On Seeing Through the BS, PART I

A 10 part series on thought leadership where I breakdown life’s complex BS and create a shift in perspective.

Many years ago in the Haight, when I was about 26, I was on a date in a coffee shop, a first date. The gentleman I was on a date with was discussing his disbelief as to how expensive a diamond ring is. He was utterly stressed out and jokingly confessed that when the day comes, he doesn’t think he will ever be able to afford to get married because of the price of a diamond ring. He told me how much his friends spent on their engagement rings for their girlfriends and my brain exploded. We bonded in that disbelief over the price tag of an engagement ring, how could someone spend that much on a ring and on one brief moment! Plus, we live in San Francisco, the rent is “too damm high” and every young person I know is straddled in student loan debt. I’m a pragmatic person, so where is the ROI on that ring? It sounds like a glittery de-appreciating asset.

So I said to my date, “Fuck that, why would anyone want a diamond ring, we could quit our jobs and travel Asia for one year with that money. And when we come back, if we still like each other… then boom! We engaged! That’s more romantic than any ring.” My date laughed in total agreement. That was so 26 year old me. I was strong willed, untamable, and wild. I also used to climb out of bathroom windows on dates just because I got bored with the conversation.

What I didn’t know at the time is that the engagement ring and the idea of popping the question is a marketing campaign manufactured by De Beers, “a diamond is forever” (even though your love may not be). The De Beers family came up with the creative concept to sell diamonds to the masses by making an association between a promise to marry by sealing the deal to a diamond ring. Here’s the shorthand breakdown.

If Diamond Ring = Engagement Ring then

Engagement Ring = Emotional Love + Promise to Marry + Official Public Declaration

As the decades rolled on, they continued to mark up the diamonds (+300%) in order to up their profit margins and the engagement ring became the ubiquitous symbol of promise to your betrothal that we know today. It’s pure semiotics. The engagement is a moment that so many women wait for, dream of, a romantic gesture all for a price that men are expected to pay 3 months of their hard earned salary, just so they could make it “official”.

To make matters worse, the market research showed that if men went shopping for the diamond ring alone, they spent even more money than if they went shopping with their lover. So they rolled out another campaign with the idea that men should surprise their lover with the ring, hence the idea of “popping the question” or having men plan out their “proposal” in secrecy. These days, women may wait for the ring, but they aren’t that surprised when their partner proposes to them like the rose ceremony on The Batchelor.

I’ve grown up a lot since that date and I stopped climbing out of bathroom windows at bars. I hope that sweet guy from the coffee shop went on to fall in love with someone down -to -earth and married her with little to no financial stress for that ring. The cost of a ring should never be the barrier to love. I know that there is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a diamond ring because you want to propose to the woman you love. For many men, it comes from a good place, from their heart, and it is well intentioned. I still don’t care for the ring. I never want a man to think (or financially stress out) that he has to be able to afford diamonds (or be shackled to a job that makes him look successful but deep down he is miserable) all so that he can have my love. In our culture, money is so important, it is the measure of success, it has power, it has influence, but the most important things in life cannot be bought with money. No diamond can sparkle brighter than the love you see in the iris of your man’s eyes.

I don’t care about a diamond ring because I see through the bullshit. What I care about is depth of character, a spirit of generosity, and to love and be loved for who you truly are. Because at the end of your life, all that matters is how much you’ve learned, how well you lived, and how well you loved.