Here’s a story. My mother, for her entire life, possessed some kind of allergy towards metal. She couldn’t bear to wear jewellery very often, (her wedding and engagement rings excepted and perhaps a high quality silver ring). Mainly, she couldn’t wear watches, because every single one of them would cease to work if she wore it even once. Every time. When budget and technology allowed, she tested herself on cheap plastic digital watches, clockwork watches, more expensive watches. Mum never got her ears pierced for the same reason. Occasionally she’d wear clip on earrings for a few hours, and then remove them to limit the damage.
My mother didn’t advertise her metal peculiarity, but she didn’t hide it either. Yet, when my mother was young, and young men befriended her or tried to woo her, she told them outright: no metal gifts, no watches, no jewellery. Please.
Of course, by now, you might have guessed the next bit.
None of these men listened. Of course, my mother was gifted watches and rings she couldn’t wear. Of course, these sensitive young men were offended she didn’t immediately rejoice at gifts she literally could not use or else risk hurting herself and ruining the watches. Of course, my mother explained again and again, she couldn’t wear metal. Of course, these young men thought she was just saying things, as surely all women loved watches and jewellery? Of course, my mother felt unheard and not taken seriously, and doubted herself. Meanwhile, these sensitive young men expressed how they felt unappreciated for their efforts at providing generic traditional gifts for a generic shaped potential girlfriend. Of course, these men resented my mother; and took back their unworn gifts.
That’s the story. Or, I suppose my version of a story my mother isn’t here to tell.
Confused, I believe my mother thought it was her, at least for awhile. I wish I could tell her: mum, it was never you. Telling your suitors and friends what you needed, or didn’t, wasn’t a mistake. It was them, these men who made a choice not to hear you, and couldn’t see a woman and think of her as a unique individual with her own needs, quirks, and allergies. The trick of knowing this is in the pattern of behaviour. It wasn’t just one interested fella, it was each of them (there weren’t that many, but still).
In one version of this story, the ending sees the metal gift bearing callow youths eff off to pester other young women. Sadly, they ride into the sunset, never having learned to listen to women nor to give credence to their wisdom, or respect their experience.
In my version of the story, my mother’s true love would’ve turned up to gift her with paint brushes, or an easel, charcoal, or fine graphite pencils, because this person listened to my mother, respected her knowledge of herself, and paid attention to what she loved.
That’s the fairy tale ending. I can let it stand. Except, it shouldn’t just be the the mark of a one true love that this person listens to others, and pays attention, and respects their needs regardless of gifts given. It should be everyone, towards everyone else. Imagine that world?
Shouldn’t we pay attention to the needs and preferences of our loved ones, our friends, and colleagues? We should not resent and punish the people we care about for the mistakes we make in regards to them. Shouldn’t we take responsibility for learning each other, and putting that learning into practice in safe and affirming ways?
Anyway, that’s what I think when I look at my mother’s jewellery, the colourful clip on earrings she sometimes wore, and the old watches she never could. That’s all.
A new poem will be out very soon.
Steady as she goes, the 2022 writing update:
- Rejections: 132
- Pending: 38
- Acceptances by publisher: 23
- Acceptances by work: 31
- Published: 28