When I got married at age 25, I was dirt poor and so was he. We were both a little late getting started in life. So I never gave a thought to possibly receiving a diamond engagement ring or having diamonds in my wedding band. I knew there would, in fact, be no engagement ring. And the wedding band would be the bare minimum, plain, simple and decidedly not flashy. At that time, I couldn’t even imagine spending money on something as frivolous and showy as diamonds. It seemed kind of wasteful and decadent. Selfish even. Very far beyond me and out of reach. After we had been married for a time, after I had worked my way up and gotten a good job making more money than I ever dreamed possible (though my income was still modest by most accounts), I started to long for a diamond ring. A solitaire marquise cut. With an eternity band wedding ring filled with tiny little sparkly diamonds. It was a secret longing; one that left me perplexed. You see, I’m not sure where this longing came from. It sneaked up on me. Perhaps it was born from viewing the wedding rings that others wore…big diamonds, small diamonds, square, round, princess, emerald cut, fancy settings, plain settings. But without doubt, these rings seemed to proclaim the worth of the wearer. It said they were worth splurging on. It validated them as wanted human beings. I wanted to be worth something too. I wanted to be wanted. The problem with this was fairly clear. I wasn’t wanted. So I wasn’t worth a diamond ring. I wasn’t worth anything at all…certainly not to my then husband. He definitely didn’t value me. In fact, he made it clear during our first year of marriage that, not only did he think I had little value, there were many things about me that totally disgusted him. So not only did he not love me, he blatantly rejected me in many, many ways and found me to be repelling. Considering this, why would he ever consent to spending several thousand dollars on a diamond ring for someone he didn’t even want to be with? For me? The only diamond I have ever owned was a very, very tiny pair of diamond studs that my ex’s mother and father gave me for my birthday a few years after their son and I married. I treasured them. No one had ever believed I was worthy of such an extravagance. I later found out they didn’t really think I was worth it either. But because I was their son’s wife, they were trying to make nice and do they best they could with what they considered to be a bad situation. I wasn’t the wife they had in mind for their precious son. I wasn’t even close to the vision they had harbored. But they did reach across the chasm and try to build a tentative bridge. And I appreciated that more than I could express to them. I was heartbroken when I somehow lost one of those studs years later. But I wear the remaining one to this day, always leaving it in the 2nd piercing I have in one of my ears. In spite of efforts not to, I gained weight during our marriage, further devaluing myself in the eyes of my ex and everyone else I encountered, including myself. I was depressed, struggling with my husband’s rejection of me, hating myself for never being good enough. Due to the weight gain, I reached a point where I could no longer wear my original silver band. When this happened, I timidly dared to broach the subject with my ex of buying a “real” wedding set, finally admitting to my dream of desiring a token of being worthy; a display of being cherished and wanted. I didn’t tell him I could no longer wear my silver band; I was ashamed and afraid to admit this to him. But it was the need of having something that would fit that finally gave me the courage to voice my secret dream. To say that he wasn’t enthusiastic about spending any money on me for this type of item is quite the understatement. He was disgusted and thought I was out of my mind! So, I got on the internet and did a search for cubic zirconia rings in a sterling silver setting. I decided to finally get that marquise cut solitaire, even if it wasn’t real, and after searching, I found one that would work. I also found a fairly nice sterling silver eternity band with small cubic zirconia “diamonds” that circled the band. I purchased them in secret and silently slipped them on my finger…that finger…when they arrived, without every saying a word to my then husband. This became my wedding ring. The down side was that they were really cheap rings. And they evidently weren’t sterling silver as promised. Because they corroded. The finish became pitted and dark in places because the coating wore off. So I had to buy another set. And another one. And another one. Now, to put this into perspective, I was paying about $20 per ring. So it’s not like I was spending much money. One ring would last about 12 months. This was the best alternative I could come up with, considering the circumstances. And so, after the first replacement set went bad, I bought several, keeping them in reserve until the ring I had been wearing became embarrassing and obviously fake. Then I pulled out a replacement and went on. Speaking of embarrassment, I remember friends from church occasionally asking to see my wedding rings. How shameful I felt when I showed them, quickly, and hopefully in reduced light. I knew the rings wouldn’t fool anyone if they were given more than a cursory look. The “diamond” was not cut well, so it didn’t sparkle all that much; certainly not like a real diamond. Every time someone looked at my rings, I felt the hot shame of not being worth the real thing. Of not having value. Of not being valued. And so it went until he left me for another woman. When he left, he took off his wedding band and left it behind on the dresser. And I quietly removed the cheap ring and band I had been wearing. I realized the rings were a symbol of my own lack of worth. My own defectiveness. They spoke of rejection and disdain. Of not being wanted. Of being weighed and found wanting. To his credit, because we were Christians and he thought he was stuck with me, we were “together” for 22 years. They were empty years. We had a fake marriage that went nicely with my fake rings. And then he decided that God could go hang Himself, he wasn’t staying with me another moment. I was not someone who could even be tolerated any longer, much less to be cared for…and certainly not someone who could be loved. Too many flaws. Just like my “diamond.” My ring seemed to mirror the marriage in far too many ways. And it broke my heart. As I have prepared to make this move I am being forced to make, giving up the last bit of things that I have cared about, I have thrown away all the letters my ex and I exchanged during our courtship, the mementos of our honeymoon, my early diaries. I considered also throwing away the remaining fake ring. But I didn’t. I kept the trashy thing, along with his band. Don’t ask me why, because I honestly don’t understand it myself. Maybe because it is all that is left of the marriage…a marriage that was once so important and that I clung to for so many years, putting all my hopes and dreams into the relationship in spite of being unloved. Maybe because it said that at some point, at least I had been worthy of a token. Of an outward sign that I was valued…even if it was a sham. It said that at some point, someone didn’t mind pretending and creating an illusion of wanting me. I don’t know. I only know that 11 years later, I still have them, tucked away in my jewelry chest where they will stay as I leave behind the last vestige of everything that mattered to me. They will stay there in that felted compartment, a silent reminder of those empty years and of my worthlessness. Along with my mother’s wedding ring. But hers…hers is a real diamond.