Getting Purse-onal: The Perfume Blogger’s Purse

I recently received an email from a reader who was curious about the contents of my purse. I am totally game to answer, because now I get to make that terrible purse pun in the title and I freaking love terrible puns, y’all. Please feel free to share the beauty products, reading materials, and random chotchkes lurking in your purses, too!


The perfumes in my purse are not necessarily my favorites, because I tend not to wear my more challenging or unusual perfumes out of the house. Instead, these are the perfumes that I am almost positive would not offend anyone. Lush Vanillary, a tasty caramelized vanilla fragrance, has little sillage in its solid perfume form. The lovely lily Cartier Baiser Vole is “clean” enough to appeal to modern mainstream preferences. Anné Pliska, a seductive orange-and-amber scent, is one that I often reach for when going out with friends. Finally, Stella McCartney Stella is a streamlined, somewhat severe rose fragrance. I like to wear it on days when I’m wearing all black.

(The adorable baby in the background is my wonderful little brother, Buzz!)


I very rarely wear makeup. Not out of any political statement or aesthetic preference, but because I am extremely averse to the feeling of anything touching my face. I have a super bizarre system for washing my hair that is intended to minimize the exposure of my face to water. I know how incredibly dumb this sounds, and it totally is! I need to be wearing makeup to help me look more mature. I look much further below the age of consent than I actually am.

When I do wear makeup, I tend to go for the 50’s look: liquid liner and red lipstick. The lipsticks in this picture are Givenchy Fruity Orange, Lipstick Queen Medieval, M.A.C. Brave Red, and M.A.C. Viva Glam Cyndi Lauper. I wholeheartedly recommend the Viva Glam line. The colors are beautiful, and 100% of the selling price of each product goes to the M.A.C. AIDS Fund. A beloved biology teacher of mine died in his forties four years ago, and I try to honor him by supporting this truly worthy cause.

Reading Materials

Zelda Fitzgerald’s one and only novel, “Save Me The Waltz”, is assigned reading for my current class on the Fitzgeralds. Zelda wrote it in six weeks while being treated for schizophrenia at Johns Hopkins Hospital. It was extremely poorly received, and sold barely over a thousand copies. Despite all that, “Save Me The Waltz” is actually beautifully written, full of lush, languid language. It is the strongest piece of proof for my belief that Zelda was not actually particularly mentally ill at the beginning of her treatment, and it was the use of then-poorly understood electroshock therapy that caused the decline of her mental health.

“The Lush Times” is the most enjoyable catalogue I have ever had the pleasure of reading. In addition to providing many silly descriptions of Lush’s fun, quirky products, it also includes a board game, a delicious-sounding cocktail recipe for a Jilted Elf (6 ounces chilled Earl Grey tea, 9 ounces fresh tangerine juice, 2 tbsp orange blossom honey, fresh fig wedges), directions for making your own Santa origami, and delightfully groan-worthy puns (“What did Adam say the day before Christmas? It’s Christmas, Eve!”).

I have also been carrying around 2 copies of this “How to Eat Shabu-Shabu” guide from a delicious Japanese restaurant in L.A. Just in case I should be suddenly called upon to eat Shabu-Shabu. You never know.


I don’t even care how much of a dork this Pikachu hat makes me. The prospect of wearing the world’s most adorable hat is often the only thing that can make me leave the apartment on freezing winter days.

I have been knitting this damn mini ninja for 5 months now. “Ages 8+” my ass.

These $3 “Hopkins State” sunglasses are perhaps the most meaningful item in my purse. In the second semester of my freshman year, I had a very bad case of mononucleosis. I had failing grades in three out of four classes, and eventually had to take a medical withdrawal for the semester. I literally could not have felt like more of a failure. A day before I left campus, a “friend” directed me to a post on a highly-read Hopkins gossip site, JHU Confessions. In a post using my full name, an anonymous charmer had left a comment declaring “There ought to be a Hopkins State for retards like her”. (For non-Americans and/or non-assholes, the joke is that state/public schools are considered less academically rigorous than private schools like Hopkins.)

As you can imagine, this is exactly what I needed to read at the time. But if there is one thing I pride myself on, it is my strength. A big part of that strength is my gallows humor. Being able to laugh at myself and at awful situations helps me to make the best of things. So when I saw these “Hopkins State” sunglasses being sold at a homecoming game, I grabbed myself a pair. I have hardcore ADHD Inattentive Type. Only 22% of students with ADHD attend college at all, and only 5% end up graduating*. “Retard” or not, I have lasted three years at the 13th best college in America. I am defying the statistics. I am going to be one of the 5%. Hopkins State class of 2013, bitches.


