Welcome to the resistance, we have earrings
No one asked, but here’s why I wear so much jewelry.
When I was a junior in college, I participated in a mock interview activity the campus career center organized. I went because it was a requirement for a class I was taken. Because I’m an egotistical Type A, I also went to verify my suspicion that I was a highly qualified job candidate. (Spoiler alert, I was.)
To help students prepare for the interviews, the career center gave us handouts with some basic interview dos and don’ts. Two entire pages of this handout were dedicated to dress code. I have an entire rant about what is considered “professional” dress and why it’s racist and sexist, but let's just stick with jewelry.
Besides the usual blah-blah-blah about cleavage and well-groomed hair and nails and how many inches below the knee skirts should be, there was a section which said women should wear “no more than three items of jewelry.”
I remember texting my mom immediately to scoff. I was wearing about five pieces of jewelry at the time, and that was a light jewelry day for me.
Let me back up to provide some necessary context.
I’ve always been a jewelry person, although I didn’t always wear much. As a teen, my jewelry box had a dozen necklaces, but I only wore one or two of those with any type of regularity. I didn’t get my ears pierced until I was 16 or 17 and it took me two years to dare to wear anything other than my studs.
Fast forward to the present day where I wear five bracelets every day without fail. Four of those bracelets never come off, even to shower. I recently added an ear cuff to the this-never-comes-off jewelry collection. I'll go to work wearing dinosaur earrings made by my lovely friend Sophie. “There are never too many bangles” is a real thing I have said in all sincerity. If it weren’t pandemic times, I would have gotten a second ear piercing six months ago. I have four of my favorite rings attached to my key chain so I can put them on/take them off whenever I have the urge.
In short, I wear a lot of jewelry now. It's a Lydia thing.
There’s not one particular moment that flipped the switch for me and turned me into a full-on jewelry enthusiast/connoisseur. But that practice interview is a standout moment.
I read “no more than three pieces of jewelry” and texted my mom so we could laugh bitterly at this absurdity. A week later, I showed up to the interview in almost my biggest pair of earrings, layered necklaces, four rings and a set of bangles on top of my normal bracelets.
I nailed the interview.
The mock interviewer, who was a professional in some sort of communications and marketing field, said I looked and sounded very put together. Her one piece of advice was to tighten up my elevator pitch, not to ditch 75% of the jewelry I was wearing.
What I was supposed to get out of my practice interview was tips for improving my skills. What I actually took away was frustration at being told the number of metal ornaments on my body would be a barrier to getting a job. I still love wearing jewelry for its own sake, but it’s also become a form of resistance, of calling bullshit on stupid rules that try to dictate how I have to present myself if I want to be taken seriously.
Because I’m petty, when I got dressed to interview in person for the job I have now (where I’ve been working for nine months), I very intentionally exceeded the three pieces of jewelry limit. My mom and I laughed.
The amount of jewelry I wear has turned into an inside joke for my mom and I – spoiler alert, it’s never under the three-pieces limit and hasn’t been literally since that interview.
I get the vibe (i.e. the message is not said outright but is implied) in other aspects of my life that a “tasteful” amount of jewelry is preferred. There are places where I worry I will be received poorly if I don’t “tone it down.”
This is part and parcel of being a woman in the workplace. The fact that where I live is saturated in Christian purity culture and standards of modesty is another contributing factor.
But since this apparently needs saying, I’ll put it out there: the jewelry someone wears says nothing about their capabilities as a human being or as an employee/professional. (You can replace jewelry with makeup, clothing and hairstyle and get to the same truth.)
There are some fights for respect and equality I’m not brave enough to fight on my own. There are some things I refrain from saying because I’m “not ready to go there yet.” There are some times when I choose to conform because the alternative is an uphill battle.
Jewelry is where I don’t compromise.
(Which sound stupid to me. There are other, bigger battles I could be fighting. But wearing what I want and what I like is my daily act of resistance to the societal expectations attempting to dictate who gets to be successful.)
I get dressed for work to push the envelope. My earring collection has steadily grown funkier, thanks in part to the radness of the earrings being made by my lovely friend Sophie. I like to go to craft shows and vendor fairs just to look at handmade earrings. I get new jewelry at least once a month and the things I gravitate toward are not "toned down."
Maybe no one in my workplace notices. Maybe no one in my workplace cares. But I do.
And if the resulting exponential growth of my jewelry collection is completely out of control, I have absolutely zero plans to do anything about it.