Singletude: A Positive Blog for Singles

Singletude is a positive, supportive singles blog about life choices for the new single majority. It's about dating and relationships, yes, but it's also about the other 90% of your life--family, friends, career, hobbies--and flying solo and sane in this crazy, coupled world. Singletude isn't about denying loneliness. It's about realizing that whether you're single by choice or by circumstance, this single life is your life to live.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Ms. Taken: The Fake Engagement Ring for Single Women

While combing stories for Singletude's last "Singles in the News" feature, I stumbled across an article called "Fake Engagement Rings Marketed to Single Women," which alerted me to a new bauble on the market that Reality Bling calls "a little bright lie." In case the headline I just linked to didn't tip you off, it's a fake engagement ring that's being marketed to single women. Cutely called Ms. Taken, the ring promises to help you pub 'n' club happily ever after unmolested by barflies. Just slip it on when you want to discourage a loser walking your way, then tuck it into its keychain fob when the coast is clear. It's the perfect on-again/off-again relationship.

Ms. Taken's home page is dominated by an embedded video commercial that should amuse those who like their fake wedding humor bawdy. You're also prominently invited to "Become a fan on Facebook" in case you care to advertise that your engagement is fake. That way if you really want to pull a fast one on a rejected suitor, you can flash him your faux diamond but whisper in his ear to look you up on Facebook, and then--gotcha! Suckerrrr! Neener, neener, neener! At the top of the page, a pic of the big sparkly is captioned, "On the dance floor or at the bar, nothing says 'I'm taken' like a fake engagement ring."

A click on "Product Details" reveals that Ms. Taken is a 2-carat Austrian crystal (congratulations--your pretend fiance is an investment banker!) set in a stainless steel band. It comes with the aforementioned keychain fob, a jewelry case, and, for some reason, 20 "Playaz" cards bearing images of classics like "Neal Anderthal" and "Jamaall That." If you order now, these timeless treasures will be yours to collect, trade, and preserve for generations to come. Or I guess you could pull them out if you and your friends get bored waiting for losers to leave you alone.

The ring and its accoutrement can be ordered for a grand total of $50.00. Frankly, you can buy a crystal or a cubic zirconia for half that in most department stores, though you'll have to drop it in your purse or your pocket instead of a custom-tailored keychain fob. And, of course, you'll have to do without the Playaz.

More interesting than the ring itself is the message it sends to singles. A quick scan of reviews of Ms. Taken shows that that message has been hotly debated. The article mentioned at the beginning of this post argues that Ms. Taken demeans single women, implying that they can't handle unwanted social interaction without relying on lame excuses or, worse, that they need the suggestion of a mate to prove they're worth more than lewd stares and cheesy pickup lines. Others, like "Ms. Taken = Puke in My Mouth," claim that Ms. Taken sends the wrong signal to men, communicating that it's a-okay to harass women who are unattached, that only a man's protection makes a woman worthy of respect.

Admittedly, I've donned a cubic zirconia with intent to deceive more than once, and I've never given a thought to it being singlist before. My motivation has usually been to avoid unwanted attention while out for a girl's night or when I want to run errands in peace, and now that I'm single by choice, an easy way to advertise my unavailability is even more attractive. It's not that I'm incapable of fending off punchless pickup lines with my rapier wit, but sometimes I'd rather not have to. Men in pursuit can be aggressive, especially in the metro area I call home, and some of them interpret a polite "no, thank you" as code for "you-have-three-minutes-to-convince-me-to-give-you-my-number-starting-now-GO." When I'm trying to have a good time with my friends or--God forbid--shop for groceries, drop a bill in the mail, or read in the park unmolested, the last thing I want to do is argue with Insert Random Guy about why I won't have a drink with him. A strategically placed rhinestone speaks for me (and hopefully says, "Game Over"). But, according to the bloggers above, the very fact that I expect a ring to exempt me from these exchanges proves to men that they can harass me with impunity if I'm not some other guy's property. Is this true?

I think not. I think it's unfair to men to assume they're all Neal Anderthals who view women as chattel, ripe for the plucking unless some other cowboy has left his stamp first. Today, an engagement ring is a visible sign of a woman's choice as much as a man's. In contemporary society's language, it says, "I have chosen to be in a monogamous relationship with someone. I am not interested in anyone else." Men who steer clear of an engaged woman are respecting her choice as much as the man she chose. If a single woman could wear a ring that was universally recognized to mean she wasn't open to dating, I suspect a lot of men would respect that, too. Of course, there would always be some who would see it as a challenge, but these would probably be the same cavemen who hit on women wearing engagement rings the size of the Hope Diamond. These male chauvinist oinkers don't respect anyone or anthing except the notches on their own belts and are just out to add a few more whenever they can.

