Penkava: The amazing ‘Black Hole of Prada’

I’ve always had a fascination with outer space. As a kid I even believed the moon was made of green cheese. That was pretty ridiculous. Everyone knows its composition is a mixture of iron, magnesium, silicon and just a pinch of ricotta.

One astronomical concept that really interested me was the mysterious black hole. Simply explained, a black hole is a region of space that is so incredibly dense that not even light can escape from the surface. Anything that goes into a black hole can never come back out again. It’s kind of like searching for an exit at IKEA, but without all the quantum mechanics stuff. Instead of wave-particle dark matter, you’re schlepping around Lerberg storage shelves.

But an earthly equivalent of a black hole has to be something deeper, something darker, something more bottomless than a Swedish eco-friendly interior design retailer. Where would I come up with an appropriate analogy? All it took was a simple telephone call.

You see, I was sitting at home when I heard our cellphone ring. Thinking it might be my editor calling with another brilliant idea for a column, I raced into the kitchen toward the direction of the ringtone (Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald”).

I quickly traced the sound to the interior of my wife’s purse and frantically rummaged though its multiple compartments, hoping to locate it before it gave up on me. But, like a big ship floundering in the gales of November on a lake they called “Gitche Gumee,” all was lost. I had missed my editor’s call.

But that’s exactly when I discovered the terrestrial counterpart of an interstellar black hole: My wife’s purse!

Think of it: Is there anything deeper, darker or more bottomless than a woman’s purse? I swear they can pull anything outta there! Need a Band-Aid? No problem. Got to clip a nail? Here you go. Lose a button? Needle and thread. Need to tighten the lug nuts on a car tire? Check out the 32-piece socket set. Metric and standard.

OK, I may be exaggerating a bit, but I am continually impressed by what my wife has in her purse. I mean, she’s no David Copperfield, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I asked her for the Statue of Liberty and she started to reach inside.

There is, however, another quality of a black hole that is replicated by a woman’s purse. Scientists tell us that once a black hole has formed, it can continue to grow by absorbing additional matter. In other words, it starts to fill with more and more intergalactic stuff.

Correspondingly, the wifely purse undergoes a natural growth process as well. It is a fact that if you compare the girth of a purse at the moment of purchase with its breadth after, let’s say, six months, there is clearly a noticeable swelling. This may explain the presence of the said-mentioned socket set as well as the not previously mentioned but readily accessible Ace Hardware electric hedge clippers. 

Einstein may have been able to decipher time and space, but I betcha he was clueless when it came to unraveling the mysteries of his wife’s handbag. The speed of light was nothing compared to the profundity of a woman’s mobile accessory management repository.

So, husbands, respect the purse. Compared to it, your wallet is a just a baggie covered in cowhide. Just be happy that when you have the sudden need for an air compressor or a 5-iron or an autographed Patrick Kane jersey, your wife’s “Black Hole of Prada” will always be there.

• Michael Penkava is a retired teacher who taught for 35 years at West Elementary School in Crystal Lake. He thought about getting a man’s handbag, but he had too much trouble fitting it into his back pocket. He can be reached at

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