The Changing of the Purse

S EVERY WOMAN KNOWS, changing one's purse requires mastery of higher-order skills, comparable to the intricacies of a military manuever, excepting that, if we're careful, our faces do not somehow end up looking anything like the surrounding landscape.

Purse changing requires concentrated preplanning and an intimate knowledge of equipment, capacity, and reserves. You must understand that, as the leader of your wardrobe, you may be required without warning to mass your shoulder bags and choose the small brown number instead of the roomy nylon tote. Most supplies must be available in duplicate and often miniature, and must be at full preparedness 24 hours a day. Some bags must always be pre-packed with survival essentials; others cannot properly be stocked until just moments before being called to duty.

First, I must dispense with the most delicate of subjects. We women must be tactical about tampons. We know that an early rendezvous with "that time" is a real and often unpredictable risk, and correct change for resupply is not always possible during reconnaisance. Yet we also know that nervous early packing can lead to forgotten, loosed tampons that emerge with our checkbooks as we insist on paying for lunch.

Tampons, as they so often do, lead me straight to my main point: Ongoing training is a must if we are to maintain our edge and our stamina. My recommendations are as follows:

The finest example of purse-preparedness savvy recently exhibited itself to me at work, a few moments before a group of us headed out for a going-away lunch. A woman I'll call "Mavis" opened a cabinet drawer in her office to reveal an oversized nylon satchel. I winced to think of her hauling this unwieldy luggage to the restaurant. Instead, Mavis unzipped the satchel and extracted a little black leather shoulder bag, apparently fully stocked, as she needed to make not a single transfer from the larger bag to the smaller. It was sublime.

All I can add to her thrilling demonstration is this modest bit of advice: Unless you're about to play bridesmaid, please don't be caught dead in a pair of coral-tinted fabric pumps.