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09 February 2006

Gaah! Help me tread delicately around a situation. I made someone cry last night. reasonably long, probably pathetically OTT more inside [More:]OK, this is about engagement rings.

So last night, I was talking with a friend-of-a-friend who asked me, in a very nice "I'm just curious" kind of way why I didn't wear an engagement ring. Now there are many many reasons I don't wear one, including political, economic and the "why should I wear something that marks his territory on me like a dog pissing on a post?" factor, HOWEVER I never say that to a person who is happily flashing around her engagement ring. So I just do my normal kind of shrug, say "they're not really me" and try to leave it at that. But she persists. "there must be a reason" blah blah on and on. After attempting to demur for about the fifth time I was all "Fine!" And it all spewed out. And I made her cry.

Now, I feel completely OK about that. She pushed and pushed and wouldn't be put off by my "I just don't like them so much" kind of answers.

But I need a better strategy. I don't *like* upsetting people. And for reals, this topic has come up more than once or twice in my larger circle of friends. We went to 8 or 9 weddings last year and there are another 8 or so on the books this year. I got people talking about weddings all around me. I need a way to defuse, aside from running away. Any ideas?

(also, I kind of needed to vent. her husband kind of hates me now, but whatever)
I guess I don't get it. Why did your extended explanation upset her?

In any event, people shouldn't pester others about their personal choices.
posted by selfnoise 09 February | 15:29
Oh it upset her because she took it as criticism of herself. subtext of "you are stupid because you spent all that money on a worthless rock that is stockpiled in warehouses in africa and by the way let's talk about blood diamonds" kind of thing.

Of course people shouldn't pester each other, but you know, they do.
posted by gaspode 09 February | 15:33
My GOD. People find the most trivial things to get worked up about. Your reasons for not wearing an engagement ring offend HER. And her husband has a problem with you now because you hurt her delicate little feelings about something you made clear you didn't want to talk about, knowing that it can be a touchy subject for some (however trivial it might seem to someone like you or me). My GOD.

Do you wear rings otherwise? Maybe just explain that rings bother your fingers? Unless you don't want to lie to people either. How about "None of your fucking business"? :)
posted by mike9322 09 February | 15:33
Of course, by 'trivial', I refer not to the horrors of the diamond industry, but to HER concern about YOUR reasons for not wearing one.
posted by mike9322 09 February | 15:34
Yeah, I don't wear my wedding band, mainly because I'm afraid I'll lose it. Especially since my wife lost hers catching a football and we had to scour my mom's backyard with a metal detector to find it. :)

People thereby assume I'm not married and are intensely surprised when they discover this. I usually just brush it off as "it's uncomfortable" or whatever, and they usually look at me funny.

Honestly, I think people who pry are vultures looking for a story of woe about my marriage disintegrating or something. Fuck em.
posted by selfnoise 09 February | 15:39
You could tell them it's a family tradition or something; leave out the part about how you're the one who started it.
posted by goatdog 09 February | 15:41
Hey she pushed, she couldn't handle the answer. I'd hardly say that is your burden to bear. And I dislike diamonds for the very reasons you cite, BTW. Perhaps she was crying for all the people who had their hands chopped off. Or for DeBeers greedy marketing strategy to make something plentiful seem rare merely to increase sales.
posted by chewatadistance 09 February | 15:41
You have good reasons for your decision, gaspode. It's unfortunate that she became upset when confronted with elements of diamond ring ownership that are unsavory. "Blood diamonds" is reason enough not to purchase them, or at least to make sure they don't come from Africa.

It sounds like you tried to avoid any confrontation with her about the choice. Continue to be honest about your reasons and don't take it personally that she wasn't perhaps fully aware of the ramifications of owning a diamond, particularly one recently imported from Africa.
posted by mcgraw 09 February | 15:43
I think you should keep doing exactly what you do, gaspode, and if someone is as thin-skinned and as unsure of herself as to burst out crying because you don't feel the same way she does, you do yourself great credit by caring that she's hurt, but it's not your problem. Especially after you demurred.

Seriously, the fact that you made this post at all speaks for itself. You have nothing to change (you're pretty fucking awesome).

