How the Neurotic and Fashion-Impaired Buy a New Handbag {or Is It a Purse?}

No sooner are the gift cards and money I've collected from Christmas {and my ensuing birthday} placed in my wallet then they start to burn a hole in the bottom of my bag, and I cannot wait to get to the store and start shopping. With four kids, two cars, a dog, and diapers, our one income is stretched pretty thin throughout the year, leaving minimal spending money in the wake of an ever bulging list of expenses. And trips to Starbucks. Priorities, you know.

By the time December rolls around, the list of things I want to buy is longer then my receipts used to be when I was an obsessive coupon clipper, although I had substantially more spending money in those days. But we also routinely ate cheap, fake crap, so there's that. The mandatory self-restraint is good in a way, I suppose--I don't have nearly as many impulse-buying hangovers as I did in my previous life before children. And consequently, my house isn't filled with as much stuff that I don't really need, though there still is some, certainly. Mainly in the craft and ill-fitting bargain clothing departments.

Not only is the bottom of my bag singed from the gift cards I put in there, but I notice the straps are also worn and fraying from daily use as I pick it up, fling it over my shoulder and run out the door, no doubt late for something again. Although Vera Bradley fabric is vibrant and colorful with many beautiful and ever-changing options to choose from, it doesn't withstand everyday wear and tear in the long run. Especially when one never washes it, as I'm sure you're supposed to every once a year or so. Apparently, I only wash my bags about as often as I mop my floors, which is not very often. At all.

So I decide that I should probably buy myself a new bag, one that isn't as tattered and worn as my grandmother's quilt, perhaps. Probably one that doesn't look like my grandmothers quilt, too. It's been years since I've carried anything other then a Vera bag, and that sounds like a welcome change. A fresh start to go with the New Year. Eva {my 2 year old} loves to go to Target while Toby is in preschool, so off we went to spend some money.

First, we return a few things that didn't work out at Christmas, and then we head over to Starbucks to get a "nilla miwk" for Eva. The Valentine's Day stuff has arrived at the Dollar Spot, and I can't help myself as I pour over all the new pink and red pretties with hearts for days. Festive burlap banners and washi tape have a special place in my heart, so into the cart they go.

Just past the dollar section are the accessories, and I walk over there next in eager anticipation of a cute, new bag to make me look more grown up and fashionable. Something crafted of supple leather, with gold accents, and maybe grommets or buckles or locks. That sort of thing would go perfectly with the grey sweats and brown Ugg knockoff boots that I left the house in this morning. Eva spied the brightly colored clearance bags at the end of the isle and ran over for a closer look.

I recognize a few from my online perusing right away and am thrilled to see that they have the exact turquoise bag {of course} that I had wanted for my birthday. They have several of them, in fact, giving my obsessive nature an opportunity to examine each of them closely for scratches, knicks, or imperfections in the stitching in order to choose the most perfect and best one. I can compare their symmetry and evenness as they hang on the rack and figure out which straps have the ideal arch, not unlike the one in St. Louis, only on a much smaller scale, of course.

I pick up the first turquoise bag and begin to open the compartments inside. There are three of them, which at first seems like a great idea for organizational purposes. I start to think, okay, I might actually be able to find my stuff for once in this purse. I could put my wallet in this compartment and my phone and chapstick in this one with the little pockets and…… What else? I don't know that I have anything to put in the third one. Besides papers and junk. Do you really need three compartments if you have no use for all of them?

And then I realize, I like the idea of being organized…but I'm not. Not outside the fantasy world in my head. Just ask my husband: we fought about that last night. I'm a consistent and chronic "piler," and I have sifted through stacks of stuff and moved things from this pile to that all of my life. Now this purse seems to be threatening my well-entrenched way of functioning and I begin to feel overwhelmed. I've long been accustomed to the "tote" style bag with one big compartment that I can just throw all my crap into and call it a day.

Furthermore, this nice turquoise bag has something that they like to call a "zipper," which I believe is supposed to keep all your crap from falling out, but I can't remember the last time I had a zipper on a purse. I seem to prefer everything flying out of my purse and onto the floor of the car when I slam on the breaks, and a zipper now seems like too much of a hassle to contend with on a daily basis. So I put the turquoise bag back on the hook and am back to square one.

