Spoons are oddly meaningful in my world lately.
I’m a spoonie, which means I have a chronic illness. This term comes from Spoon Theory, which is the idea that people with disabilities and/or chronic illnesses have to measure their lives carefully so as not to overtax themselves. It’s a sort of energy conservation. I know I have a very finite amount of energy, and so I think very carefully about how I choose to spend it. And sometimes, you just run out of spoons.
But spoons have other meanings, too.
When I was in high school, someone gave me a spoon ring. It was once an actual spoon, solid and heavy. I wore the damn thing constantly, much to my mother’s chagrin. She wanted a dainty, feminine daughter, and instead got me – something of a hybrid of feminine and tomboy who didn’t like the delicate jewelry that my mother so desperately wanted me to like.
Basically, she wanted to live vicariously through me, and was desperate for me to share her aesthetic tastes.
And so she waited until I took the ring off for some reason, and it disappeared. That was the way things went when my mother didn’t like something – eventually, it would just disappear.
I was at a jewelry party not too long ago, and one of the things in the catalog was a ring made to look like a spoon – I say that because it most definitely has always been a ring, whereas the one I originally loved so much started out its life as a utensil. See evidence below:
Seeing in the catalog brought back that memory of that ring I’d had that was taken from me simply because it wasn’t up to someone else’s aesthetic standard, so I impulse-purchased the imitation from the catalog.
I told my husband this story when it arrived, and he reacted the way I think any normal human being would; he said, in a rather horrified tone of voice, “So…if she didn’t like something, she’d just get rid of it?”
Yes. Yes, she would. That’s how I got so good at hiding things. How good? So good that I often hide things even from myself.
The other night, I decided to look up the actual history of spoon rings. I had some vague notion that it had something to do with drug culture, but I didn’t know much else about them.
The story goes that they date back to the 16th century, when servants would steal a piece of silverware from the family the worked for and have it fashioned into a ring for a beloved. Originally, they were a love token, albeit a stolen one. Eventually, this practice fell out of favor, but spoon rings make a comeback in the 1960s and 70s, associated with hippies and youth counterculture, which is probably where I got the idea that they had something to do with drugs. Drugs certainly were a part of the 60s-70s countercultural movement, but my guess is that these rings had more to do with free love and aesthetics than narcotics.
It seems even spoons themselves were sometimes given as love tokens, or wedding gifts, or christening gifts. In Wales, wooden lovespoons were once given to girls by their suitors – I found a collection online of elaborately carved wooden spoons, meant to be symbolic of the relationship. There’s a gallery of them here.
The association of spoons with love makes my mother’s stealing and disposing of the one I originally owned that much more poignant; the woman is utterly incapable of love, and always hated anything that I loved – any tv show, any toy, any piece of jewelry, any book, any piece of clothing. If I got attached to something, it was immediately ridiculed, and sometimes disappeared entirely.
And so, without initially realizing it, I came to wear a replica of a multi-layered symbol. How I measure out my time an energy in small spoonfuls, careful never to overextend myself. How I still tend to hide things away because of that latent fear from childhood that anything I form any sort of attachment to will wind up disappearing.
I think what I want to do is replace the replica with something more authentic that fits where I am now. It seems appropriate.