Many women are especially attached to their handbags. As well as being receptacles for our personal possessions, sometimes they are fashion statement and status symbol too. "There are few material items more personal or more indispensable to a woman than her handbag," wrote Rebecca Kamm.
So you'd think we'd all have figured out by now the appropriate placement of these objects in various social contexts. Yet I have witnessed many a faux pas regarding the depositing of a handbag upon arrival at a venue. I've seen women sweep into houses and dump their all-purpose handbag in the middle of a kitchen bench-top - presumably oblivious to the fact they've just contaminated a clean surface used for food preparation.
For the record: if your handbag has sat on pavements, the floors of public transportation, airports, restaurants, shops or any public space, it's not appropriate to then rest it on table tops or any surfaces associated with the storage, preparation or consumption of food. If I'm really honest, the only time I'd like to see a handbag on my kitchen bench is if it's fresh out of its designer packaging. Once it's been used, placing it on the floor or a chair is far more acceptable.
On a trip to Singapore I noted that women in restaurants habitually sat their (usually expensive designer) handbags on the back of their chair while they perched on the front. Seriously, twelve years ago every woman in every restaurant would be doing this. It was as if this practice had been handed down through the generations or taught at some etiquette class for polite young ladies.
I'd suggest that this strategy might not work so well in nations in which the general population has a heftier build. It actually didn't look that comfortable for the women but at least their bag stayed pristine. Presumably it was also a security measure; because it rested against their back they'd surely know if anyone tried to swipe it.
Al Brown's Depot in Federal Street has conveniently installed handbag hooks under the tables. It's great for customers but I suspect it's also a safety measure to reduce the risk of staff members tripping over handbags strewn across the floor. Or else you can consider purchasing a handbag hook; these are defined as a "fashion accessory that is used to hang your handbag over the side of a bar/table to keep it off the ground. This keeps your handbag safe, clean and off your lap and off the dirty floor".
The subject is further explored in Would you put $8,000 on the floor? in which it is claimed that bags "languishing on the floor" are "vulnerable to thievery, filth, scuffing, and nasty microbes", which reminded me why I'll never use a public toilet without a hook on its door.
Related issues are examined at styleyourlifeblog.com where someone wrote: "I have a great vintage clutch ... and I'd like to take it to a dinner ... at a restaurant at a country club ... It's the size of a paperback book so not huge. I wasn't sure if it stays on my lap or what? Why don't they teach you this stuff in school?"
That's a great question yet it's precisely because they don't impart such knowledge in the classroom that we must apply our own logic and rationale to each handbag dilemma, taking into account a range of factors including: size of bag, its core purpose, where it's been, the nature of the surface you are eying up as a potential resting spot, how keen you are not to offend - and possibly even how much the bag cost and the value of the goods inside it. Good luck with all that.
What's your handbag policy? Do you rest it on the floor, chair or table? What's your response if someone plonks their handbag on your kitchen bench?