Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Belle You Can't Un-ring

Don't hate me for my blog title! I know its terrible, but I happen to be working on a play about diamond rings right now that I have been desperately trying to come up with a title. I needed a place to deposit at least one of the hilarious rejects, hence the title of this blog "A Belle You Can't Un-ring".

So here it is, my first post about the dreaded engagement ring. I say "dreaded" ironically, not to be ironic. I did dread this post, and in some ways, the whole "ring question" because I really struggle with this issue on a lot of levels. I am interested to hear responses from other women and men on what they think. I expect this will be an ongoing discussion.

Full disclosure, I wear an engagement ring. I would like to say I wear ring on my left ring finger that is full of other meanings, but to the world, it's an engagement ring like any other, so let's call a spade a spade (or in this case, a diamond.) Here's what happened. I had come to terms with the fact that although I really like diamonds as jewellery, I was not going to get an engagement ring. My partner and I just didn't believe in them for several reasons:

  1. Buying a new diamond is difficult if you are trying to avoid blood diamonds. It can certainly be done, but it's harder.

  2. They're expensive! Duh. OK, so maybe you don't wear a diamond, but you can have another kind of engagement ring. Yes but...

  3. Why should he buy me something and not vice-versa. And OK, let say I get him something really nice too, like an expensive watch. Its still not the same. No one is looking at his watch and saying, "Nice watch, you must be engaged to a real nice lady." (Plus it just so happens my partner won't wear a watch, so my options are so limited)

  4. I don't want to feel like I am wearing a symbol of ownership.

There are more reasons, but you get the idea, and maybe you have your own. It's certainly not uncommon anymore to go sans ring. When we got engaged we had just planned a big trip to Belize. We kind of said that we were spending the money some couples spend on engagement rings on this big trip together that we can both enjoy and that can mark the new stage in our relationship.

But like I said, I am wearing an engagement ring. So here's how it happened.

My mother died five years ago from cancer. I will admit that her absence may have delayed my willingness to get married. I inherited her jewellery after she died, but I didn't really pay any attention until recently. When I came across her engagement ring, I really got choked up. My mother wore it every day of her life, she was never without that ring. It was somewhat unusual shape and cut for nowadays, and it was so uniquely her, I was just so drawn to it. Also, the more I thought about it, the more I realized that inheriting a ring takes away half the problem; I don't have to spend any money, and I don't have to worry about contributing to the bloodshed.

But the symbol of sexism still remains, and that is what I struggle with now. I wear it because it is a way of remembering my mother, involving her in my wedding and life in a way. But if I am being honest, I also just love the look of it at this point. I don't like being instantly recognized as "an engaged person" but the ring itself is beautiful and carries so much meaning.

I know the truth; I didn't spend an exorbitant amount on an engagement ring, nobody got on his knee with a jewellery box to pop the question. I came about my ring in the most painful of ways, and I would give it back in a second if it meant my mother would be alive. But she's not, and I carry this little piece of her with me in this way. But I now face an age old question, does the truth matter, when it appears to the world differently? I can know the truth until the cows come home, but what kind of a feminist am I if I am perpetuating an image that sets us back decades?

Look forward to your thoughts.


  1. Don't worry about what kind of a feminist you are. Worry about who you are. You're someone who loves her mother and now you have a little piece of her close to your heart. What is there to be worried about? It's the sweetest thing I've ever heard, and I know she'd be proud for her ring to be on your finger as a symbol of the past (her death) and the future (your wedding, family, and love).

  2. After much contemplation, you decided: yes - I will get married. The ring is a symbol of that decision and all the thought that went into it.

  3. maybe "symbol of commitment" rather than "symbol of ownership"...? Yah I know I know... but I think in the end symbols are about the energy we put into them. (and I mean it when I say i know i know but...I just can't imagine anyone meeting YOU and thinking "someone owns her". :-)

  4. Tough question. I suppose you could wear it on another finger so it is still there and meaningful to you but doesn't carry the implications for the rest of the world. I agree that it's not fair the girl traditionally gets "ringed" and the guy doesn't!

  5. I absolutely, unequivocally agree with points 1-4 - don't want to perpetutate violence, not cool that the girl gets "ringed" (I like that Anon. May 29!), expensive. Totally. But I also kind of like wearing my engagement ring and being marked as an engaged person. Plus it is so sparkly... Conflict, much? Do these feelings mean that I a bad feminist?!

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  8. I understand the conflict, but ultimately, as another commenter said, it's a symbol of committment, not ownership (ownership is the last name change:). I know quite a few couples where the girl gave the guy a ring when they were engaged too - a sort of "promise ring" style exchange.

    A lot of these symbols around weddings don't have to be oppressive or a throw back to more patriarchal times. You can both exchange rings. Both of your parents can walk you down the aisle and instead of "giving you away", can use that moment to welcome your groom into your family formally. Some practices cannot be converted to anything egalitarian, but many can. It's possible to have an engagement and wedding that looks traditional enough to avoid creating discomfort for your guests, while still honoring your egalitarian beliefs.

    Not everything around weddings has to make a statement (regardless of whether that statement is anti-wedding-froufrou-establishment or pro-wedding-overhype-establishment). A wedding is mostly a private event and the only person who will really care about these smaller (but still vital) details is you - and your groom.