I'm certainly not going to claim that jewelry was invented in the South, but we have incorporated it seamlessly into our culture. We Southern Belles are hard won, but there are a couple of tools a gentleman can employ to get on the expressway to a Belle's heart: (1) Profess as love of grits (and if you don't like them, you'd do well to learn to love them in a fast damn hurry); (2) Become compatible with her ACC team preferences; and (3) Get over the "man side" of your brain that thinks jewelry is impractical and expensive and get your ass to a jewelry store post haste.
Sparklies are one of the few things that a girl can go slightly over the top with and still remain un-tacky. Mind you, I said slightly, so Mr. T. lookalikes need not apply. Just as I suspect that men have a gene that repels them from jewelry stores, women have it in their DNA to become mesmerized with anything that glitters (not unlike a cat). My highly scientific term for it is the "Twinkle Gene."
Certainly, a jewelry attraction is genetic, but it can also be honed from life experience. Way on back in the day, my paternal grandmother, Pauline, owned a bridal shop named That Special Occasion. When my parents were out of town or otherwise had something they needed to do, Grandma would pick us up from school and take us to the store until she closed up. Can you think of a better way for a little girl to spend her afternoon? Me either. I dare say I knew more about the store inventory than Grandma herself--and the day the Princess Diana replica dress came in...Hallelu!
When I was probably around seven years old, I spent a Saturday with her at the store. A soon-to-be bride came into the shop for one last fitting of her dress. The bride was a wee little thing and I remember hoping that her wedding day wasn't going to be windy because if one good gust got up under her dress, she would be in Roanoke Rapids before the end of the ceremony.
Of course, then I saw the enormous rock she was sporting on her left ring finger and realized that ring would anchor her down in hurricane force winds. It was blinding. Her little 'ol spindly hand didn't look like it could bear the weight.
The bride was fitted and flitted off and I turned to my grandmother and said, "Grandma, that engagement ring was way too big for that lady!"
Whereupon, my grandmother gasped, arched a razor-sharp eyebrow and said, "Too big? Darling, there is No. Such. Thing."
It was as though I'd received a green light to go and drool over the sparkling and multi faceted splendor and--hoo boy--did I go for it!
Back in 1992, I spent a summer semester at Cambridge University. There wasn't a whole lot to do in Cambridge at the time, so we ended up catching the train to London nearly every weekend. It is possible that I hold a Guinness world record for number of trips to the royal jewel vault at the Tower of London. I went every single weekend. I'm sure that I looked like I was casing the joint and the guards probably got a DNA sample from the drool that I left on the display case windows, but it was mind-blowing and very much worth risking a trial at the Hague.
Flashy baubles can furthermore cause problems for me in social settings. Even when I was as blind as a bat before my Lasik surgery, I could spot a rock across a crowded room and practically through closed doors. When we end up chatting with the owner of said rock, I rather embarrassingly find myself unable to look her in the eye because I can't stop staring at the ring. God forbid that the rock owner "talk with her hands" because then I look like a cat watching a tennis match. Distressing.
I will leave you with one final point to ponder on the Twinkle Gene:
Baby Belle 2 was scheduled to hit the scene on August 31, 2008. Of course, I did my research and discovered--much to my dismay--that the birthstone for August is peridot. Now, to those of you with August birthdays who love your birthstone: Awesome! More power to you. Personally, when I want something that is the color of guacamole, I will go to the grocery store and buy an avocado.
So, as you all know by now, Baby Belle 2 wasn't remotely interested in playing by the rules. Her wee pink butt got here on July 31st and--other than looking a little like a rotisserie chicken with hair--she was blessedly okay.
A day or so later, when I was still at the hospital, Scott surprised me with the most beautiful antique ruby bracelet you have ever laid your eyes on. That was when I learned that the birthstone for July was ruby. My darling baby girl came in under the wire for a ruby! Mama's precious pumpkin!
It wasn't until I had a mother's ring made for me that I realized the full symbolism of my daughters' birthstones. As you know, we are a house divided when it comes to the whole Carolina v. State thing. Baby Belle 1's birthstone is aquamarine which is a lovely shade very similar to Carolina Blue. Baby Belle 2 brought it home for State and we all lived happily ever after.