Meet the new homeless chic – carrying everything you own.
The economy is making its typical headlines, raising alarm bells, etc.
Like its killing cousin, War, The Economy is manly, irrational and presented as natural when it is anything but. Both are underwritten by women, children and every struggling component of life on the ransacked planet.
During the Great Depression and the Great and Second World Wars, hemlines rose and fell with the economic outlook. In boom times, women's skirts were shorter because they could show off their pricey stockings. In bad times, skirts were longer.
These days, women are carrying another marker that I may be the first to read as an economic indicator. The matter will require further study (my research grants are being held up), but I believe the state of The Market is reflected in the current size of women's purses, along with men's man bags and children's backpacks.
Growth in purse size is proportional to the increase in anxiety about The Economy - or so my theory goes.
Like a real scientist's, my research is in no way compromised by personal experience. I have never carried a purse, bag, clutch or satchel or understood the desire for encumbrance. The purse is on the pie chart of things that people are conditioned to claim they need, which includes cars, kids, jobs, cellphones and other responsibilities that may well have their genesis in the impulse to fill and carry around a bag of stuff.
Just look at the monstrous burdens women are hauling - luggage-sized sacks covered in weapons-grade hardware. Is it a subconscious form of emergency preparedness? Are they packing a year's supply of jerky and vitamins in an all-weather tent?
Shocking preliminary anecdotal evidence shows that many have no idea what they've got in their purses. "I hate these big purses where you have to root around," the woman in front of me complained to the cashier as the lineup lengthened behind her.
Who made her carry this big purse she hates? Why not go all the way and fill up a shopping cart to push around? Maybe this big-bag trend is like the droopy-drawered boys taking their unfortunate style from prisoners. Fashion has absorbed the look from the street, from homeless people who carry everything they own because they have no choice.
I've heard tell that a purse can represent a sense of security. Flimsier sources of confidence can be found in the macro economy. I had trouble believing there was any surprise at the fall of two U.S. financial institutions with the solid names of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. They sound like your ol' aunt and uncle or chicken franchises. Was that how they operated?
"I'll have an order of wings - oh yeah, and a mortgage."
Of course, the U.S. bailouts went to the lenders, not to the poor chumps who didn't realize that their only function is to assist in the corporate privatization of public funds.
The whole world is being sucked into the brutal vortex created by speculators and hoarders. Many lucky Canadians are busy puffing portfolios for their glorious post-employment lives as full-time consumers. Planning is equated with superior intelligence.
It makes about as much sense as carrying a purse full of junk you could do without.
Planned lives are smashed by swipes of fate all the time. Economic blows are predictable in a ridiculous, rigged, artificial system. Wanting to hang onto something material is a common human response.
I myself am paying the price of trusting in my own industrious plan that saw me spend six months building, stitch by stitch, a dress that I could live in.
I carefully folded it away for the summer in a suitcase swabbed in cedar oil. I got those pheromone traps that pulled in clothing moths from the whole neighbourhood. First crisp fall day, I opened the suitcase, put on the dress and touched a bit of fluff that opened into big holes chewed right in the front.
Now the dress I was depending on is ruined by lumpy scars. Still, I'm cooking an old blouse in a pot of bright curry to go with it.
Gotta hang onto the clothes on my back. Especially now that my Third World symbol of wealth, my gold tooth, has been lost to ever-dependable chaos.