Wednesday, 4 March 2009

Diamonds and Rust

Yesterday I sold a piece of jewelry that was given to me by an ex-boyfriend, and the whole thing left me feeling as if it wasn't my finest hour.

My thinking was that the jewelry was ugly. I had never liked it even at the time, although I would never have said so. I even wore it back then to please him. It seemed as though it would be no good to have an expensive but unattractive lump of metal and rock sitting in the bottom of my jewelry box never seeing the light of day, when some other person might actually like the ghastly thing and could supplement my meagre earnings from part time teaching for the pleasure of indulging their bad taste.

But a bad taste was what stuck in my mouth after collecting the cash. The horrid thing was given to me as an expression of genuine affection. Granted, it was about seven or eight years ago now, and I haven't seen the man in question for more than six of them, but don't objects like this still deserve to retain some of their symbolism? Was I, in effect, saying that everything that had happened between us was reducible to mere monetary value? And even though the action will have no bad consequences for anyone (it is virtually impossible that he will ever know) what does it say about the kind of person that I am?

On the other hand, perhaps holding on to meaningful trinkets like that is a bit creepy, as if we are clutching on to the accoutrements of our past relationships. Nobody wants to be Miss Havisham, sitting alone in her yellowing bridal dress surrounded by stopped clocks (not that I was jilted at the altar you understand, I finished the whole thing before it got to that stage).

So how do we shed our old skin with dignity and still acknowledge the significance of the people and places that have been important to us in the past? Throwing gifts away would be no good - it would seem like a dismissive and melodramatic gesture, and the whole thing was too long ago for me to indulge that sort of behaviour. Giving it back would have a similar nuance, especially as it would involve contacting someone who I have not spoken to in a long time in order to throw his gift back in his face. I no longer have any ill-will toward him, so that would be hurtful and inappropriate.

Perhaps even worrying about this is an act of self-indulgence. Maybe I should be redirecting my precious emotional energy into far worthier causes.

In any case, I have now taken the money. Although he will never know, I am very grateful to my ex for buying the philosophy books that I really need, and come the weekend, I will raise a pint of his beer to him in gratitude.


  1. I think you pose some interesting questions there. On the one hand, love and affection are amazing. We ought to celebrate them and cherish their memory.

    On the other hand, why cling to a past that is gone. Purging ourselves of past relics is sometimes psychologically necessary and healing.

    I think, in your place, I would have sold it as well. Afterall, it was ugly, and it's from - it appears - something long gone.

  2. Simply because you sell something doesn't mean that you have thereby reduced it in your own eyes to something solely of monetary value--that you're posting this shows this clearly! Moreover, by selling it you're increasing value for three people--yourself, the new owner, and the persons to whom you pass on the cash through your own purchasing. The world is now a better place for this!

  3. Dear ethics (*oops*) girl,

    I will try not to sound like a person moralising; moving on in life is your right, but you sound rather casual, even habitual, about it.

    See, because you were able to sell that bit of jewellery (and blog about it, in the hope that the person would never come to know about it!), let me assume that you don't have, and neither ever had, enough emotional attachment to him, otherwise it wouldn't have let you sound so easy and casual, even if after years. Regardless of how bad your boyfriend himself was, your talking about selling his gift and buy beer (in gratitude you said, huh !), reflects a tad too badly upon the sincerity, rather the lack of it, with which you view relationships, or atleast this relationship.
    Ofcourse, love can hurt too, as it can please, in opposite and large measures. You are perfectly fine in choosing what you think suits you. i.e. of giving back just as much (or sometimes even less) to the world as you get, even when it comes to love.
    When we are not patient or willing enough to tread the tough path (it is not as tough as Miss Havisham's, believe me :) ), God may choose not to grant us the best deal either. But some people also think it in terms of having 5 decent lovers rather than a boring, constant, one for all times. That's fine, if that's how you are. But don't crib when you don't have the greatest lover around.

    Too bad that someone (above in comments) says that other than yourself, you helped the 'new owner' as well; believe me this new owner could never own it as much as you could have (which does not mean that you should not have sold it, or looked at it every morning and felt horrible about your past)You deserve to find a better, new life (whatever be the reason of your disassociation with this guy) - but it's alright to feel a little bad about it - never get convinced against it.

    Go on, teach well, drink well, and live well..

    good wishes,