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Now That You’ve Put A Ring On It, What Next?

So the engagement finally did happen and it was as fairytale, as individualistic and as special as I never dared hope it would be. It’s been a couple of months since then and I’ve had time to let it sink in.

For starters, the ring was too loose so back we went to the jeweller’s the very next day to tighten it up. Did you know how rings are measured? There’s a curious cone-shaped device with scale markings on it, for circumference. Quite innovative. The science student in me was tickled. Several tries later I walked out. It still is slightly loose but that’s not really the fault of the jeweller. The design is an unusual one where the circle sort of rises up near the diamonds, so it makes for a twisted circle. A shape like that would never fit snugly on a finger. Add to that my knobbly fingers that are knotty at the joints and then bone-thin everywhere else. So immediately, I developed the bad habit of turning the ring round and round my finger while fidgeting (which is often).

I can’t say I’ve still gotten used to how it looks and feels. It’s pretty,  but…it’s different from what I always wear. It’s not silver, it’s not an inexpensive no-frills piece of junk jewellery. When I’m wearing it in public, I’m always looking at it, checking to see that it’s in place, moving the diamond to the inside so it doesn’t get caught on door hinges and other things. Not exactly a picture of the content fairytale bride.

Then there’s how it is an indication of things deeper. Of course, I’m having cold feet. What, you think I need a Y chromosome to get that? I’ve never been comittmentphobic, I’ve never been anti-marriage and this isn’t some guy I met at the party last weekend. I’ve been in a committed relationship for nearly two years with him and there was never any question that this was a serious relationship heading this way eventually. It is the right time too. Still, I catch my breath on occasion when the reality hits me.

Every time we fight, for instance. Like that would surprise to anyone. Who gets second thoughts when all is peaceful and well? We’re the worst of all the ‘opposites attract’ stories right from Beauty & the Beast to The Lady & The Tramp. Worlds collide, opinions clash, words are exchanged and it all seems like such hard work. At those time, that ring that looks so beautiful and delightful in a ‘I’ve been waiting for so long for this!’ way, scares me. It scares the shit out of me when it metamorphoses in my head from a slender gold-and-diamond band to a heavy manacle chained to an iron ball. GULLLLLLPPPP.

I woke up one morning with a red scratch on the side of my nose. Even if I do have a nose that could probably bridge a dam, it’s unlikely I got it anywhere else. That sparkly ring was to blame, yet again. (And oh, apparently I rub my own face when I sleep). So I decided to take it off when I slept.

There was at least once through a bitter fight, when I decided to take it off and put it back into its box till it felt ‘right’ to wear it. One day stretched into another and I realized I hadn’t worn my ring for almost 10 days, well past our argument and its resolution. And immediately after I noticed it, I realized that I missed it. So that evening, when I went out, I slipped on my lovely engagement ring as well. It felt nice, not awkward at all. And that night, before going to sleep, I took it off and put it away.

I realized something that night. Having to wear the ring all the time, made it bondage. Taking it off before sleep brought it back to being a beautiful piece of jewellery. Being able to choose when to wear it or not gave me back my power. I am a powerful woman in this relationship, after all. I’m not engaged to a man who needs to keep me submissive or show his ownership of me with a piece of metal. I am with a person who respects and supports me for the person I am. Having this choice is my daily, personal reminder.

The arguments haven’t stopped. But the cold panic in the middle of the night has. And the second thoughts stay just what they are – secondary thoughts.

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Material Girl

When I received a corporate pat-on-the-back (with a financial award), my mother suggested that I spend it on jewelery instead of frittering it away on clothes, books and shoes. Mum still believes in jewelery being a good investment. It took months but I finally agreed. I went diamond-shopping.

It was not the first major purchase I’ve ever made, not even the first time I’ve bought jewellery. On my first job, I saved up to buy my father a new cellphone and my mother, a diamond ring. That was a funny feeling. A memorable feeling, a funny one and one I’ll treasure all my life…the exhilarating thrill that comes from being able to buy something for the people you love, who have provided for you, all your life.

