I'm not a big jewelry gal, but one
sparkly bauble I never go without
In the fifth grade, I begged my mom to let me get my ears
pierced. I wasn't a tomboy, but you wouldn't have known it by my Dorothy Hamill
bowl haircut or my plain t-shirts and jeans. I had an overbite, a gap in my
teeth, and an older brother who let me tag along with him. Even though I loved
sparkly things and baby dolls, my outward appearance was so anti-feminine that
most people naturally assumed my parents had two sons.
"Welcome to Kenny's Shoe Store," a salesman once
said. These were the days before Payless and Ross, when kids would get two
pairs of shoes a year if they were lucky. Shoe shopping was a major outing when
your mom took you to a fancy shoe store where neatly coiffed and genteel
salespeople actually measured your feet and then retreated behind a curtain to
see if they had your size. "What types of shoes do you young men
My arms went akimbo. Did he just call me a boy?
That same year, my parents took us to a local airport
restaurant that had a view of the runway and an oil painting of a 747, with real embedded lights that created an illusion of being lit from within. I loved that
restaurant for those reasons, but my charity toward the establishment pitched
and yawed when my 11-year old sensibilities were hijacked one night.
"What can I get you boys to drink?" the waiter asked,
and I can still recall my face growing hot with elementary indignation. We were
regular customers there, and even he
thought I was a guy? Glow-in-the-dark 747
or not, I had just reached the point of no return.
"Shirley Temple, please. On the rocks."
Up to then, my mom was adamant against putting permanent
holes in my ears, but to her credit, she recognized herself at a crossroads:
holes in my ears or in my self esteem? She agreed to get my ears pierced
because it would solve my gender identity problem (at that time, earrings were
exclusive to being female). After that day, whether it was because of the sparkly
birthstones in my ears or by my eventual emergence from the awkward cocoon of
adolescence, I was never mistaken for a boy again.
Those earrings would be the last jewelry I would covet for
years. At a time when other women my age were trading in their 1980s gold
wedding rings for fancy new platinum sets, my original gold ring served its
purpose. I've tried to let those little holes in my ears close up, and excess
hardware on my hands only gets in the way of typing or exercise. In short, I
just don't have a use for jewelry. I think it's great on other people, but I'm
a writer; given the choice between an Apple
or a caret
, I'm choosing the
Macintosh every time.
Then, something changed. A friend of mine sent me a gold
cross on a chain that was far too long and masculine to be fashionable, but I
wanted to wear it for luck. As an act of friendship, I placed it around my neck
and forgot about it.
It's funny that a forgotten piece of jewelry was making an
impression on me that would change me forever.
I have never been one to wear my religion on my sleeve
because I believed that if you had to display a symbol announcing that you're a
Christian, then maybe your squeaky wheel was in need of some grease. I never
gave faith a lot of thought, but I assumed people would know you're a Christian
by how you treat one another or by going to church. I was judgmental enough to
assume that others wore crosses to separate the haves from the have-nots. Look
at me! I have Christ and you do not.
Eventually, my cat got the best of that original gold cross
and dented it with her teeth, rendering it damaged and useless. I took it off
for good. That's when I noticed a difference.
I took off my accountability. To me, that cross had begun to
represent who I should be, not who I was. When I wore it, I became a
representative of someone greater than myself--of Someone who created
guidelines for how we should treat one another. When I had it on, I felt a
responsibility to Him, like working for a large corporation and wearing a shirt
with their logo: Everyone with whom I came into contact would judge Him based
on my actions.
If someone was rude to me, I wanted to retaliate -- an eye
for an eye. Wearing the cross, however, I had a constant reminder around my neck
that every person is fighting some battle. Cussing someone out or exhibiting
road rage was no longer an option; the cross hangs there, whispering softly,
"She just had a bad day," or "He must need to get somewhere
faster than you do."
The gold cross was replaced by a pretty diamond cross that I
wear today. Most of the time you will see it hanging on the outside of my
blouse, workout clothes or over my dress--visible, but not for the reasons you
might think. The cross isn't for you to notice; it's for me. I wear it on the
outside to remind me how to treat people. I hope you will
attribute my attitude, forgiveness, or kindness to my Teacher. I hope you
understand that I'm not bragging; I am admitting that I need this symbol as a
reminder to be better.
But if I screw up, and I will, please don't blame the
Instructor. His lessons don't exactly come easily to most people. My failings
are expected, and our failings are the reason we have the symbol of the cross
to begin with. I am not perfect, but He was. And I am trying daily to emulate
I don't wear the cross for protection or to be in style with
the latest fashion. See my cross and know I wear it as a reminder to love you.
And I do.