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#178 :: Tiara

August 5, 2004

One heavy little object will never appear on this site, for it is likely dead. When I was about nine, an artist friend of my parents came to visit, bringing with him trinkets from his rakish hippie life in Cartagena. Among them was a jeweled bug. Not a cloisonné insect, nor a 14-karat bug brooch with diamonds, pav&eaccute;, but a living beetle onto which some Colombian peasant had epoxied a glittering mosaic of green and yellow paste jewels and an eyelet. Attached to the eyelet was a leash of fine, gold chain. The artist clipped the leash’s other end to my mother’s lapel, and the living jewel wandered all over her collar for half an hour. Occasionally it crapped. Never did it look anything less than stunning and heartbreaking. All I could think – then and now – was, How dare they? It probably had a fine life in the rain forest, blissfully unaware of the date and time of its certain doom in a bird’s beak or a marsupial’s paws. Instead, it now had to survive on scraps of grass and live out its last days within inches of leering, burbling human faces, being dragged incessantly across an ever-changing carpet of rayon, worsted and silk by thick, careless fingers. The vanity of man demands shamelessly shiny things. Some are legendary. Others are gaudy constructions of dozens of cheap ornaments. This plastic tiara came into the house as a gift, and amply stoked the fires beneath my daughter’s burgeoning princess fetish. That’s probably a 50-carat heart-cut “ruby” at the center, there, but the tiara’s true worth – as talisman and art object – cannot be measured.

Filed under: Adornment | Comments (3)


  1. redwriter August 15, 2004 @ 5:28 am

    actually i was horrified and gave them both away to the first willing person who walked into the house, an elegant woman with no such qualms. I couldn’t bear to put the thing on and certainly didn’t wear it. Before the willing taker came in, the jeweled bugs wandered around a twig in a giant jar in our living room. Totally creeped me out until we found a taker.

  2. mack reed August 15, 2004 @ 11:16 am

    Ah – and here I always remember you as being the willing fashion victim. I coulda sworn somebody had it on for a while, but your account does ring a bell vis-a-vis your willingness to wear it.

  3. redwriter August 17, 2004 @ 8:14 am

    yup. the donors proudly wore it, but they were a little creepy too. another gift: adam and eve carvings with fig leaves you could take off for a gander at the pudenda. then there was their loan of the kinsey report, now *that* was weird since they kept asking us how we liked it, wink wink. As for the bugs: a friend’s mother put it, correction, *them* on at a commencement party and we urged her to walk out of the house with them. Which, thank heavens, she did. It was either that or have them die in that jar on our side table.