Back when the friend I used to ride to work with and I both had wives, he said to me one day, “I like to spoil my wife.” I wasn’t sure what he meant by that, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t guilty of it.
I didn’t really think he was either, having been privy to a few of his wife’s epic rants regarding his myriad sins, shortcomings and assorted failings. He was still quite young, about half my age, and had only been married a little over a year. Some of his views on the subject I found rather unconventional, and the subject of ‘spoiling’ was something I didn’t really grasp anyway. I’d only heard it applied to children before, but apparently, it was something to which wives also could be subjected.
“I don’t,” I replied on the subject of wife-spoiling.
He turned and looked at me, jaw hanging open — which was a bit disconcerting as he was driving us to work at the moment — and made a garumphing noise in his throat, signaling incredulous disbelief.
“You bought her a movie star’s ring,” he sputtered, finally turning back to look where he was going, thankfully before slamming us into a tree.
His comment was not the sort of thing one hears every day while careening through the countryside in a 20-year-old Chevy Corsica so battered with age a screwdriver was required to start it, said by one man in tall rubber work boots spattered with blood to another whose boots were likewise littered with the detritus of their work in a chicken processing plant.
But nonetheless, it was true. Some years previously under more fortunate life circumstances, I had purchased a ring from the estate sale of Dolores Gray as a Christmas gift for my wife. And though I wouldn’t classify Dolores Gray as a movie star — she was more of a stage actress — she had starred in a movie, and that was apparently enough for my pal to give her an upgrade.
The ring in question did indeed look like a movie star’s ring. The setting, shaped like a golden Persian turban, was about the size of a golf ball and was studded with semi-precious stones in several colors: topaz, amethysts, aquamarines and such. Back in the ’50s when it was most likely made, it probably was considered costume jewelry, the jewels were not large or precious and the gold was only 10 karats, not 14K or 18K as fine jewelry usually is.
But it was so bloody big, the auction house sold it by itself, instead of in a lot with a bunch of other less valuable stuff. Which is how I managed to snag it. It’s true, I was better off back then, but not so much I could waltz into Doyle New York waving a paddle and expect to come out with anything. I got lucky.
And since the ring had a pretty serious Arabian Nights motif and the movie that Dolores Gray starred in was “Kismet,” a musical fantasy set in merry old Baghdad with genies and sheikhs running amok, it was easy to imagine the ring might have been part of a costume, possibly gifted to the actress who wore it after the production wrapped, or perhaps slipped into her handbag on the last day of shooting. These and many other questionable tales quickly became part of the ring’s history whenever it made a public appearance.
However, I had never mentioned anything to my friend about the plundering of Delores Gray’s estate and the various myths that had subsequently evolved, so it was clear my wife had been talking to his and showing off the spoils of twenty-some years of marriage. I would also have been willing to bet the young man in the car had taken some abuse for having failed in the ‘gifting of celebrity swag’ department, a sin which he probably didn’t know existed before he was accused of it.
“That wasn’t spoiling,” I told him, explaining the ring was more of a lifetime achievement award. What I didn’t tell him — because I didn’t know it yet myself — was the ring was the sort of gift that either celebrates a long history together or begins the process of acknowledging that history has run its course. The benefit of hindsight shows it was both.
I did tell him he should not be expected to be trolling the estates of dead movie stars to prove his love after only a year and a half of marriage. And it takes a while to come across a bit of luck like I had with the movie star’s ring. He seemed relieved if not entirely convinced.
I never did grasp the whole ‘spoiling’ thing. Best I can figure, it means being generous. It means that one treats someone else so well they are psychologically ruined by that good treatment, resulting in bad behavior and bad outcomes. It makes no sense, but that seems to be the theory.
But it can’t be denied we are divorced now. I think my ex-wife would agree with me that the fault lies more with us — and we may disagree on which one of us — but I don’t think either of us would lay the blame on a little gold and some crappy stones with a glamorous provenance, but if other people want to do that, it’s fine with me. And probably her, too.
My friend and his wife did not divorce, though they have been separated for six years. But of late, they have been speaking again, and even seeing a little of each other. Who knows, perhaps they’ll give it another shot.
I hope they are not seduced by fancy auctions and the siren song of a movie star’s cast-off jewelry if they do try again.
If you are happy in your relationship and want to keep it, you shouldn’t either. ‘Spoiling’ doesn’t always end well.
Reach Bill Colvard at 336-415-4699.