When I was 16, my mother said it was time to go buy my first pair of diamond earrings. I was really excited, espcially since she didn't even let me get my ears pierced until I was 13.
I waited that day with more anticipation than a child on Christmas Eve. I wanted those diamonds like I had never wanted anything in my life (except a puppy when I was very small). I planned out the entire day. It was going to be perfection.
I was going to wake up, 16 year old princess. I would be beautiful, my skin would be glowing, my hair shining, my eyes wide and innocent and sinful. I would be a WOMAN. Getting those earrings in my earlobes was my final chasm to cross before I became an adult. That and my driver's license. And going to college. And getting a job and my first apartment and having children...
But back to the earrings. They were a Step in a long chain to make me a WOMAN. I wanted nothing more than to be a woman. Be an adult, having a sophisticated life and doing fun things with my friends, a gorgeous, adoring boyfriend, a great job, plenty of money. You know, the things that grown-ups do.
I woke up. I didn't feel any older, but I was determined to be because like Marilyn Monroe... say it with me... Diamonds are a girl's best friend. I liked the vulgar, the over-the-top, the outright sexiness back then. I didn't even understand it all - I just knew I wanted it. Had to have it. And diamonds would open doors for me. Men would start to notice me as sophisticated. I would walk, no, I would sashay, through stores and restuarants and doors would open automatically for me, wind would follow in my path and heads would turn.
Liz Taylor, another glamour goddess, made diamonds the object of my desires. When she was young she was so fiesty and glam. I thought the diamonds matched the steel glint of her eyes.
Diamonds have no mercy. "They will show up the wearer if they can," says one character in The Sandcastle, an early novel by British writer Iris Murdoch. No one showed up Ms. Taylor, not even the Cartier diamond so big it was a "turnip".
My mom took me to the jeweler's and they immediately started to bore me to tears with the cut and clarity talks. I wanted none of it. I wasn't very interested in that and it didn't impress me. They all looked alike anyway. Who was going to be putting my earlobes under a microscope to check the 3 C's? I started yawning. My mother though was enthralled and told me I had to get a nice diamond.
So of course I am picturing these huge honking diamonds I'm going to have in my ears. Diamonds as big as cabinet handles. At least as big as dimes. Or erasers. Anything else would be way too gauche!
She showed me whast was in my price range. What?!? Those dinky things? No one will notice me in those! Were we poor? Did my mother hate me that she would only let me buy these tiny things that under my mane of hair might look like a glint of silver if someone was looking fast? Surely they wouldn't dazzle and turn heads.
I tried really hard not to cry. I wanted to throw a temper tantrum in the store and yell and scream at my mother about how much she hated me. Yes, I was a brat.
The only thing that stopped me really was my Mother. She was so excited about this trip. She was listening eagerly to the salesman talk about this stone or that stone and I flopped in the chair next to her, annoyed. Bored. She was going on and on and on. Finally I started to listen and it was pretty interesting. She really knew her stuff. She was asking questions about the origins of the diamonds and wanted a certificate on them to ensure they were not blood diamonds (that wasn't what she called them back then but the concept was the same).
I learned a lot that day. I learned that big, flashy 33.19-carat Krupp diamond from Richard Burton was not my style. My mother knew me better then than I knew myself. That I was rather sedate and liked not to be flashy. That I would never sashay through a restaurant smiling at my minions and expecting the world to fall at my feet.
The diamonds were small, but they were hard, they were valuable, and they were my first step towards womanhood.