Single men are susceptible to enculturation just like everybody else, and I won't claim that singlism never colors their interactions with single women. Undoubtedly, there's a man out there who won't take no for an answer because he believes that any woman should prefer his 5 AM Concerto in Snore Major to a lifetime of waking up to nothing but birds. But my guess is that most men have no such illusions when they present themselves to be chewed up and spit out on the nearest bar. Instead, they're just doing what successful hunters have always done--aiming for the most likely targets (women who are single) and shooting as many arrows as they can, hoping one will hit. If some of those arrows fall flat, miss the mark, or veer toward our chests instead of our brains or our funny bones, then the hunters have poor technique, not a special contempt for deer.

I'm not saying this to excuse inexcusable conduct. Like most people, I believe that women who are subjected to unwanted comments or contact should take steps to let offenders know their behavior is unacceptable, whether that means walking away gracefully or reporting them to management. But I don't think the majority of men set out to use Borat as a role model, and those who do don't care whether their sexytime partner is wearing a ring or not unless it's in her tongue. For the rest, a ring is simply shorthand for "no chance in hell." You could use a scowl, a slap, or puke in your mouth to get across the same message, but with a ring you can still be pretty. ;)

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe those bloggers weren't overanalyzing, and I'm unwittingly supporting singlism every time I resort to a fast, one-size-fits-all excuse rather than a nuanced rationale of why I prefer to be single while I scan the room for an exit.

What do you think? Do fake engagement rings promote singlism? Do they send a message to single women that they are "less than" or that they can't fend for themselves in social situations? Do they send a message to single men that women who aren't taken are free to be harassed? If you're a single woman, have you ever worn a make-believe engagement ring, and, if not, would you? Why or why not? If you're a single man, what do you think of women who, um, engage in this practice?

Fun Link of the Day

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Rachel AB said...

I don't like the name of the ring since that does imply the idea that an engaged woman is "taken." You mean someone kidnapped her? But aside from this particular ring's name buying into sexist attitudes about coupling & marriage, I don't see anything wrong with wearing a ring on "that finger." I wear one. I wear my commitment ring on my left hand's ring finger. This ring is a symbol of my own commitment to myself and my growth. Sure, I thought about the "ward-off" effect wearing a ring that looks a bit like a wedding band. But most importantly I want to reclaim that finger! Why aren't we supposed to wear a ring on that finger? Sure, I have nine other fingers I could wear a ring on but why is that left ring finger "verboten" (or I guess the right one if you're wearing a ring that looks like an engagement ring). It seems to me that reserving those fingers for particular kinds of rings perpetuate the marriage myth: Just like elevating a marital partner above other friends we're keeping one finger ringless for The One...

bobbyboy said...

I don't think it sends a message that single woman can't fend for themselves, by wearing the ring, they are doing just that ;)
My first thought to this was how sad for relationships when a man won't respect a womans desire not to be bothered, and a woman will use trickery.

From this mans perspective, it doesn't matter whether a woman engages in this practice or not as I never approach a lady unless she approaches, or hints interest, towards me first.

Interesting twist to this all: I was out with some buddies years ago at some club. One of my buddies caught the eye of a lady it seems, but he avoided her at every turn. When asked why, he told us that she was married. We found out some time later that the lady wasn't married, but had had a ring on her finger when my buddy was checking her out. She did it to keep the "Oinkers" away, but may have lost a good relationship.

Moral of the story? Be careful with that loaded ring ladies :)

Clever Elsie said...

Rachel: I don't like the name of the ring since that does imply the idea that an engaged woman is "taken." You mean someone kidnapped her?

Well, if you consider the customs that marriage evolved from and what the word "honeymoon" really means...quite possibly! :) But, yes, I'm not really in love with the term "taken" either. I'm not sure it's sexist since men can be described as "taken" as well, but it definitely implies possession of property.

I love that you wear a commitment ring! I'm glad that you feel free to wear it on whatever finger you want. I see the wedding or engagement ring as more of a communicative device--a shorthand to let anyone who might be interested know that you're not--than a symbol of privilege or status. But it has certainly been used in the past to convey bondage and, especially in more recent times, to convey social standing via the size and quality of the diamond. Not very pleasant aspects of the tradition! Anyway, I don't think anyone should participate in traditions that make them uncomfortable, so good for you for starting your own tradition!

