Wow, That’s Both Sparkly and Opressive

10_10_1I really like jewelry.

We should start with that assertion, kittens. My love for fancy, glittering rocks is both ardent and genetic. Like my penchant for vintage textiles and pork cooked to at least 165 degrees (to prevent against tapeworms), this is all my mother’s fault. Growing up, no store was more often visited than the estate jewelers. We’d show up, pet the lovable shop Rottweilers, gossip, and buy gemstones of every color and size. I went away to college with more knowledge of sapphires than Socrates.

So, it should follow that I am very excited about an engagement ring, right? Well…kind of. The ring, devoid of any socially conscripted meaning, is great. My hand looks lovely with a bit of sparkle on it. Ain’t no thing! Except, why are we doing this again? Because, it seems like Professor McGregor is expected to put a ring on my finger in the same way we put a flag on the moon. We’re claiming this, bitches. Y’all, I’m not a giant space rock. Gravity does not chain me to the dear professor for all eternity. I can come and go as I please! I am way more Enterprise than Titan.

What’s the deal with engagement rings, society? Wedding bands, at least, indulge in gender equality along with their proprietary tendencies. For engagements however, only the woman wears one. Are we subconsciously giving men the right to keep surveying the field? Are women so forgetful that we need a conscious reminder at all times that we love someone? Or, perhaps, we’re all afraid that ravaging hordes of vikings will, at any moment, crest the hill and run off with any unclaimed uteri. Only a diamond can guard against the ghost of Leif Eriksson!

This makes no sense. It’s 2012, readers. We do not claim ownership over people anymore. Professor McGregor is not getting a dowry, along with my hand, or having to seriously ask for the permission of my father. (Though, admittedly, he feels like talking to my parents is the proper thing to do. That conversation will be mortifying/hilarious, when it happens, so stay tuned.) Yet, we proceed with this antiquated custom. Do we like diamonds too much to label them bullshit? Sexism is not okay, just because it comes in 1.5 carats with excellent clarity.

Moreover, most men give rings as a sign of their love, not as a claim. If they don’t give one, people are aghast. It’s seen as a breech of etiquette or, worse, a lack of to the commitment to the relationship. And yet, common “wisdom” tells a man to spend two or three months’ salary on a ring. I don’t know about y’all, but that seems like a lot of money. I’ve known so many people who ended up taking out loans for the ring. No one should have to borrow money to prove his love! This is all just strange. Wouldn’t we all rather go to Paris than buy a rock?

That being said, I’m getting an engagement ring. My mom is kicking in a sapphire from her vast collection, because she rocks, and I’ll have something to go along with the wedding band. In the end, my love of lovely heirloom jewelry is outweighing my hatred of sexist bullshit, but just barely. My rationalization is thus: I wear rings on my left hand all the time, but never have they had a claim on me. This one won’t either. It’s just a present, given to mark a big event, not a flag.

Be warned, American wedding customs: I am not so swayed by the rest of you. There’s a lot of non-sparkly sexist bullshit that comes along with weddings. I will not hesitate to throw traditions out the window, if they’re crap. I’m looking at you, bouquet toss…

18 thoughts on “Wow, That’s Both Sparkly and Opressive

  1. We scrapped the bouquet toss, the garter toss, most of the speaches, and a lot of the other “traditions” that our parents wanted us to do. They weren’t our style so we didn’t incorporate them. I never considered the engagement ring as sign of ownership… when I offered it to my “hopefully-soon-to-be” wife, it was more of token of my affection or a sign of things to come… Besides, my wife really likes sparkly things too.

  2. Haha! Well, DeBeers actually ran a crazy ad campaign at the beginning of the 20th century to make engagement rings a “tradition”. I think we can concede that it was probably the most successful marketing campaign of all time.
    But here are a few positive ways to think about the engagement ring:
    1. Basically in America men are required to drop a large sum of money on a ring in order for us to even consider becoming their wife. Which, I would argue, is a prize we are bestowing upon them. It is almost akin to ancient offerings to goddesses (????).
    2. As a female, when you get engaged, you want to talk about it. To everyone. And everyone asks to see your ring. Even the most stalwart feminists would be driven to tears by the sheer number of people asking about and silently judging the absence of a lovely ring.
    3. If there are a number of women who are jealous of the fact that you will get to be the lifelong partner and lover of your intended, the engagement ring feels pretty damn good. This isn’t nice, but hey, sometimes it can be satisfying. Not that I would know….
    4. On a more positive note, Professor wants to give you a ring because he loves you. And believe me, while you can reflect on that fact anytime of day and get a warm, fuzzy feeling without looking at a gorgeous piece of jewelry, a lovely gem that reminds you that someone wants to love you forever is pretty nice to have on your hand.

