There’s something ironic to everything, and I think one of ironies of my life is that everything I say I’m not, I become. For example, I’ve never considered myself one for jewelry, and yet I find I wear more now than I ever had before–period. The funny part is, when I forget to put on my watch, or when I lost my Equality Ring in the car, I felt a part of my identity had slipped away. It was like missing a breath and knowing your lungs aren’t as full as they should be–but that breath is already gone and you can never bring it back.
So, although I’m sure it’s an odd thing to say (especially coming from one such as myself, who frequently must refer to dictionaries to divine the meanings of slang), today I’m thankful for bling.
It all began when I was five. Or six. One of those years while I still lived in Pennsylvania. I was given a simple Star of David on a chain. In Hebrew, my name is “David” (and please say it right: dah-veed), so I’ve always shared a special bond with the famous king (and his want for Jonathan makes me wonder how deeply this goes, but that’s a theological discussion for another day). I wore that necklace wherever I went. It was gold and shiny and so very, very cool for a little boy to have. And then, in various places (one I remember was a play place at McDonald’s), the chain broke and I lost my Star of David. Repeatedly.
After my third one, I gave up having one.
I never wore a watch either, since all the cool watches–you know, those Rugrats ones that Burger King sold–always gave me rashes on my wrist. Stupid plastic that smelled like bananas. How I loathed you so.
This all began to change when my dad found a snake chain necklace one day while working and brought it home to me. Dedicated readers may know this, but according to the Chinese zodiac, I’m a snake, so I quickly formed a bond with this piece of jewelry–it looked cool and it came from my dad, and it was found somewhere, so who knew what history it had before that. I loved it, but it turned me green. So I took it off.
After my trip to the Holocaust Museum in D.C. with my dad and my younger brother, I got a medallion that said “Equality Diversity Justice” that I wore on this chain, but after a couple years it was wearing thin and–fearing this medallion would be lost completely if I kept wearing it–I took that off. When I was in Israel, I bought dreidels for my family and because I bought so many, I was given a little hamsa that fit my chain perfectly. My new adornment was found at last!
(Ironically, I also had a connection to this hand-shaped symbol: When I lived in upstate New York, my religious school teacher wore one and it was the first time I had been introduced to the Hand of God and how it’s supposed to bring protection. I had always wanted one after that, but I had never found one I liked until finding this one in Israel. In fact, when I went to Israel, one of the things I wanted to buy was a new pendant or charm to wear on my necklace to replace the medallion I could no longer use. In Tzfat, I bought a sky-blue cubic glass bead, but it’s a little large in diameter for me to wear comfortably, though I do love it. I loved Tzfat. I’d love to return to Tzfat. The birthplace of Jewish mysticism in Israel? How could I not be entranced by its winding roads and white, white buildings? Seriously, I loved it.)
After a while, however, the blue part of my hamsa began to come off, and once more–hoping to not ruin it forever–I retired the charm and then, my neck more often green than not, I retired my necklace too.
Some time later I got my Equality Ring (look up the National Marriage Boycott for pictures). It was a simple black band with “Equality” and an equals sign on it in silver. I loved that ring. I would move it from my ring finger to my thumb and back whenever I needed to occupy part of my mind to focus on something else. I loved how it showcased my want for equal rights and I loved how it alluded to my love of mathematics and I loved how, in my programming classes, I could make silly jokes about the assignment operator not being an equals sign at all.
Then one day I was putting hand lotion on in the car and, of course I’d taken my ring off to do it, when the car took a sharp turn and my ring slid off my lap and we haven’t found it since. I’ve debated buying a new one, but that one was special. It was my first. And to replace it just wouldn’t be the same.
Somehow I forgot to mention my watch. Like I said I never used to wear a watch, so for my Bar Mitzvah I was given a very lovely silver pocket watch. I didn’t use it for some years, but when I became a madrich at my synagogue and needed to tell the time easily, I began to make great use of it–and the stop watch feature was a great hit with my kids when I could time them and they could compete to see who could read Hebrew the fastest. When I went to Israel, I didn’t want to bring my pocket watch, knowing it would very likely get damaged, so I bought a watch that was actually fairly comfortable–and, look at this, no rashes!
After I got home, the band broke. I retired it.
However, I’d become accustomed to wearing a watch, and when I took my weight training class and needed a way to tell time without my phone on hand, the obvious option was to get a new one. So I did. I’ve had to replace the band once, and it’s a little beaten up now (mostly from my walking into walls on occasion), but it still works and I still use it and like it very much.
So all this time I’ve had a watch and nothing else. I wanted a new way to show my support of equality, and I found it at the Human Rights Campaign’s web shop in the form of one of their Visions bracelets, each one consisting of three bands of colored leather through a stainless steel piece inscribed with a word and their equality sign logo. I got the green one that says “live.” I chose this for three reasons: With my watch on my left wrist and my bracelet on my right, both sides are even. I like the color green. And “live,” which HRC intends to stand for workplace equality, has a second meaning for me: it’s the first part of my motto, “Live Breath Exhale.” It was only a while ago that I realized, in the mirror, the bracelet also says “evil.”
St the dawn of this year, in “Sabbath Delight,” I mentioned how I felt I was more visibly gay than I was visibly Jewish. At this point I decided that was something I wanted to change–being Jewish means something to me, and I wanted to show that to the world just as much as I show how being gay means something to me, too. I began searching online for different Shields of David (“shield” is the proper Hebrew translation of what’s usually referred to as a “star”) and after I found one I liked, and after I got enough money to buy it, I bought not only a new pendant, but a new stainless steel snake chain like my first that won’t turn my neck green (it’s exactly eighteen inches; gematria enthusiasts may now celebrate my many moments of meaning).
The charm I’ve got was not made by a Jewish company, but by an Australian tribal designer called Bico–they make harder-edged items that appeal to a more masculine audience. So first day I wore it, my mom called it “gorgeous” and the second day, another good friend called it “pretty.” I just shook my head–that was not my intent! I wanted something powerful, something masculine, something layered in meaning (and this charm has it all). It wasn’t until I saw another friend at school who gets the tribal motifs that someone finally saw in this shield what I saw in it–and that was especially reassuring, I must say.
What’s been even more exciting has been the reactions of people I’ve known for a few semesters who see the pendant and stop for a second and say, “You’re Jewish?” and follow with, “I never knew that.” This has happened at least three or four times, the latest only this morning. It’s funny, though, because even though I don’t always “show” how Jewish I am, I always act Jewishly–it’s simply a part of my psyche and how I respond to things. My want for equality isn’t just a liberal motive. My respect for all faiths is not just a modern mindset. My love of learning and my striving to be an ethical leader–it’s all based in my Jewish upbringing.
Yet no one ever seems to see that until they see a symbol of it. Well, now I’ve got that symbol, and I proudly show it off every day. It’s big and bold and, yes, it’s beautiful too–but what’s most amazing is that it allows people to see more of me than they’ve ever seen before, and today, that’s why I’m thankful for bling.