9 Things We're DONE Sneaking Out Of Our Purses

Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
You know those magazine spreads and Instagram photos where a celebrity or editor "reveals" the contents of her purse? At first you think, Ooh, how fascinating, this will say so much about this person's inner workings and secrets! But then, most of the time, it's just a cute person whose stylish bag is filled with cute beauty products and fun snacks and impressive books, all laid out super prettily on a white background. Not exactly revealing — or realistic.
The fact is, although our purses have indeed been known to contain the perfect lipstick and a signed copy of Bad Feminist on occasion, they are often also stocked with an array of unglamorous necessities — or even a secret stash of, um, "beach reading." This is all well and good — until we find ourselves furtively sneaking around in order to access those hidden items.
When you want to bring a tampon or your deodorant to the bathroom with you, do you openly grab those items from your bag, or do you surreptitiously snag them when no one's looking? Do you carry your birth control or other important medication proudly, showing no shame when you pop a pill at lunch? In times of desperation, do you allow your toddler to open one of the six pantyliners you keep in a ziploc bag in your purse because playing with the sticky part will keep him busy for the entire ride to day care? You know I do. But it hasn't always been that way: If you ask me, we spend way too much time and effort trying to hide "taboo" items that, let's face it, are simply things we need to get through the day. Enough!
To pick apart all the reasons why we (adults! with important lives!) are still reaching for certain purse products on the sly, we spoke to nine women to find out each one's supposedly-embarrassing-item Kryptonite. Ahead are the common, useful, totally normal, completely un-shameful things that so many of us have snuck out of our bags — and why it's time to stop the secrecy.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Whether it's the pill or condoms or even a retro-chic diaphragm, your birth control is one of the best ways you can take control of — and celebrate — your reproductive rights. These days, protecting those rights is crucial, and it's absolutely nothing to be embarrassed about.

"I take my birth control at night," explains Frances, 34, from Long Island, NY. "So I used to carry it around with me at all times in case I wound up going home with someone whom I hadn’t exactly, you know, planned on going home with (since I likely hadn’t met them yet). But I also didn’t want people to notice it in my bag and come to their own conclusions about why it was there. Nowadays, though, it feels silly that I ever thought that." After all, over half of women of reproductive age are currently using birth control. There's no need to hide; you're in good company.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
In the wide world of dirty little secrets, "I have imperfect teeth" is pretty much a non-starter. Why not embrace the fact that you're working on your smile?

"Constantly taking my retainer off and putting it on was not only super-annoying, but felt kind of icky to do in front of people," says Natalie, 32, from Washington, D.C. "Like, it has saliva on it? And it's not like I always had time to go to the bathroom in order to do it in private. So this was a really tricky thing to juggle and made me feel SUPER attractive, as you can imagine. But it got easier, and then my teeth got a little straighter, so win-win."

Besides, even fashion models are wearing braces these days. Orthodontia is officially chic.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Possibly the most common stealth-grab from purses everywhere is a tampon. But why? Need we say it again? People who have uteruses get periods. It's normal. It happens so obnoxiously often, in fact, that you'd think we'd all be so used to / bored by it, we'd toss tampons to each other like mini Snickers. But alas.

"I snuck tampons for a long, long time," says Maura, 34, from Maryland. "But not exactly because I was ashamed of my period. It was more like I didn't want people knowing I had my period and then making assumptions about my moods or behavior. If I stood up for myself in a bold way at work, I wouldn't want people to be like, 'Well she's on one today.' But while working at a majority-women company, I kind of stopped worrying about that. If I'm moody, someone may know why. Likely, they'll relate. After having a baby, I used pads for a while and I started sneaking again, because I had this weird idea that those were juvenile. Probably because I hadn't used them since my very earliest days of period-having. But whatever, I can't really be bothered to worry about things like that anymore."

