Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Engagement rings

Whoo hoo! Freedom! I just got an assignment turned in that's been dragging on forever so I feel great relief. And now I have time for some brief cultural commentary.

Some of you probably know that way back in the day Rob and I opted out of the traditional engagement ring thing and instead both wore wedding bands on our right hands as engagement rings until we got married. I've never been that comfortable with the diamond industry and I've never been that comfortable with the idea of women wearing symbols that they are off the market when men do not. It was a bit of a bizarre experience during my engagement, after any mention of "my fiance," to watch the listener immediately glance at my left hand and see a look of confusion cloud their face a moment later. What's the appropriate response? I don't know. Especially when it was someone I didn't know that well. Any kind of proactive explanation seems defensive, even though I loved our wedding band on right hand thing and wanted to tell everyone how awesome it was to share a tradition with my fiance on our march to becoming family.

But despite all that, I get uncomfortable sharing my opinions on the topic because most people I know (and love) who are engaged or married have either given or received a diamond engagement ring. Mine is a hard opinion to say in a non-judgmental way, no matter how much I really don't mean it that way. If the tradition means something different to others, so be it. Everyone should come to terms with traditions on their own, although hopefully with all the facts in their back pocket. After all, I still wore a white dress to my wedding, although sans veil. I still walked down the aisle last, although on my own. I still had an enormous wedding party, but we both had men and women standing up for us. So everyone has to figure out how traditions do or don't work for them.

Nevertheless, yesterday, I was very pleased to see this article on Slate.com about some of the problems with diamond engagement rings. It was nice to see some of my vague thoughts on the subject backed up by some actual research. It was even nicer to see something in the public domain that made it okay to not have a diamond engagement ring. I wish the author had given some more examples of what other trends might be emerging these days to take the place of the traditional diamond engagement ring for women. I'm curious to know what other folks like me are doing.

So for anyone interested in the gender politics involved in the engagement ring industry in the last 100 years, the Slate article is a good primer. It's also got a link to information about conflict diamonds and the damage they can do.


valerie said...

I also read the article and thought it was very persuasive -- this coming from a person who likes diamonds. :)

Kat said...