17 November 2014

Beady eye

Photo: Nicola Lawson
My need for symmetry manifests itself on a daily basis and across many areas of my life: from the way I position my belongings to how I shape my eyebrows and nails. Sometimes it emerges in other, ad hoc situations.

One of my favourite tops is a blue and cream patterned tunic, with a tie closure at the neck. The closure's two cords are finished off with short strings of beads - in two different sizes and shades of blue - topped off with sequins. The last time I wore this top, I suddenly spotted a sequin on my hall floor and realised one string had come apart.

Somehow, I managed to find 10 out of 13 of the tiny beads - which had contrived to bury themselves in the intricate weave of the hall rug - leaving me with the following options:

1. String together those I'd found and re-attach them to the cord.
2. Cut off the other string and divide the beads from both strings across the cords (leaving one - irritating - spare bead).
3. Cut off the other string and leave both cords bare.

Option 1 would have left the cords unacceptably asymmetric and Option 3 would have completely spoilt the look of the top. Option 2 it was.

It took 45 minutes to devise a new pattern from the reduced number of beads, string them, and attach the strings to the cords - due, in part, to my middle-aged eyesight. Eventually, I dangled the cords in front of me, to admire my neat repair...only to realise that the strings of beads were different lengths.

Photo: Peter Gettins Photography
Looking at them up close, I realised that there were actually more than two different sizes and colours of beads - obvious with the benefit of an expensive camera lens (see left) but not with my reading glasses, from half a metre away. As (bad) luck would have it, the smaller ones had all ended up on one string, leaving it half a centimetre shorter than its partner.

My heart sank; I'd have to unpick all of my handiwork and start again. Yet I had too much to do that day to repeat this job. I prevaricated for several minutes, torn between my compulsion to achieve symmetry and the knowledge that satisfying that compulsion would waste time and effort.

Then my perfectionist's voice chirped up with a new set of worries: 'You know how clumsy you are. If you cut the beads off again, you'll probably lose some. And you stitched the strings on so securely, you'll damage the fabric if you try to pick the knots out. And, after all that, you still might not get the strings the same length.'

To be honest, I couldn't even be sure they'd been the same the day I bought the top, because I'd never looked. Just because I knew differently now, I didn't have to dwell on it. Certainly, nobody else would ever notice,

Eventually, I admitted defeat, hung the top up in the wardrobe, exactly as it was, and got on with my day. 

That was in August and, since then, I've managed to resist fixing it. If you ever see me wearing this top though, feel free to check that I haven't caved in to temptation...


Anonymous said...

You say you admitted defeat, Helen, but I think you actually won that battle!You were able to leave it asymmetrical and get on with your life!

Tina Fariss Barbour said...

I agree with Janet--there's no defeat here! I think it's great that you have resisted the compulsion to "fix" it. It's a lovely top and a great photo of you!

Helen Barbour said...

Ah, ocdtalk, that is a very good point - it was a victory, not a defeat! Thanks.

Helen Barbour said...

Tina, thanks for the compliments and support. The photo of me was actually taken on the last occasion that I wore the top - I'm grateful, at least, that the beads didn't come off in the restaurant.