And if it really comes up too much, you should take the woman who is persisting aside and admit to cold feet and an independent streak but hush hush, we don't want him to know, thus showing both sympathetic and admirable qualities, shushing her inquiry, and guaranteeing matronly tuts for the rest of the evening.
posted by Hugh Janus 09 February | 15:46
Yeah, this is the thing that blows my mind. Why get so upset about other people's choices? argh!

I do wear a wedding band, but sometimes on my right ring finger because my left one is slightly thinner and in the cold weather my ring slides off it. Believe it or not, people have given me shit about that as well.

And selfnoise? Yeah, I think you're right about the whole looking for story of woe thing. I have a feeling that some people want to label mr. gaspode as a cheap bastard cos I don't have a ring. Whatever.

on preview: maybe I'll try that, goatdog.

posted by gaspode 09 February | 15:46
You don't really have to do anything different. I think saying I'm very sorry if what I said made you feel bad would be more than sufficient from a karmic point of view.

My strategy when someone presses me too much about something is to start making increasingly more offensive and nonsensical jokes and statements. It's not a great strategy but it's mine.

For instance, (this is kind of inverted) I bought my lady a small, antique engagement ring, on the assumption that it was a) Already in circulation, 2) not obnoxious C) inexpensive and 4) something that would make her happy and not feel like a possesion. I mentioned that I bought an antique ring to this dude at a party and he was all sarcastic "Oh cause like you didn't want to buy a conflict diamond?" like that was a stupid hippy move, so I said "No I hate africans so much that I didn't want them to even earn the 4 cents they would get for digging it out of the earth."

Then I raised my glass and said "Gentlemen, to white power" and walked away. Went over really well.
posted by Divine_Wino 09 February | 15:49
I agree with all sounds like to tried not to upset, but she beat it out of you. What are you gonna do?

I would go along with goatdog's suggestion, or something along those lines, as long as you don't mind purposely obscuring your reasons for not wearing a ring. Unfortunately, unless you are okay with some level of obfuscation of your feelings, you do run the risk of people finding your reasons upsetting.

It's like that "honesty is the best policy" thing...sometimes being honest is really more about the individual getting to absolve themselves of something at the expense of another. Sometimes the best thing to do is keep your mouth shut and suck it up. Now, I don't mean to say that's what you should do, but, I do think that unless are willing to obscure your feelings on the issue, you do run the risk of offending others who are not as aware of the issues.

on preview: yeah try what goatdog said.
posted by richat 09 February | 15:51
that's awesome, Wino.
posted by gaspode 09 February | 15:52
Hmm. My mom has never had an engagement ring, and I was just talking to her on the phone so I asked her what she said/says when asked about it. She says no one has ever questioned her about it - guess that's no help! Incidentally, my dad hasn't worn a wedding ring since he was mugged and it was stolen about 25 years ago. I always figure, I'd forego any ring or large wedding (they had 10 people at theirs) to have a marriage that's still happy 35 years later.

My best friend has a similar issue to yours with regard to her name. She chose to keep her maiden name both because it made more sense professionally, and because she really just wanted to. She gets shit about it all the time.
posted by amro 09 February | 15:52
Maybe we should return to a male-dominated society, so everyone can be happy.

So, where the hell is my beer, gaspode?
posted by mike9322 09 February | 15:54
Of course, upon re-reading my post, I felt the urge to clarify. I don't think you did anything wrong 'spode. Thin skinned girls who don't want anyone to rain on their marriage fantasies are not your repsonsibility.
posted by richat 09 February | 15:55
I think that you're in the clear, 'pode, ethics wise. Besides, yours is a perfectly rational reason.

In the future if you're talking to someone who's likely not rational, perhaps say that it interferes with work (latex/nitrile gloves, rats focus too much on shiney things, and all that) and you don't like taking it off/putting it on all the time and it's inconvenient as a necklace - so you're now in the habit of not wearing it.
posted by porpoise 09 February | 15:55
posted by gaspode 09 February | 15:55
I never had an engagement ring for the same reasons, gaspode. When people asked me about it, I said that not only was it not really my style, but that I'd rather spend the money on something else. No one really ever pressed me the way this woman did you, but if they had, I probably would have started spewing about women as property and blood diamonds too.

