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March 4, 2013

Lisa Madras: You’re fine, leather purse, but you don’t define me

NEW CASTLE — Do you own your things or do your things own you?

Ah! What an apropos question for the proud new owner of a gorgeous, butter-soft Dolce & Gabanna handbag! I found this little treasure during my monthly half-price-shopping-day trip at the Goodwill Store last weekend.

I didn't really know anything about the brand at the time. I just loved the purse because it was teal and white striped, and the leather was the softest I'd ever felt. Imagine my delight, though, when I googled the bag and found it was worth more than five months of my mortgage payments.

Finally, I had a handbag to match my imaginary tiara! The creme de la creme of attachés, the rucksack of royalty, the purse that I deserved after a lifetime of 40 hour-work weeks that has thus far garnered me little to show but worry lines and a squelched sense of self-worth!

I talked about this purse relentlessly for two days. I texted everyone I knew to tell them about my amazing find. I sat for hours on end and caressed its soft leather and ran my fingers lovingly over its finely-stiched seams, wondering at the luck that had finally befallen my previously cursed life.

Truth be told, I was acting a little maniacal about the whole thing. I'd always coveted the beautiful things that seemed to be owned by everyone but me, but not enough go crazy over it.  Sure, I'd like to have the digs and baubles of the wealthy, but I'm (sort of) content with my life. I'm happy that I make enough to take care of my family, even if it means hours of clipping coupons and digging through piles of thrift-shop clothing.

But here I was, checking and re-checking the stitching and hardware of this purse to reassure myself of its authenticity, wondering where I'd go to show it off for the first time, and already worrying about it getting stolen from me.

Now, let me interject here by saying that I've always been a purse girl. Clothes, eh. Manicure, not in this lifetime. Shoes? Please.

Do you have any idea how hard it is to find cute shoes when you have Fred Flintstone feet? But purses ... sigh! The perfect, one-size-fits-all accessory.

But even for a purse girl, I was pushing the adulation of this thing. I knew for the first time what it felt like to be owned by my things, and it wasn't a feeling I liked.

I've watched friends living lifestyles above their means, taking out too-large mortgages and refinancing for pretty cars and vacations they can't really afford. I've always felt sorry for these people, and taken great pride in living well within my own means, even if it means driving an economy car and fixing the holes in my screens with duct tape.

I know that if my house were to burn to the ground, I'd only be concerned with my family and my cats making it out safely. And I don't like the part of me that now feels like I'd mourn the loss of a purse.

And so I'm sorry, Dolce & Gabanna, whoever you are. If it comes to it, that luxurious, creamy leather is going to lose against the flames.

Because it might match my tiara, but it doesn't match me.

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