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Are Purses Worth The Back Pain?

One thing I have a hard time wrapping my head around is why women carry large, heavy purses with them everywhere they go. What I can’t understand is why most women choose to carry this anchor of a weight with them instead of walking with their arms swinging freely by their side, free from strain. This lead me to do some research.

Purses have been around for centuries and were carried by both men and women. They were small and could be tucked in pockets or hung in between folds of material. But it wasn't until the 19th century, with the increase in railroad travel, there was a demand for new purse styles that were more durable and could hold more items. This lead to luggage makers creating luggage which was held in the hand during long train rides, thus, creating the handbag.

Handbags are still so popular because women’s clothing typically don't have folds of material but more often than not are made to hug the figure. If women’s garments were made with deep pockets and women fill the pockets, then they would bulge and the garment would loose its clean lines of the silhouette. That’s why most clothing for women don’t have deep pockets. Men’s clothing have deep pockets because their clothing isn’t as form fitting, so they can easily carry the basics like wallet, keys and phone without having to carry a ‘murse’ (a man’s purse). In fact, many of the guys who are in long-term relationships with women rely on their partner's purse to carry things for them, only adding to the already heavy weight of the woman’s purse.

If a woman carries a heavy purse for most of her adult life, she will inevitably develop some physical problems like a weak back, shoulder pain, frozen shoulder, neck pain, tension in the upper torso, pinched nerves, crocked alignment, etc. Having physical aches and pains, women buy meds, go see doctors, (still with purses in tow) make appointments with physical therapists, etc., and spend more money.

I’m a tall woman and my back gives me aches and pains if I don’t treat it right. By schlepping around a purse with me wherever I go is not treating it right. It throws my balance, symmetry and spine out of alignment. Even though I’ve stopped carrying purses on a daily basis long ago, I’m still working on balancing out my neck muscles and relaxing both of them evenly.

When I see women in their 50’s and older lugging around a big purse, I feel for them. It seems as if it’s automatic for them to pick up a purse and carry it with them where ever they go, like creatures of habit. The younger generations are sold the latest styles and trends of large bags. This gets them into the habit of carrying a large bag with them wherever they go and they become creatures of habit, too. By the time they’ll be in their 50’s how will their alignment be? Yet, is the purse or bag really such a fashion statement? I think it inhibits a woman’s freedom of movement and puts unnecessary strain on her body. Years and years of this doesn’t end up looking very fashionable!

Although women between the ages of 18 and 24 spend the least on their handbags (on average just $115), they do tend to spend more than any other age group on its contents - a combined average of $200. Average handbag costs $100 and holds 40 items with a combined value of $150.

Let’s look at what women carry in their purses. My research showed that these following items are the most carried items in a woman’s purse. I’ll break it down to what I think are reasonably necessary things to carry every time you go out, followed by reasonably unnecessary things.

Reasonably necessary: cell phone, cellphone charger, earbuds, wallet, lipstick, glasses and keys. These make sense to carry with you because of the day and age we live in.

Reasonably unnecessary things to carry in your purse: mints, chocolates (for themselves) safety pins, pepper spray, sunglasses, loose change, dental floss, makeup, nail file, receipts, pens, pad of paper, medication, hand sanitizer, gum, snack, perfume, deodorant, blotting papers, tissues, band aids, hair brush, hair ties, tampons, zippered bags, stain eraser pen, flash drive, lighter.

Of course, if you’re a smoker then bring a lighter. If you’re on your period, bring a tampon. But things like deodorant, perfume, makeup and dental floss can be used before you leave your house. And honestly, how often do you think a woman has needed bandaids, stain remover or a nail file when they’ve been out? Plus, if 82% of us believe the contents of a woman's handbag reveals a lot about her personality, what does it say about you if you are carrying thin, worn out and torn bandaids bouncing around in a mix of loose change, old receipts and sticky safety pins?

You might think these things don’t weigh too much. Try telling that to your shoulder after years and years of carrying these reasonable unnecessary things everyday. Let’s not forget the weight of the purse added to all of this.

The purpose of this article is to encourage women to consider lightening the load of what they think they have to carry with them where ever they go. What happens after they have a baby? Purse on one hip and baby on the other. Too much weight, ladies! If I must carry more items than will fit in my pockets, or if I don’t have pockets, I will carry a cross-body purse so at least my arms and hands are free and the weight of what I’m carrying is more evenly distributed across my body.

The next time you are walking in an area where there are people gathered, take a look at the women. I guarantee that the majority of them will be carrying a purse. The more you look at them, the more it starts to look out of balance, especially if the man they are walking with isn’t carrying anything. To hold a heavy object with you wherever you go seems to me like a strange choice to make in life.

Fortunately, the tides are changing now for the better. In an article that recently was published in The Atlantic written by Olga Khazan on May 3, 2019, it confirmed that business ladies are finally choosing optimal physical health over being fashion forward. The ironic thing is, they are changing the definition of what fashion forward means by making different choices about what they wear.

In her article, Olga Kazan found that business women who commute to work had “grown tired of juggling multiple bags on public transportation or while walking—in heels, no less! They shared tales of trying to squeeze a laptop, makeup, gym clothes, a water bottle, notebooks, and a phone into a classy tote, then giving up and saying, Screw it.” Hence, women in cities, especially, are starting to carry backpacks instead of purses. Hooray! With the rise of athleisure and the acceptance of sneakers in the office, slowly more and more women, it seems, are going for comfort.

Ladies, please reconsider your habit of grabbing your purse before running out the door. Do you really need to carry everything with you every time you go out? Start to be aware of your habit of always having your purse with you then try leaving your house with only one, two or three items, which can hopefully fit in your pockets. Try to make that your new norm.

Wishing you loads of freedom of movement and perfect alignment for the rest of your lives. To your health!

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