Today while reading an article online I came across a link to another article entitled “Five Ways to Get the Engagement Ring You Want.” I think something inside of me died when I read that. Actually maybe I should say something came alive, a part of me that was so angry & disappointed in our culture that seeing that article made me want to hurl my computer across the room. I don’t know about y’all, but my brain is still a bit miffed at the fact that people are writing such articles, & not only that, but professional newspapers are publishing these articles! Good lord, if we as women want to be viewed as the intellectual equals of men, may I suggest that we stop pandering to such ridiculous ideas of what being a woman means? If we want to be seen as equal partners in marriage (or just relationships in general), maybe focusing less on what kind of ring we’re going to wear would be a great place to start.
On a slightly different topic, lately I’ve been seeing a link shared on Facebook about some kind of really sweet proposal story. I haven’t watched it because I’m not a hopeless romantic & such things just don’t interest me. I’ve also never seen or read The Notebook or any of the other popular Nicholas Sparks movies/books. In fact that entire genre makes me want to puke. Then there are the inevitable posts in magazines about the gigantic (& just plain gaudy) engagement rings that celebrities wear (see the above picture!). Lest you should think I am a grump, please let me explain why these things are anathema to me.
I’ve never been enticed by the idea of public or over-the-top marriage proposals. One of my biggest goals in life is to not be judgmental so I won’t go so far as to say I think these things are wrong. Of course not. But I just don’t see the appeal. To me, getting married (or having any type of serious long-term relationship) is all about sharing real life with someone. It’s about understanding that real life isn’t always exciting or even super interesting. It’s sharing all of the little day-to-day events of life, like going to the grocery store, cleaning up after the dog, & vacuuming the carpets. Lots of people can have fun together at concerts or the beach or on vacation in the Caribbean. It’s when you can have fun with someone doing all the mundane little things than make up real life, that you know you’re onto something special. Maybe it’s because I am at heart a bit of an introvert, but the idea of being asked to marry someone in front of thousands of people at a baseball game or some other such public event makes me cringe. To me, a proposal is an intimate thing to be shared with your lover & no one else. In any case, my point is that a proposal that isn’t public or elaborately planned out isn’t any less romantic at all.
When I got engaged I remember the inevitable questions about how it happened, & part of me regretted that I didn’t have a better “story” to share, but deep down I was so glad I didn’t. I’m still so glad that my husband proposed to me in a very casual way without even having bought a ring yet. I love that so much because it implies that the decision was very much something we arrived at together & he’ll never have to feel like he “bought me” with a ring.
Coming back to the ring discussion, my husband & I were “engaged” in our hearts for a long time before we actually got engaged. We knew for years that we wanted to get married but we didn’t want to officially get engaged till we were much closer to graduating from college & coming close to a time at which we could realistically get married. Naturally we had discussed the issue of an engagement ring long before he actually proposed & part of me hated the idea of a ring altogether. It just feels like some sort of ancient tradition that labels me as property, & therefore part of me wanted to skip it altogether. But I also recognized that this is such an established cultural tradition that skipping it would cause people to say & think all kinds of horrible things about us, so in the end we decided it wasn’t worth that risk. So we discussed the kinds of rings we liked & discovered that we had very different ideas about what makes a pretty ring (I didn’t even want a diamond because I much prefer green or blue stones but we decided not to buck that tradition too). I refused to let my husband spend more than a certain amount on the ring because I knew that we had more important things to spend money on than a piece of jewelry that realistically I knew I wouldn’t even wear that often (as a nurse, there is too much risk of losing it at work or worse yet of carrying germs on the ring). In the end it worked out perfectly that my husband proposed to me on Black Friday (three years ago tomorrow!!) because we were able to pick out a ring together that we both really liked & that would have ordinarily been way out of our price range (he swears he didn’t plan that on purpose & as little as he thinks about shopping, I believe him). Some people think it’s very odd that we picked out the ring together but I loved doing it that way. To me, it represents the way we try to make all important (& sometimes even not so important) decisions in our relationship. We discuss the pros & cons of various actions & then arrive at a decision that we feel to be mutually beneficial.
In summary, what I’m trying to say is that the focus on rings & other such “symbols” of love is absurd. Some people are horrified when I say that my husband & I rarely wear our wedding rings (ok, actually, he never wears his & I wear mine once or twice a week when I’m not at work & remember to put them on), but my response is always this: a ring is just a symbol & what it stands for is FAR more important than the ring itself. I hope this post hasn’t come across as arrogant or as if I’m trying to say that my relationship is perfect. Of course it isn’t. There is no such thing as a perfect relationship because people, like life, aren’t perfect. It just horrifies me to think that enough women are so obsessed with getting “the perfect ring” that entire articles are written to help them in this quest. How ludicrous! If we as women want men to see us as more than superficial brats, we have got to realize that obsessing over engagement rings needs to stop. The deeper message here is that we must realize that expensive gifts are not the greatest expressions of love. The greatest expression of love involves spending the greatest gift any of us can ever give to anyone: time, the one gift we can never get back. The greatest way to prove your love to someone, regardless of gender, is to spend time with them even when they are sick, sad, depressed, or generally not at their best. (This applies to romantic or non-romantic relationships alike.) Engagement rings are just a symbol of the eternal nature of that love. Nothing more, nothing less. As a society, I think we would do well to understand this.