I look around at my other options, and there are indeed a few. But then I start to think, maybe I should choose a purse in a more sensible color like black or brown instead of turquoise. Maybe turquoise is too "loud," and a more neutral color would be a better choice. I call for Eva to come back around the corner where I can see her, and within few seconds she appears, dragging a small, hot pink satchel purse by the strap she'd unbuckled. She likes pink and loud, so it works for her.

There is a tote-style bag that I like a lot, but I still can't decide on a color. I do love turquoise, but as my favorite it tends to be my "default color." Can't decide which color shirt to buy? Go with the turquoise one. Turquoise goes with everything, I tell myself. And repeat ad nauseum until you wake up one day at college on Mismatch Day, only to open your closet and find one solitary red cardigan in a sea of mint green, turquoise, aqua, and robin's egg blue, with the occasional hint of denim, navy and khaki. It's physically impossible to create a mismatched outfit from that palate, and in that moment I discovered my default color issue.

So I feel the need to consider branching out and desperately try to ignore the deeply ingrained pull in the turquoise direction. Should I go with brown or black or the random light tan color that they call "silver mink?" I glance down at my boots and note that the brown purse is the exact same shade of brown, so that would work out nicely as I wear them often. But then I think, I probably shouldn't wear them as often as I do, really. They're basically glorified tall slippers with a medicore sole that's held on in multiple places with generous applications of super glue, and I should probably wear my grown-up leather {or pleather?} brown boots instead most days. So I'm not sure that I should buy a bag to match them, after all.

Sometimes I wear black boots, too, and I begin to wonder if carrying a brown bag with black boots is a fashion no-no. The sad thing is, I really don't know. Black purses are a pretty classic and safe choice, but what happens when I wear my brown slipper-boots with it? Suddenly, I realize the problematic nature of carrying a sensible handbag--the issue of matching. Never once in the last decade or so of carrying a patterned bag have I ever worried about it matching my outfit or coordinating with my boots. Because the answer would be simple: it doesn't. And it doesn't have to. In the event that you wear a purple shirt and it happens to work out for a day, great. If not, it doesn't matter. That's the perk of carrying a patterned bag.

So not only is the new bag trying to mess up my disorganized mojo, but it's trying to make me even more self-conscious about my impaired matching abilities and challenged fashion-sense. Or it's trying to sucker me into buying multiples of itself, which my inner cheapskate would never concede to. I remember the silver mink purse, which is an odd amalgamation of all neutrals, and it begins to look more attractive as it's neither black nor brown. Does that mean it would go with both?

Maybe I should ask someone. I glance around the accessory area and see a woman in the next isle. A quick scan of her cart reveals a black leather alligator skin bag with gold accents. Hmm. Her boots are also black. I watch her bend down and rummage through the pile of clearance wallets on the bottom shelf, wondering what she would think if I just blurted out my brown vs. black dilemma in her direction.

A wave of self-consciousness points out the fact I'm embarrassed I feel the need to ask another person, whom I don't even know, about what bag I should buy, as if there's a right or wrong answer. I suppose there technically is, but then there's the issue of whether I should care or not. And I probably don't, judging by the aforementioned grey sweats/brown boots ensemble that I'm currently rocking in public. Oh, and I haven't brushed my hair, either.

I look back over at the silver mink bag and conclude that not only is it a "safe" color, but it's incredibly bland and boring. It can't decide whether it wants to be black or brown or gray or somewhere in between, and I don't have time for that. Turquoise goes with everything, I remind myself, and I pick up the lone turquoise bag and put it in my cart before I can argue myself out of it again.

A hurried glance at my phone reveals that I've been engaged in a losing debate with purses for about a half hour now, and I'm close to being late for preschool pick-up. Eva starts to cry as I put her hot pink bag back on the clearance rack, but friends don't let friends buy hot pink satchels, even if they are on clearance. In fact, that's probably why they're on clearance. I may not know much about fashion, but I know that much.

The End.

***Update: All the handbags at Target are now 30-50% off {and there's a mobile coupon for $5 off $25}, so you can head there right now and have your very own neurotic shopping experience! My advice: stick with turquoise. It goes with everything. :)