The mysteries of a woman’s purse

Do not, I repeat, do NOT touch a woman’s handbag.
Not only will you have to defend yourself from an outraged female but you may encounter bacteria exposure like you have never been exposed to before.

Germy, cluttered, and packed with secrets are all a part of the ingredients that create the woman’s must have accessory --her purse.

What is in a woman’s purse? What does it say about the character or personality of the woman?

Do you trust a woman with a tiny bag?

I mean, how does she get everything she needs in there?

What about the suitcase woman, toting a Godzilla-sized skinned alligator stuffed with heaven knows what! You might find what’s left of her husband in there!

That isn't an original thought, if you have ever watched the quirky and funny movie, Crazy in Alabama with Melanie Griffith and Lucas Black then you watched her carry her dead husband’s head in her purse which was really a hatbox. Never fear, no one could smell the decaying corpse because the sealed tight Tupperware container kept all the gory stink in side.

So, especially in the South, you might be wary of what is truly in a woman’s purse. Just a sayin’.

Inside the mysterious compartments of a woman’s bag are the must haves such as money or a pocketbook; that is the spot where cash and credit cards are kept.

These days, the cash section is a bit thinner. But, the credit cards are fatter! Literally! Not because they are filled to the brim with Visa’s, but because our pocketbooks are filled with the new trend of “Store Cards” or “Reward Cards”. I have to have a separate pocketbook just for my: Panera Bread Card, Burke’s Outlet Card, Kroger Card, Best Buy Card, PetSmart Card, Sam’s Card, Goody’s 50 Club Card, and today, I added a Shoe Carnival card. That’s just the icing and there is a lot of cake beneath with normal cards like medical cards, licenses, and library cards.

Some of us still have antique checks for the times our debit cards are down or the rare find where a place only accepts written checks, cash and visa credit cards.

A crook might hit me over the head and steal my purse thinking I am loaded!

The other must have for a woman’s purse is beauty products, even if it’s a lip balm, mirror, or comb. We must update our faces all day long.

In the good ol’ days, we carried hankies, delicate little cloth to dab at our eyes like the ladies we were, however, today we have packets of tissues, sterilizing bottles, and sanitary wipes. Don’t tell the men folk, but women also keep female products which frighten the men away.

After these must haves, then come the technical gadgets such as cell phones, iPods, iPhones/smartphones, even iPads and netbooks. We are connected to the information highway everywhere we go.

I am waiting for the purse that just syncs up when you get to wi-fi automatically.

Other items inside a woman’s bag reveal the personalities. I may have a notebook for notes which is made of trees and a paper book to fill in time when I get stuck somewhere. I have seen women with knitting needles or embroidery. 

Frugal women have coupons to save money stuck in a specific container or compartment, while others have a whole extra bag for their coupons because they are the “extreme couponers”. They are great until you get behind them in the check out line.

I know of women who keep photos still in their purses, or what we use to refer to as ‘brag books.’ Older women keep hair covering in case they get caught in the rain, because they have it teased every Saturday and it must not get wet until the next Saturday or there will be trouble.

Women have to carry protection in or attached to their handbags such as pepper spray, mace, tazers and guns. Yet, you can’t walk ten feet in public without being searched, metal-detected or investigated because of the times we live in.

My mom began to keep a pistol in her purse decades ago when she had to walk half a block to the bank every day from the clothing store she managed. There had been armed robberies so she felt better carrying her armed purse, but the truth is, if a bad guy held her up she would have to excuse him for a moment while she dug and dug in her giant handbag to find the little gun.

She also would look down the barrel of the pistol to see if there were any bullets. Plus, her fake tooth got lodged in the barrel when she had to take it out to get it fixed. Of course, first rule of unclogging your pistol is to unload. I only hope she did, but thankfully she is still around and still packin’.

Diabetic women keep candy for low sugar moments, many other women carry a pharmacy in their bag in case of any ailment known to man rears its head, and some just keep four baby aspirin in case of stroke.

Mothers, besides having to carry the separate diaper bag, carry snacks, toys, distraction items for kids, and I have seen some carry a ruler or a switch for the unruly kid.

I have also seen women who needed to carry Tasers for their kids, but that may be a bit extreme.

Cleaning out our old purses to begin using our new purses yields many unpleasant and pleasant surprises. Petrified crumbs, mints, and sweet’n’low packets smashed into our handbag’s innards can prove stinky.

Cough drops that melted through the protective plastic make for a gummy mess and old receipts that could never be found when you needed to return an item frustrate us all. However, an extra bill stuck in a hidden cove can brighten the day, especially a $20.

Mementos of movies or concerts pop up in forgotten ticket stubs and make us smile as we recall the outing we had, a crayon colored picture from a small child that has grown a foot since you first saw the artwork make us sigh bittersweet. These are treasures.

We lose things in our purses that never come back. I have had those Twilight Zone handbags that ate up cash, jewelry and personal items that went in and never came out.

Sometimes I wonder if I put a pair of socks in those bags if two socks will come out?

The main thing we must remember is a woman’s purse is a private place and while some females may keep dark secrets, mostly, it’s just the principle of the thing. We teach our kids to not touch Mommy’s purse.

We teach our husbands that it’s “Hands off.”

My own husband treads lightly when he has to dig in mine for an item, and he always asks permission. He has a mother who taught him the rule of Mother’s Purses.

I have always wanted to rig my handbag with an alarm just for the fun of it, a loud siren that goes off when opened by anyone other than myself.

The only secret most of our handbags carry is that we just like having a spot that is all to ourselves, you know, since the bathroom area doesn't seem to cut it.

Yet, one day Jimmy Hoffa may be discovered in a woman’s purse, the cures to diseases, the date of the real end of the world day, or even who Carly Simon was really writing about in that “You’re so Vain” song.

Recent studies show that one in five handbags contain higher levels of bacteria than the average toilet.

Until then, don’t touch the purse!

Tracy Williams is a syndicated columnist and can be reached at or like my page at or read my blog at


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