But when I went big-purchase-shopping again, a few years later, it just was different. A different kind of different. Inside my head, despite all the freedom of financial independence and mental release, my liberation has a few gaps in it. Like little stitches still binding me to old ways of being, long after I’ve snipped away the life I want to wear.

Diamonds are usually received as gifts, not bought for oneself. Gifted by a man…a father, a brother, a lover, a husband. If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, it’s because those sparkly stones carry the monetary value that they were bought for, but also the power of being cherished and indulged by men. For years, diamonds have been financially tangible tokens of men’s allegiance to those women. They continue to be so.

Only, these diamonds don’t represent the men who lavish their affections on me. They remind me of everything that I’ve worked for and achieved. The power to buy a diamond as well as the right to wear one that is truly my own. It’s just odd how long it took me to accept the feeling. To not feel guilty about lavishing it on myself, not feel obligated to spending it on someone else or something more important/intelligent, not wonder if brandishing my economic power made me seem like even more of a man-hating feminist than people usually accuse me of being.

It took me a long time to accept that it was okay to buy a diamond for myself and feel good about it. Newfound power doesn’t come easy; it’s scary. I actually took about a month, after agreeing to actually bring home the diamonds. I browsed online for different brands (and read a great deal about blood-free diamonds). I contemplated the merits of a pendant-and-chain versus a ring. I visited several stores and compared prices. I sketched out designs and pored over them. I considered local ‘known’ stores versus big jewelery brands. And finally I went and picked up a pair of earrings. Tiny diamond chiplings fashioned into three petals, with a thin golden stem wound around them. I did it all on my own.

Then I wore my new earrings to work the next day. For about ten minutes my entire body hummed in excitement, wondering if anyone would say anything. Nobody noticed anything different, no one even tossed the odd compliment my way. But suddenly, I realised, I didn’t care. I knew and that’s all that mattered.

I’ve had the earrings for a couple of years now. I wear them when the outfit and occasion suits them. But sometimes, just because I want a reminder of what I can do for myself.

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This is a revised version of an earlier post. A version also appears on Yahoo! Real Beauty.

Everyone Wants To Get Into My Wallet!

Late one night as I was driving down the city, I looked up at a huge billboard of Sushmita Sen, an advertisement for Kiah jewellery, which said,

You are the occasion
You are the celebration

I told him,

I really love that ad!

He smiled and said,

You would. It celebrates you, after all.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Earlier in the month, I wrote about my first experience with luxuriant self-indulgence, the retail therapy way. I wear my diamonds with pride, a pride that comes not exactly from their aesthetic value but from the knowledge that I earned the power to buy them for myself.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

A few years ago, I wrote about the Superwoman. I don’t know whether to be happy or not that it’s turning out to be prophetic. Take a minute to think about my words..

I am the center of a marketing model titled “High income single decision maker”
I am the brief given to fashion houses when they design the new Prada suit
I am described as ‘Joan of Arc meets Helen of Troy’

We are indeed, the hot new consumer demographic. Urban women, financially self-sufficient with all the trappings of our successful professional status – the need for new status symbols combined with the ability to pay for them.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

Our parents’ generation saw the upsurge of women at work and all the initial beginnings like the glass ceiling, women bosses et al. Our generation in contrast is the one that gets to enjoy it (and be taken advantage of). We’re prominent for our purchasing power and marketers have been quick to pick up on the need for our own set of status symbols and paraphernalia. I speak as the target group of a woman who earns and has the independence to spend. I also speak as a marketing professional, seeing the other side of it, so to speak.

Successful men who earn well have been well tapped into as a market and are induced to spend on everything from their own selves (personal gadgets, cars), social settings (restaurants, pubs, sports activities) and all sorts of dating-related paraphernalia (presents for women, tokens of what makes them an ‘ideal partner’). What do their opposite numbers in our sex have?