I'm glad you don't feel bad; I think she was very rude to have pressed you. I mean, it really isn't any of her GD business!

I'd stick with the shrug-it's-not-me tactic, and if someone presses you, stick with polite honesty. Depending on who you're talking to, you might want to play up the feminist side of things rather than the African diamond thing, since the former might be less guilt-inducing and more a matter of your personal views on gender politics.

If this crying lady brings it up again (or a concerned party) tell her you're sorry you hurt her feelings, that you don't judge her for having a ring (maybe tell her that even if you do), and that you were made uncomfortable by her prying.

On preview: bascially what everyone else said, and Wino, that's fuckin' hilarious.
posted by Specklet 09 February | 16:02
Oh, that's an idea. Tell them that you had a lovely diamond ring but one of the rats took off with it! And then go on a lengthy tirade about what nasty little fuckers the rats at the lab are.
posted by richat 09 February | 16:02
I still don't have a beer. And while we're talking about it, I work all goddamn day; the least one of you women could do is have dinner on the table when I get home.
posted by mike9322 09 February | 16:04
Mike, I think the rats took off with all the beer. Nasty little fuckers.
posted by richat 09 February | 16:06
Haha richat, that would be great! And it's true, porpoise, if I had one I wouldn't wear it to work.

You guys are awesome. Even though I was always convinced I shouldn't feel bad, I still kind of did. Feel better now.

Specklet, I think I will do that (play up the feminist side). And I don't judge people for wearing one, although I do get a bit sniffy about a colleague of mr. g's who has a $30K ring. Ridiculous, but if they were prepared to pay for it...

Oh yeah, and amro, I kept my name too. Let's not even open that can of worms.

Thanks again, people. (mike: I drank the beer. Get some more yer damn self. And give me a footrub.)
posted by gaspode 09 February | 16:08
Yes, dear.
posted by mike9322 09 February | 16:11
Well, it sounds like your reasoning involves a strong moral condemnation of those consumers who help perpetuate activities you find morally abhorrent. Why wouldn't it upset her? I don't think anyone here should trivialize how uncomfortable it is to be judged by someone and how hurtful it can be if they are someone you are close to.

And don't tell me there isn't an implicit judgment in there, because there is. But that doesn't mean you did anything wrong, particularly if you are the person who's right. And she basically forced you to tell her your opinion, which changes things quite a bit.

I do think there's a way to soften the blow of this sort of thing, if you want to. It involves not trivilizing the matter in contention, but being openhearted about how many different such choices there are in the world and there's no way that even two highly-motivated, well-intentioned, and thoughtful people are going to agree on every single matter they think is important with regard to choices about right and wrong. Because of that, with the people you care about and want to continue to be close to, you agree to avoid the matter. And you both are forgiving.

And if one person really is very right and the other person is very wrong, maybe in the longer term the person in the wrong will come around.
posted by kmellis 09 February | 16:13
And if one person really is very right and the other person is very wrong, maybe in the longer term the person in the wrong will come around.

It's entirely possible that this is the source of some of the tears. She's knows you are right, and is pissed that you had to go and point it out. Of course, that may not be the case at all.
posted by richat 09 February | 16:17
Meanwhile over on

Last night I aksed this girl about why she didn't have an engagement ring and SHE WENT FUCKING NUTS! She started RANTING at me like some femini-nazi hell bitch and wouldn't shut up until I was in tears. I only asked why she didn't have a ring. Jeesh!

Look, if recent events have taught us anything it's that people will go out of their way to be offended. Fuck 'em, it's their problem.
posted by dodgygeezer 09 February | 16:26
right, kmellis. Sure I think I'm morally better than her because of that one reason. Plenty of people think that they are better than me because I do animal testing and eat meat. I think I'm better than people that use cars in Manhattan instead of public transport. They think they're better than me because they give more money to charity instead of buying Buffy dvds. And on and on. But in normal social discourse, I don't go around spewing my opinions out to everyone -- she never would have known what I thought unless she pressed me. So I guess what I meant is I don't outwardly judge people.

hee dodgygeezer!
posted by gaspode 09 February | 16:27
As Marion Barry is so fond of saying:

Yeah I smoked crack while I was mayor of DC, Don't you dare judge me!

