I was chatting with a coworker about this the other day. I don’t have a formal ‘desk’ at work, and I wasn’t sure if I could have my purse with me at my ‘desk’ because it’s sort of in the lab. I was assured that it was fine to have it, and then the conversation veered off to guys, and how men can live with just what’s in their pockets all day. We female-types tend to prefer to carry a purse for our gear.
Why not pockets? Well, for the last several months at work I’ve lived out of my pockets because I didn’t think I could set my purse under my table (and, by the way, for those of you who are picturing something girly or floral, my ‘purse’ is a battered canvas satchel). This was possible only because work doesn’t require me to wear ridiculous girl-garb while at work. In fact, although I could technically wear skirts at work, I probably never will because acid, and strong bases, and just no, thank you very much. Jeans, tees, lab coat, and boots. Comfortable and a nice barrier between me and splashes. So I have pockets in pants and lab coat (and I favor a pocket protector in my lab coat for the various pens and markers I use daily), and I can stuff what little I require in there.
When the First Reader sees this post, he’s going to smile and shake his head. I might work lean, but the purses I carry when roaming the wilds of Ohio (it’s a joke, people. There may be wilds in Ohio, but not where we live) are usually vast and roomy. I need vast and roomy, though! I mean, I’ve got sketchbooks, and pens, and usually an art kit (I have several small ones I rotate depending on what I’m in the mood for) and my camera, and probably a lens or three in there, and that’s not even getting into the random collection of what-nots any woman has in her purse at any given moment. I’m a mother. It’s a habit from the days of diaper bags and spare outfits for all of us because puke. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.
I can streamline, and sometimes do. Although winding up yesterday evening out with my daughter shopping, I was a little too streamlined, having forgotten my phone on my desk. Funny how having a phone on you at all times has become a thing so quickly after that wasn’t even a science-fictional possibility when I was a kid. Now, my teen (pick one, any one. I have three!) is grafted onto hers and removing it will lead to blood, lots of blood. Not all of it hers.
I could forget my phone because I was switching from ‘work’ mode to ‘home’ mode. The First Reader, on the other hand, would feel naked if he ventured out without the contents of his pockets, which rarely vary. He switches the pocket stuff from dirty pants to clean in a morning ritual, and if on a weekend I want to do ALL the laundry, he reluctantly produces a hat and lets me put the wallet-keys-pen-knife-change-random nuts and bolts and screws into it for safe keeping until he’s got pockets to tuck them back away in. It occurs to me that the reason he gets the heebie-jeebies about getting something out of my purse (and if I ask him to bring me something from my purse, is just as likely to return with the whole darn thing so I can extract the item) is that reaching into my bag is akin to my shoving a hand into his pockets, while he was wearing them. It’s not that I couldn’t do that – I am his wife, after all, and random physical affection is not unknown nor unwelcome between us – it’s that in public that’s a bit too intimate and would feel weird.
The thing is, a lot of women’s clothing – like my interview suit I wore a couple of weeks ago – has no pockets at all. It’s cut to show the feminine silhouette, and heaven forbid you interrupt a curve with a bulging pocket. Frankly, I’d kill for a great suit with some discreet pockets, since I loathe having to tuck my ID into my executive folder, my car key in the top of my boot, and abandon everything else in the car when I go for an interview. Feeling half-undressed does not improve the interview experience, I assure you. I don’t carry a purse into an interview because I never know if there will be a place to put it, I don’t possess one that is sophisticated enough not to look weird (and have no inclination to buy such), and on occasion I interview in places where I couldn’t carry it with me. So… I don’t. Which means I need pockets.
A couple hundred years ago, in, say, the French and Indian War era (1740s, for those who aren’t up on their wars), women got to wear these handy pockets you tied around your waist and usually under a layer of skirts. They weren’t obvious, but you could reach through the slits on the skirt (designed for this purpose) and get what you needed. Plus, there was this amazing gadget called a Chatelaine. I still have one of those, and wore it regularly until I stopped performing. It was like jewelry for the waist, and it was intended to hold things like keys, sewing scissors, whatever you could clip onto it. I miss that. It was a whole lot more practical than sleek slacks or skirts with no pockets or even belt loops so you can put something on a belt. Sigh. I’d get funny looks if I went out dressed like that! Because I also love my jeans…