I walked into a pawn shop one Saturday afternoon a few years ago to sell my wedding rings. Earlier in the week I had gone on a purging binge and came across them in an old jewelry box along with my great grandmother’s antique hat pins which I had worn on my wedding day. I decided it was time for the rings to go.
Behind the counter an old, grizzled man said, “What can we do for you?”
“I have two rings to sell. Wedding rings.”
The old man just shrugged and stood up to take them. From across the store in the gun racks, another older, heavy set man with a seed corn cap asked me, “Are you sure you want to do that?”
“Oh sure. It’s been over a while now and it’s just time to get rid of them.”
The heavier man moved behind the counter and took the rings from me.
I joked and quipped, “I should get more for the man’s ring because it doesn’t have any miles on it. My ex-husband only wore it on our wedding day as a sort of test drive.”
“Doesn’t he still want it?”
“Oh no,” I scoffed. “He’s long gone.”
“He’s not gone just because he didn’t wear the ring, is he?”
I swiped at the air, waving off this suggestion, “Oh, puh-lease, not wearing the ring is the least of a long list of transgressions.”
He shrugged and laughed with me. My ring was worn and missing the smaller, miniscule diamond chip in the set. I didn’t expect to get much from them considering the missing diamond and how little we paid for them nearly 17 years before. I wore my ring every day for fifteen years and for months after my husband left. Then one day I decided to change it for one of my great grandmother’s given to me just that week by my grandmother. The antique ring was a perfect fit.
The man put the rings on the scale and explained that the amount I would be given would be determined by the weight of the gold in the rings. He looked at the scale and then looked at me very deliberately and said, “Are you sure you want to do this? You won’t get much.”
“Oh, it’s not about the money. This is psychological.” I’m pretty sure this guy didn’t care about the psychological import of my selling my rings and all they had represented to me for nearly two decades.
He shrugged again, and repeated, “Are you sure? I think you’re going to be surprised by how little money you’ll get.”
“No, really, it’s not about the money, and I know they’re not worth anything. I won’t be surprised.”
He shrugged again. “Okay, it’s eleven dollars.”
Okay, I was surprised. Eleven dollars!? That’s it!? Fifteen years of marriage comes down to eleven dollars? I knew our rings weren’t worth much, but eleven dollars?
I hid my shock and shrugged back at the man—this seemed to be the preferred mode of communication in this place. “Well . . . that’s fine,” I said. Then I started to laugh and the two men did also. “I guess I’ll go to a movie and get popcorn.” This made them laugh more. Pawning my wedding rings got me a matinee movie ticket and popcorn. It wouldn’t have been enough for a full-price evening show and a Coke.