Lily Diamond: The Diamond Affair
When I wake up this morning, my first thought is: DIAMONDS. I am going to buy diamonds today. Big, fat, sparkly fucking diamonds. And then I’m going to return them. But first let’s go back to the part where I’m buying them. The diamonds. The sparkly little gems coveted worldwide, the bling-makers, the blatant code of the wealthy, the signifier of the owned, the beloved, the valued. And also, coincidentally, my last name. I have never before in my life bought a diamond.
I wake up and there is a buzz to everything. The light in my room looks different, the kettle boiling water sounds different, there’s a susurrant yearning towards diamonds that everything whispers to me, urging me toward the moment when I will walk into Tiffany & Co. on Union Square, throw down my credit card, and say MINE. THOSE ARE MINE. ALL MINE.
Importantly, I have never before used my credit card in this way—I actually believe using credit cards like this is incredibly irresponsible—and therefore have never purchased something beyond the range of what I have sitting in my checking account at any given moment. I am very fiscally conservative. I play by the rules. I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a big spender.
But today is different.
I carefully consider what I will wear, knowing that the costume will determine my demeanor, and my demeanor will determine everything. The way the salespeople approach me, the way they assess my likelihood to buy, the amount of energy they spend with me versus trailing off towards another customer. In this arena, looks are everything. I decide I better look really fucking hot. I will wear my 4-inch slate grey side zip suede platforms, and bright red lipstick.
I take my heels on and off multiple times, knowing that my feet will kill later on, but certain that the shoes are part of the ethos, part of this person I’m creating, this woman who dresses up on a Thursday afternoon and wears red lipstick and struts into Tiffany’s and buys herself a diamond ring in twenty minutes flat. I leave the heels on. When I walk in they will know. I’m here to buy some fucking diamonds, people. Do not mess around.
Walking into the store, it’s just as I imagined. The sweeping hush of the glass doors across the marble floor, the gracious security attendants standing on either side, the glistening cases of gold, diamonds, and platinum. I can feel this new power coursing through me, and I lick my red lips, flash my smile, toss my hair, take off my consignment store Marc Jacobs sunglasses, and tell Ivan—a dashing young salesman with a vaguely European accent—that I would like to look at some of the diamond solitaires.
Instantaneously, he gets with my program. We enter into a kind of seduction dance, Ivan and I, in which he will do whatever I say, bring me whatever I ask, lay out as many diamonds as I want on this small leather-covered presentation board that sits in front of us. We are flirting over gold. He is seducing me with diamonds, knowing in the end I will give him money. Lots and lots of money. And then maybe, if he’s lucky, if all goes well, he will never see me again.
The rose gold and multiple diamond band I settle on is $2000, the exact purchase ceiling I set for myself. Ivan and I both act swiftly as he rounds things out at his register, asking if I’d like to pay by credit card. I briefly want to make a joke about paying in cash, but think better of it, and pull out my driver’s license and credit card like it’s old hat. I do this every day, Ivan. Take my money and give me my diamonds. He swipes the credit card, and swoops off to go wrap things up for me.
I immediately feel sad that the ring is so far from me. I want it on me again. We walk outside and pause to take more pictures. I am nervous standing on Post Street dismantling my package, aware that someone could walk by and snatch it all away from me at any moment. I put on my diamonds and text my friend: Feels great. And like nothing. Want to keep it, though, obvs.
Even wearing the diamond, I feel distant from this world where people spend money like this every day, every moment, without thinking twice. I am not one of them. I am just a woman pretending to be one of them, wearing one of their rings.
When we return to Tiffany & Co., they are much less eager to help. I don’t see Ivan anywhere, and I’m relieved. It’ll be like breaking up over Facebook—the computer screen will inform him of the return, show him that our relationship status has changed. A man takes everything from me and writes VOID in huge black letters across the receipts and tells me that there won’t be any receipt for me to take home, that the entire transaction will be deleted.
Deleted. The entire transaction will be deleted.
I nod and thank him and wonder who I am, without diamond, with a deleted transaction, without receipt, and with feet that, suddenly, are killing me. I want to leave. Sitting on BART all I can think about is how glad I am I didn’t actually buy the ring.
As I hobble down 24th Street toward my apartment, I cannot take it anymore—the shoes are coming off. I am not that woman, who wears 4-inch platforms on a Thursday afternoon and throws down $2000 at the blink of an eye. I am this one, barefoot, red toenails gleaming in the car lights that sweep across my feet, humbly collecting the grime of the city on her callused toes, happy to have my heels touching the ground.
I have no diamonds but myself.
Lily Diamond is the co-founder of Write to Wellbeing (writetowellbeing.com). She spends her time writing, editing, trend-popping, and making magic in the kitchen. Her writing explores the evocative realms of death, loss, sexuality, belonging, and now, diamonds. Lily is the author of the forthcoming memoir The End: A Mother-Daughter Love Story and a very popular home chef.
*Special thanks to Beth Markert for her stealth photography skills.