Rock Solid A Lowcountry transplant learns not to let a little bling get in the way of a really good thing
WRITTEN BY Karen Siegel ILLUSTRATION by anna cooper
Sometimes a girl just knows, and this was one of those times. The candlelit French restaurant, the champagne chilling in a silver bucket, and finally, the words I had so longed to hear: “Will you marry me?”
“Yes,” I whispered as I gently extended my left hand across the table. And then…he patted it. Perhaps he hadn’t heard me. “Yes,” I said again, repeating myself a bit more audibly. “I know,” he said sweetly as he continued with the hand patting.
Now, I am not by nature what one would call a “Material Girl.” But seriously, this was one of those moments that clearly called for jewelry. Thinking that perhaps the sly devil had hidden it, I discreetly inspected every morsel of that meal, right down to the last crumb of our dessert, to no avail. As we left the restaurant, hand in (ringless) hand, I couldn’t help but wonder exactly what went wrong here.
Weeks later, while I was still trying to comprehend my diamond-less state, I was elated when Mr. Man suggested I meet him to select our wedding bands. Surely this had been his plan all along! He wanted me to pick out my own engagement ring, the dear soul. We were living in San Francisco at the time, and because I knew Tiffany and Cartier were just blocks away, I walked on air as we set out from his office. “Where are we going?” I asked innocently. “To my friend Irwin’s,” he answered. “He’s got a little shop a few blocks from here.”
Oh. This was not going quite according to plan. After a hearty greeting from Irwin, Mr. Man selected the most discreet gold band available. A mere 10 minutes later, without even a glance at the diamond counter, we sauntered out with our matching $49 gold bands. Dejected, and still diamond-less, I pondered the possibility that romance was not Mr. Man’s strong suit.
But being young and in love, I promptly rejected this possibility and let my hubby-to-be plan our upcoming nuptials. After all, I was a newcomer to California, and this was his turf. He assured me that he knew all of the best people and places to make it a truly memorable day. Imagine my delight as we set off down the Pacific Coast Highway for our destination wedding at Café Nepenthe in Big Sur. Granted, I was a bit surprised upon our arrival to find out that the “café” was in fact a snack bar, albeit one with a fabulous view.
Nevertheless, I was charmed with Father Charlie, who met us there to do the honors. Although his curious sidekick—a six-year-old boy—bore a striking resemblance to Dennis the Menace, I was delighted to have the lad there, as he was our only guest. Most of the ceremony is a bit of a blur, but I do recall the (slightly stoned) photographer shooting an arrow off into the distance as some sort of Native American good luck ritual. And I recall saying a fervent prayer to whatever gods were listening that a marriage performed by a defrocked Catholic priest was in fact valid in the state of California.
Months afterward, my darling husband presented me at last with a perfectly lovely and respectable diamond solitaire. I was thrilled with it and with my husband—he wasn’t really unromantic, he just needed to improve his timing! But at the risk of sounding completely shallow, I must admit that I was still somewhat miffed with my bargain basement wedding band. And as the years went by I suffered from a severe case of diamond envy that manifested in me dropping the occasional subtle hint. Subtle like donning my friend’s fabulous diamond band and waving it about while wistfully remarking to Mr. Man, “Doesn’t this look pretty on me?”
After 20 years of marriage and many generous gifts, I had resigned myself that he was never going to present me with an upgrade. And then one Christmas morning I opened a little blue Tiffany box that held the most dazzling rings I had ever seen, a giant sparkling solitaire and matching diamond band. I floated through the rest of the day in what can only be described as a diamond-induced stupor. Barely able to take my eyes off of the brilliant gems, I thought I would never stop smiling. They were absolutely perfect—except they weren’t.
Because when I looked at them, all I really saw was jewelry. Later that evening I put them back into their velvet box and slipped my old faithful back onto my finger. After years of coveting major carats, I realized that I need to wear the very ring that I wore when I said “I do” in front of Father Charlie. When I look down at my hand I don’t see the $49 Irwin special; I see a million memories that sparkle more brilliantly than any diamond ever could.
Karen Siegel, Mr. Man, and their Irwin specials relocated to Charleston where they continue to live happily ever after.
Did he pop the question on Valentine’s?
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