Sunday, August 23, 2009

Jewel of Denial

The website was on the news tonight. The opening lines of the script went something like this:

"You're so in love. You're so happy. For now. But after it goes bad, every time you tell yourself 'It's time to move on!' there's a beautiful piece of bling staring up at you."

Two things: First, *every* time you tell yourself to move on there's jewelry involved? And second, who still says "bling"?

I can't say that I understand the financial or political implications of a broken engagement, having never been engaged. I would hope that I could eventually remember that I would be able to move on and make a rational decision about what to do with the ring. The whole process of residual jewelry, though, makes me cringe.

This should probably be prefaced with the following: heteronormative, yes. Also, I've never dated a guy who has given me jewelry. Of any kind. Let alone of the expensive variety. Unless you count the kid in elementary school who gave me a ring from his CrackerJack box, which I'm sure was the height of expenditure at the time. Honestly, I'm glad about this: I think jewelry and flowers are generally easy choices early in a relationship from a well-meaning guy who can't think of something that speaks to you because he doesn't know you well enough yet. But nobody wants to spend *that* much money so early a relationship. And also, who said He has to buy Her things?

Anyway, I've heard there are "rules" for the jewels. For example, She gets to keep the ring if He proposes on Her birthday, or on Christmas. I've never heard of exemptions for couples who do not celebrate Christmas, suggesting that perhaps only Christian Americans have these bizarre "rules," or alternately that Muslims, Jews, Hindus &c. do not marry (the latter is obviously false). I've heard that if He breaks it off, She gets to keep it no matter what. If She breaks it off, She keeps it only on the birthday/Christmas clause. And of course, the "who breaks it off" language is little more than the blame game (e.g. "I ended it because She cheated, so she'd better give me back my ring!").

But back to Out Of Your Life. Check out their web slogans: "Ex-boyfriend, Ex-jewelry." "Request a free Break-Up Box," in which you mail your symbolic emotions for money. And my favorite, "For Richer or Richer."

Yes, because every time I break up with a guy, it would have ended in years of bliss otherwise. Grow up, people. Every romantic relationship will end one of two ways: happily ever after, or not. This accounts for casual dating, hookups, engagements, marriages, second-marriages, and Liz Taylor. And "happily ever" isn't always happy: there are messes and disagreements and it's work and you learn things and you deal with it. I dare say I feel the same about money: it doesn't just plop into your lap because you mailed in your cast-off diamonds. There's honest work that should be behind it or else there's no value in it. So maybe there's a parallel between expecting quick cash and expecting fast and flawless love.

Or maybe marriage hasn't changed so much from the days in which the practice was all part of an exchange economy. My parents have ten nubile female goats and two milk cows to my name. Prove me wrong.

Something is seriously weird here. Financial compensation isn't going to stop the problem. Or maybe it will. I guess I wouldn't know because I've never received that sweet cash reward.


  1. I totally agree with you on this one...It's a really weird business to be in. I love your second to the last paragraph as well!

  2. I wonder... is this not the logical end of romantic liasons in a capitalist culture? If everything is (ultimately) about the bottom line, that must include love (and we've been working for a long time to figure out how to profit from love).

    *If* marriage (and all the ceremonial trappings that accompany it) are all about love, and our culture has managed to commodify love, then might it not even be morally laudable to profit even in the midst/aftermath of romantic distress?

    In that regard, I agree with youa nd wonder how much has changed from the good ole old days: then the termination of the marriage left the party of lesser social power (almost always the woman) destitue and helpless - and in the case of infidelity, usually dead. This in cultures in which property made might.
    Today, it's all about the money, because dollars make might. And might still makes right... right?

  3. True JR: capitalism is the thing, isn't it?

    Apparently, up until about the end of the medieval period (14th/15th century), women had a lot more property rights than we give "those old people" credit for. Widows became wealthy dowagers. Think of someone like the Wife of Bath in Chaucer: she kicked ass *because* she was married so many times!

    My religious history is shaky at best, but I put a lot of the onus on the Protestant movements: once you lose the ideal feminine values of the Virgin Mary, women don't get a choice to do anything but reproduce. And if they don't... hunt them out because they're probably witches.