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I love Nora Ephron. She makes me laugh about things I can totally relate to. It’s what I try to do here on the ACTS Journal…and every now and then, it occurs to me I need to lighten things up a little. So, here’s a piece* from the late screenwriter and three-time Academy Award nominee, best known for When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle, Silkwood, You’ve Got Mail, and Julie & Julia. This is about her purse…well, not entirely. Maybe you’ll relate.

I hate my purse. I absolutely hate it. If you’re one of those women who think there’s something great about purses, don’t even bother reading this because there will be nothing here for you. This is for women who hate their purses, who are bad at purses, who understand that purses are reflections of ourselves…of our negligent housekeeping, hopeless disorganization, chronic inability to throw anything away, and ongoing failure to handle the obligations of this demanding and difficult accessory.  

This is for women whose purses are a morass of loose Tic Tacs and Advils, lipsticks without tops, ChapSticks of unknown vintage, little bits of tobacco even though they haven’t smoked in years, tampons minus their wrappings, boarding passes from long-forgotten flights, keys from God-knows-what hotel, leaky ballpoint pens, Kleenexes that either have or have not been used but there’s no way to be sure, scratched eyeglasses, an old tea bag, crumpled receipts, and an unprotected toothbrush that looks as if it has been used to polish silver. This is for women who in mid-July realize they still haven’t bought a summer purse, or in mid-winter are still carrying around a straw bag. Those who are appalled that a purse could cost five or six hundred dollars – never mind a Birkin that can be as much as 200,000 dollars! 

I realized many years ago that I was no good at purses, and for quite a while I managed to do without one. I worked from home, and didn’t need one to walk into my own kitchen. But unfortunately there are times when it just can’t be avoided…and this is what I’ve found happens. You start small. Pledge yourself to neatness. Vow “this time will be different.” You start with only things you absolutely need – your wallet and a few cosmetics that you buy a brand-new shiny cosmetic bag to hold, the kind your friends use who are competent enough to manage more than one purse at a time. But within seconds, your purse begins to accumulate stuff. Cosmetics fall out of the shiny bag (okay, you forgot to zip it) and coins from your wallet (for the same reason). Credit cards end up somewhere in the abyss (after you forgot to put your Visa card back into your wallet after you bought the sunblock that is now oozing into the lining because you forgot to put the top back on after applying it to your hands while driving 70 mph down the highway).

Then there’s the half bottle of water and snacks you saved from a recent flight just in case you ever find yourself starving and craving a piece of cheese that tastes like plastic. Perhaps you can fit your sneakers in your purse. Yes, by God, you can! And before you know it, your purse weighs 20 pounds and you are in grave danger of needing surgery for the bursitis you now have just from carrying it around. Everything you own is in your purse, but when you open it, you can’t find a thing. It’s a big black hole full of stuff you spend hours fishing around for. You wish you had a flashlight, but if you did…you wouldn’t be able to find it.

This forces Ephron to stick out her neck and admit the obvious: “I’m not an organized person.” Of course, she also considers blaming her mother for failing to teach her about purses. Maybe you can relate. I know I can…and I love her for that.



* Portions of Ephron’s essay, “I Hate My Purse,” have been paraphrased for brevity…and the price of the Birkin adjusted to reflect current prices…to which Ms. Ephron responded, “For a purse! A purse you can’t even get because there’s a waiting list. A waiting list! For a purse that will end up full of Tic Tacs!”