Thursday, April 21, 2011

A little piece of earth, and a hella lot of marketing.

Last winter, Joel and I went "ring shopping" a few times at his request; he wanted to know what I had in mind so that when it came time to propose, he'd have an easier time making the decision. (You can read the actual proposal story in the first blog posted here.)

We went to every diamond shop in the St. Louis Galleria, as well as a few jewelry stores in the area...and even a couple in Springfield. Really, the first store was enough to convince me that what I was looking for wasn't there- but it took several weeks to convince Joel of the same. There were a lot of lovely little rings in those shops to be sure, but a jewelry store is much akin to a used car dealership- and not long into the process could I look at a single ring or semi-plausibly happy salesman without the feeling that the entire thing was a set-up. A set-up to totally screw anyone blinded by happiness out of every penny possible.

Perhaps it's my background in marketing; perhaps it was because I already knew that branded diamonds (like the "Hearts on Fire" diamonds) are a way to add perceived value to a rock that is inherently the same as any other. And, while their is credibility to the cut of the diamond- not too shallow or too deep- making the particular stone shine differently, I didn't run into a single damn shop that had these "lesser quality cut diamonds" they poo-pooed for any sort of comparison to back their claims of superior stones- so how is someone supposed to really be able to tell what they are getting?

Then they try to sell you insurance. And insurance for the insurance. And upgrades. And "lifetime service plans". Then, after they convince you that you need all of these things that really mean nothing if you are indeed getting a quality piece of jewelry, you've racked up a price tag Coco Chanel couldn't afford- but that's ok! Because they have 30 year financing available.

All for a ring. A ring that, yes, does serve a very important purpose but you begin to wonder how paying $6,000 will keep fewer dudes from hitting on you in the grocery or convince your grumpy father that your fellow is really indeed serious about caring for his first born daughter. Will it really? More than spending $5,000? Or $2,500? $1,000? Or borrowing a ring from your grandmother? Meaning no offense, but no rock itself is going to stop the most butter-brained jackass from making a pass. And there certainly isn't a rock on the planet that will assure any self-respecting father that his daughter is in good hands.

But it is so ingrained in us. All of us, who grew up watching those lurid television commercials of young couples walking in snowy forests, adorning Christmas trees, or finding something special and sparkly in a private romantic gesture- all ending in phrases that whisper "Because she's worth it" "Diamonds are forever." "Timeless Romance." What the hell is that supposed to mean? You give someone a diamond and life turns into a fairy tale? Tell me, how many diamonds that you know of that have ended in divorce?

I remember one shop where I had actually found a ring that I did like. I wasn't in love with it, but it was very nice and it was my favorite of all that we had seen that day.

"Are you sure you don't want something bigger?" Joel asked me, turning over the price tag in his fingers.

"I have small hands, I really like the way this one sits."

"It is a little small." Said the saleslady encouragingly.

"Try the bigger one on, honey." Joel said.

"I don't like the bigger one, I like this one." I said.

"I don't know...." he looked at my hand fretfully, "I'm just afraid if I don't buy something bigger, people will think I don't love you."

My jaw practically hit the floor. I just couldn't believe it. I sat both rings down on that counter, thanked the lady, grabbed Joel, and bolted.

I just couldn't believe it. Joel- of all people! The least materialistic person I know; the guy who is happy without any fancy cars or expensive colognes or posh dress shirts. The guy who expresses his love by coming up behind you and kissing you on the neck, who tells you he cares by loading the dishwasher or taking the basket from you when he sees you carrying laundry upstairs. My beautiful, honest, unassumedly romantic boy had been sucked into a world where money equals love- at least, when it comes to diamonds.

And secondly, wasn't this my ring? Why the hell did he want to buy a ring based on what he thought other people would or wouldn't think of it? Infuriating.

Well, you know how the whole proposal story turned out.

I love my engagement ring so much, I really am not quite sold on the tradition of giving it up for a wedding band at the wedding. Even more so, I have this happy little joy knowing that, after a few weeks of pleading, Joel was finally convinced to trade in the years of jewelry brainwashing to get it for me. One small step for mankind!

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