Consider this our official petition to make "whatever, I can't be bothered to worry about things like that anymore" the new mantra of current tampon-hiders everywhere.
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What's 29-year-old Brooklynite Ashleigh's deepest, darkest purse secret? "Cheesy, frou frou chick lit," she says. "I read a lot of 'real' literature and non-fiction, but I always feel embarrassed by those quick, easy reads that I sometimes choose in between harder-hitting books. Especially on the train. I live in Brooklyn, and there are entire Instagram accounts devoted to what people read on the train. My vain, pretentious self would die if I were featured alongside chick lit."

But hey, who among us has never felt exhausted after reading a work of capital-L Literature? Even bibliophiles need an intellectual palate cleanser once in awhile. Plus, even chick lit can be feminist sometimes.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
— PAID —

No matter how reliable your time of the month is, it's smart to keep backup options, like Carefree pantyliners, on hand at all times. And it's time to stop being embarrassed about it. These are our bodies.

“I was in the security line at a music festival when the security guard opened my backpack and a pantyliner fell out,” says Audrey, 25, from NYC. “The guard was more embarrassed than I was. After apologizing profusely, he quickly put it back and let me go through without checking the rest of my bag.”
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
So now that we've established that people with uteruses menstruate, let's also reiterate: We also sweat. It's normal, healthy, and harmless — and can be a sign that you're exercising, so good job! One could go as far as to say that pretending we don't wear deodorant just perpetuates the absurd idea that women are sweat-free and nice-smelling all the time.

"I used to be so embarrassed about carrying deodorant that I would only buy the tiny travel-size one and jam it into another tiny bag (I think it was some sort of coin purse?) within my purse," says Sarah, 31, in Massachusetts. "Why did I go to such lengths to pretend I wasn't wearing a product that everyone I know also wears??"

Of course, not wearing deodorant is totally cool, too. Either way, you have zero reason to hide.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Ah, the old breast-pump smuggle. I know it well. And yet it's pretty much impossible to be subtle when carrying such a contraption, what with its myriad cords and tiny plastic parts — plus the bottles of breast milk that usually go along with it. At a certain point, what's the point? Breast milk is basically magical, and we should be proud to produce it.

"Going back to work after maternity leave was a bizarre experience for many reasons, but one of them was definitely having to haul a breast pump to and from the office," says Claire, 31, in Chicago. "The electric one is a complicated machine, and I was also hauling up to four bottles of milk, and ice packs, all in a weird little cooler. I definitely spent awhile pretending I was just a really rigorous lunch-packer, but after a few weeks I got over it and started revealing my secret, even to strangers. 'Oh, sorry! Did I accidentally whack you with my cooler of breast milk? My bad!'"
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Whether it's protecting you from anxiety, allergies, or heartburn, prescription medication can serve a major purpose in keeping your day running smoothly. But so many of us feel embarrassed to pop a pill in front of others — especially if it's a mental health medication.

"I'm sneaky about my anti-anxiety medication," explains Angie, 29, from Phoenix, AZ. "Because even though I only take it as directed and it is prescribed by my doctor, due to the stigma around mental health, I fear if people know what it is, they'll judge me."

That stigma is certainly real — although we're doing our damndest to fight it. And the first step in battling stigma is supporting the awareness that mental health struggles are everywhere. So if you're comfortable discussing your meds, please do; you may just change some hearts and minds regarding what mental illness looks like.
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Illustrated by Louisa Cannell.
Whether you're prone to period leaks, discharge, or just hate wearing the same underwear post-workout, there are plenty of reasons to pack an extra pair just in case.

"I sweat a lot in Spin class and I always bring extra underwear to change into after," says Kara, 28, in Los Angeles. "But once my extra — totally clean! — pair fell out of my bag as I was walking in the studio. A bunch of people saw, and I was mortified. But then, when I thought about it, I realized that if it had been my sports bra that fell out, nobody would have blinked. Who cares? Underwear is underwear. We wear it, or we don't, and it's all fine."
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