It was some time around our 10th anniversary in the early 1960s. He wanted to buy something special for me, and I had a yen for pearls.
We traipsed into “the city” to the jeweler’s exchange on 47th street and exited with a fine choice of long oyster-gems. He peeled off about $2000. in pocket cash, and we dropped off a dime at the toll booth on the West Side Drive, arriving home, both satisfied with the purchase.
Country-Club, “Stepford Wife,” the condition to which I was on the “cusp of,”encouraged the sporting of my bauble appropriately at dinner dances and assorted cliché-d gatherings of young matrons, and their fabled spouses of ever-seeking “means.” The pearls completed the set of the required acquisitions of the times, which included: the mink coat, the reasonably well-sized diamond ring and the Cadillac.
One day several months later, — I couldn’t find the pearls. I remembered having worn them recently. Had I misplaced them? Where? Where? Where were they?
The silent search was on: drawers, closets, pockets, purses, – nada! Days passed, and laden as we were, I had enough trinkets to festoon my body without the pearls, and their lack of presence was not a cause for any great concern and not yet noticed by my spouse.
Nevertheless, I missed them. And so in an effort to assuage my angst, I stopped at the local Macy’s costume jewelry counter and paid $17.00 for an identical looking set of long pearls, which elegantly served the purpose on all occasions for which they were in service. And “mum” was the word regarding the switch.
Weeks, months, even years passed and I happily appeared in long flowing pearls – Macy’s best! It went with the total look and no one, least of all my spouse made any reference to it, except to admire the “total look.”
And then !!!
One day, as I was digging deeply into a drawer in need of a squished item, Voila!! Suddenly my memory crawled back into my consciousness – including the fact of having placed the original pearls cautiously into that place. And all the flimsy reasoning behind that act returned to me.
So—now I had two sets of long flowing pearls—and dang!! For the life of me, without a magnifying glass, I was hard pressed to distinguish one from the other. Subsequently, I would wear one or the other set, randomly chosen with a new appreciation for the value of fake jewels.
But this is not the end of the story.
As I meandered through the life I was leading, “fakeness” was its ever present hallmark. We had become part of the fabric of “club life.” —– hedonism its unacknowledged underpinnings. We had frequent la-dee-dah club meals around circled tables of ten and twelve people. To me, they seemed mostly interested in which restaurants we frequented, where we had traveled, what college campuses we had lounged at for four years and how bad the club food had become.
But business was good, and neighbors became customers, clients, or patients to each other. We were so safe behind the gates. And along our streets, the people had voted to install identical looking green mailboxes, forcing owners to trash the kooky ones, the ugly ones, and the unique ones which dared to mark the inhabitants as possible people of individuality.
And all this time, my real pearls and my fake pearls mingled together in a jewelers box almost as one, subject to my indiscriminate choice –since I was too lazy to seek the magnifier that would differentiate them.
But time wore me down, and I began to apply a magnifier to the life I was living. Much of what I saw in that glass was a bunch of distortions and a set of values that were misaligned with my own. Slowly and deliberately I found a life outside of the gates, interests and people less attuned to acquisition, more grounded in trying to solve the aches of society.
It is many many years later. I’ve had a good, productive life. I don’t give much of a damn about the pearls any more – either of them. As a matter of fact, I believe I gave them both away during the second major downsize of my living quarters.
Although I had lost them – and then found them – I had eventually also lost that “other me.” And with great gratitude, I finally found the “real me.”