Handbags, Purses and Toolboxes, Oh My!

by : David Leonhardt

Never send a man to do a woman's job. You'd think I would have figured that out by now, but I haven't made my quota of mistakes just yet.

Somehow I got it into my head to buy my friend a handbag. It seemed simple enough. I've never had a problem buying toolboxes, cabinets or file folders, so how hard would it be to pick up a handbag?

"I would like to buy a handbag for a friend, please."

"What kind of handbag," the smiling sales lady asked helpfully.

"Uh...one that carries stuff in it, I suppose. Is there any other kind?"

"There are very many kinds," SalesLady enthused. "There is at least one for every occasion and several for every personality. What is your friend like?"

I tried to think. Unfortunately, the only thought that wandered into my cerebrum was that maybe I should go across the street to the hardware store and just buy her a sturdy 205-piece socket set on sale for $74.99.

"Is she a bit wild?" SalesLady probed. "If so, we have these exciting leopard print handbags. They are perfect for howling out on the town."

I tried to picture a leopard wandering into the bookshop café. "I don't think 'wild' quite describes her."

"Ah. Well these corset bags are not quite as wild," SalesLady offered.

I blushed at the site. "That might be a bit too stylish for her. She's more...uh..."

"...conservative!" SalesLady piped in. "Here are some classic handbags, for more conservative tastes."

I looked at the bags. "I don't know. These look kind of boring to me."

SalesLady was taken aback. "Boring? These are for professionals. They say your friend has arrived. They say she is climbing the corporate ladder. They say, 'I am somebody.' Would you call Bill Gates boring? Would you call Donald Trump boring?"

"Donald Trump wears one of these?"

The look on SalesLady's face said just one thing: "Men!"

"I don't think my friend is much of a professional corporate type. She's more casual."

"Casual? We can do casual," SalesLady assured me. "Check out these suede handbags. Feel that texture. Soft as a baby's bottom."

"Hey, they are soft. They'd be great for pillow fights."

Oops. SalesLady was taken aback again. "Ladies do not engage in pillow fights."

I considered the suede handbags for a moment. "I think my friend might like something a little more trendy. Do you have anything trendy?"

"Trendy? You want trendy? We have lots of trendy!" SalesLady got all excited. "How about this very popular high heel shoe handbag?" she offered.

I had to admit it was original. And trendy. But I wasn't sure about giving my friend a bag she could kick me with.

SalesLady read my mind. "I know," she sighed. "You men all cower at the site of the high heel shoe handbag. How about an equally trendy jelly handbag instead?"

I turned it over a few times. "Where's the peanut butter?"

SalesLady snapped the bag back and handed me another. "Your friend will love these Initial bags," she said, showing me several bags with a single classy letter affixed to each. I considered how many bags my friend would have to carry to spell "Help, my dorky friend bought me too many handbags." I asked what else she could show me.

She brought out a handbag covered with lip prints. My eyes opened wide. "Wow. How come a handbag gets all the puckers?"

"They are not real," SalesLady assured me.

"It's still better than I've ever gotten."

SalesLady mercifully ignored my comment. "How about these vinyl horoscope handbags?"

"Now you're talking! My friend loves horoscopes."

SalesLady looked relieved.


"I know," SalesLady interrupted "She can find her horoscope in the newspaper. Let's try something else. How about these little evening handbags?"

I looked at the tiny purses. "They are cute, but they don't have much room to carry, say, a chainsaw."

An hour later...

The sales clerk at the hardware store rang up my purchase. "That'll be $29," she said.

I handed her the money. "Thank you," I smiled. "I thought about getting the 205-piece socket set for my friend, but I know she will love this new handbag."

"Handbag?" asked the confused clerk staring at the toolbox in my hand.

"Yes. And if she doesn't, at least she can't kick me with it."