Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Overheard on the Subway


On my commute this morning, a man who was about to get off the train said to a young woman who had been sitting across from him "I just have to tell you, that is a really nice rock! You got yourself a big sucker!"
The woman had an iPod on so she might not have heard him properly, and she just responded with a slightly confused smile. I didn't get a chance to see the rock in question, but I kept wondering, just how big was it? And what did he mean by the "sucker" remark? Did he mean the ring itself was a "big sucker?" But the way he said it sounded like he meant her husband/fiancé was a sucker for spending so much on her! And if that was what he meant, why would he say something so insulting, implying that she wasn't worth it? And that she "got" him, i.e. snagged a guy with money. She was an attractive woman, and for all anyone could know, also the nicest person on earth, smart, and wealthy herself. Why wouldn't he think of it as someone snagging her?

And why do people think that way about the rock itself? There is so much at stake for guys when it comes to buying engagement rings. If they try to skimp out, they'll be trashed by the bride's friends, if not the bride herself. Among women I know, even the most independent, progressive types seem to get a sinking feeling if the boyfriends they far out-earn don't drop some serious cash on the ring. (And when I say "out-earn" I'm talking about couples where the woman is a lawyer and the guy works at Starbucks.)

I don't think it all just comes down to pure status consciousness, though. I think that in some of the couples I've known and heard about, it comes down to a question of responsibility. If the woman is working at a high-powered job and the man is not, that can seem ok for a while. But if the couple starts to talk about getting married and having kids, the reality is that the woman will have to take at least a little time off from work. Ok, that may be paid time, and then the husband may be able to take over child care later, but what if something happens? What if the woman loses her job, or has health problems? If the guy is working at Starbucks because he's just procrastinating about figuring out what he really wants to do, the woman is going to feel like he's not taking the future seriously, and not seeing that he'll have the responsibility to take care of her and their children. This doesn't mean he has to run out and find a 6-figure job, but he'd better at least seem like he cares-- it's about the attitude more than the money itself.

Well, that is enough rambling on the topic... amazing how the most random subway comment can take on a life of its own!

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

its amazing how you turn that comment into an anti-man rant. Suffice to say, even in Manhattan, its predominantly the guy paying for the ring and outearning the woman. I am being swindled into buying a ring for my gf and let me tell you what an amazing waste of money i believe it to be. Personally, I'd rather just go with wedding bands. I believe the entire diamond industry is a concoction-similar to the greeting card industry and we've all been brainwashed to reduce our love down to the price of some rock we purchase. I'm being cornered into spending $8500 which is cheap by many people's standards. I wanted to get a fake one for $500 but my gf accuses me of not caring for her, blah blah. one of my friend's blew $30,000 on his ring, another $15,000, which apparently is the minimum going rate for yuppies. I refuse to go north of $8500 and i know i'll be perceived as cheap. Hey, what does the man get out of this? I don't get a $10,000 piece of jewelry, watch, car, no-- my gf's answer is that I get her. Thats great, but she gets me as well, so doesn't that count for something? In the old country, a man received a dowry for taking a woman from another family. These days, a guy gets squat, unless you count the woman's family paying for the wedding, which in my case, won't happen because my gf's family has nothing. Not to mention, I have to look forward to signing away half my future earnings. (I currently make 3 1/2 times what my gf makes). This whole diamond ring thing is BS--- I could put that $8500 in an interest bearing vehicle for BOTH of us and I's be happier than pissing my money on some bauble! ranter out.

Caitlin said...

Reminds me of this site a bit, which has been amusing me lately. Though a bit more thought provoking and a little less quippy ;)

It also reminds me of a story in "secrets of six-figure women" of a woman who when she achieved a certain amount of success bought a fur coat to treat herself. She was getting on an airplane and a flight attendant made a comment to the effect of "What a great coat, someone must really love you" to which the woman replied "Yes...I bought it for myself". The flight attendant then cracked "well it's usually cheaper that way in the end anyway"

Maybe these two things aren't related at all....LOL

Anonymous said...

The "sucker" comment was just plain rude - to the woman and to whoever bought her the ring. Never mind the financial implications, let's talk about the etiquette of insulting strangers on the subway!

Madame X said...

To 1st anonymous commenter, I can't see how you read this as an "anti-man rant." Half of the post was a sympathetic observation about the pressure men are under to buy expensive rings regardless of their income level.

SMB said...

I don't know what my now-husband spent on my ring, but I do know that the diamond it houses is approximately a quarter of a carat. He surprised me with it, so we didn't go into the store to pick it out together (a practice I've always felt was a little odd, honestly). I can truly say I hope he didn't spend much, and even though we could afford more now, I'd prefer to keep this one for sentimental reasons; however, from a financial standpoint, it's also a good indicator of how far we've come! :)

I agree that the guy on the subway was a buffoon. The rudeness of people still surprises me sometimes.

