The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

It takes two: What do you do when an earring goes missing?

Earrings are neatly stored by Ruth Pritchard-Kelly, columnist John Kelly's wife. Some are missing their mates, a sad reminder that not all partnerships last forever. (John Kelly/The Washington Post)
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“Why only one’s favorite earrings get lost is a mystery to me,” said Noriko Bell of the District.

I wonder: Is it because favorite earrings are worn more often, thus putting them in harm’s way, fated to dangle dangerously from the earlobes like an alpinist clinging to a mountain crag? Or perhaps all earrings are lost equally but it’s only the favorite ones that are mourned.

In today’s column, we move from socks on feet to jewelry on ears, with tales of lost earrings. Thirteen years ago, Noriko lost a smoky quartz earring. She can’t bring herself to toss the survivor.

“Once in a while, I look at the remaining earring, and put it back in its place in the jewelry case,” she wrote. “There is no sentimental value, or any other value, I simply cannot get rid of it.”

But maybe there is hope. Noriko once crawled in vain on the floor of a Metrobus looking for an earring — sterling with a purple Swarovski crystal — she was certain she’d dropped there.

“I loved this earring, a contemporary style,” she wrote. So she kept its mate. Seven years later, Noriko had her car detailed and the lost earring was found. “I now happily wear the reestablished pair,” she wrote.

I bet Merrill Kaegi wishes she’d been as patient as Noriko. Years ago, Merrill’s daughter returned from Brazil with a gift: a pair of black pearl earrings. “I wore them several times and one day could not find one of them,” wrote Merrill, who divides her time between Sarasota, Fla., and Lewes, Del.

And so the earring went with other odd pieces of jewelry into a plastic bag and was donated to Goodwill.

“A few years later when the bookcase upon which the jewelry box had sat was moved, there, of course, was the other earring,” Merrill wrote. “I was sad.”

The District’s Gretchen Willson prefers a style of earring that I believe is called the scalloped hoop. Gretchen has quite an assortment of gold earrings in this shrimplike design. When she loses one, she can wear another, even if it differs slightly in its shape from its temporary mate.

“One really could not tell the difference,” Gretchen wrote.

Virginia Kopelman of Miami Beach said she used to feel terrible every time she lost an earring. (Hers had an annoying tendency to fall into hotel sinks.)

“Then I had an epiphany,” she wrote. “Earrings don’t have to match! Now I wear unmatched earrings most of the time, and have rescued singles from my daughters, who haven’t taken the plunge.”

Virginia is right on trend, as jewelry bloggers and media outlets including the Today program and the Times of India have touted the fashion practice.

Sometimes it isn’t the monetary value of an earring that makes us mourn its passing. It’s the sentimental value that can make us go to extreme lengths. Years ago, Cara Liebenson Stringer of Columbia, Md., bought a pair of very inexpensive earrings — “less than $2,” she wrote. They were square, decoupaged with tiny maps and travel scenes. After returning home from visiting her mother, Cara realized she’d lost one.

“The last time I remembered wearing them, I had stopped at a local grocery store,” she wrote. “I called the store in the faint hope that someone found the earring. Lo and behold it had been found! I asked them to hold onto it until I could retrieve it over the weekend.”

And then fate intervened: Washington was struck by one of those massive snowstorms that we seem to get every now and then. Cara called the store again and pleaded with them to continue to hold on to the earring. When she was finally able to return to the store, she found that the earring had been placed in a small paper bag on which was written in big red letters, “Please see manager.”

Wrote Cara: “Apparently the manager wanted to meet the crazy lady who kept asking about the earring. ‘Do you have its mate?’ he asked. Why yes … and I showed it to him. The young woman at the counter said, ‘You know, you really need to invest in earring backs.’ ”

Somewhere, all those lost earrings, socks, gloves and shoes are partying together, entertained by music from countless errant AirPods.

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