This post continues a series about feminism, engagement, and wedding planning. If you’re curious why I’m blogging on this, you can start at the first post in the series. Or backtrack your way through the series by jumping to the previous post.
As happy as I was to be engaged, I dreaded what I knew was coming next: “Let me see the ring!” It became rather tiring to explain over and over why I didn’t have an engagement ring, and I hated all the attention to begin with. Even if I did have a ring, why did all these people think I would want to show it off for them to evaluate?
Jeremiah wasn’t crazy about the fact that I had rejected the engagement ring tradition, but his reasoning made me even more glad I had. He knew others would judge him by the sort of ring he picked out, so not buying me a ring made him look cheap and rude. But that was part of the problem, I thought. I don’t even care for jewelry, so receiving a diamond ring would be nothing but an acquiescence to the pressures of our culture—pressures for men to prove themselves as providers and pressures for women to measure others’ value by the quality of the man on their arms, as demonstrated by the size of the rings on their fingers.
Wicoff, who did have an engagement ring, talks about this problem in her book. Having a rather conspicuously large ring, she often felt embarrassed by the attention she received from other women and what it implied about her relationship, her fiancé, and her own identity. She wanted to just accept it as something given out of love, something her fiancé picked out with her in mind, something which she herself thought was beautiful and enjoyed wearing, but the baggage that came along with the ring made it difficult to enjoy as thoroughly as she had hoped.
I know other women feel differently. They love their rings and would reject the idea that engagement rings treat women as prizes to be won and men as sugar daddies and whatnot. Many think rings are essential to making an engagement official, even though the diamond ring tradition didn’t become popular until the 20th century. I know many women—including feminists—want a ring, and that is their decision.
But I didn’t. Accepting the attention associated with an engagement ring would have made me feel like I was agreeing with the idea that I had been waiting my whole life to be the magical, mythical creature known as a bride. That my value was tied to landing a man and the sparkly things he could give me. That Jeremiah’s value was caught up in trying to make those sparkly things happen. That, for some reason, as a woman I needed to wear my relationship status on my hand while my fiancé didn’t. And I don’t even particularly like diamonds, and I’ve never been a ring person. Giving in and wearing a ring would have been a win for jewelry companies, the larger wedding industry, advertising, capitalism itself! An inexcusable waste of money on something I didn’t even want. Perhaps if we both were to wear engagement rings, I would have felt differently, but even that is doubtful.
I’m pretty sure at the time everyone thought I was overly political and generally crazy. Some probably judged Jeremiah for no fault of his own, and many people probably thought even I would come around eventually and wish I had a rock. But two years later, I still have no regrets. Early on in our relationship, I had told Jeremiah that I had never wanted an engagement ring and would refuse any marriage proposal that included one. I am glad I followed through with my convictions and preferences, and despite tiring of having to explain that choice to others, I have always been glad for the reason I could give.