I am fastidious about the contents of my handbag. The usual stuff is in there, of course. And a few extras thrown in because I don’t like to get caught out – notebook and pen, green tea teabags, a few more pens, mints, hair grips – the paraphernalia of a stationery lover who frequently has messy hair. One thing I always carry with me is a small make-up bag. Its contents include (but are not limited to) hand cream, lip salve, lipstick, mini perfume, mini hair oil, wet wipes, and a tube of bonjela that has been in there for so long that I’m nervous to take it out lest karma immediately gifts me with a ‘serves you right’ mouth ulcer.
This make-up bag is a sort of comfort blanket. A warm reassuring hand on the shoulder that tells me that, should I be invited to some sort of impromptu soiree after work, I don’t have to decline the invitation, but rather can arrive smelling of & Other Stories Arabesque Wood, with a slick of Mac Fabby on my lips (and any mouth irritations deftly soothed). Actually I often do find myself going to see a friend, or popping for a quick drink after work; and so this make-up bag is in frequent use (I lose count of the amount of times I find myself trying to pack both my gym bag for before work, and a further change of clothes for after work – hashtag ‘all my friends live in the city I work in but don’t live in problems’). On one afternoon I found myself in the work toilets; exchanging a shift dress for skinny jeans, re-doing my makeup and generally spreading most of my belongings across all four sinks. A lift and a short walk to the pub with a work colleague later and I dug my hand in my handbag only to find it more roomy than usual. My comfort blanket had been snuck from my shoulders – and the make-up bag was gone. My go-to move at this point is to involve almost everyone I know or have ever met in my personal minuscule drama, and so it was that a group of my work colleagues discussed several options to aid in the location and retrieval of the make-up bag – including phone-calls or drives back to the office (which we then realised had shut), returning to my car to perform an intensive search to see if I had deposited it there before leaving, and contacting various locations that I had visited since the make-up bag’s last known position. In the end the most popular conclusion was the less than reassuring but probably fairly sensible adage of ‘it will probably just turn up’ – and I resigned myself to the fact that I might never see my precious make-up bag again. I imagined it in the hands of some new owner; gleefully slathering themselves in L’Occitane Shea Butter hand cream, and smelling strongly of Arabesque Wood (should one be able to identify what such a scent might entail).
img credit: notonthehighstreet
The next day I made it my personal mission to get back what was rightfully mine. My handbag lopped sadly at the sides without the make-up bag to provide its stuffing, and I realised that any invitations to impromptu soirees would currently have to be disappointedly declined. The make-up bag was not in my car, my friend’s car, or the work toilets. Further enquiries generated unsatisfactory dead ends. This story does have a happy ending however (I know it may be tugging on your heartstrings so I shan’t keep you hanging on much longer). The make-up bag had been handed in to our Front Desk, and I was reunited with it by lunchtime. I felt positively gleeful. I immediately contacted all of my friends, who had been enquiring, concerned, as to whether it had been found. I placed it on my desk and smiled lovingly at it for the remainder of the day; happy that it was once more back in my life (and my handbag).
This has happened several times recently. Items that I thought I had lost, have been found. Things I thought were broken, have been fixed. Belongings I had lent out and long forgotten have been returned. There is somehow a great pleasure in having something almost slip away from you, and then be able to grasp them again. Perhaps because we grow so used to having things and owning things in such large volumes that we no longer really experience the thrill of becoming attached to something. When you are a child you save your pocket money for a toy that you then love so hard you rub the fur from it. Love that wears the wheels down, love that rumples the pages, love that leaves chocolate coated fingerprints.
And then we get older and we chase that thrill of the newness and wonder of ownership; loading up shopping baskets and receiving unending packages in the post. But it is dulled somehow. I’ve lost count of the amount of times I find a dress in the back of a wardrobe with the tags still on that I’ve completely forgotten I’d bought. Perhaps it is only by losing things, having them taken away or broken, that we reignite that desire. How often does that happen in life too? That old chestnut trotted out – you don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone. Love, comfort, convenience, make-up bags, etc.
I suppose the only way to spark that joy is to be grateful for those things you have, and not to devalue that gratitude by overproduction; to dumb it down with excess. There is a lot that can be said for owning fewer things, and for placing value on the things we really do love and enjoy. And making sure we tell them often. People, or make-up bags. But people especially.