Ain't no one can say they are being judged when they pry an opinion out of someone.
posted by Divine_Wino 09 February | 16:32
I totally want to register and build, the evil-goatee twin of MetaChat.
posted by Capn 09 February | 16:33
Now I'm crying!
posted by mullacc 09 February | 16:33
Not to open up a can of worms (really)

Oh yeah, and amro, I kept my name too.

I can't name a (scientist) academic, off the top of my head, whom I know, who changed their name after marriage. I know one couple who appended the other's name to their own (they were both philosophy peeps), though (and publish under their new names).
posted by porpoise 09 February | 16:40
She's an idiot. You didn't want to get into that discussion, and she pestered you for an answer (five times!). She gets what she deserves.
posted by matildaben 09 February | 17:04
Sounds to me like more reasons to go back to living in the hills like a hermit. Consarned two-legged vermin!

*cleans shotgun, runs more mash into the still*
posted by warbaby 09 February | 17:13
The alternative to pruning shears
posted by warbaby 09 February | 17:20
Yah, well I wasn't judging your for being implicitly judgmental. It's what people do, there's no avoiding it if we're going to think in any sort of terms involving both free will and right and wrong.

Like Divine_Wino says, she forced that opinion from you, and indeed you were reluctant to disclose it because you knew that she would feel judged badly. So were already doing what you could reasonably be expected to do, and the right thing in my opinion, and beyond that is partly or mostly her responsibility. If you don't want to be implicitly judged, and judged badly, then don't force judgmental opinions from people about things you do or are.

I guess, though, what I was trying to say was that I strongly disagree with the idea that there "really" isn't any conflict there or that you can somehow be absolutely tolerant while also making decisions about what choices are better than others. I think a lot of people these days try to wish that conflict away. But what real tolerance is, of course (by definition), is finding ways to soften a conflict that exists, to be understanding about another point of view without either giving up your contrary view or forcing them to adopt yours.

What tolerance is, I think, is an assumption of good-faith. We're not tolerant of the bad guy in a bad movieóbecause he's a villain who knows he's doing something wrong. What we're intuitively very tolerant about, and rightly so, is when we know that someone is well-intentioned and made (and continues to make) a good-faith effort in trying to decide what's right and what's wrong about any given thing.

So this is what real tolerance is and what it can do: it can allow you to have beliefs that are in conflict with yours while continuing to interact with them because you see them as someone like yourself, you assume they have made an effort just like the efforts you have made to comprehend the matter about which you disagree.

Sometimes, or fairly often, that might not be true. But tolerance means assuming that it is. This will turn out to be false from time to time. But not most of the time, unless you're some kind of a saint.
posted by kmellis 09 February | 17:23
My wife and I had no money when we were married, so we never bought rings.

That's my answer. Now that I have a nice corporate job, I sometimes get people asking why we don't buy rings for some recommitment ceremony bullshit. To those people I say, we've gone this long without rings -- why change anything? Your wife would really like a ring, some people will say.

These people don't know my wife. I tell them, "You don't know my wife."
posted by eatitlive 09 February | 17:26
Don't you feel bad, gaspode. She's a ninny. I agree with all the people who said she's upset because she knows you're right. Just come up with an honest but short response for next time like, "I have some political and ethical objections to the diamond industry." Anyone who pushes from there, deserves what they get.

My husband gave me a diamond engagement ring because he's a traditional guy. If I were a better person, maybe it would disgust me. But really, it reminds me of the sweet, terrified, besotted boy who put it on my finger with shaking hands way back when. I never take it off.
posted by jrossi4r 09 February | 17:26
Gaspode - having coughed up over 2,000 dollars for both my wife's (now -ex) and my wedding rings, I can completely commiserate with you about the whole affair. Not only are diamond wedding rings archaic, but yeah, they're political and people die over them. Why not just get a tattoo or some sort of henna application on the day of your wedding or whatever?