We have shoes, clothes, bags, accessories, jewelery, make-up and personal grooming services. If the men-targeted products homed in on the traditional masculine need to be macho and an alpha male, we are being targeted for our vanity and need to be ‘the babe’.

Of course, the more complicated dynamics of women actually competing with each other in these stakes is well played out. What else do you think Bhala uski saadi meri saadi se safed kaisi is?

The more expensive products are obviously affordable only to a certain type of woman – she has a career, she’s ambitious and wants to be respected for her intelligence, she doesn’t want to stand in anyone’s shadow, she has a personality of her own. And hence diamonds, super-expensive shoes and clothes come with the messages that they respect your individuality, celebrate your independence and will take Visa as well as American Express.

~o~o~o~o~o~o~o~

I was invited to the premier showing of the big Hollywood release of Confessions of a Shopaholic. I saw the movie with a group of girlfriends and all of us identified with the heroine. We would, she’s based on us after all. While the movie is meant to be a really light-hearted comedy, it points to something deeper.
I got to wondering about the phenomenon of shopaholism. Is it a reality that we’re likely to be facing very soon? All manner of excess is driven towards filling a need that hasn’t been satisfied earlier. So women who binge are thought to be unconsciously compensating for a lack of affection in their lives. What unmet need are we trying to plug with this excessive buying?

Becky Bloomwood in the movie nails it on the head when she explains her addiction,

Because when I shop, it feels so pretty, so nice, so good! And then it doesn’t so I have to shop even more!

True to all successful marketing strategies, this one also gives us a taste of what we like and then leaves us begging for more. Shinier hair! Higher heels! Bigger (and smaller) bags! Cooler sunglasses! Brighter make-up! Lotions, creams, gels, powders, liquid liners, sticks, brushes, concealers, colorants, rinses, crayons, cakes, gloss, sequins, beads, rhinestones, denim, silk, linen, velvet….the list never ends.

So for all our gloss and gorgeousness, we are nothing more than the product of a very successful marketing program designed to relieve us our newly-minted paychecks. ‘Fabulous’ is the bait they use to lure us in and the looming bill at the end of the month is the hook.

It used to be about too many people wanting to get into my pants.
Now everyone wants to get into my wallet!!

Material Girl

I went diamond-shopping this weekend. Last year I received a corporate pat-on-the-back with a financial award. Someone suggested that I spend it on jewelery instead of frittering it away on clothes, books and shoes. It took me months but I finally agreed.

It’s not even the first major purchase I made, even for jewellery. I saved up on my first job and bought my father a new cellphone and my mother, a diamond ring. That was a funny feeling. A memorable feeling, a funny one and one I’ll treasure all my life…the exhilarating thrill that comes from being able to buy something for the people you love, who have provided for you all your life.

A few years later, I’m going big-purchase-shopping again. But it just is different. A different kind of different.

eartops1

I think in my head, despite all the wonderous freedom of financial independence and mental release, my liberatedness has a few gaps in it. Like little stitches still binding me to old ways of being, long after I’ve snipped away the life I want to wear.

Diamonds are usually received as gifts, not bought for oneself. Gifted by a man..a father, a brother, a lover, a husband. If diamonds are a girl’s best friend, it’s because those sparkly stones carry the monetary value that they were bought for, but also the power of being cherished and indulged by men.

Diamonds have been symbolic for years and they continue to be so. Only my diamonds don’t list out the men who will lavish their affections on me. They remind me of everything that I’ve worked for and achieved. The power to buy a diamond as well as the right to wear one that is truly my own. It’s just odd how long it took me to accept the feeling. Not feel guilty about lavishing it on myself, not feel obligated to spending it on someone else or something more important/intelligent, not wonder if brandishing my economic power made me seem like even more of a man-hating feminist than people usually accuse me of being. It took me a long time to accept that it was okay to buy a diamond for myself and feel good about it.

Newfound power doesn’t come easy; it’s scary.

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