Hello readers, long time no see! Welcome back to my silly little blog!
Let me preface this by saying no I’m not engaged, no I have no plans of getting engaged, and no this isn’t some subtle attempt to get my boyfriend to propose. And no I’m not being ironic with that last part, I promise. I’d also like to preface this by saying I swear I started writing this weeks before CollegeHumor put out their wonderful little Valentine’s Day video about engagement rings. No, really!
However, due to the sudden holiday influx of wedding mania from newly engaged friends on Pinterest, I HAVE been perusing wedding-themed items and planning tips a bit more than usual. Enough that both Facebook and Google think that Brilliant Earth ads on my sidebar are appropriate (then again, visiting theknot.com just to look at my sister’s old page does the same thing, so I don’t think I’ve been looking that much). Why Brilliant Earth, you ask? Whelp, let’s just say I’m not a fan of crippling oppression, civil war, and human rights violations. But as I started doing a little more research, I found the following things:
1. Diamonds are SEVERELY overpriced (caused by a monopoly on them for so long by the De Beers Group).
2. Diamonds aren’t rare, we just think they are because we’re told they are.
3. Diamonds are pretty worthless, actually.
4. Diamonds as a symbol of romance is a psychologically fabricated illusion that’s only been in place for less than 100 years.
So that brings us to the question… Why the hell do I want a diamond in the first place?
Let’s focus on #4 shall we? Back in the good old days, in say, the 1920s, diamond engagement rings just weren’t a thing. Modern women (and men!) have been brainwashed into believing that diamonds are “forever” (a hardcore De Beers marketing ploy to get people to not try to pawn their rocks and find out that they aren’t worth, well, anything, and you just wasted three grand on a hunk of carbon). How many times in your life have you heard it espoused that diamonds are the ultimate representation of romance? That their indestructibility is the perfect symbol for everlasting love?
First of all, diamonds aren’t indestructible, they’re just really tough. Jewelers tell buyers all the time that diamonds can chip and break from a hard knock, or even from falling in the right/wrong place. We’ve arbitrarily put a ton of value, both economically and emotionally, on fused carbon that can be easily replicated in a lab. There are claims (by diamond retailers, of course) that lab-created diamonds, which I suppose are a good alternative to mined diamonds if you’re concerned about human rights and “blood diamond” issues, are simply not as “beautiful” and don’t have the “fire” of a real (read: mined) diamond. (Also, what the hell is “fire?” Who came up with that crap? Oh, wait, probably De Beers.)
Let’s get one thing straight. If you have a diamond engagement ring, diamond jewelry, just fucking LOVE diamonds, I don’t care. You do you. What I’m trying to examine here is why we (let’s say, American women) feel the need to have a diamond engagement ring. The sad thing is, I’m not exempt. It’s this weird battle between my conscious and subconscious; it doesn’t matter how many times I tell myself that DIAMONDS SUCK AND IF YOU GET ONE YOU’RE A SELLOUT (or any variation thereof), I still want one. Need one even. It just feels “wrong” not to. And even if I do finally reach that enlightenment of knowing and feeling that having a diamond is stupid and useless and wasteful, I guarantee that I will have friends and family that will judge me and — more importantly — my partner for not getting one.
It’s very similar to wearing a white wedding dress. We’ve put a lot of cultural significance into the need for a bride to wear white on her wedding day to symbolize her virginity and chasteness (ignoring the fact that it’s going to be entirely spoiled by her husband that very night — that’s another issue altogether). It’s just plain silly in the modern era to believe that a bride in white is a virgin. (I particularly love pregnant brides that insist on pure white, but that’s just me being spiteful.) Why do we feel the need to follow these antiquated and sexist traditions? I look at a blue or pink or gold (or even cocktail-length) wedding dress and my immediate thought is “TACKY BITCH”. That’s just not fair. And unfortunately, I have a similar reaction when I see a pearl or emerald or sapphire or onyx or opal or… you get the idea, engagement ring. It doesn’t matter how fantastically gorgeous that alternative ring might be, my gut reaction is one of aversion. And I hate myself for it!
I could take this from a cultural anthropology perspective and say that these traditions are what make us who we are in the modern world. A valid point, but it’s also entirely possible to change those traditions through paradigm shifts in how we see ourselves in the context of our material culture. But that’s fucking hard, and probably won’t happen in our lifetimes. In heterosexual relationships anyway, men will continue to buy women diamond rings because they know/fear the scathing response they’ll receive in response to anything else. (Sorry dudes.)
I’m not saying it’s inherently wrong to desire a diamond engagement ring, but rather that there are some serious problems with our expectation that future marriage needs to be represented by something so… inconsequential.
My solution? My usual one: goddamn quality communication. Talk to your partner about what you want, what they want, what you can afford together. One day, I might decide I don’t need an engagement ring at all, and wouldn’t that be awesome? But until then, I’m stuck in this rut of cultural expectation that I can’t consciously overcome. And it sucks.
If anyone out there has a non-diamond engagement ring, I’d love to see it in the comments!! (Let’s call it exposure therapy, yes?)