Single-Minded: Bag Lady

Erykah Badu was onto something when she warned baggage-laden women everywhere to "let it go." But sometimes, pretty -- and functional -- luggage makes you more willing to deal with the stuff that's lurking inside.

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A good friend wants to start her own line of luxury travel luggage. "The ones that work the best never look good," she explained between sips of champagne mixed with orange juice. Nodding vigorously, I took a swig of my own mimosa. Pretty utility doesn't make sense to some people. Baggage is usually fancy or functional, never both.

The same thing goes with emotional baggage. In 2000 Erykah Badu sang, "Bag Lady, you gone hurt your back draggin' all dem bags like that." She advised a generation of women to "let it go, let it go, let it go, let it go." But what Ms. Badu failed to mention is that sometimes baggage can be useful. True, garbage bags and "sacks o' babies" aren't what's hot in the streets these days, but neither is simply dumping all your stuff on the side of the road. That's called littering.

"Oh, I would so buy something like that," another girl squealed after my friend described how sleek and sexy her bags would be. Every girl wants a pretty package for her hard-earned hang-ups. Maybe then she'll truly unpack them, instead of just ignoring them like Tuesday's trash. Dressing up your baggage, whatever it is, might help you deal with it.

Because if you have to live with it every day, shouldn't it look good? Granted, most people don't have to stare at their carry-ons constantly. We lock them in closets, stuff them under beds or -- in the worst of cases -- just abandon them at the airport with the rest of the orphaned luggage too hideous to take home.

Those bags -- the ones we keep from view -- can be beat up beyond recognition. There are faded skid marks, battered duct tape and missing name tags. These are the bags we can pretend we don't have. We carry them with us, stuffed with useless crap, and then shove them back into the creases of our lives.

I travel a lot, though. More than a bag lady, I'm a bag snob. Suitcases are given star billing in my life. They get displayed proudly in the living room for guests or to the right of the front door -- a constant remainder to myself that I've been somewhere. Or that I'm going somewhere else soon. And with the worn DVF I purchased from Filene's getting up there in miles, I've got to find something to replace the old girl.

Oddly enough, I also met a new gentleman friend recently, who, since reading my book, is über-familiar with all my old stuff. Thus far, my baggage hasn't taken up too much space in this new relationship. It just sits pretty in the corner -- nice to look at, easy to use when necessary and, thankfully, not overflowing.

"As any jet-setter knows, your luggage should be as stylish as you are -- after all, you never know who you might meet along the way," reads GiltGroupe.com, the online sample-sale site that doubles as the devil on my shoulder. On Wednesday, they were hocking $800 bags for half that.

How important is looking good while on the go? Probably not worth a month's rent. Because in the end, there has to be a place to go home to. Poet Warsan Shire says, "You can't make homes out of human beings," but that doesn't stop a lot of us from looking for some place safe to put our bags down.

Helena Andrews is a regular contributor to The Root and author of Bitch Is the New Black, a memoir in essays. Follow her on Twitter.