And so it was with our process of getting engaged.
My background: I grew up in a household where my father made our school lunches (he was a teacher who loved teaching) and my mother earned more money in a management job, so gender roles were always a little fluid. My parents decided to get married over house-buying discussions, never had a proposal or an engagement ring, had a low-key backyard wedding, and both of them kept their last names, all of which sounded pretty reasonable and awesome to me. With beer, barbecue, and love, what else did I need? Certainly not an overpriced ring and a man-ask-woman proposal, since this was presumably a decision we’d come to together. I figured any man should think himself lucky to find a woman who didn’t want an engagement ring at all (cue my comeuppance story).
J’s background: He was born and raised in Texas and, while I'd hardly call a Jewish, liberal, non-football playing man stereotypically Texan (whatever that means), he’s certainly more traditional than I am. He was raised by a full-time mother who took pleasure and pride in her role as a fun, supportive mom and a father who works hard to support and provide for his family. Whereas my feminism and social justice is rooted in a strong political and theoretical framework, he lived as a Jewish outsider in Texas and therefore came to his egalitarianism as a natural consequence of experience instead of based in discussions on gender and minority rights. So he was actually looking forward to the on-one-knee-with-a-ring proposal and to the big-family-big-white-wedding. In fact, the standard proposal was important to him, in a way I couldn't understand, as a way to show that he was actively ready for a lifetime commitment of marriage.
So we compromised – If he wanted his on-one-knee proposal, I’d make sure it met my basic concerns about egalitarian proposal issues, diamond/gem/metal mining, and cost. So, we set rules for the ring and proposal we were both comfortable with. Yes, rules.
- No new diamonds or gems. Heirloom diamonds and gems were fine. Lab-created gems were also fine, and even preferred from a price, aesthetic and environmental perspective. The case against diamond mining and pricing has been made elsewhere, so if you're interested, please take the time to learn more.
- No solitaires (that was an aesthetic request, not a moral one.) I like interesting jewelry pieces and didn’t think an important ring should buck my overall style.
- We both wear rings, because there’s something odd to me about a woman being visually “off the market” while a man walks around with a bare finger during the entire engagement. If we’re both off the market, we’re both advertised as such.
- We both get engagement presents. Since I love jewelry already (I have a lot of unique metalwork necklaces) I could get excited about an amazing ring-as-present. Since he’s not as excited about a hunk of metal, I had to find him something equally meaningful and equally awesome, in conjunction with a simple ring.
- Each of our rings/presents had to cost under $1000 - none of this three-months-salary thing. We’re starting off our lives together, and we can use that money on something we’ll both enjoy instead of something that will sparkle on my finger or on whatever engagement-ring-equivalent I got him.
- We both get to propose, and it’s not “official” until we both proposed to each other. Neither of us are passive “yes – I will” folks in this scenario.
It may not sound like the most romantic-swept-off-your-feet scenario to work with half a dozen rules, but I’m still in schmoop city here. I have a partner who listens to what’s important to me, even if these weren't considerations in his own initial approach. And I have a beautiful and meaningful ring that I adore, because it suits my aesthetics and my values. And he had an incredible experience-gift that he would have missed out on if we’d gone the standard on-one-knee route. But then again, I got the on-one-knee story too, and it swept me off my feet more than I ever could have imagined.
Photo by Chris Craymer, via Le Love
Compromise is definitely romantically swoonworthy.