Tuesday, 7 July 2009

worth as a social construct

Recently I was speaking to a therapist friend when he remarked as to why I wasn’t wearing my engagement ring. I explained I was waiting for the boy to get it fully insured as otherwise I couldn’t wear it out of the house for fear of the evil hoodlums.

Actually getting him to insure my lovely muse was a whole other ballgame. After literally weeks of nagging I can actually wear it outside. Whoop. Although it makes no difference to my behaviour, I am slightly ashamed that when I am alone I turn the stone to the inside so it looks like a plain wedding band (although I do kind of like that it looks like a wedding band and I can pretend to be married and forget about all the hooplow and actually get onto the part which I am truly excited about.

Anyhoo, back to the other conversation.

I said that I didn’t want to go to a jeweller to find out it’s worth and so could not then call up the insurer to add it to our policy. I finished my little rant about the boy by saying the most important part (well what I thought was the most important part!) was that I didn’t care how much the ring was worth I really couldn’t care less whether it was worth £5 or £500,000. Basically, I see it as both priceless and worthless at the same time.

Whilst I may be wrong, is worth not a social construct? Gold, platinum and diamonds are only “worth” more due to their relative scarcity. If amethyst was as rare it would cost a prohibitive amount also (may I just say I also adore amethyst – as a February gal I love my birthstone). Ultimately, everything is only worth something because society says it worth something, I do not think this is the same as value. To me my ring is priceless for so many reasons. It was the ring with which the boy asked for my hand in marriage, it belongs to his mother (although she did say that it was mine now, yey!), it is truly beautiful, different (although one of my best friends was just given a very similar ring) and consequently beyond precious to me.

However I also see it as worthless because how can an arbitrary price given by society accurately define its true value? Or am I just grumpy because he didn’t buy me a new ring with hundreds of diamonds? I think if you have learnt anything from my previous posts that a cute vintage ring is far more my style.

He was slightly taken aback by this statement. And whilst he said he agreed that the ring was priceless the second half of my statement does embody my negative thoughts about myself. He explained that by seeing the ring as worthless it reinforces my thoughts of worthlessness (indeed I do have a slight self esteem issue!) and by knowing the “worth” of the ring I would see how the boy viewed me. He feels the boy should have spent as much as he valued me on the ring. It is all kind of redundant seeing as he didn’t actually buy the ring and I tried to explain this to him but he was off on his psychoanalytic journey. Although he did counter this by saying perhaps it would have been a greater gesture to have bought a ring. Craziness!

Since this conversation I have thought long and hard about his views. Maybe I will even email this response to him just to see his reaction!

Whilst in days gone past the ring may have symbolised the portion of a bride’s dowry and the social position and prosperity of the groom.

I however do not view my ring as a dowry of our love. I do like to wear it as a symbol of our commitment to each other yet I understand the connotations from years gone by and sometimes feel that I do not need such an archaic trinket. Nonetheless I do love wearing it and I do feel I should not really deny myself the prettiness no matter how much it is worth.

Indeed the more costly the more worried I would be about wearing it. However then again the worth it has in an insurance sense has absolutely no bearing on what it’s sentimental worth. My television could be worth more than my ring and whilst I do not want to be burgled, I could not care less if my TV was stolen but I know I would be distraught if my engagement ring were stolen. I also have a very cheap ring which the boy bought for me early on in our relationship. Whilst, it’s not really my style now and has a cubic zirconium missing I would also be sad if I were to ever lose this first piece of jewellery. Although should some ring actually mean anything? Indeed as a student my parental house burnt down and we lost much of our “sentimental” items. Yes these items are gone but the memories are not (although a visual cue is sometimes necessary to access the memory but if you have forgotten the memory are you any worse off?). Not one to quote scripture (as a devout atheist) but “it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God” and all that malarkey.

I do not need his ring to prove his commitment and am I simply potentiating the patriarchal society in which we still live. And yes, I do have some issues about living in such a patriarchal society.

Oh dear, I have been rambling and I am really not sure what I am trying to say. Anyone help me?!