29 thoughts on “Getting Purse-onal: The Perfume Blogger’s Purse

  1. Fragrance in my purse: decant of (what else?) Mary Greenwell Plum, decant of Bois des Iles, decant of No. 5 Eau Premiere, and a couple of random samples – lessee, I actually have Montale Sandflowers in there and Anne’ Pliska and SL Mandarin Mandarine.

    Makeup: well… okay, the bag contains Milani “Halo” and “Candy Apple” sheer lipsticks, and Maybelline Dream Smooth Mousse in Ivory, as well as Rimmel GlamEyes mascara. Also, Blistex Daily Conditioning Treatment for lips – and a pair of tweezers, because my eyebrows spontaneously sprout stray hairs.

    No reading material, except on Sunday when I take my Bible to church.

    Cellphone. Wallet (totally need that, because I am a mother and my children hit me up for cash all the time: “Mom, I need lunch money!” “Mom, I need gas money!” “Mom, I need a new notebook!”). Checkbook (see note about wallet). Calendar (because I can’t SEE the one on my cheap prepay phone). Comb. Feminine necessities. Advil.

    Now I’m going over to ebay to browse for a bobblehead Kirk. That’s your fault. 😉

    1. You are very wise not to carry around any books in your bag. I get the worst back pain from lugging them around. Now that the iPad supports textbooks, I am thinking of trading in my laptop for that.

      You are welcome for the gift of bobblehead Kirk! If you decide that you would prefer a plushie, they have adorable ones at ThinkGeek:

  2. “Getting purse-onal” – now that’s a stroke of genius!

    I was mortified to read that someone would say such nasty things, but I’m glad that you’re taking the attitude of sticking your middle finger up at them by proving them wrong. You are far from retarded!!

    I want that Pikachu hat…

    1. The Pikachu hat is, I am somewhat ashamed to say, from Hot Topic. I had not been in there since I was about 14, and now in the past few months i’ve bought a Pikachu hat, Pikachu pajama pants, and Invader Zim slippers in there!

      Hopkins has a rather strange climate. It is the #1 medical school in the U.S. (and has been for 20 years in a row), so the students are very competitive, sometimes to the point of nastiness. It is also not necessarily the most welcoming place for female students. Hopkins was one of the very last universities to allow women, waiting until the 1970’s. Sometimes I get the vibe that some of the male students wish that we still weren’t allowed in.

  3. Stone the crows! What kind of (expletive deleted) would say such things about anyone? I wish you well in shaming them.

    And I think the Pikachu hat is gorgeous, just like you. I think my son would’ve wanted a hat like that.

    Take care, and good luck with the Ninja knitting challenge! (I’m not a good knitter either: I have a hat I knitted my lad when he was a baby and the huge pom-pom I added made it unwearably unstable, but who can resist a pom-pom? Not me.)


    1. Anna, thank you so much for your supportive words. It is a really nasty website- I think that the anonymity emboldens people to say things that they would never dare to in real life.
      Your pom-pom hats sound absolutely adorable. My grandmother knitted me THE CUTEST hats when I was little, and I genuinely wish that my head had stayed a little smaller so I could still wear them!

  4. You can tell you don’t wear a ton if makeup – those lipsticks look brand new!

    If you get fed up with your mini-ninja knitting project, send it my way. I have experience of knitting hippos, tortoises and platypuses, so ninjas of any size should be within my sphere of competence!

    I am also thinking I have a number of Lush items that could use a loving home…

      1. Nah, my crochet skills fossilised somewhere around 1977. My brother still has a blanket made from those black squares with brightly coloured insides (as was the fashion at the time) which testify to my once having been a real whizz.

  5. I don’t carry a purse just a tote bag.The book of the day. Burts Bee’s lip balm. Altoids. Calendar notebook and pen. Bus Schedules. Trio bar for a snack. Ari , how do you like the Lipstick Queen in Medieval. I have been thinking about purchasing it but they don’t have in stores where I am so it would be an un sampled purchase. I am a lip gloss or balm user, hardly every use real lipstick . Thanks for a fun post.

    1. Rosie, I don’t know much about lipstick, but I’ll try my best to describe Medieval! It is sort of a berry color, and is more sheer than most lipsticks. The texture needs work, it is very dry. But I don’t think Medieval would be too far out of a balm user’s comfort zone.

  6. Ari, Karma’s a bitch, those “kind people” who caused you grief will get their eventually. I’m glad that you’re proving them wrong (not for them, of course!).

