I Truly Don't Understand the Appeal of An Engagement Ring

I don't get the lure of precious metals and expensive jewels.
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Dana Olsen
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I don't get the lure of precious metals and expensive jewels.

I was at work the other day, catching up on my favorite blogs (not that there’s a whole lot of catching up to do, considering I spend about 90% of my workday reading them), when I came across an article entitled, “Which Engagement Ring Style Do You Have?”

My answer? None. Until the article is revised to include a style called “I don’t want an engagement ring because I’d rather take the $10,000 he would spend on the hunk of platinum and diamonds and use it for a kickass honeymoon,” I have no engagement ring style.

Here's me, in a hammock on a beach, without a ring. 

Here's me, in a hammock on a beach, without a ring. 

I don’t understand the lure of engagement rings. There are countless articles in women’s magazines and bridal magazines on the subject: “What Does Your Engagement Ring Say About You?”, “How Many Months’ Salary Should Your Man Spend On A Ring?”, “Is Kate Middleton Starting A Sapphire Trend?” I’ve even seen articles geared toward non-traditional brides, the gist of which is, “If you’re just a couple of indie kids in love, maybe you don’t need a big rock -- maybe you’d prefer a few smaller, floating diamonds in a whimsical setting.”

But you know a type of headline I NEVER see? “How To Convince Your Friends That You Really, Truly, Don’t Care About Engagement Rings”; “A Shiny Ring Doesn’t Make You More Of A Woman”; “A Few Ways To Assure Your Man That Your Lack Of Desire For An Engagement Ring Won’t Eventually Translate Into Passive Aggressive Resentment.” Or how about an article that says, “If you’re just a couple of indie kids in love, maybe you don’t need a big rock. Period.”

What about gals like me who really, truly, honestly do not understand the appeal of the diamond? Or, for the blood-diamond-conscious, don’t understand the lure of the sapphire, or the emerald, or the ethically-mined diamond, or even the cubic zirconia?

I recently told my friend that if/when my boyfriend pops the question, I don’t want an engagement ring. Her response: “Um… you say that now, but trust me, you are going to be PISSED if he gets down on one knee and has nothing to offer you but words.”

Unconvinced, I repeated my stance on rings to another friend the next day. Her response? “You are ridiculous. Do you know why you need an engagement ring? Because five years down the line, when he’s driving you insane, you need to be able to look down at your left hand and be reminded that he once spent tens of thousands of dollars on you. I mean, be reminded that he loves you.”

No offense to my friends, but they did not change my mind in the least. I think that’s because their words offered material -- and honestly, slightly shallow -- rationalizations for why all girls should want engagement rings.

I realize that on first read, that last paragraph probably pisses off about 99% of the female population. Allow me to clarify: I don’t think coveting an engagement ring, or receiving one, makes a woman materialistic or shallow. Not at all. There are a million reasons why engagement rings are great, and why most women want them, and I believe very little of it has to with materialism. I do think the words my friends used are blatantly materialistic, but they’re entitled to their opinions (and actually, if all it takes is a simple ring to make a woman more accepting of her husband’s annoying habits, maybe I’m coming at this all wrong).

I’m certainly not claiming that I don’t have my own material desires. Just last month, I chose one decorative area rug over another because it felt more “pleasing to my toes,” even though it cost $200 more. I consistently spend way too much on jeans, wallets, and dishware. I buy hardcover books because I’m impatient and because they look pretty on my bookshelf. I love valet parking. But I can do without precious metals and expensive jewels.

It’s actually because I can think of so many other ways to spend $5,000-$25,000 that I’m decidedly anti-rock. This isn’t a moral stance. I’m not going to take the money we would have spent on a ring and donate it to starving children. But you know what would make me happier than a cushion cut diamond set in platinum? A honeymoon in which we take a Four Seasons-themed road trip across America, followed by an immediate second honeymoon to the Italian countryside. You know what would also satisfy me more than a ring? Paying for our own wedding. You know what else all that cash would be really useful for? A down payment on a house.

Now that I’m writing this, I’m realizing my perspective is probably all skewed because I’m poor. A lot of y’all can probably buy a ring AND put a down payment on a house. Just one for me, thanks!!!

One argument I’ve heard again and again in favor of engagement rings is the sentimental and traditional one. You’ll have your engagement ring forever, it’s a symbol of his love for you, you can pass it on to your children, it’ll be a family heirloom long after you’re gone, blah blah blah.

I have two responses to that.

One, engagement rings aren’t a long-standing tradition. They were invented by a diamond company in the 1960s as part of an advertising campaign. So even if engagement rings are a tradition now, the tradition they’re symbolizing is the power of American advertising.

Two, remember wedding rings? You’ll have your wedding ring forever. Your wedding ring is a symbol of his love for you. Your wedding ring will be a family heirloom you can pass along to your children. I’m all about wedding rings. I hella want a wedding ring. But why do I need TWO rings? They go on the same finger! If anything, all my engagement ring would do is overshadow my poor little wedding ring. I want to give my wedding ring its rightful chance to shine! It symbolizes marriage, which is meant to be a whole lot more meaningful and long-lasting than an engagement. 

Another thing my friends tell me is that I’ll feel differently when/if I get engaged. I’ll want the ring as a symbol of the fact that I’m off the market. Old-fashioned, much? He won’t be wearing an engagement ring to show that he’s off the market, so why should I? I don’t want to wear a ring to show that I’m taken

Photo.BareHand.NoRing.jpg

Of course, you should take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt. I’m not married, I’m not engaged, and I never have been. If I’m lucky enough in the future to be the recipient of a marriage proposal, it’s entirely possible that my entire point of view will change. Wait, you want me to commit my entire LIFE to you? And you can’t even spring for some WHITE GOLD??

And I do think most engagement rings are really pretty. A few of my friends have off-the-charts beautiful diamond engagement rings. They look gorgeous on you, guys! He did great! I just don’t need one. 

(Even if I wanted one, I'm not sure that a diamond would complement my ripped-pajama wardrobe. Case in point: A friend recently told me that I “look really good in men’s basketball shorts.”)