To see a world in a purse or heaven in a handbag

Click for source. Xaviera Hollander's website is worth a visit.

Click for source. Xaviera Hollander’s website is worth a visit.

So last week, I was reading a magazine which contained an interview with designer Giambattista Valli. Quoth he, on the subject of handbags: “An architectural bag provides structure. One click and you open a woman’s private universe.”

I hardly know what to say. I mean, my handbag is no more my “private universe” than my desk chair. The idea that the contents of a woman’s bag – keys, a phone, ID, credit cards and/or cash, some lipstick or gloss – the archeological remains of being a functioning modern person – could constitute her universe is just so offensive. Not to mention that it lacks imagination about the way a woman constructs meaning in her life. It’s misogyny. A part of me says, eh, it’s cultural, but the rest of me says, that doesn’t make it right. Screw you, Valli.

The other thing his little observation brought to mind for me was The Happy Hooker, a 70s era tell-all about, you know, a hooker, Xaviera Hollander, who was happy about it. I picked up a copy in a thrift store when I was a teenager. There are two things that I remember about it. One, a scene with a dog that I think was supposed to shock? And two, the pivotal scene of the author/narrator’s job interview with the madam. The madam took her purse and examined it. Its sparse contents signaled to the madam that this was a girl of quality, worthy of admittance into the life of a high-class hooker. Valli gets this, no?

I don’t. I mean, I do. It’s a vestige of earlier generations’ social signals of class, a coded mechanism for detecting who is and who is not your economic equal. I say earlier generations, but this type of social marking obviously continues. The same magazine had an article about skin bleaching in Jamaica; one interview subject likened it to tanning in the U.S. I’m way late to the discussion about the weird spectacle that is Miley Cyrus, but her appropriation of the whole ratchet thing is another spin on this topic, which is way too big for me to do justice to here.

Anyhoo. This poor neglected blog. I want to give it some love, but it’s just one of those things that’s easy to let go of when other parts of life threaten to overwhelm. I spent all of July and part of August sick with vertigo. Work has been crazy-busy since May. I’ve gotten great traction on my novel revision. And of course, there is my sweet Otto, now almost fully mobile and no longer content to sit idly by when he could be running down the dogs with a push toy or attempting to scale furniture in his room. I’ll make room for this place when I can.

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