I’m 23 years old, so whenever I meet with my girlfriends from high school, we kind of end up at the same topic: what our ideal guy/engagement ring/wedding would be. And if we’ve already found our ideal guy, we move with all manner of seriousness to the next topic in that vein – the engagement ring. We feel silly about it, saying things like “Oh, I know it’s a few years away and we couldn’t possibly afford it now, but if I could have one right now, this is the one I would get, or this one, or this one …” As obsessive as some guys are in being able to detail specs on their ideal car or computer, my girlfriends and I are about engagement rings.
Guys groan, especially mine. “What’s the big deal about it? Why do you want one so bad? I’m committed to you with or without the ring … you know that, right?” I always get stuck for an answer. “I just want one and always wanted one,” I say. “It’s important to me … anyway, what do you think of this one?”
Then there are some guys who really do dig the ring deal. An ex-coworker of mine and his fiancé had searched high and low for “the perfect ring.” He admitted that he was the pickier one of the two, and wouldn’t stop searching until he found the ring of his dreams. They found a metal smith who specialized in super dense rings, and made a custom band in the style of the One Ring from “Lord of the Rings.” He took his band off and dropped it in my hand to show me how heavy it was. It was a moment out of LOTR – you could hear the thud as it hit my palm. Impressive. But not nearly as impressive as his Sauron-like zeal.
I can relate. My hunt for an engagement ring that was a perfect balance between beauty, subtlety and cost went on for nearly four years. My ideal ring is petite, but not too small, not too pokey, not too “out there,” but not too understated either. Kind of like picking the right bra, only 500 times more expensive.
Why? Have I become a victim of DeBeers marketing and become a true believer of the “tradition” of engagement rings? Not exactly. I guess my attitude about engagement rings is not unlike my feelings about Christmas. I might not believe the lore behind the traditions, but I’m not going to bar myself from enjoying a national pastime.
I’m still trying to figure out if my engagement ring ideals violate my beliefs in feminism, antimaterialism and the nature of trust in my significant other. On one hand, I refuse to believe that marriage defines success in women. But on the other hand, it does feel like an accomplishment to finally get a ring. It’s an accomplishment to have found the most wonderful guy after years of painful adolescence and dating – oh, the joys of being single! I don’t feel that it’s wrong to want something to show for it.
As for the materialism part, it’s true that the diamond industry causes much suffering in other parts of the world. That’s why I’ll be wearing my cubic zirconia ring with pride! That’s right, after all those years of ogling engagement ring ads, Jeff and I ended up selecting a stainless steel ring with a compression set “fake” stone. It symbolizes my relationship with him in the best way: stainless steel for durability, compression setting for stability, CZ for shine without guilt.
By going against tradition and brazenly choosing less-precious materials, I’m cut out of the rat race for bragging rights or glory (which I had subconsciously wanted). I’m also cut out of the guilt associated with supporting the diamond industry, or the guilt of putting my sweet fiancé into more debt. I’ve come away with this: it’s OK to want, but keep the wanting in check.
Quynh Nguyen can be reached at [email protected]