This irritating women you faced reminds me of my stepmother on my wedding day who told me in our receiving line that I "cheated on my vows" because I had written them myself as a poem to my wife that I read to the entire congregation. What The Fuck EVER!

posted by Lipstick Thespian 09 February | 17:35
I can't name a (scientist) academic, off the top of my head, whom I know, who changed their name after marriage.

Curiously enough, the friend I was referring to is a scientist, as well.
posted by amro 09 February | 17:46
As Marion Barry is so fond of saying:

Bitch set me up!
posted by Hugh Janus 09 February | 17:55
To be fair, amro, one's publishing record is really super-duper important (it's essentially your livelihood, kinda like statistics for professional athletes scientists) and switching last names just makes things complicated.

Do women in professional sports tend to keep their original family name after they marry?
posted by porpoise 09 February | 18:07
well gaspode, she deserved it and it was funny. But I enjoy upsetting people so there you go.
posted by puke & cry 09 February | 18:12
In honour of the gaspode!
She was looking for a fight, and you gave her one.
Don't do it different next time, and don't worry about it.
You damned hippy.
posted by seanyboy 09 February | 19:17
I agree you did nothing wrong. In the future, though, you may want to be firmer about not discussing things that are potential minefields. "Just not me" did invite the inevitable "why?", because you downplayed the importance so much -- so why not ask? A better answer would have been "Mr. Gaspode-To-Be and I decided we weren't going to do it." No reason, full stop. That firmly couches it as an internal-relationship-decision which sounds more private.

Now, if she persists then, you reply with the classic eyelash-batting, "Whyever would you ask such a thing?" which is pretty much guaranteed to shut up all but congenital morons.

Don't mind me, I just ingested way too much Miss Manners when I was young.
posted by stilicho 09 February | 20:09
you did nothing wrong at all, except that you gave in and told her--from now on you'll know better. she obviously values it as a trophy or something, and has a lot of self-worth invested in it. It's all her.
posted by amberglow 09 February | 20:36
people always think that if they value something a lot then of course others do too (or should)--they're wrong.
posted by amberglow 09 February | 20:37
Preempt them! Cry first, then tell her.

But seriously, if someone really wanted to know, I'd maybe frame it in more uncertain, undecided language. Perhaps.

And she is a twit for crying. But perhaps you hit a nerve, so I wouldn't be too hard on her.
posted by flopsy 09 February | 20:37
Oh, if you don't want trouble at all the weddings, get matching cute cheap friendship rings or plastic ones or something, and act like there's some fab story behind them. that'll shut everyone up.
posted by amberglow 09 February | 20:38
What a strange conversation to get roped into, gaspode. I think in the future you should just say from the beginning that you don't really like diamond rings. If people push, you can give your opinions on the diamond industry and such. It doesn't make you a bad person to dislike them, anymore than it makes them bad to like them, so I don't think there's any reason to try to dodge the subject- it just makes the curious more so.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero 09 February | 20:54
Just say that the ring gives you rashes or something (allergy). I do know people who don't wear jewellery for this reason. (i always say I'm vegetarian for religious reasons, just to avoid the inevitable debate)
posted by dhruva 09 February | 21:35
gaspode, she pushed and she got no less than she deserved for being nosy. You gave her the option to back off and she didn't take it.

And why don't people mind their own fucking business? I'm plenty nosy and curious about people's personal lives but I keep my mouth shut unless the subject of my interest opens up. It's just common courtesy.
posted by deborah 10 February | 01:02
Am I the only one who is shocked to the core that gaspode would choose to insult her husband and his family by refusing to wear his ring? Won't somebody please think of the children?
posted by nomis 10 February | 01:15
you mean the children that are getting named after (dun dun DUUUN) me(!!), nomis?
posted by gaspode 10 February | 01:26
mr gaspode is a lucky man
posted by Wedge 10 February | 02:16
I'm going to name my children after Gaspode, too.

"Yo, Gassy, finish your breakfast!"

"But dad, my Golden Grahams have gone soft."

"Why can't you be more like Pode? She finishes hers while the milk's still crispy."

"Don't bring me into this, dad."
posted by Hugh Janus 10 February | 08:32
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