I have never really been a fan of handbags.
Researchers have found that the average thirty-year-old woman owns twenty-one handbags and buys a new one every three months. Not me.
Of course, yes, I have had fleeting encounters with them through the years, mainly those that I’ve cheaply picked up in a last-minute shopping effort prior to a night out, a wedding or social function. They have never taken pride of place in my wardrobe, however, and I have never paid more than £20 for any of them, so I can honestly say I am not a bag woman.
In fact, over time, all eight or ten that I have owned have been donated to charity shops, or others who could make better use of them. For the past couple of years I have owned only one. A dark brown leather-like one that my boyfriend won in a raffle (he wanted to choose something else off the table apparently, but his friends, in my absence, suggested the bag might be a better option). Whenever I dig it out of the bottom of my wardrobe, I chuckle to myself as I remember the line by Lady Bracknell in ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ (a favourite film), when she discovers that Jack was ‘found’ in a handbag. Anyway, that is how I have happily existed. Until Douglas came along.
I felt the panic starting only months in to pregnancy as I used to see mothers with their babies, bags over shoulders, bags on prams, bags under prams, bags on boyfriends/partners, bags in trolleys, bags in cars….bags everywhere. All my friends told me that you HAVE to have a bag once you have a baby, as you just have SO much paraphernalia to lug around with you. I expressed this fear to my dear friend (who is a classy bag lady and always has been) and we discussed at length what’s a girl to do in such a situation? Do you get a really over-the-top girlie bag, as a statement piece? Do you get a man-bag type affair, that will not be cringeworthy for your partner to carry? (hence no excuse for him not carrying it on outings), do you get something achingly fashionable so you still feel in style despite the items it holds? As you can imagine, the latter SO did not apply to me!
I turned to magazines and Mothercare catalogues to see if they offered help, but became bewildered with the choice and ranges available. Who knew it was such an important decision to make?
There indeed is, a style for everyone for every function. They were also far more expensive than I would ever have imagined (even though I have been known to gasp when reading Red magazine and seeing the price tags on their ‘must-have bargain’ of the month).
After a couple more months of pushing the thought to the back of my mind, aforementioned friend rang one day and said that she would like to buy me my baby bag as a present. It was such a relief, as I knew that whatever I chose, if it didn’t pass muster with her, she wouldn’t buy it.
As it happens, it was one of the easiest choices I have ever made (was that the pregnancy hormones?). I happened to be in Boots buying some antenatal vitamins and walked past their baby bag section…..and there it was. I took a photo, sent it to my friend and she agreed it was the most ‘me’ bag that it would be possible to find in the form of a baby bag..
This bag was hand delivered by my friend when Douglas was a few weeks old. I was overjoyed.
I was almost tempted to say I could get in to owning bags, once I had filled it with all the rubbish you need to cart around with a baby. It reminds me of Mary Poppins’ carpet bag, with its endless pockets. It has been used more than any other handbag that I have owned and isn’t far away at any time.
But this bag means far more to me than it being a useful receptacle for baby belongings. It is a sign of true friendship. Of a friend that might have thought she might get pushed out of my life by a certain little person that is all-encompassing, but instead every time I use it, it just demonstrates that our friendship has grown and changed and that she is there to support me at every point in my journey into and through motherhood. I hope that one day I can lend her ‘the handbag’ if she decides to have children of her own. Mind you, I am not sure I shall want to be parted with it, as it will probably be the last handbag I own!
And for those of you who need reminding of the scene from ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’, it’s below.
Have a lovely day.
Jack: I don’t actually know who I am by birth. I was… well, I was found.
Lady Bracknell: Found?
Jack: Yes. The late Mr. Thomas Cardew, an old gentleman of a kindly disposition found me and gave me the name of Worthing because he happened to have a first class ticket to Worthing at the time. Worthing is a place in Sussex. It’s a seaside resort.
Lady Bracknell: And where did this charitable gentleman with the first class ticket to the seaside resort find you?
Jack: In a handbag.
Lady Bracknell: [closes eyes briefly] A handbag?
Jack: Yes, Lady Bracknell, I was in a hand bag. A somewhat large… black… leather handbag with handles… to it.
Lady Bracknell: An ordinary handbag.
Lady Bracknell: And where did this Mr. James… or, Thomas Cardew come across this ordinary handbag?
Jack: The cloak room at Victoria Station. It was given to him in mistake for his own…
Lady Bracknell: [Shocked] The cloak room at Victoria Station?
Jack: Yes. The Brighton line.
Lady Bracknell: The line is immaterial.
[begins tearing up notes]
Lady Bracknell: Mr. Worthing. I must confess that I feel somewhat bewildered by what you have just told me. To be born, or at any rate bred in a handbag, whether it have handles or not, seems to me to display a contempt for the ordinary decencies of family life which reminds one of the worst excesses of the French revolution, and I presume you know what that unfortunate movement led to?