Valentine’s Day is around the corner, and with it, a flurry of marriage proposals will flood your social media timelines. Be ready. Your Facebook cousins ended 2017 in grand style with an argument about rings, which they will surely resurrect. An alleged Kay Jewelers ad for a $24.99 engagement ring had married and single women debating if wanting a more expensive ring made them gold diggers or not.
So before they reprise their battle royal, I want to talk about why we all should let women get engaged without telling them to lower their demands—for rings or anything else.
The internet refers to women as a “pick me” when they seem to bend over backward to accommodate potential mates. Women with obsequious opinions on relationships aren’t necessarily jockeying for a man to notice them. Sure, they might be annoying at times, but I keep my complexion clear by remembering there is someone for everyone. I simply am not here for telling other women how low they must go to find love. As bad as a “pick me” can look, it has nothing on a woman boasting about how cheaply she got picked for.
I find it tacky when married women tell single women how their love didn’t cost a thing and expect their unmarried counterparts to follow suit. Sis, I admire your struggle love, really, I do. But that doesn’t have to be every woman’s narrative.
Their stories try to convey that the quality of the ring doesn’t determine the quality of the relationship. I applaud that. Collectively, however, the overwhelming message turns into: “He picked me for less, and you should ask for less, too.”
However, it’s OK if some women want a ring that costs more than a Popeyes chicken bucket. But single women who dare express this truth hear two ugly lies about themselves:
1. “Women are more concerned about the engagement ring than the marriage.”
How important is a ring, anyway?
We aren’t all going to agree on the answer to that question. And you know what? That’s perfectly fine. You can point out that the popularity of the diamond engagement ring is the result of marketing—and you would be right. If you start to unravel many traditions behind weddings, they are often rooted in misogyny or money, not romance. It is a saving grace that wedding rituals evolved over time to signify something beautiful. We fall in love with the symbolism and create our own reasons as to why it matters.
A ring is merely one symbol in a social rite full of symbols: changing one’s name, walking down the aisle, jumping the broom, breaking the glass. Neither the ceremony nor the traditions surrounding weddings hold much import in the actual marriage.
This is why I do not understand the vitriol and “gold digger” labels reserved for women who value the ring as a token of affection. It is asinine to castigate other women for adhering to one expendable nuptial custom when you probably have your own.
Most women aren’t more concerned about engagement rings than about their (impending or imagined) marriages. Arguments that women who give thought to their rings are “focusing on the wrong thing” present a false binary. You can ask for the ring you prefer and put a lot of care into your marital relationship.
2. “Women should be so happy to receive a proposal; they should accept anything.”
First of all, I see a proposal as the introduction to a lifetime of partnership and work, not an honorific. Marriage is not a validation that women should be thankful to receive. But I saw one message from a woman scolding others: “Somebody actually wanted you! Sit down! Be humble!”
I have a serious problem with people telling black women that they should be grateful anyone proposes to them at all. Black women are often cast as undesirable in the American imagination. It works a raw nerve to hear us tell one another that we are unworthy of material or emotional good.
Inasmuch as we should all express gratitude for finding love in this world, it’s another thing entirely to consider a proposal as a charity. “Beggars can’t be choosers” doesn’t apply here.
Furthermore, a ring is a gift you’re expected to wear day in and day out. What is so reprehensible about trying to find a ring a woman likes? Can we even apply the rule that “it’s the thought that counts” if the gift reflects thoughtlessness? Any token offered without the recipient in mind is a bribe for a compliment.
Most women are not arguing that a man they truly love should go bankrupt on a ring. Women want to feel consideration, and they want a ring they don’t hate. If the issue is affordability, and a woman inflexibly demands something her beau can’t afford, that couple has bigger fish to fry than carats.
But were we really arguing over $25 rings ... or something else?
Honestly, I don’t believe a conversation about “ungrateful” women and cheap engagement rings is actually about rings at all. The unspoken contention is that (black) women are not allowed to have a floor, a preference, a bare minimum, a shred of a standard in their own love story. We are expected not to find someone who would willingly be what we desire and require, but to ask for little and be overjoyed at just enough. And apparently, “too much” is a ring over $25.
This Valentine’s Day, don’t be that married person lecturing singles about how your beau had nothing to offer but his undying love and twin bed. I know you gladly accepted an engagement ring fished out of a Cracker Jack box. Yes, we know your 20-year marriage is going strong, even though it didn’t start out with the Rock of Gibraltar on your finger. Your examples show us that true love can thrive with less.
But love is just as beautiful when it finds us worthy of what we ask for, even if it’s more.