The wonderful Chloe Angyal is writing in New York Magazine about engagement rings, and the conspicuous showing-off of said rings on Facebook. I admit: I am a sucker for jewelry, so I actually don’t hate the engagement ring shots. That said, I don’t like engagement rings very much — or at least not the giant sparkly diamond kind. My objections are both political and aesthetic. You have to be living in a cave to not know just how evil the diamond industry is, and while conflict-free diamonds do exist, the cultural tying of “diamond” and “engagement” is a huge part of what drives the diamond market. And maybe it came from working at a law firm for so many years, but the look of all of those giant engagement rings was just… boring. They all look the same to me. But then I don’t think the tradition of exchanging wedding rings is a bad one. A token or symbol of commitment tied to a ritual is great. And a cool piece of jewelry? Sign me up — especially for some of the absolutely beautiful heirloom, antique or non-diamond rings that a few pals have procured. But the engagement, with only the woman wearing a ring and the attendant sense that she has accomplished something by getting a guy to ask her to marry him feels a bit weird. Not to mention the ownership/investment symbolism.
And rings are just a part of a heterosexual engagement process that feels like it’s taken on the worst aspects of tradition and modernity. The idea that a marriage is still something a man asks for — or even asks your dad for — is bizarre, and doesn’t seem like a great way to start a life together (although I often picture a gentleman asking my father for my hand in marriage, and my father’s look of utter WTF). If you’re joining each other in what is hopefully a permanent legal contract, doesn’t that merit an ongoing series of discussions culminated in some sort of agreement, and not simply a request whenever he’s ready? Doesn’t asking your dad (or your family) for their permission to enter into a legal contract with you, ostensibly a grown-ass woman, seem incredibly belittling? Girl, you can own property now! You don’t have to serve as it!
At the same time, the engagement itself is often a big public show. The flashmob engagements are the worst, but there’s a trend a few decades old now of surprising your girlfriend with a ring in a public place — on a sporting event jumbo-tron, at a fancy restaurant. Social media makes these events even more public. And while I am always psyched to see peoples’ engagement and wedding updates on Facebook (I am a huge secret stupid romantic and a sucker for happy people in love), when I see those viral videos of the dudes who hire 200 people to create the perfect over-the-top public engagement I can’t help but think, damn, he’s afraid she’ll say no, and that’s why he’s doing this in such a publicly humiliating way. I’m sure that assumption is wrong at least 75% of the time. But that’s what it feels like — put her in a position where she can’t really deny you.
I suspect these are the same people who post their baby’s 3D ultrasounds on Facebook with little speech bubbles coming from the fetus’s face.
And speaking of marriage-then-babies: I have yet to come across a married couple where the baby has only the woman’s name. Even in marriages where the woman keeps her name — and as a side note, I find it incredibly strange that women still change their names, and I honestly didn’t even realize that was a thing people did anymore until a few years ago when all of these strange female names started showing up on my Facebook feed — the baby is almost always Baby Hisname. At best it’s Baby Hername-Hisname. Even where He isn’t around anymore, and wasn’t around much during the pregnancy or when the baby was born, it’s still usually Hisname. I honestly do not understand why we remain so attached to patrilineal naming, even in feminist circles. Someday I’ll write a more thorough post about naming practices, but for now, let it be said that I just find it odd.
Although when I was in Seattle this summer I wandered into the lovely Isadora’s and tried on this ring for fun. Probably wouldn’t refuse that one under any circumstances — even if it came with a fifty-piece band and a flashmob proposal. This too. Kid is still getting my last name, though, if a kid ever comes into existence.
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