When I was in the 7th grade, a male classmate gave me a pair of earrings for Christmas. We called him Smiley, but I think his real name was Leonard. Until that time, no boy had given me a gift…except for Richard Nichols and he pulled my name in a gift exchange in French class. I was thrilled when Smiley handed me the small white box! I was a bit confused because other than sitting near each other in Social Studies, we never talked outside of class. Not a word! No sitting together at lunch, talking during gym class, or dancing together at after-school sock hops. None of that mattered as I opened the box and admired the tiny little shiny earrings.
The earrings were gold tone. Certainly they were not real gold as Smiley was only 12 years old. I’m sure they cost around forty-nine cents…we are talking circa 1967. I loved them because he was thoughtful enough to buy me a gift.
Well, my mother did not share my enthusiasm in Smiley’s gesture. I couldn’t wait to get home to show her my gift and place it under the Christmas tree (he gave it to me on the last day of school before Christmas break). I expected her to say, “How cute!” Instead she growled, “What does that boy want from you?” Looking equally as confused, I asked, “What do you mean what does he want from me?” She looked sternly at me and replied, “No boy gives you a gift for nothing!” Was she accusing me of having sex with him? Where was the trust that I was doing the right thing?
I was hurt by my mom’s accusation. When I told her that my relationship with Smiley was nothing like that she said the earrings must be a lure for sex. They were only 49 cents for Pete’s sake! What a cheap lure! But my mom thought everything from a compliment to a candy bar was a lure for sex. I assured her that Smiley and I had never exchanged words outside of Mr. Hurley’s 4th period class! She didn’t care! I had to give the earrings back.
Since my mother didn’t care about my hurt feelings, my next defense was to appeal to her sense of compassion by telling her that it would hurt Smiley’s feelings for me to return his gift. My mother always taught me to keep gifts whether I liked them or not so I would not offend anyone. When I presented that argument, she said that only applied to family members…not boys! My mother was notorious for changing rules once the game had started!
Accepting defeat, I removed the earrings from beneath the Christmas tree and put them with my school supplies.
When the holidays ended, I returned the earrings to Smiley. By the look on his face, I could see that he felt the pain of rejection. His pain was no match for the hurtI felt from by my mother’s lack of trust in me!