Diamonds. Tier upon tier, a glittering hoard of diamonds, sparkling and winking under the lights like stars fallen on snow.
One of the boxes, closer to the burning-bright spotlights than the others, contained a thing of wonder and delight, a white-gold ring with three pea-sized stones across the center and a dusting of lesser glimmers trailing away to each side. It was . . . it was like becoming a dragon, seeing a glitter of jewels and thinking, "I must have this!"
The saleswoman, so pleasant and helpful, unlocked the glass and handed me the ring. "Try it on," she said. "You know, the days when we had to wait for a man to give us diamonds are over." It slid chill and perfect onto my finger, resting snug against my hand as if it had always been there. Mine, oh yes, how could I possibly give this up? I had the money; I could afford it. So friendly, so helpful, the saleswoman gave me the happy news that for the next three days only, all of these objects of breathless avarice would be 20% off, plus free financing! My heart beat faster. Why not? I could have this. I could get it myself, for myself. Think about how that would feel!
How did it feel?
It felt like success. After the lean times a few years ago when I was first on my own again, that glittering ring felt like planting a flag on the battlements and screaming, "Look at me, you freakish twisted hand of fate, I made it anyway!"
It felt like security. My mother had a ring fat with glittering, pea-sized diamonds, back when she was married to a wealthy man and lived in a big house on a hill. That ring and that house and those days of financial security are all tied together with a Tiffany bow, in my mind.
It felt like independence. I've owned a few diamond rings in my life, most returned to the men who gave them to me. Unbinding diamonds from marriage was an intoxicating alchemy: it was just a beautiful ring, something I could have if I wanted it without the weight of tradition attached. It didn't have to represent promises, it didn't contain the fear of disappointment. It was simply a beautiful thing.
It felt as if this ring could shoot lasers, flash secret codes, become a badge for difficult victories. Diamonds, the ring suggested, can be anything you want them to be: a banner, a light, a shield, a medal. I felt a little smaller when I took it off and handed it reluctantly back to my new friend, the saleswoman. "I'll think about it," I told her.
And I did think about it. Quite a bit, actually. But in the end, I got a different best friend. Diamonds are many things, but loving and loyal will never be among them.