Friday 21 August 2009

The Tight Fist Engagement Proposal

This Big Ring Means He'll Never Leave Me!

As mentioned in the previous post, Tight Fisted men who are hoping to get engaged are in a bit of a conundrum. While they know that dropping a bazillion dollars on a shiny rock is completely idiotic, they know that their fiance-to-be has been brainwashed into thinking that serious proposals must come with a fancy ring.

Let's take a second to drive home the seriousness of the brainwashing drivel that gets pounded into young girls' heads from the moment they hold their first doll wedding. I present a quote from Jef Van Royen, a senior scientist at the Diamond High Council, the official representative of the diamond industry in Belgium. He says "If people really love each other, then they give each other the real stone. It is not a symbol of eternal love if it is something that was created last week." So, that pretty much sums it up- love is officially only valid if it comes wrapped in a huge, extravagant purchase. And I mean, if you can't trust the Diamond High Council, who can you trust?

So what can the poor tight-fisted lovers do? Well, there are two straightforward solutions. If The Tight Fist had his way all the men in the world would sign a pact refusing to ever marry any girl who requested a diamond ring, which would jolt a bit of reason into a generation of females. Unfortunately, I fear that this would probably be unsustainable, as I have witnessed the most reasonable men among us break down when it comes to engagement. Even easier would be for the Tight Fisted men to just find a sensible girl who doesn't care about having a bank-breaking ring. But of course, this is easier said than done, since even if the girl has nice intentions she will still be subjected to years of catty whispering about how she has the cheap husband who wouldn't even shell out for the real ring. And finding a girl who is ok with that is pretty tough.

Those are the sensible solutions. But since the sensible solutions won't work, I'm going to propose an economist's solution instead (because of course those always work.)

OMG! I Didn't Know He
Loved You 5 Carats!

In order to come up with better solution we need to analyze the psychology that drives couples towards stupidly expensive gems. First of all, the man wants to show that he is serious and committed about the whole marriage thing, and sends a signal by wasting a ton of money. (In economics, we would call this signaling by ‘money burning’.) Second, the woman needs to be able to re-transmit this signal so that she can show to all her catty friends that her fiance loves her carats and carats above their stupid boyfriends. I'm going to work under the assumption that these two elements are crucial, non-negotiable facets of engagement in our society.

Since the money burning signal is a central part of the equation, it is inevitable the the man is going to have to spend some money. But he certainly does not have to hand over this money to greedy, evil DeBeers. Instead, what if he gave it to his fiance's favorite charity, and the amount of money he gave was coded onto the ring? For instance, let's say there was a standard that each carat of cubic zirconium (or maybe some more specific subset of fake diamonds) equaled a $1,000 donation to charity. Then, the size of the ring would still demonstrate how deep was the man's love, and this signal would still be easy to show off to all the wife's catty girlfriends.

How could this be implemented? Well first there would have to be a selection of a certain type of beautiful-yet-cheap gem that would be generally recognized as being tied to donations. Next, charities could provide special certificates for engagement donations that could provide 'proof' of the donation. Reputable jewelers would need to see this certificate before they produced a ring with the special stone. While there would be some scope for cheating, there is no reason to think it would be more widespread under this system than in the current one. (A sneaky husband can always try to pass off a fake diamond as a real one, but I would guess this is rare.)

And what if the bride-to-be doesn't have a favorite charity? Well, then the husband could always just donate to the default option: The Tight Fist Foundation, a truly angelic organization committed to ending the scourge of money wasting.

In the end, however, such a scheme will only work if women sign up for it and let their potential fiances know that they expect a 'Modern Engagement'. Are there women out there courageous enough to be trendsetters? Ladies, who's on board?


  1. No way Dr Tightfist,

    Stop rewarding the money burning culture in our society! I am shocked you support this. I would never accept a guy proposing with an expensive ring ;-)

    And from an economics point of view I would like to point out that the man likely derives some utility from giving to charity himself, thereby it no longer classifies as proper money burning.

    And from a girls point of view: no way, I want a nice stone! who cares about giving to charity? ;-)

    (Yes I am aware that I contradict myself here. that's women for you!)

  2. Sending the same signal as money-burning without actually burning the money is... genius.

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  4. Another thing to keep in mind around presents generally - marketing has spent trillions convincing consumers that in order to "prove that you care," you have to consume, aka spend money. If you show up to a birthday party without a present, you obviously don't love that person.

    Consuming for a birthday present "proves" that you care, consuming for Christmas/Hanukah/housewarming "proves" that you care. "Actions speak louder than words" - marketing informs us that people that don't love you use words, those who do love you goes out and consume.

    First of all, note the massive insecurity and distrust. If someone says "I love you" and you don't believe them - that's either insecurity or distrust, take your pick. Either way, not a sign of a healthy relationship. Supporting a corporate equivalent of Darth Vader is far from "proof" that you love someone, either.

    Second, since when does going out and spending money prove anything. Consuming is not "action," action is making something with your hands, doing something real, creating something, taking *time*. Any rich idiot can go out and buy an enormous ring - it proves nothing.

    Finally, getting back to wedding rings: another perspective - pointless consumption is destroying our earth. Because billions of people buy useless crap, our environment and thousands of species are being uselessly eradicated. If you want to spend the rest of your life someone, and you want to prove that you've *seriously* thought this through - the best "proof" I can possibly imagine, is to show you understand the environmental, human, ethical consequences of buying diamonds by not buying one. Nothing could better show you're capable of making non-twit decisions. The best way to prove you are capable of deciding now to stay with someone forever is to prove you think about the consequences of your actions.

    What good is loving someone forever if things you do mess up the world all around you?

  5. Nice photo selection Dan. A couple of 5 carat, soon to be 36 long, racks!