19 March 2010

The value of love

I read an advice column a little earlier this morning (Prudie’s column, http://www.slate.com/id/2247473/) about the financial burden of purchasing a diamond engagement ring. The young man seeking the advice did not want to over-extend himself way beyond his comfort zone in order to enter marital bliss. It was no secret to him that his hopeful bride-to-be wanted a sparkly engagement ring. He preferred to opt for a less costly engagement ring, or possibly none at all, but he did not want to lose the love of his life over a purchase, that when compared to the price of a car, pales in comparison.

I have heard other men sort of grumble over the “ticket price” of getting engaged. So then, I start to wonder, how many of these individuals drive automobiles that had a price tag over $20K? How many of these individuals have purchased other pricey items for their own amusement such as televisions, guitars, mountain bikes, hunting/fishing equipment, cameras, golf clubs….?

So what’s up with that? Why is the purchase of an engagement ring perceived to be burdensome? OK, not with everyone to be sure, but it’s out there.

We live in a culture heavily laden with the opportunity to purchase luxury items of all sorts. Designer shoes, resort vacations, homes with professionally equipped kitchens and sumptuous master baths, private school tuition, Swiss wristwatches, German cars, French wine.

Do we all overindulge? No. But in truth, most Americans probably spend money to support the best lifestyle they can afford. They purchase the best car within their budget. They buy a house in the best neighborhood they can afford. They spend money as wisely as they can on recreational items that suit their family’s preferences. In other words, they buy the things they value. This is the financial value we assign to living our lives.

So what is the value of love? Ouch. Sounds so unromantic.

On the one hand, our culture recognizes and celebrates the tradition and ceremony around marriage and the engagement ring, good or bad, is an important symbolic part of that tradition. Our culture is very good at recognizing symbols. A solitaire diamond ring is a symbol of love and promise between two people. It tells us they have agreed to join their lives in marriage. Every morning, as she dresses, this woman will place her engagement ring on her hand along with her wedding ring and it will remind her that the person she married valued her enough to express their love with this symbol. It makes her feel valued by extension.

On the other hand, it’s not for everyone. Not everyone needs to feel valued by wearing a big sparkly ring.

But back to our advice-column guy, this is not the case for the woman he hopes to marry.

Here's my (unsolicited) advice to you, dude. Take her shopping and pay attention to the rings that make her catch her breath. And then buy one of those. Buy the one that you want her to associate with you when she glances at it on her hand every day for the rest of her life.

Because trust me, it could go another way. Say you don’t buy it now and you tell yourself that you’ll get one for her later, when you’re established in your career. Then in a year or two, when you’re out of grad school and you’ve got a nice job, you decide to go shopping for a nice big expensive car for yourself. You’ll conveniently tell yourself that you can pick your wife up some diamond earrings for your wedding anniversary. The ring is forgotten.

You will never get engaged to her again. You will never marry her again. The symbol of your love around this all-important ritualistic passage of life is too important to diminish.

Get over yourself, cheapskate.

Seems like I might have some personal issues around this particular topic. OK. Busted. But hey, it’s my diary.


  1. I agree. My ex got me a much smaller ring than we'd looked at (and I actually gave him cash toward it, thinking I was being all liberated and modern; his engagement gift. I know, I know...). It ALWAYS bugged me. I'm shallow like that.

  2. damn... glad we have our rings picked out. ily

  3. I will have an award waiting for you at my place in the morning!

  4. Totallly and completely with you. If this isn't important enough to take your freaking wallet out, what is? It didn't seem like the issue was whether or not he could afford it, but whether he would afford it! Geez, why not give her a damn life saver ring!

  5. If both parties were in agreement about no ring, then I could see it. But this guy's potential fiance has already made it clear where she stands. Sounds like trouble a'brewin' for him. I think Prudie was wrong on this one (though usually I love her!).

  6. OK, I'm headed over to see! Thank you in advance. You are very generous when it comes to spreading the blog award love!

  7. Yes when I read the column it seemed like Prudia was playing both sides - but in the end she did seem to recommend that love would prevail without a diamond. I don't think she honestly had enough information. Me either, but it's just a blog. Thx for your comment!

  8. Hi! Just wanted to stop by and say thank you for dropping by my blog earlier. Nice to meet ya!

    "Buy the one that you want her to associate with you when she glances at it on her hand every day for the rest of her life."

    Brava! I TOTALLY agree with you on that.

    Get over yourself, cheapskate!

  9. I love stopping by because you can always make me see something in a new way. My first instinct was to decry our culture's materialism (marriage is supposed to be about love not jewelry, right?), but I think you make an excellent point: for better or worse, an engagement ring is a symbol, so if you're not willing to sacrifice yourself for the symbol, perhaps you won't be willing to sacrifice yourself for the marriage. And, as Stacia said, if the two partners don't see eye to eye on this relatively minor question, storms might be brewing ahead!

  10. I'm a cheapskate. I can't justify spending that much money on a ring. It doesn't do anything, it's just metal and sparky things. Cars can get me from point A to B. I just see spending that much money as something that should be done for something essential to survival. If a woman does expect me to spend vast amounts of money that I don;t have then she falls under the category of gold digger and must be dispatched with. If we love each other we love each other and no material object is needed. This is one of the reasons I will NOT marry. To expensive and I'm in a legal contract that never ends and can get me cleaned out if it does. I don;t like those odds.