Monday, April 01, 2013
No, really. What's In Your Handbag?
If I was a magazine editor I would run the show with an iron fist. I'd keep the iron fist in the top drawer of my desk and bring it out on one occasion, to enforce one very special rule. The only rule. I'd send a memo around to all staff on a Friday night, just as they're leaving the office and thinking about all of the fun ways they're going to spend the weekend. They'd quickly scan my email, informing them about the meeting being scheduled for 9am on Monday which will be held in response to one of the features being run in the April issue. I will tell them that it has come to my attention that a feature is being run which violates The Rule. Every experienced member of staff will know word-for-word how this meeting will go, even before it happens. They will think about it as they're putting on their coat to leave the office that night and again while they're browsing flowers on Columbia Road on Saturday morning and again when they're handwashing their tights over the bathroom sink on Sunday evening.
The meeting will be tense but short and to the point. And everybody who attends the meeting will never forget the words of The Rule. The assistant who wrote the feature will absolutely never forget the rule and for 6 months will carry her belongings to work in her pockets in order to avoid the associations with The Rule as provoked by her handbag.
The rule goes like this:
"In the event of a 'What's In Your Handbag?' feature, please ask yourself these questions and only proceed with the article is the answer to either is yes. 1. Is the subject Mary Poppins? 2. Does the bag belong to a traveling salesman specialising in now-defunct magical sweeties only available on the black market (which are still, miraculously still within their expiry date)?"
My point and my question really is this: "Why are handbag features a thing?" Like all brilliant imaginary magazine editors, (or the Carrie Bradshaw of 2013) I voiced this question aloud on Twitter. These features are really, really not very interesting. I would much rather see the contents of a fridge or a wardrobe or a personal photo album because these things are actually revealing of a person. (Well, the fridge doesn't really, in the food department I'm just nosey) But anyone can carry around keys and a phone and some lipbalm. And what makes these features boring is the fact that they are usually completely unbelievable, comically so! If you look into one of these bags, on a blog or in a magazine, they contain 2 heavyweight SLR cameras, a dog-eared copy of Camus's The Plague, a Stila blusher, a small shell-shaped compact mirror, an iphone and a moleskine. Come on! Where are your tampax? Look into your best friend's bag and it will contain a bus pass, some loose filters, a snotty tissue and a McDonalds straw wrapper. (I know this because she faithfully replied to my tweet listing the exact contents.)
For research purposes, please allow me to reveal the mediocre contents of my bag for your delectation:
You will find: Wallet (in dire need of a sort-out in light of fact that fat receipt situation will not allow the clasp to close), 2 separate sets of keys, a bike light, headphones, a make-up brush (yet notable absence of blusher) Railcard, Make-up bag, 2 pens, an orange, deodorant, chewing gum, lots of tissues- grabbed from the dispenser of the toilet on the train I travelled on this weekend.
I very much enjoyed some of the contents of bags on Twitter which did indeed reveal something about the owners and lack any of the glamour of the unbelievable magazine features. See Anna's rotten apple and selection of whiteboard pens which show in very real terms her progress as a teacher-in-training. Teachers in cartoons have shiny apples on their desks! They must end up buried forgotten in handbags, slowly rotting.. Kat, who describes herself on her Twitter bio as 'A lover, not a fighter' carries Pom Bears in her bag. Naturally, the ultimate sharing, caring, extended olive-branch of animal shaped potato snacks. Fiona's bag pays tribute to her Easter bank holiday, containing confetti and eggs shells from a 'drunken Easter egg hunt'. Brilliant. Evidently a lot of what these features are missing is the crucial back story behind our bag crap. As the famous saying goes, "On the shoulder of every Great Woman, hangs a mediocre handbag."