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A String Of Pearls

Updated on June 19, 2009


There was a time (at least on television) the lovely housewife was always seen wearing a signature necklace of pearls. Whether she was doing light dusting or telling the cook, Beulah about what to make for dinner, the pearls were always the staple of her wardrobe, almost as much as that simple band around her finger that represented a life shared with one man, a circle with no beginning or end, like the love and cocktails they would share throughout their lives. I think when people think of “family values” and “simpler times” the image of that woman, that Donna Reed or Barbra Billingsley with their pearls is what comes to mind. Sure we would later find out that the pearls were almost like some sort of shock collar to women, keeping them from going out into the world to become self-realized because they were worrying about the pot roast instead of their inner psyche but this morning I went to Walmart and there was an older woman greeting people at the door with her bright blue polo shirt on just like everyone else but her hair was coiffed amazingly and around her neck? A string of pearls – Don’t Get Me Started!

I stared at this woman for a brief period. She seemed happy. She seemed as though you could put a dress on her and think that she was at a garden party or the matriarch of some family business and she was ruling with a knowing smile and wink. And yet there she was at the entrance to Walmart with a smile from ear to ear greeting each guest and making them feel as though they had just stepped into her home and that the fondue appetizer would be served any minute. I marveled at her. Not because she seemed almost from another time but because whatever time she was in, I wanted to be in it with her. I have no idea what her real life is or was, maybe she was a drug dealer who fell on hard times and had to get a job, maybe the pearls were fake. But I doubt those scenarios are true.  I’d like to believe (especially in these troubled economic times) that those pearls were the only material thing she owned of value, that they had been passed down for generations and when she lost her home to foreclosure, her husband of forty years to cancer and was forced to move into a one bedroom studio apartment and get a job, on her darkest nights those pearls illuminated her soul and let her know that no matter what happened around her she was still the lady her mother taught her to be and a survivor.

There was a time that it was considered garish to wear diamonds before you were forty (exception being the engagement ring). And I kind of feel the same way about pearls. Pearls are not for everyone. Clearly Barbra Bush worse those huge ones because it was either a support for her linebacker sized neck or because she just wanted to show that she had a neck. Wilma Flinstone’s pearls just looked like cement or something and very uncomfortable. And I believe there’s a myth that you’re not supposed to wear pearls on your wedding day because it will mean a marriage filled with tears. But I think the reason that some women shouldn’t wear pearls is because they simply haven’t earned them. On the reality show the Ladies of Windsor Hall they gave each girl a string of pearls and when they would be expelled they would have to return the pearls. I think they got the idea right; that you have to be a lady to wear pearls.

Am I putting too much emphasis on something that seems immaterial? Maybe the rest of the stuff we talk about is immaterial but in the hustle and bustle that is my life, with all that I try to juggle, seeing those pearls today made me stop, breathe and in some strange way believe that everything was going to be okay. Maybe that’s why when a gay hears something shocking (or let’s face it, wants to give an over the top reaction) they “clutch their pearls” (in other words, place their hand to their throat in disbelief in what would appear that they are clutching an imaginary strand of pearls around their neck) maybe it’s a comforting thing in some weird way or maybe we just saw Charles Nelson Riley do it on Match Game and it’s been passed down through the gener-gay-tions.

I don’t know what the answer is but I know that right now I have Glenn Miller’s String Of Pearls going through my head and I feel better about life in general. I feel more civilized and feel as though I can even deal with the fact that Beulah burnt the pot roast and we’ll be going out for dinner tonight. A string of pearls – Don’t Get Me Started!

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