Dear gentlemen callers,
I have already established that I don’t want chocolate bouquets, but I think you deserve a more extensive list of acceptable tokens with which to express your feelings.
1. Mix CDs. Here is your chance to make me think of you every time I sing in my car. Selvi gave me a mix CD for my birthday, and I would marry her right now if I were a handsome Indian doctor.
2. Paper towels, organic milk, broccoli, hand soap, frozen pizzas, crackers. You know I hate going to the grocery store.
3. Gift certificates to fancy restaurants. This way I don’t actually have to eat with you to get a free meal.
4. Here is something I don’t want – diamonds. Yes, I’ve seen the commercials, and I found them really touching until I got on the meds that kicked most of my crying jags, but I don’t buy into diamond culture. Don’t get me wrong – I buy into gentlemen spending two months’ salary on me, just not on diamonds. The diamond cartel and its ad campaigns have been plugging away since the 1930s, telling us that their immortal product is a girl’s best friend. It’s not true. Diamonds are pretty, but they’re sold by scam artists. Edward Jay Epstein is one of the most eloquent voices of the anti-diamond movement (after me, of course). He wrote this piece in The Atlantic that delves into the trade.
The diamond invention is far more than a monopoly for fixing diamond prices; it is a mechanism for converting tiny crystals of carbon into universally recognized tokens of wealth, power, and romance. To achieve this goal, De Beers had to control demand as well as supply. Both women and men had to be made to perceive diamonds not as marketable precious stones but as an inseparable part of courtship and married life. To stabilize the market, De Beers had to endow these stones with a sentiment that would inhibit the public from ever reselling them. The illusion had to be created that diamonds were forever — “forever” in the sense that they should never be resold.
Lots of other folks have written on the subject. From Meghan O’Rourke’s “The Trouble with Engagement Rings“:
In 1919, De Beers experienced a drop in diamond sales that lasted for two decades. So in the 1930s it turned to the firm N.W. Ayer to devise a national advertising campaign—still relatively rare at the time—to promote its diamonds. Ayer convinced Hollywood actresses to wear diamond rings in public, and…encouraged fashion designers to discuss the new “trend” toward diamond rings. Between 1938 and 1941, diamond sales went up 55 percent.
Lastly, so you know that this post is just an excuse to sermonize, an interview with Janine Roberts, author of Glitter and Greed: The Secret World of the Diamond Cartel.
Eighty years ago, your great grandparents didn’t do this when they got married. They gave each other big wooden boxes and simple things like promise rings and hope chests. The allure of diamonds is part of a huge, century-long conspiracy by the diamond industry, namely giant De Beers, which controls stockpiles and sets the price of stones, which aren’t the rarest in nature, even though they’re the most expensive.
I am hoping that the word “conspiracy” will increase traffic to my blog.
5. Gentlemen callers, just give me the cash that you would have spent on a diamond.
6. I’m also fresh out of toilet paper.