Anonymous said...

"I can't see how you read this as an 'anti-man rant.'"

its anti-man b/c you presumed that the dude on the subway was incorrect as to who purchased the ring and then you went on to a diatribe about "high-powered" women and their loser boyfriends. Now, I'm sure there are many of those, but that certainly is not my case nor is it the case of any of my degrees of separation. Perhaps your clique is different but that speaks to the women you know. The norm is man buys ring, woman accepts and shows off to friends, guy goes broke, ends up living out of suitcase in mom's basement. i joke, but you get the gist. i enjoy your point of view though.

Q. McFarlan said...

Expensive engagement ring... early retirement... I'm never getting married :)

- Q.

nyc money said...

I think you hit on a very sensitive topic. The ring was a real issue with my relationship too. I don't really care for diamonds, I think it's one of the most corrupt businesses in the world, but I also understand the sentimental value of an engagement ring. I don't think you should get an engagement ring for a couple of bucks. It's suppose to be special. Personally I think a ring that cost $300-$1000 is more than enough, but I doubt other woman in NYC would agree with me.

Bruce said...

I would not have purchased my wife a diamond ring, even if she had wanted one. This article makes some great points with which I mostly agree.

Luckily, she was a crime-scene specialist, now an autopsy specialist and a stone would have caught on things. Since she wears the ring all the time, she needs a flat band with nothing jutting out at all. We found some great cast gold rings online (David Virtue), and are both quite happy with our $400 rings eight years later.

Madame X said...

I am also not a fan of diamonds. I love simple plain bands.

Anonymous said...

Bruce,

Thanks for the link. Lets see if it flies with the gf. chances are i just get yelled at in broken english.

franky said...

Have people heard about these synthetic diamonds? They are man-made diamonds. My wife didn't want a diamond that might have "blood" on it so to speak, but we're really interested in getting one of these later. Just a thought.
Webiste:
http://www.gemesis.com/

SMB said...

Anonymous, I'm not going to go so far as to say you posts sound like an "anti-woman" rant, but you obviously are feeling some anger about the whole engagement ring issue. Have you tried talking with your girlfriends about your concerns?

Madame X said...

Hey, there are also those diamonds they make out of human remains! That would be a romantic option...

dddddd said...

anon guy has a mail order bride

Anonymous said...

i WISH i had a mail order bride. mine gf already too americanized.

Caitlin said...

Now I know how to immortalize my cats after they pass on... I checked on the poll and 75% of responders said they'd wear a human remains diamond. Fascinating.

Anonymous said...

please! it was anti-man.

you didnt take the side of the man, you assumed that he was a loser, and,
at best, you assumed that he was wishy-washy...

she makes the $$$, she should
buy HIM A Ring, get real!

I am generalizing here, but for the most part, women want all the perks
without paying the piper....

Anonymous said...

well said fellow anon-- my gf has me pay for EVERYTHING and when I even mention how much things cost, she goes ballistic for boiling down our relationship to money. I.e., that I care about money more than her. Not true, but since I'm the jerk paying for everything, and have to work my ass off to do it, taking crap from a slave-driving boss. That plus she wants at least an $8000 rock on her finger, plus a wedding. When she gives me $20, she thinks she's Donald Trump, but when I blow $200 for dinner or $4000 on a vacation, then I am frigging scrooge 'cause I make her pay for her plane tickets (with me paying for everything else). Sorry to clog up your blog with this, but this is stream of consciousness stuff.

mapgirl said...

High setting rings will snag your clothes. Heck, most jewelry doesn't stand up. I smashed up my class ring in college while moving around some furniture.

I was asked twice to get married and I didn't keep any of the rings. One was a diamond, one was a sapphire. I've seen people go with 3ct topazes and been just as happy with their marriages. I've known more than one Silicon Valley couple that forewent a diamond for a house payment instead. Real estate is by far the smarter move.

I'd get engaged with a CrackerJack ring if it was to the right boy.

I didn't see your post as being anti-man at all. More like, anti-shallow.

Anonymous said...

hey original anon,

your gf sounds like a shallow prick. dump her and find a nice person to spend your life with.

NutmegNine said...

In NYC especially this is a touchy subject! Where I work, ring size often correlates with office size and masthead position. I bucked the trend: We chose simple bands even though I should be in the gang with the jumbo rocks. My coworkers didn't know how to take it. Just couldn't process it at all. Whatever, we paid in cash, then had a better honeymoon (although still modest) than we would have had if we'd bought into the ring insanity. Hm, I should also add that we were married at city hall. Yes, I am the perfect bride.