I wrote a few months ago about some billboards for diamonds that were incredibly sexist, and I’ve been heartened by all of the comments I’ve gotten from people who feel the same way.
I was reminded of that post recently while watching an episode of “Bones.” Two characters are shopping for engagement rings, and when FBI agent Seeley Booth picks up an extravagant one, the saleswoman comments, “That’s an excellent choice. You must be very much in love.”
When the second character, Dr. Lance Sweets, points to a less flashy but still very nice ring, the woman says, “Really? Is she pregnant? Do you have to get married?” Sweets says no. The woman continues, “Then I wouldn’t bother proposing. Not with a ring like that.” Booth says, “Don’t listen to her, Sweets. You get whatever ring you want.” But Sweets, who is a gifted psychologist and should know better, says, “No, she’s right … If I’m thinking about the money, then I can’t ask her to marry me.” Later Booth decides on a bigger ring than the first one he picked out, and the saleswoman is giddy: “You’re a wonderful man. A wonderful, wonderful man.”
The whole scene really bothered me, and not because I believe it’s an accurate depiction of jewelry stores. First of all, why would a saleswoman be so critical of her own merchandise? A commission is a commission, no matter how small, and she managed to talk Sweets out of buying anything. But more importantly, the idea of a ring representing how much a man loves a woman is problematic, to say the least. Some married couples don’t wear rings at all. Does that mean they don’t love each other? Does a woman love a man less than he loves her because the ring she gives him typically doesn’t include a diamond? Of course not.
It’s also troublesome that men are expected to go broke paying for engagement rings. Sweets decided against proposing because he thought he should be willing to pay any amount of money for a ring. His fiancee is a very practical woman, and she likely wouldn’t care what kind of ring she got. Frankly, I’d rather get a Cracker Jack secret decoder ring than have someone go bankrupt paying for a little circle of metal. One of my guilty pleasures is reading advice columns, and this question has been posed before: Should I wait to propose until I can afford a ring? And the response has always been no.
Because really, how can you put a price on love?