12 February 2014

in the bag

As someone who consumed far too much media as a child, some of my fondest memories consist of me sitting on the floor, surrounded by magazines, taking notes on how to improve myself or on what I found interesting and why. I figured that if I took enough notes, I would become the most perfect and intelligent person in the world; I would know exactly how to conduct myself in an interview, coming off as charming as opposed to a regurgitation of whatever talking points I had memorized beforehand, while remaining unhindered by trivial things like "stubborn belly fat" or unsightly blemishes because I had read about how to prevent them from making an appearance. Those days of optimism and naiveté have been replaced by cynicism and disenchantment because I have lived longer than five years, so I have amended those images of perfection to simply mean that I am doing the best I can and am proud of what I can do and have done. There's room for improvement, sure, but there is also a lot to appreciate.

But I digress. The reason I bring up magazines today is to talk about one of my favorite, yet underutilized, article formats. I'm talking, of course, about the "What's In Your Bag?" articles. The bag itself is less important in these pieces, but the major draw for me is the intimate look into what a person deems essential and worth carrying around. Naturally, nonessential items creep in, but such is life and we deal with those things as we see fit, throwing them away, hiding them from sight, or simply letting them hang out and do their thing. For me, those items are receipts, and I usually fold them up and shove them into my notebook until I get home, at which point I put them in a pile and ignore them.

The essential items are where things gets interesting. Clutter is eloquent, and far more adept at revealing who we are than we could ever consciously hope to be. We can learn so much about a person by how much stuff they carry, what condition that stuff is in, and how it is organized. For example, a person whose everyday essentials can fit into a tiny clutch is very different from someone who requires a massive and overflowing tote. Likewise, a person carrying a dinged up phone and broken eyeshadow palettes is very different from someone whose phone is pristine and somehow manages to keep their eyeshadow from crumbling in the pan. And it goes without saying that someone who takes advantage of compartments and little pouches within bags differs greatly from someone who lets everything mingle and wander around. A bag is just for the the individual carrying it, and a look inside can be shockingly intimate and informative.

There's also the issue of how the contents of the bag are photographed. Very rarely do we see it in its natural habitat, unedited and unfiltered.

Rather, we are presented with an image of items artfully placed so that everything is visible. But, we have to question what is not included in this picture and why.

This is my attempt at the staged shot. I've got my wallet, my makeup pouch with the makeup on display, my keys, a book, my notebook, pens, sticky notes, gum, eyedrops, little samples of lotion, and headphones. This is what I carry every day. I just ran out of tissue and I usually have more candy. Sometimes I'll bring a water bottle or thermos, and there's usually a scarf tied around the strap or stuffed unceremoniously into the bag if I'm not wearing one already. My things seem to be in okay condition, though the gum packet is slightly crushed and the sticky notes sometimes have folded corners.

I've shown you mine, now show me yours.


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