Momento

by f

When I read the following on Slate, the first thing I thought was, “I’m not like that. I don’t want a ring. I’m not crazy about expensive things.”

But, you know, that would be a lie. Or at least a part-lie. I’m sure I’m not like that now. But I wasn’t always.

I have a confession to make.

When W and I were in college, I really wanted to have some kind of physical momento for our relationship. I wanted a piece of jewelry. Not like a ring, per se, but anything I could take with me. To me, my relationship was like fiction. It didn’t exist when I was at home with my parents. I couldn’t do anything about it. Lots of other girls get to bring their significant others home. But forget me; my parents would have stopped paying my college tuition.

I told him that I wanted a piece of jewelry.

Now I know I was being dumb, but …

…  I really wanted this. And I am not a material person. But I was fixated on this. When I saw a jewelry store, I went inside and stared through the glass cases and wanted each delicate diamond braided bracelet that I saw.

After a while, I gave up on this. I left him alone. He went to India for ten days that winter. When he came back, it was with a gray box and a beautiful diamond ring. (The ring was very, very small, as was the diamond. It didn’t fit on my finger. I bought a small silver chain and hung the ring on it so that I could wear it as a necklace.)

My friend at the time — E, from high school — looked at the ring with a certain amount of disdain and told me that it was small. She asked me if it was even a real diamond.

Now I know that E is a very materialistic person who did not have my best interests at heart. Her motive when she asked me this question was to cut down my life by targeting my material gains.

But at that point I was very frightened. What if it was not a real diamond? What if it was too small? Could I wear that ring anywhere and claim that it was an engagement ring?

That evening I went to a store to look at antiques. I know the owner there — though we aren’t on good terms now, we were then. He was an erudite Kashmiri man who loved to travel the world. He even invited me over to his house. And when he saw that I carried this ring along the chain I’d bought from his store, he wanted to take a look. He even took out a fancy black plastic beepy thing and set it down on his glass counter.

What’ll that do? I asked him.

It’ll check the quality of your stone, he said. I gave it to him.

Are you sure you want me to do this? he asked.

I wondered why he wouldn’t.

Because you might find that it isn’t a genuine diamond, he said. Did he buy it in India?

I nodded.

It’s very likely that it’s a gem that tests like a diamond and has the same clarity but is actually not a diamond. These jewelers think that they can get away with anything, and they do.

Like a simulated stone? I asked.

Exactly.

He took the machine and held it over the counter, and asked me what I was afraid of.

Nothing, I said, and told him to do it.

I was confident in the diamond’s truth. Guess what happened?

The meter ran up through the gems by varying degrees of hardness. And it stopped one indicator shy of a diamond. My stone was a big damn fake. A tiny damned fake. My eyes smarted and I stood there, staring at the ring, wondering what to do with this damning piece of information.

That’s when the sensible voice at the back of my brain told me to shut up.

What I had really wanted was a momento and a token. A pretty token, but something that would remind me of the fact that I had a wonderful boyfriend who took the time out of a cramped vacation to think of me and buy something for me.

I got what I wanted and I was still upset.

I took the ring from my friend, put it in my pocket, thanked him, and left the store. After that trip I did a lot of soul searching, and looked over the delicate ring. I thought of Anne from LM Montgomery who eschewed diamonds after she realized that they were, after all, not purple. They didn’t matter to her. The pearls were enough.

Sweeter, in fact.

Since then I have blown off the friend who told me the ring wasn’t good enough. And I still keep it with me and take it wherever I go. The box is what inaugurates any new bag that I get. It’s always as close to my heart as I can get it.

3 Comments to “Momento”

  1. This is a great post. It puts into perspective what a lot of people today don’t seem to. It isn’t the size of the ring or diamond, it isn’t the authenticity of the stone, it is the thought behind it that counts. A lot of people get caught up in the same things you did, and I’m glad that you had that sensible voice in your head that told you to stop worrying. And I’m glad that you listened to it! I’ll bet a lot of people have that same little voice and just brush it aside. Its important to realize where our priorities lie, and what’s really important. The size of the ring or diamond, the authenticity of the stone itself, or how much was spent on the ring doesn’t really have anything to do with the relationship or prove that someone loves you or doesn’t love you. Nor does it have bearing on how MUCH someone loves you. A lot of people think that the more a man spends on a ring for you, the more he loves you. This is not true. I’m glad that there are still people out there who realize this!

    • Thank you so much, V.

      You know, I’ve had these issues for the longest time — caring about things I shouldn’t. But I hope I can learn from these things and make myself listen to the sensibilities that I do have.

      I’ve learned now — esp after watching movies about the awful nature of diamonds and the idea of conflict trade — that diamonds are just not worth the hassle. Moreover, any expensive jewelry item that costs such a significant percentage of one’s monthly/annual income is just wrong. Eighty percent of women buy into the engagement ring fantasy, and while it’s not my place to tell them not to, I still wonder why they do.

      • I think its because society has for a long time had them believe the value of material objects surpasses the value of real emotion. If your boyfriend doesn’t want to put that diamond on your finger, that probably means he’s not that interested or serious about getting married! He’s a cheapskate, his money is more important to him than you are, blah blah blah. Keeping up with the Joneses is another big issue. People want what others have. It doesn’t matter what it is, if you think or society thinks what they have is something good, then you want it too. The grass is always greener on the other side. And simultaneously we’re always told material things don’t matter. But, that’s just lip service, society has already conditioned the majority to think that it definitely DOES matter.

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