You know the cliché about women and shoes, right? Like leather-bound crack. No woman ever passes up a chance to own another pair of three-inch stilettos. Well, actually, I do. I tend to latch onto two or three pairs of shoes that I love and then ignore the others until my beloved pairs fall apart at which point I buy something very similar to the ones that just died. So I’m not a shoe addict. No, for me it’s earrings.
I don’t know quite when it started—maybe when my granny let me play with her metal box of clip-ons. Maybe when I got my ears pierced and could suddenly start wearing more and more elaborate pieces (I have basically no earlobes at all). At some point in my life, I started picking up earrings wherever I went.
When I go to a mall, I automatically drift toward the jewelers, even though I don’t usually buy from big jewelry stores. When I visit a new town, I check out the shop windows for dangling pretties, sort of like a magpie. Even in antique stores I find myself gravitating to the glass cases, checking out the vintage stuff (although most of them are clip-ons that would never work on my nonexistent earlobes). I’m particularly fond of artisan style earrings. At arts and crafts shows I pass up the paintings and the wood work for the jewelry stalls, where I can spend a happy couple of hours studying the latest combinations of metal and stone.
I never really stopped to wonder what it is about earrings that gets to me, but if pressed I’d guess it’s their ability to make you look like whatever you want to be at a particular moment. Put on those dangly beauties with a pair of jeans and voila, instant glamour. Pair the diamond studs with a dark suit and you become Professional Woman with no strain. Even a fundamentally staid person like me can kick up her heels a bit with gypsy hoops. If you want to slip on a new identity, just for a couple of hours, earrings can do that for you. And everybody who looks at your face will see your earrings; you can’t say the same for your shoes.
I just returned from Santa Fe recently, which is sort of the holy shrine of earrings. The Native American jewelers set up in front of the Governor’s Palace, spreading their wares in front of them, and then watch the customers strolling by, all of us trying to act casual as we look at the gorgeous stuff just sitting there a few inches away. I try to resist the chunks of turquoise and serpentine, spiny oyster shell and celadon, but I never make it all the way down the promenade without buying something. If you walk slow and show interest, most of the jewelers will tell you where the stones came from, how they put them together, what makes their earrings different from the hundreds of other pairs around you. It’s earring heaven.
This time I came away with two pairs, which is the limit I’ve set for myself. I’ve already got a couple of sizeable jewel cases full of earrings. I can’t really wear all the ones I already have (although I have to admit it’s fun to stumble over a gorgeous pair I’d forgotten about when I do inventory). I’m really hoping one or the other of my sons will have a daughter at some point so I can start passing some of them on (the tiny opal turtles I got at the Pueblo Cultural Center a few years ago would be a good start).
But anyway, let me tell you about the two pair I got in Santa Fe this time—hammered copper disks with great texture and large silver rectangles with traditional raincloud symbols from the Laguna Pueblo. Heaven, I tell you, absolute heaven. And I’ll wear them, I absolutely will. At least until I pick up something else.
So what about you? Are you into earrings or shoes or… well, what? What’s your wardrobe obsession?