    My purse… I change my perfumes and my lipsticks almost daily so I almost always have just one of each (if not to count an emergency lipgloss and Chanel No.19 small decant – just in case I leave house without my daily selection). Today my perfume is Tom Ford Amber Absolute and my lipstick is Laura Mercier Bare Lips. For reading I have my iPhone and, if necessary, iPad. Usually I do not need any hat (it’s too warm in our area) but I recently got an Angry Bird (the red one) knitted hat so I might consider putting it in my purse… just in case 🙂

    1. What a wonderful thing to say, thank you so much. Your hat sounds absolutely adorable. I am so jealous of your iPad- I bought one in September, but at the time they did not support textbooks, so I had to return it. Now, only a few months later, they have decided that they will support textbooks, and I am so sad 😦

      I hate that website and want it taken down. I got off relatively easily- a good friend of mine had absolutely horrific things written about herself and her body, and the posts all come up whenever someone googles her name. Disgusting.

  7. Hmm. In my next package to you, I shall be sending an ergonomic backpack. 🙂 You must have the bicep strength of a person four times your size. Well done!

    Today my purse contains my wallet, Kindle, phone, keys, and makeup bag with Clinique Black Honey lipstain, Aftelier Cepes and Tuberose, Estee Lauder compact, spare hair elastic, and hand sanitizer.

    1. Oh no, I have positively no upper arm strength, Natalie. Just back problems! 🙂 But thank you for your generous offer of a backpack!

      I remember being very fond of Black Honey when I was younger (and wore much more makeup). The Lipstick Queen Medieval reminds me somewhat of it, being a similarly berry stain.

  8. I don’t know how anyone manages in the face of the gossip websites, but it’s clear that you will be in the 5% of ADHDers who graduates (and not just from any old school!). As someone with less severe ADD (unfortunately not diagnosed until later adulthood) who didn’t make it through I have great respect for your efforts.

    About that adorable Pikachu hat: I’m thinking it’s that rather than the no-makeup, sweats and Uggs that has people mistaking you for more than a little under age. But it does look so warm and cosy.

    As for hairwashing: while showering I stand far enough back so my face doesn’t get wet and then when it’s time to do my hair I face backwards so only my head gets wet, but not my face. (Grew up with a tub, but no shower and washed my very long hair in the laundry tub — no face wetting.)

    1. Linda, I have just as much respect for your efforts. Now that is is more widely recognized, ADHD is blindly obvious in my mother’s family, and I have NO idea how my mother and grandmother have been able to do as much as they have without medication. I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been to go so long with a diagnosis- I really feel for you.
      I can’t bring myself to give up that Pikachu hat, no matter how many years it knocks off my perceived age! It is also a great conversation starter. I have gotten free coffee because of it! 🙂

  9. My little sister refers to my purse as the “Mary Poppins bag”, which is a nice way of saying that I never clean it out. Currently it is housing: The Great Gatsby, The collected poems of T.S. Eliot, a notebook and a dozen pens, cellphone, headphones, matches (?), playing cards, flashlight, mace, mints in a Legend of Zelda tin, MAC’s Good To Be Bad lipstick, concealer, clinique quickliner, cinnamint lipgloss from B&BW, sample of L’Heure Bleue, Darling Clandestine’s Ballyhoo solid perfume, and a sample of Very Hollywood from Sephora that I have been eyeing suspiciously because the sample vial is even pink with gold sparkles.

    While I’m sure you don’t need us to tell you it, you are in no way a retard. I very much admire your determination, and the reason I keep leaving stupidly long comments on your blog is because you welcomed me to your corner of the internet more readily and with more sincerity than I have seen before. I haven’t been reading your blog very long, but it is long enough to know that you are kind, intelligent, and funny.

    1. Selina, it makes me unbelievably happy to hear you say that. Your comments, and the comments of every single reader, are really and truly the highlight of my day. Your purse sounds like the MOST FUN EVER. I have to say I haven’t heard great things about Very Hollywood (people say it’s a thin gardenia), but you never know!

  10. Hello, this is my first comment here. You Go Girl, and ignore the nastiness on the gossip site. Just think of the latter as your first base on the road to celebrity. You might find it much worse on the red carpet so this is toughening you up!!

    My handbag (for us Brits, a purse is for your cash if you have any in this climate) contains:

    PVC disposable gloves and apron- I am a support worker for vulnerable folks
    Hand sanitiser
    Baby wipes
    Hand lotion (hard core for sore hands)
    Cereal bars (uneaten of uncertain vintage)
    Probably an ancient banana – scared to look, but I can smell it.
    Chocolate bar – yum
    Bottle of water
    Samsung Galaxy Ace – my phone!
    Ladies disposables
    Purse with cash and cards
    Old fashioned diary
    My lucky stone
    Lip balm
    Translucent powder
    Nail file
    Lemon oil to wake my tired brain up.

    My bag is so heavy it would knock out any attempted mugger! And I have bag shoulder from carting it around..

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