In August, I stopped carrying a purse.
It started just with complaining with women friends about the lack of pockets in our apparel. I’ve got pantsuits with zero usable pockets. I’m a parish minister, and after the service, I take off my preaching robe, and wander around our fellowship hall, chatting with folks. And because I have no pockets, it means I either have to carry my keys and phone around with me, or hand them to my pocket-bearer, I mean, husband.
Those conversations sent me to articles about the history of the lack-of-pockets in women’s wear, and how – goodness! – if clothing manufacturers began putting pockets in women’s clothing, then we’d kill the whole purse industry! Purse manufacturers have children, too, you know!
Heartlessly, I decided I’d had enough, at least for a little while, and I was going to experiment with not carrying a purse. And I’d only purchase clothes with pockets in them. (One morning, I headed to work and realized I’d left my blazer at home. I had a community event later, so rather than circle back, I just stopped by the mall by the church. How hard could it be to grab a black blazer with real pockets? 5 stores and 1 ½ hours later, I will tell you, pretty *&%! hard.)
And I began Life Without Purse.
Many of the things you might have predicted happened: I realized I didn’t actually need all of those other things I toted around. Just keys, wallet, pocketknife, cell phone – really don’t need anything more. I felt lighter. I feel like I’m walking a little jauntier. I pat myself more often. (Oh, now I get it guys! The routine check – keys/wallet/phone – yep, all there.)
Here’s what I didn’t expect, couldn’t have known: how much of my brain this has freed up.
If you have carried a purse all your life, you just can’t know how your brain is constantly, constantly! monitoring the whereabouts of your purse. Is it on your shoulder? Sliding down your arm? Did someone just brush against it? Was it open, did someone swipe your wallet? Can I leave it in the car, or will someone see it on the seat and bust the window? At the theater, music club, restaurant – where is my purse? On the dirty floor? Hanging on the chair? Oh, someone just walked by our table. Where’s my purse? Is it tripping someone? Is someone walking off with it?
It is ever-present, this monitoring of one’s purse.
Out and about, it’s a symbol of women’s vulnerability, worn on the outside of our bodies. We learn to hold it tight, in case someone tries to grab it. At the same time, we’re told that if someone tries to grab it, let it go, let it go, save your body. Or maybe we could use it as a weapon? “Toss it away from you, that gives you time to run away.”
It is like malware in our brains, running all the time, without us knowing it.
And if we’re like that about our purses, just imagine the mental power constantly being drained with the malware called “Don’t Get Raped.”
Get to your car, with confident body language - head up, arms swinging. Keep an eye out for someone hiding under the car, or someone sitting in the passenger side of the car next to you, or someone who has snuck into the backseat of your car. Make sure you don't have a flat. Get in the car, but quickly lock the doors. Don’t sit there checking your email, move. ALWAYS keep your car in good working order. Get out of your car after scanning the area. Constantly be doing a 360 scan around yourself. Carry your keys threaded through your fingers like a weapon. Never take stairs. Never get in the elevator with someone who sets off your internal alarm. If you’re the only one in the building, lock the door. Be careful about any personal information you share online. Be careful about the male co-workers you trust. Be careful about the janitor, the customer. Always have your cell phone. Never drink anything in public that your eye has been off even for a second. Tell the bartender you want an angel shot when someone is threatening you. Dress in clothes that are easy to run and kick in. Don't open your front door unless you know who is on the other side. "Fight your inner woman...Be paranoid and suspicious."
I could go on and on.
Yes, some of the advice is ridiculous.
Yes, men have to be aware of their safety, too.
But for women, it is a constant thing that most of the time, we're not even conscious of. It is a program running in our subconscious, a plug-in to our autonomic system.
For me, I've found not carrying a purse -- and tossing my mental "purse monitor" in the trash -- to be joyful and liberating.
But the sad reality is that the risk of uninstalling the Women's Safety plug-in is too high.