Saturday, June 12, 2010

Vintage Tea - Vote for Design!

Hi everyone, I don't normally use this blog as a platform for promotions, but I've designed a t-shirt on that rather fits the theme: Vintage Tea, a design that combines 2 of my great loves--Earl Grey tea and past eras! The design is in the voting stage this week; if it receives enough votes by next Friday, Threadless will print the shirt, which means everyone can buy one and have one (including me)! So please go here to sign in, critique and vote: Vintage Tea

Thanks everyone!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Engagement Rings.

For diamonds do appear to be, Just like broken glass to me. ~ Panic! At the Disco, "Northern Downpour"

I can't say how it is I pick topics for this blog. I've been juggling several ideas for the past few months and none of them held me long enough to make a post, or just didn't fit the theme of this blog. For one--elephants. I still would like to do a post on them sometime...that is, elephants, and animals, especially the intelligent ones that some think are as smart as people. I wanted to talk about how the idea of intelligent animals does in no way threaten the Biblical view of man as dominant over creation, which both Christians and not tend to think is the case. Or another topic--abortion. This too I would still like to post on. But this is a blog about beauty, and abortion is ugly. Murder is ugly. So until I can find a way to talk against abortion and focus on its opposite (life), without getting impotently furious and mocking pro-abortioners with sarcasm and all-around nastiness, it'll have to wait.

But this topic just occurred to me today, and wanted to be written about. This is going to sound like another shallow Lipstick post, but hopefully I can express my deeper thoughts on the matter.

Engagement rings. I don't have one of these, because I'm still waiting for someone to help me with that. But I know a lot of people who do. And that's cool too, because I actually really like looking at the things. Why? Am I Nicole Kidman in Moulin Rouge!--diamonds are a girl's best friend? Not likely. My sentiments toward diamonds lean from the vaguely apathetic (they look JUST like cubic zirconias! Admit it!) to the scientific (nothing can cut a diamond but another diamond. So I assume the gems are shaped with diamond gem cutters, right? Well, what cut the gem cutter? My question is, what cut the first diamond?? Huh? I'm going to go the Children's Catechism route and say GOD). No. I just have a weird habit of looking at people's left hand to see if they're married, and I like to see engagement rings best because they're usually more glitzy. And to me, a ring is never just a ring. It has a story.

A frumpy old woman has an engagement ring over her wedding ring, and I start to try to imagine her younger, and someone was so in love with her that he spent some of the money he'd been saving up ever since he finally got a good job, just to buy her that diamond. A beautiful young woman with a body like a model's, sitting next to me with her nice hips and her nicely pedicured feet in sandals, is using her iPhone with a left hand adorned with a very, very large diamond sitting atop her wedding band. Some guy out there once walked into a jewelry shop, still hardly able to believe that a girl that hot was in love with him, and got the biggest gem he could find because she was more than worth it. Okay, so I make up these stories. And yes, I am a romantic. Cynically, I suppose, these stories could be complete fabrications, and the old lady was pressure by her family into a marriage with a cheating drinker. The young woman could be a vain monster who cajoled her boyfriend into putting himself in debt for that massive ring. But both those situations abuse the entire purpose of an engagement ring, which is a pledge. Everyone forgets that, even the cynics.

When I was younger, I read a newspaper article about women buying their own diamond rings. The gist was, if you don't have/want a fiancé, that doesn't mean you can't have a ring! They spoke of many celebrity women who sport diamond rings, and one normal woman in particular who bought herself a diamond solitaire. "I haven't found the right guy yet, and I'm almost 30!" she explained. "I was tired of waiting for a man to buy me one, so I got one myself!" What is sad about this? Not the fact that she can't find anything more useful to blow $1,000 on (like school loans for ME), nor the fact that she is having a hard time finding a husband. It's the fact that one of her biggest reasons for wanting an engagement is so she can have a diamond. Seriously?? I don't want a diamond ring on my left hand without a fiancé, it's fake and silly and belittles the meaning of an engagement ring. Engagement rings are not about the diamond.

I have always felt a gift diamond shines so much better than one you buy for yourself. ~ Mae West

Another thing they're not about? Property. As any feminist--or, better yet, a quick stroll through DoubleX blog--will tell you, men buy women engagement rings because they are purporting some antiquated combination of Bad Oppressive Things. That is, they want to give you a ring because (1) they want to show they can pay for everything so you don't have to work and fulfill dreams and so you can stay home and be pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, making sandwiches and nursing his 13 (preferably male) brats; and (2) they want other men to see it and be like, "Oh, man, look, it's Ted's Woman. I can't have that one now, notwithstanding any of her wishes in the matter--she is Ted's Woman, just like that labrador with the collar is Ted's Dog. Man, too bad, I like that Woman and wish to objectify her as a sex object. I must now go find another Woman Thing for myself, and brand her with a bad, oppressive $1,000 ring that she likes the design of and will show off to her Woman Friends." Then he will shuffle off on his knuckles, grunting. Yeah, because if I wanted to show someone how much I loved to step on their neck, the FIRST thing I'd do would be to spend inordinate amounts of money on them. Right. Now, some men are gross pigs who want to own women, but the idea of the engagement ring is not that.

It's a pledge. We don't talk too much about pledges nowadays, but that's what this is. The ring is a symbol of the woman's promise that yes, she'll marry him. I read recently about "man-gagement rings" they put it, "more and more women" are doing the proposing nowadays (wha...?) and are giving their men rings. (Yeah, I don't know anyone who's done this either.) Because they see rings as a dog-collar that tells who's whose, and want their men to be branded and off the market. But that's not the meaning of an engagement ring. In ancient Greece, a piece of jewelry was given to the betrothed woman to indicate that her soon-to-be-husband planned to "adorn" her with his love and protection. In the Victorian era, the engagement ring was often the first wearable gift that the woman could accept from her beau, as clothing and jewelry were seen as permanent gifts that could only be accepted in a permanent relationship, which courtship was not. The betrothal period was therefore almost as serious as the ensuing marriage, and could not be broken off without considerable embarrassment. Etiquette of the time also required a ring be returned upon the breaking of an engagement, since the ring is not a "gift" in the ordinary sense but rather a symbol of the promise made; if the two decide not to marry, no matter whose fault it is, the girl gives it back. It means nothing once the pledge no longer exists.

It's not just a diamond. It's not just an identification tag. It's not just a piece of jewelry. And that's why to me, the sparkle of a diamond on a finger seems so much more than just a ring. It's a beautiful meaning, an entire story--if not of the individual, then of the rich history of betrothal gifts. I was standing on the subway platform and thinking about engagement rings, and I looked at my left hand and tried to picture how one would look. It's hard, because I can't seem to separate the sight of a diamond ring from the story of its bestowal. I don't know how it should look or what size it should be or anything, because I don't yet know my story, and an engagement ring is a symbol of that.

Or maybe I just see everything as a story. Is that bad? I think not.