had an overload of neon highlighters. Stuck on the very bottom of my pocketbook was a gross, half-eaten granola bar covered in a rare genus of Stachybotrys. My pocketbook was a literal haz-mat clean-up site.

So the question is: are suitcase-size pocketbooks an over-indulgence? I decided to confer with my sister, Pamela Kogen, a minimalist artist.

“As for myself, I never wanted to be a ‘big-pocketbook person,’ but I think I’ve turned into one,” she confided.

Toujours chic, my sister was carrying a honking, high-designer thick leather over-the-shoulder bag that looked large enough to live in.

“This thing looks good but it weighs a ton,” she added. “And nothing is even in it! The actual pocketbook weighs more than all of its contents.”

At that, my sister turned her pocketbook upside down and out poured one lip gloss, a wallet, sunglasses, one travel-size hand cream, a sketch pad and one Craypas.

I was ashamed that I carried around so much junk. It was time for fashion reformation. I went home to my closet and moved all of my large pocketbooks up to the luggage corner of the attic.

See me walking down the street today and you will notice that my new style is to carry something small and stylish. Sort of Judith Leiber-ish, but for daytime. I don’t schlep around half as much as I used to and I hope to never again set off a seat belt alarm because my big, heavy pocketbook tripped the sensors.

In seeking to take it one more step, I’m also calling my pocketbook a “handbag.”

There. I lost one syllable. I feel so much lighter.