*** This is an excerpt from my book about failed relationships coming out at the end of the year!
I remember when I was in elementary school one of my friends told me that when she was on vacation in Disney World if someone asked where she was from and she told them she was from Connecticut, they immediately assumed she was rich. I was perplexed. She had an in-ground pool but certainly didn’t live in a gated community. Our families were predominately from Waterbury, Connecticut, a remnant of the long-gone industrial era.
I discovered when I went to an out of state college that what she said was true, that when you tell people you are from Connecticut they assume you live in a neighborhood on par with one of the most affluent ones in Greenwich. Years ago I had never been to Greenwich and wondered what this place was like. The richest town in the entire country would surely be something to see. I imagined that I would be pegged an outsider from the second my 2001 Kia Sportage crossed over the city limits. I was very wrong.
I got a job working for a holistic beauty company and had to go to various health food retailers. Now I had to drive down towards the Gold Coast for work at least once a month. My first experience there was good and it really hasn’t changed since I began working in that area.
One day I answered an ad on Craigslist. They needed bartenders and servers. I sent them my resume and a picture and was hired immediately and asked to come down the next day. Not only would I be bartending in Greenwich, but on a yacht! I would be lying if I told you I was excited. No, I reacted as I usually do when something really great and exciting happens in my life: I was terrified! I had never answered an ad on Craigslist before and feared it wasn’t legit. A yacht? Really? As usual, I pictured worst-cases-scenarios in my head; the yacht taking off with me and other unsuspecting young “bartenders” on it, carrying us out to sea awaiting some sort of mass-auction, our introduction into sexual slavery. Yes I know, I don’t deny that I’m a little crazy. I lived on the Mexican border for a year and never ventured south for the same reason. It’s funny, how someone who has lived to tell the tale of so many risky and dangerous events can be so scared and cautious. I would wager that it is because I lived to tell the tale of so many risky and dangerous events!
I had no idea it was about to be one of the most interesting jobs I ever had. I drove to the address the next morning and did not see any yachts. It took me a while to find the place: a ship yard. Once there I was locked out of course. The entire thing was gated. Someone let me in and I began to drive around the lot. The place was huge with many elegant yachts on stilts. I couldn’t help but picture myself driving into them with my Kia by accident. It was the whole hot stove theory. I couldn’t help but thinking about the worst possible thing to do.
I finally found the ship. You could not miss it as it looked more like a cruise ship than a yacht. That day I watched as they loaded up the ship with art. Men pushed small sculptures of solid marble up the ramp while others carried large canvases concealed by a protective cardboard barriers.
It wasn’t just a yacht, it was the fourth largest in the US. The yacht was used to host art galleries. It stopped at different ports as it traveled down the East Coast. Three floors filled with galleries from across the country and the world. It was no small show with works from the likes of Warhol and Picasso. It didn’t many days of being there before I started to wish I was on the other side of the bar.
The art was not the only attraction at the show, in fact, I think I had more fun looking at the different jewelry on the women that walked by. Some of them were draped in gold, delicate necklaces that covered their entire chests. And the size of the emeralds were to die for, they were huge emerald cut matchbooks. And necklaces with bloodstones the size of baseballs. I’d always had a thing for jewelry.
The next day I decided to wear this huge cocktail ring. It was as big as the emeralds I”d seen but it was yellow. I hope this doesn’t make me look cheap, I thought to myself, completely disregarding the bright orange lipstick I was also wearing. After opening the bar that afternoon, it didn’t take very long, for people to notice it. I crouched down to pull a bottle of chardonnay out of the fridge. As I began to twist the corkscrew into it, I heard,
“That’s a beautiful ring,” from the patron above me. I didn’t know what to say.
“Thanks,” this was almost comical, well, to me it was.
The woman didn’t take her eye off it as I handed her the glass of wine. She and her friend continued to fawn over it as I outstretched my hand for them to see it. If it was a real stone it would’ve easily exceeded 10 carats. And it’s yellow color was more on par with a canary diamond than a more affordable citrine stone. Then they noticed my earrings: more costume jewelry that I purchased at Macy’s. Beautiful emeralds with strands of smaller emeralds and peridots cascading off of them.
“Someone must really like you!” They said. I laughed at that thought. I had been single for a while and my last boyfriend never bought me a piece of jewelry. In fact I’d considered dumping him the summer after we began dating when he cited that he thought engagement rings were a “stupid waste of money.” I balked at his comment.
“What?” I said, irritated. We were driving to the beach. It was fourth of July weekend and the traffic was completely backed up making it the worst possible time for him to bring this into a conversation: this hour and a half car ride that would surely take four. “What do you mean they are a ‘waste of money.’”
“Why should I have to buy someone a stupid ring to show them that I love them?”
“Because it’s tradition!” I didn’t even buy what I was saying- nothing about me had ever been traditional and here I was arguing about tradition. What can I say, I wanted a diamond. “That’s ridicules. I expect the guy I am going to marry to buy me a huge emerald cut diamond- with a yellow gold band, and perhaps some romantic engraving on the inside.” He ignored me. I didn’t believe what I was saying at this point either- I gave him this description of a beautiful ring- the most beautiful ring I could think of- something a princess would wear- no a queen- what woman didn’t want to feel like royalty- at least to one person in the world? So I did it. I named off one thing that would cost way more than he could ever afford- in the upwards of ten thousand dollars -depending on the clarity- but you know what? I did it on purpose.
I didn’t want to marry him. I knew it then and that was my little way of slipping in a stipulation that would make me an impossible fish for him to ever catch. I would be lying again if I said what he said didn’t make me sad. It did. It made me feel worthless. At least lie to me, at least try, pretend, pretend that you will do everything in your power to make me feel like the most special woman you have ever met. Is it that hard? You’re the one who asked me out. I would never hold it against a man- if he couldn’t afford to buy me something, especially if his feelings were genuine. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) he had neither- genuine feelings for me nor money to buy me anything.
He was so romantic. To be honest, I could care less about an engagement ring. I didn’t need a guy to buy me diamonds. In fact, I would rather buy them for myself any day before I’d accept them from a man who was just using me. At this point I was reserved to the idea that maybe I would be alone forever.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” she pried.
“No,” I laughed, just rub it in, lady! Oh, and I am childless as well, don’t remember the last time I’ve been with a man, and I had an abnormal pap-smear a few months ago- but don’t worry, that one turned out alright- it was just a lab-tech error. “They were gifts from my aunt,” I said mustering a smile.
The night continued on as did the never-ending stream of compliments and looks of awe directed at my jewelry. If I had worn the same jewelry in Waterbury people would’ve known it was fake, but in Greenwich, people didn’t suspect a thing: it was a case of psychological transference at it’s best.
I felt slightly embarrassed (I was always a little shy). However, I was not so foolish that I didn’t appreciate being Queen for a day. I knew that by the time I got back to Waterbury after my hour and a half long commute, my coach would surely turn back into a rotten pumpkin again.
I walked into the house, threw my wad of tips onto the bathroom counter and looked in the mirror. Yup. I was still single still alone, leaning into my reflection in the bathroom mirror covered in fake jewels: there were no glass slippers, no prince, not even a friendly mouse friend. Nope. Just some pathetic modern day Macy’s-Three-Day-Sale version of Miss Havisham.