I Am So Tired of the Engagement Ring Olympics

What’s a diamond going to prove?

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“Imean, I don’t even really care about getting engaged, except insofar as it’s the first step to us getting married!” I found myself saying. My boyfriend got a look on his face. Not a bad look, not a good look, but a look nonetheless. “Well, that’s something to think about,” he said a moment later.

We were sitting on the couch, and watching Halloween 6: The Curse of Michael Myers had turned into a debate about the merits of running off to Colorado to marry ourselves on a mountaintop. This discussion was progressing fruitfully until I threw out my feelings on engagement, feelings that I hadn’t even articulated to myself until I said them out loud to C in the heat of the moment.

Did I really not care? I mean really and truly? I remember very clearly the day I told my high school boyfriend that no, lab diamonds were not the same as diamonds that came out of the ground, and no, I would not be having any created carbon on my ring finger or anywhere else, thank you very much. His (to my adult ears and state government paycheck, stunningly sensible) arguments that lab diamonds were A) much cheaper and B) not dug out of the ground by underpaid workers at great risk to their health had made no impression on my seventeen year old mind. Lab diamonds were simply not how it was done.

Cut to a few months ago, trying to describe to C what my ideal ring would be. “I mean, I don’t want anything big because I have small hands, and diamonds are nice but I like garnets a lot too, and pearls are really pretty… I guess something simple?” When we went to the jewelry store together I seized up in the presence of an overly helpful employee. She wanted to show us everything in the case; I just needed a minute to process the fact that I was here, with this person—the person who loved me enough to follow me from Austin, Texas to Jackson, Mississippi—looking at rings. Rings! It was too much. I tried on a few, mumbled something about being partial to solitaires, and we left.

Later, perusing Etsy for cute little gemstone numbers, I started getting excited, enough to show my mum some of the rings I’d picked out. “What?” she cried when she saw my favorite. “Your father and I had nothing when we got married, and even my ring cost more than that!” I groaned. “Mum! What does it matter how much it is if I like it? And what does it matter how much it is at all?!” She gave me the loving side-eye of a mother who expects her future son-in-law to do it up right. I returned the loving glare of a daughter who just realized that her values have changed.

I didn’t expect to feel so blasé about a piece of jewelry that I freely admit to having thought about (obsessed over?) in every serious relationship I’ve been a part of, including this one. And yet now, faced with a real ring, a ring that I will choose and will sooner or later be presented to me with a very important question, it doesn’t seem to matter. While there is certainly nothing cheap or frivolous about being invested in the selection of an engagement ring (they’re meant for keeps, after all), having moved through that magic time when you begin talking to your partner about getting married, to when you begin to fathom that you do both want this, to share your lives and your money and your hope and your cooking utensils (not to mention all eight films in the Halloween franchise, plus the Rob Zombie remakes), I have come to realize that for myself and with my fiancé, what I care about above all else is getting married, and being married. Not the ring. Not even the wedding, really. The ring and the wedding are the markers that tell the people around us we’re committed to one another, to building a life together. But for us? I don’t need that; my fiancé tells me himself every day. He tells me when he washes the dishes, when he spends his afternoon making manicotti timed to come out of the oven when I get home from work, when he rolls over in bed to hold me in the last dozy minutes before the alarm goes off: “I am committed to you, to building a life together.” And no diamond—or garnet, or pearl—is ever going to beat the look in his eyes when he says it.

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