About 15 years ago, I went to my dad and said that I wanted a diamond ring. No idea why I wanted one, but there we are. When I mentioned the ring, Dad responded by telling me that diamonds are very precious and expensive–that they are only given on very special occasions to very special people–that they are more than just a gift, they are a sign and a symbol of something very important (or something along those lines; I’m abbreviating…it was 15 years ago, after all),
Now the ring wasn’t something that I really desired, just something that I thought would be neat, thought it would make me classy or fashionable or something. I don’t know. Anyways, I wasn’t really upset by his kind (but emphatic) “no.” Life went on and I didn’t think about it again.
Then one day, some weeks or months later, my dad walked up to me and said something along the lines of, “remember what I told you about diamonds? Well, here you go.”
And he gave me a ring that had a little diamond set in it.
I wore that ring all the time: To school, to climb up trees, to go swimming, to climb down trees, to play catch with our dog, to fall out of trees… No matter where I went or what I did, I never took that ring off. And my parents never asked or expected me to. I wasn’t told that it was too expensive to wear here or there; I wasn’t told that I was being irresponsible. Eventually (inevitably, because I was only about 14), I was mucking about and the diamond fell out of the ring. I couldn’t find it.
I think that Mom and I were out running errands when I noticed that the diamond was missing. We hunted about for a few minutes, but there was no way we were going to find it. So life went on. That was that. There was no crying or yelling or scolding because (the horror) I had lost a diamond.
For a time, I wore the ring on a necklace. Eventually, I stopped wearing it and it got packed away in one of my many keepsake drawers (which generally consisted of seashells, cutouts of cute boys from Teen People Magazine, and friendship bracelets I got from kids at school).
A few weeks ago, I mentioned this ring to my dad and asked him if he remembered it. I can’t remember whether he did or not, but as I was packing up all my things recently (preparing for moving), I stumbled across the ring again.
Surprisingly, it still fit. I took it to a jewelry shop and I got a synthetic sapphire set in it, which cost about 30$.
I could have gotten a diamond, but honestly, what’s with diamonds? The color “clear” is kind of stupid. I like blue a lot better. I could have gotten a real sapphire, but why spend 150$ on something “natural” that you need a microscope in order to distinguish from something that is “unnatural”? And why spend so much money when, in all likeliness, the stone will fall out at some point within the next few years?
(because of course, I am still going to wear it when I climb trees.)
Of course, I also could have just thrown the ring out and gotten something practical, like milk or sunscreen or new underpants…
The point of this story, what I am getting at here, I guess, is that I had pretty awesome parents. You don’t follow? In a highly materialized culture, Mom and Dad raised me to understand the value (or lack thereof) of material objects. And they were fortunate enough (and intelligent enough) to be able to do this is a way that did not make me feel like I was being lectured to or like I was missing out on something that all my friends (and seemingly everyone else in our culture) got to participate it. They taught me in a way that made me question privilege while (simultaneously) acknowledging the ways that my family was, very much and in many ways, extremely privileged.
I probably should have just gotten something practical. Surely, that would have been more moral (?). But I didn’t. Because, in the end, my dad was right.
This ring is a symbol—of the love that my parents had for me, of the silly way that our culture values materialism, of the ways that I foolishly bought into (and continue to buy into) materialism, of how privileged and how fortunate (so terribly fortunate) I am.
Right. The proposal. A modest proposal: Let’s agree that diamonds are bullshit. Let’s teach our kids that people (not carbon) matter. Let’s teach them to buy milk or sunscreen or new underpants. This should probably be incorporated into the post somehow, but it’s not. The end. Thesis over.