I love my ring and the fact it represents, to me, the idea that I am continuing my life with the boy.


  1. I totally disagree with your friend thinking that by knowing the worth of it you would know how much the boy values you. Like the value of the ring is your worth to your boyfriend (fiance). That is an impossibility and links wealth with wealth of feeling. I don't see worth like that, the fact that he chose his mother's ring that has more worth than it's monetary worth.

    I don't know how much my ring is worth (in money) either but I know it's cheap because I said not to spend our money on these things (that I too don't feel I need to show commitment, my man shows his committment and how much he values me everyday) and it's beauty to me doesn't come from it's monetary worth, it comes from my man choosing it himself, picking a wonderful moment to give it to me and lovely words and choosing something I really find beautiful. Things/money have no relation to love/emotion in my eyes.

    I think your viewpoint of it is good that you love it no matter it's value and you don't need the ring to prove your boy's commitment or how much he values you. I rambled too sorry :)

  2. Hear Hear. I also sometimes turn my ring so the gem is in the palm of my hand... I demanded it get insured (what if I lost it!? What if it got stolen?!), but didn't want to know how much was spent. The ring is invaluable for what it means to me...not what it is actually "worth" since it value is, well, priceless. All that matters is the boy's love and that you love him back!

  3. I agree completely with (the very wise) Rosalie. What? I get the issues that can be tied up in receiving expensive objects and feeling worthy of them, but I think it would be a twisted way of grappling with self-esteem issues to actually see the value of the ring as an indication of how much he values you. Monetary value should NEVER, EVER be seen as a measure of a person's worth. My parents think this way (we gave you x/y/z and this proves that we love you, nevermind whether or not we offer you emotional support) and we have a terrible, cold relationship because of it.

    But this is coming from a girl who adamantly did not want a ring at all--my sense of self-worth must be terrible!

    Your understanding of what your ring means is beautiful. There is no need to perpetuate the awful idea that the more expensive it is, the more he loves you. Yuck.

  4. I think I get what you're saying -- that putting a price tag on your ring makes it seem like an object that's valuable because it's expensive, rather than an object that's valuable because of what it represents, and in a way that kind of tinges the object's meaning. I don't think your declaration that the ring is "worthless" is about self-esteem at all, but rather it's a reflection of what you value about the ring (i.e. not the £).

  5. OMG I waited forever for my boy to insure my engagement ring! I refused to take out the trash in case it fell off in the chute! And, I'm sad to say my wedding band has yet to be insured and we'll be married a year next month!

  6. in my humble opinion, the monetary value of an engagement ring is absolutely worthless. i have no idea how much the mister paid for my ring and i really don't ever care to know. what makes it so significant, is that he gave it to me wanting to spend the rest of his life with me. that's ten million times more valuable than ANYTHING i can think of. i cherish this ring more than any possession i've ever owned. not because it's a beautiful ring with a beautiful diamond, but because the day it was given to me, was the happiest day of my life. hands down. so, i wear it everyday and i never take it off. it has become, me. :)
    and the same goes for you! your boy didn't give you a ring to determine your value. simply because there is no value to two people who love eachother and want nothing more than to be there every step of the way.

  7. Phew. I'm glad it wasn't just me who thought he was crazy!

  8. That's a great attitude. The sentiment is what matters - and what the ring symbolizes - not the dollar amount someone spent on it!

  9. I totally agree with you too. I don't know & don't want to know the price of my ring, & sentimentally it is priceless to me because he gave it to me but it is worthless because it's not about the ring it's about the relationship. I thought I lost my ring a couple of weeks ago after we had come back from bar hopping with friends, I felt terrible and couldn't believe I had lost it, but the whole time he kept saying it was ok it's only a ring. I ended up finding it on the night stand! silly me!


So, I really love all the sweet and/or informative comments that you lovelies leave. Yet if you feel the need to be unnecessarily rude or offensive I will delete your comment and not feel bad about it. So just be constructive alright! Hugs to all you wondrous others.


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