Iwas peeling potatoes this past Thursday night when I heard a knock. I opened the door, and standing there was a well-dressed woman. This is how our conversation went:

“Hi, is this the Gold family?”

“Yes, how can I help you?”

“Would I be able to come in?”

“Sure,” I said, leading the way and kicking obstacles to the side.

I offered her a drink and seat. Because she looked nervous, I had a hunch why she was there, but I (uncharacteristically) waited quietly. She took a sip of water, then started.

“Do you buy diamond rings?” She removed her ring from her finger as she spoke.

“My husband can look at yours to give you an appraisal, but because he cuts and polishes his own merchandise, he won’t buy yours.”

The woman looked like she was going to start crying, and my heart sank. I just knew what was coming next. “My oldest son is a chassan,” she started, “and we have to buy the kallah a ring, necklace, bracelet, and earrings. Plus silver leichter and machzorim. Would I be able to trade the diamond in for other jewelry?”

I listened, and my heart was sad, but my brain was angry.

Why pretend? I wanted to shout out loud. Instead, I said gently, “If you don’t have the means to buy the kallah diamond jewelry, there are so many other options. Give yourself a budget that you can afford, and based on that budget, let the kallah prioritize.”

I took a deep breath and continued. “Does she want a small real diamond? Does she prefer a larger real diamond, but no bracelet? Perhaps a cubic zirconia stone, but a diamond necklace and earrings? They aren’t being meshadeich with you because they have illusions that you’re wealthy. Their daughter wants to marry your son because of the Torah values you’ve instilled in him.”

I held myself back, but there was more I wanted to say. Like, This is your oldest son. Now’s the time to set a precedent for all your sons. So maybe this time you’ll find someone to give you a deal so you can buy the whole Shulchan Aruch of gifts that you think is halachah. But what’ll you do when your next son becomes a chassan? What will you sell? A kidney?

I sat there with the knowledge that if I did manage to convince her, and she gave over the message that the kallah could choose whatever she wants within their budget, this is what would happen next:

Phone rings.

“Hi, Mrs. Gold. This is Mrs. Blank. You may not know who I am, but my daughter is engaged to so-and-so, and I heard they’re getting a stone from your husband. So here’s the issue: we’re very balabatish people. Our mechutanim are lovely people, but very yeshivish. We give our daughters-in-law at least two-carat diamonds, and we think that our daughter will be embarrassed if they give her something less than that. What we’d like to do is just to add to whatever they’re giving — without their knowledge, of course — and you’re so discreet, they’ll never find out, right?” (Excerpted from Family First, Issue 594)