Most of us know the difference between illusion and reality – most of the time. But occasionally these two states can become conflated and confused. Is symbolism a reality? How real is an illusion? Maybe we just feel better when an illusion seems like a reality.
Call it the third wave of feminism. First, Emmeline Pankhurst, the militant suffragette and her followers, then Gloria Steinem and company with the women’s liberation message and now the emerging trend for a woman to propose and then pop on the guy’s finger the men’s engagement ring – or – mangagement ring. Is this the new form of liberation and standard for equality or is it something else?
For those who champion equality in its literal sense – the mangagement ring might symbolize it all. Before we get carried away thinking the mangagement ring is going to bring true equality to the gender equation, let’s stop and reflect.
Along with the trend towards equality, another trend has emerged in recent years – the celebration of difference and diversity. Down with orthodoxy! In with embracing our uniqueness, differences and diversity in all its forms.
De Beers may have etched the slogan ‘A diamond is forever’ into the collective consciousness of several generations but like all slogans, it oversimplifies things. Your diamond engagement ring may not guarantee a lifetime of marital happiness although you might desperately want that to be the case. That slim, sparkly band may brand you as ‘taken’ but it doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t be tempted.
This symbolism that a diamond ring represents love and commitment has meant that many women expect a diamond engagement ring as a birthright and showing it off to friends has become a rite of passage as well as a point of competition. Who’s got the biggest diamond?
But not all women buy into this idea. Often the rejection of the ring as a symbol of commitment tells the world that the woman is not a traditionalist, maybe she’s a non-conformist or a rebel – or maybe she and her man are planning ahead and saving for their life together and decide to forgo the shiny symbolism.
Women are different and diverse – so why not men? It doesn’t follow that just because many women want an engagement ring – and value its symbolism – their men want it too. For every man who thrills to the idea of receiving a symbolic gold band (with of without diamonds), there will be another who would rather walk over broken glass daily as a ritual rather than wear a ring of any sort. Some men simply don’t wear rings.
Let’s celebrate diversity and difference because that adds the spice to our lives. For every trend, let there be a counter-trend.
Here’s an idea. Before accepting that ‘one size fits all’ couples and their thinking, how about a new equality trend that satisfies everyone – every time?
Why not have a conversation with your intended and decide what works best for you as a couple. Does she want the shiny band? If not, that’s acceptable. Does he want a mangagement ring? If he does, great. Buy him one. Do you both want a ring? Go ahead and swap little velvet boxes. Maybe neither of you wants that precious strip of symbolism. No bother. Just save your money and lash out on some other luxury.
If you’re insecure about his straying ask yourself if a mangagement ring is going to stop him? Do you need an engagement ring to remind you of your commitment and hold you back from that office affair? Ask yourself some hard questions and then – be yourself -and do what’s best for you.
Let’s not have the trend towards mangagement rings as symbols of commitment become the new form of orthodoxy. Be yourself. Be different. Be the same. Do what suits you.
Be true to yourself. Will the ring make you believe the marriage will be forever? Then go ahead and invest. But if you don’t buy the message, think of some other creative way you can commit to one another.
The band as a gold brand – ‘you’re spoken for’ – may have had its day. Or it might just be making a brand new resurgence. It all depends on your perspective of illusion and reality.