I recently read a Huffington Post article that really got me thinking. I was lured by a tweet that read: Why a proposal without a ring = a doomed relationship. Needless to say, I couldn’t click the link fast enough.
In the article, titled “On My Father’s Watch,” writer and jewelry consultant Beth Bernstein poetically details how her parents’ unique engagement story in turn shaped her love life. Beth’s dad proposed to her mom with “an art deco watch instead of a diamond solitaire.” Her mom later explained it away as being “much more practical.” But according to her daughter, “something basic and true seemed missing.”
Her parents divorced when Beth was 12.
Years later, Beth started dating an Italian stud she met on a blind date. The relationship was passionate and steamy, nothing less than one would expect from any interaction with a sexy Italian named Paolo. As things grew serious, they found themselves in a New York jewelry store trying on wedding bands. Paolo asked her what styles she liked as she slid various rings on her finger. They walked out of the store empty-handed; she, empty-hearted.
Moments later they stepped into Manhattan’s Aaron Faber Gallery, a watch store that Paolo mentioned he wanted to visit. A 1930s pink gold Rolex caught her eye. He bought it for her without hesitation. And as he fastened it to her wrist, she thought of her father.
You see, as her dad was, sadly, dying of bone cancer, he opened up to his daughter in ways he never had before. They became closer, they talked more. One day, “while putting on his pain patches, he confessed, ‘Although I loved your mom, I couldn’t get close to any women.'”
Just before his death, he expressed to Beth how much he admired her independence. She recalls, “He took his Cartier and strapped it around my wrist. A week later he was gone.”
Beth explains: “During my career in jewelry, I realized that the diamond on an engagement ring symbolizes longevity, while the band means continuity. The watch came to represent my father’s inability to form a lasting bond.”
Beth’s story is both beautiful and tragic. But the demise of her parents’ marriage, in her own words, was caused by her father’s infidelity. Whether or not watches are always gifted by unfaithful men is unclear, however it is certainly clear to me that many unfaithful men dole out diamonds on a regular basis.
Jewelry can’t be the indicator here. Relationships and humans are not that simple.
My dad proposed to my mom over 41 years ago. No ring. No gift. Just words of commitment. They’ve been married ever since.
And on the other hand, we all know women who have received expensive, blinding diamond rings — only to lose them in subsequent divorce settlements.
Do I think diamond rings are nice? Yes.
Do I think sweet proposal stories are special? Absolutely.
Do I know commitment in marriage is so much more than a piece of jewelry? Well, duh.
The engagement ring has been hyped up by the jewelry industry to be “necessary.” They even tell you how much to spend on said ring based on your current salary. I’ve personally heard stories of girls demanding specific rings, specific carat weights, from specific stores. I’ve seen men feel the pressure of meeting these expectations, often succumbing to mounds of credit card debt to make it happen. My heart breaks when I hear these stories.
You might be thinking, Get real, Ruth. If a guy asked you to marry him without a ring, you’d be so disappointed.
I used to think I would. And perhaps — should the situation ever present itself — I actually would. But as I get older and hear the stories of other relationships — both successful and unsuccessful — my mindset is changing. I wonder if the diamond on my left hand really matters much if I’m not loved, cared for. I wonder how much that ring would remind me of the tens of thousands of dollars of debt it cost to get there. I wonder.
I want so much for Beth to know the story of love is so much more than a piece of jewelry. Her parents didn’t divorce because of the watch. Paolo didn’t give her the Rolex because he didn’t want to commit. And, when she meets a wonderful man in the months to come, he isn’t automatically incapable of committing or loving because he doesn’t buy her a ring.
There’s more to life than that. There’s more to love than that. And, honestly, I know there’s more to Beth’s story than that. I in no way want to undermine her experiences or the memories she has of her father. I’m just saying that marriage is complicated. And this single girl simply don’t have all the answers. But I do know that love isn’t about a princess-cut diamond on a platinum band. That’s a nice way to make a gal smile, sure. It’s a nice way to publicly announce you’ve committed yourself to another person. But it’s not love.
Love is in the day-to-day. Love is in the sacrifice. Love is a choice.