Remember The Ladies Essay

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It was gratifying to possess an item that also was its own perfect adjective.

No one ever says, “Hang on, let me grab my Bag I Stole From My Sister’s Closet Five Years Ago,” but “I left my lipstick in my Kate Spade” makes perfect natural sense — a satisfying sentence to utter, something that also says, “Hello, I am an adult woman with a real professional purse.” We both recall unwrapping our bag from the store’s protective tissue and feeling, finally, ever so mature and self-possessed.

She could be counted on to be kind, thoughtful, and genuinely interested in you.

And to my delight, beneath her calm and reserved manner lurked a wicked wit that would leap out unexpectedly and send me into fits of laughter.

“All you have to do,” she told me, “is say two things: ‘How’s yo’ momma? Since then, I pay more attention to what we say—and we do have our ways. From early childhood on, I never left the house to go to somewhere without my mother reminding me as I departed, “Be nice.” “Nice” is what we do. In Harper Lee’s book, , when the Cunningham boy comes home with Jem and Scout to eat lunch, he asks for molasses, then proceeds to pour it all over his vegetables and meat. I like to bring a sour cream pound cake, hot from the oven.

Maybe I’ve had one of the worst days of my life: The dog ran away; the school called to tell me that my child got sick and needs to come home; my mother called to tell me she fell and might need me to take her to the hospital for X-rays; my husband, unable to get through, left a message on my cell phone that he’s bringing two friends home for supper; there are no groceries to speak of in the house, and as Southern humorist Lewis Grizzard put it, “Elvis is dead and I don’t feel so good myself.” Yet on this very day, if I run into a Southern lady friend at the grocery store, I know our exact conversation: “Well, hi, how are you? And smiling, I will answer, “Just fine, thank you, how are you? A horrified Scout wants to know what the sam hill he is doing. It smells heavenly, I know the recipe by heart, and the cake freezes well when the inevitable too-much food arrives.Fifteen years ago, it felt like every girl you met had a Kate Spade bag — or a knockoff, which was close enough when you’re 24 years old.Today, that kind of fashionable ubiquity might be sniffed at as being “basic,” but for us, there was comfort in it, a warmth in finding a kindred spirit in a bar’s bathroom line, and an opening to chirp a winking, “I love your bag! Kate Spade purses were not intimidating, and that’s a blessing, not a backhanded compliment.As a newlywed, she found herself plunged into a culture foreign to her.She felt like an outsider who didn’t fit in with Southern ladies—that is until, after studying us, she finally figured us out.We were not — and we probably shouldn’t have dropped even a relatively tame amount of cash on a bag when we had actual adult bills, too — but those purses were talismans of the possibility that, one day, we might be the person they made us feel like we were.Spade hadn’t been personally involved with her eponymous brand in more than a decade — she sold her last shares in 2006, it was bought by Liz Claiborne Inc., and it went around the corporate merry-go-round before becoming Kate Spade & Company — and Deborah Lloyd designed it from 2007-2017 before passing the torch to Nicola Glass.They made all of our young, hopeful smiles a little wider, our spines a little straighter, our steps a little springier.We’d earned our way into having them, and we were proud.And, of course, both were adorned with the iconic Kate Spade tag: a black cloth rectangle, her name in simple lowercase white letters.For both of us, this was our first designer purchase — that item in your closet where, at last, the brand name is the only descriptor you need.


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