    • Oh my god! I love the idea of my engagement ring being an offering to a goddess! I think that just made my day.

      As for the post, I get what you’re saying, but I also think there’s something nice about a) having someone save up to get you something special that symbolizes their love for you, and b) having that sort of thing as an heirloom forever. I inherited my grandmother’s last year, and it felt really special.

  3. I’ve always felt like this about engagement rings but, like you, I’m pretty sure I’d wear one if I was given one! I think I’d wear it on the other hand sometimes, or ask him to wear one too maybe.
    Congratulations either way, hope it’s a beauty!

  4. I had a similar dilemma when I got engaged, having been raised by a feminist mother–as you say, I’m nobody’s property. Happily, we found a good compromise — we got him a nice “engagement watch”, and I still get my shiny shiny ring. Maybe something like that would work for you two?

  5. Maybe Sweden is the odd one out* when it comes to this, but here it’s traditional for the happy couple to pick out engagement ring_s_ together, and for both parties to wear one. The unfairness doesn’t start until the wedding day when the bride gets a brand new (and sparklier) ring (the engagement ring is usually a plain gold band) while the groom’s ring is magically transformed into a wedding ring. Needless to say I prefer this tradition by far and intend to enforce it if I ever get engaged from someone from a different background ! 🙂

    *along with Denmark, Norway, Finland, Germany, the Netherlands and Brazil,

  6. Yeah, the whole “I’m marking you as my property” thing really bothers me, too. If I ever get engaged, we’re both wearing rings the whole darn time or neither of us are. And I’m not at all into jewelry, so the second option is fine by me!

  7. My ex-husband used to yell at me when I said I thought my ring was fake. Guess what, though. It was totally freaking fake. Next time around, just to prove that this guy HAS A JOB, it’d better be the size of a cow’s eye.

  8. I do wonder if there’s any woman out there who’s given an engagement wedding to her husband-to-be. I like the idea of an exchange of engagement rings. How else does the manly mark the event?

    There’s so much about Indian/Hindu weddings I disagree with in terms of it all about being the man laying claim to the woman and the woman getting passed off to the husband’s family. It’s all a crock of shit! Though I know most Indian girls these days who have semi traditional weddings have no clue…. *sigh*

  9. We had a lot of fun picking out and designing our wedding rings and my engagement ring. My hubby actually came up with what he wanted first…my fingerprint on his ring. Really cool idea. Have fun with it!

  10. I want the trip to Paris or (insert fab vacation place) more…we’re both going to end up with a ring each anyways…plus I find rings cumbersome but…ohhh damn im such a sucker for sparklies…and what if it turns out to be Tanzanite…ok i’m swooning….

  11. I FULLY SUPPORT your ditching the bouquet toss, not least because it is NO FUN for all the single women to have to “out” themselves that way, as if catching a poorly thrown (because, let’s face it, no bride really chucks that thing) bunch of things that will die soon is at all a good predictor of being attractive to someone else. It feels rather like being in the front window of the humane society, when they let the kittens play so that someone will think they’re adorable and take them home.

  12. When planning our wedding, my husband and I put together a list of “absolutely not” items to discuss with our coordinator. #1 was “I will not pelt my single friends with flowers.” (#1 on the “must have” list was T-Rex ice sculpture.) That coordinator hated me so much. She also didn’t understand having meetings that included a bride and groom instead of a bride and her twelve best friends. Bad fit all around, that partnership. After all of our deposits were made, guest list prepared, and attire bought, we scrapped it all and eloped in a bookstore anyway. Without flowers. With dinosaurs.

    Oh. I had a point here. I don’t wear an engagement ring. I wanted a stand alone wedding band, so I chose an e-ring that suited my taste and could be to moved to my right hand once the wedding was over and the stand alone band could be worn. And move it to the right hand I did, and then I eventually stopped wearing it because I’m just not a jewelry person and it seemed like a lot of rings just to validate the solidity of my relationship for others. The questions never stop. When I’m too tired to rant about the Patriarchy, I just say it’s being resized for my dainty lady hands.

  13. Pingback: Ring a Bling-Bling « She Flies with her Own Wings

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