What I carry

My purse = 15 pounds of stuff I can’t live without

Ginny McReynolds is dean of humanities and social science at Cosumnes River College.

Once, when I thought I had a running injury, a physical therapist told me the ache in my hip was probably more related to the massive purse I throw over my shoulder and lug around each day. It sounded funny at the time, but I have noticed since then that, on the rare occasions when I don’t carry a purse (at the beach, for example), my whole body really does feel better.

The problem is, I simply can’t live without the 15 pounds of stuff that’s in there. I don’t need every ounce of it at every moment, but really, you never know. Like those three pairs of prescription glasses. Clearly I won’t be wearing them all at one time, but it’s highly possible that I could go from driving (sunglasses) to sitting at computer (reading glasses) to trying to see something across the room (regular glasses), all within the space of an hour.

Same is true with the 11 seemingly random pieces of paper that I have to paw through to find my glasses—the note reminding me to buy milk the next time I go to the store, the at-home weight-lifting regimen I printed from the Internet, a recipe for baby-back ribs, the schedule of my friend’s daughter Mary Grace’s basketball games, my Weight Watchers weigh-in card, the program from the memorial service I attended three weeks ago and the list of things I might like to do when I retire.

Of course I could leave all of these things at home, but what if I needed them? What if I had a sudden spare 20 minutes and wanted to see how many overhead dumbbell presses I could do?

Then there are real necessities—the five packs of gum, my calendar, a graying bottle of Advil, six pencils and eight pens, a plastic bag of Rolaids, dental floss and the membership card to the gym I quit two years ago (I use it every winter to scrape ice off my car window). My wallet is another must-have, of course, including the expired credit cards, photos of people I no longer know and $4.57 in change that miraculously disappears whenever I have to feed a parking meter.

I am vaguely fascinated by people who don’t carry this much with them. I’ve seen other women’s purses—neatly organized satchels with tiny address books, thin makeup cases and miniature packets of Kleenex. But it’s true awe and admiration I feel for moms—whose purses are crammed with everything from wet wipes to random socks to used chewing gum wrapped in old receipts.

They have to be prepared, don’t they? And so do I.

So, despite my aching joints, I have no intention of changing my habits. This is what I carry with me, literally. So what if my joints ache occasionally? If I get to haul around my iPod, a novel I might read soon and a Swiss Army knife with 11 different tools, then hand me the ice pack and let me be happy.