I've been a Big Earring Person almost from the day I got my ears pierced at age 8. Big. Flashy. Wild. Earrings. The kind of earrings that my students remark upon in my end-of-semester evaluations. When you wear Big Earrings, they become more than just body decoration, they become part of your identity. They become the basis for gifts, a topic of conversation, even a Daily Decision.
This was the bulk of my Earring Collection, as of six months ago.
I remember meeting a group of college women in a summer math program many years ago; one of these women remarked to me that what set her apart from the other 30 women is that she didn't have pierced ears. For some reason that story stuck with me; until then I had thought my earrings painted me in a different light, but after that I realized I was just one color in a great big rainbow of earring wearers. And that it's not wearing earrings that is, in some way, the counter-cultural adventure.
So I last spring, I experimented with not wearing earrings. I gave them up for six months. What would happen?
To my big surprise, the answer was . . . nothing. My life got a little simpler on me, and no one else seemed to notice. Well, so much for shocking the world.
For me, as much as I'd loved the flash/pizzazz of my wild earrings all those years, I came to love the freedom from earrings even more. So this summer I decided to give all my earrings away.
This has been tricky. For one thing, many of these earrings were presents from my loving daughters, who I figured would be disappointed and hurt that I was dissing their gifts. But when I explained what I was doing, they were actually completely okay: in fact, they delightedly swooped down on the collection to commandeer many of their favorites for themselves. Here's what the battlefield looks like now.
Figuring out what to do with the remainder of these earrings is going to be a challenge. Some of these are really probably garbage (the pair of earrings I made from my dog's rabies tags, anyone)? But some are actually valuable (the gold earrings that my dad gave my mom have both sentimental and commercial value).
I look at these, and feel that old material paradox that has haunted me since I read E.M. Forester's essay, "My Wood": I start by owning the earrings, but now the earrings own me. I can't just bring myself to toss the lot, but no one I have asked so far wants them . . . so what do I do?