Bobby: I try to cut men some slack because I think sometimes they can't tell the difference between genuine interest and a definite but polite refusal. Lots of girls, including myself, have a hard time rejecting men in a way that's both nice and effective, so the ring is attractive as a convenient shorthand. Of course, there are guys out there whose behavior is really objectionable, too, though I'm not sure how well a ring would work to discourage them.

That's a good point that women who wear these rings should realize they risk discouraging some good guys along with the "losers." I think Ms. Taken expects women to know when an eligible suitor is in the vicinity and remove the ring discreetly, but that precludes meeting hidden gems who might not initially catch a girl's eye.

This interested me:

From this mans perspective, it doesn't matter whether a woman engages in this practice or not as I never approach a lady unless she approaches, or hints interest, towards me first.

I've known lots of guys who've said they would like a woman to make the first move but none who've ever said it was a requirement, and popular dating wisdom often has it that men should be the initiators. I'd love to hear more about how and why you decided to live by the opposite rule.

bobbyboy said...

"I've known lots of guys who've said they would like a woman to make the first move but none who've ever said it was a requirement, and popular dating wisdom often has it that men should be the initiators. I'd love to hear more about how and why you decided to live by the opposite rule."

Well Elsie, believe it or not, you are the first to ever ask this question. It kind of takes me by surprise because I just thought everyone knew the answer, including me. Truth is that I'm not sure I know the complete answer either, but I'll give it a try.

There are some answers in blogs I've written such as:
that tell of the comfortability factor about dating in general, but morso about my comfortability, or lack of, when it comes to dating.

Shyness-anyone that knows me, or even those that have followed my blog for a while know this.

Rules of dating- I don't necessarily believe in, nor follow them. Whatever comes naturally to two people that are attracted to each other should be the rules.

Observations- I've seen the Rico suave's make their move, get the girl and then get rid of the girl. These same gents tend to be pretty confident dudes, and unfortunately, many woman are attracted to this confidence. Yet these same woman will complain about how these guys are players.

Not for me.

I've seen woman, when in small groups, just about humiliate a sincere guy who "Makes the first move." These same woman, not realizing that sincere guys see this happen to other guys, decide that maybe it's too risky to approach first and be shot down.

Nope, not for me.

There are some other little ditties too, but I think you got some idea as to why I don't approach woman. It all ties together too, not one particular reason.

There are better environments for dating I believe, or procedures if you will:

Having said all that, I will, when I believe the situation is right, offer to buy a lady a drink for instance, albeit through a bartender, but the norm, because of the reasons I've stated, is that I don't make the first move.

Thanks for asking the question Elsie! And thanks for helping me to crystallize my reasons in my mind a little better :)

April said...

Personally, I find my bare hand to be a proud proclamation of my independence, but there's not an opinion here that I can't respect.

Clever Elsie said...

Bobby: Thanks for clarifying! I think it's good to make people aware of different approaches to dating and of why someone would choose to turn the tables on conventional wisdom and do something differently.

April: Thanks for your input. I love how revealing this discussion has been about the different ways in which we all view the ring finger and its purpose!

Unknown said...

Wow, I wish I had the problem of men constantly asking me out for drinks! I definitely don't need the Ms. Taken- I've been told I have the "independent" stamp on my forehead.

That being said, I don't like this idea because it just reinforces the inherent sexism of engagement rings-this woman is now someone's property, look but don't touch!

Interestingly I used to wear a ring on my third finger on the left that was really just a cool artsy ring that looked nothing like a traditional wedding or engagement ring. I wore it there because it was comfortable. So many people, both men and women, commented that I "can't do that!" That men will think I'm married, and I'll NEVER get a boyfriend that way! It's annoying that the marrieds have that whole finger reserved- it's the best finger for wearing rings on!

I do hope to buy myself a nice ring someday (not a diamond). I wonder what it would be like to wear it on that reserved finger. I'd love to just have people say something to me about being engaged and then just be like, "no, I'm not engaged, what makes you think that?"

Clever Elsie said...

Lauri: It's annoying that the marrieds have that whole finger reserved- it's the best finger for wearing rings on!

You're right, it is! My left ring finger is just a teensy bit thicker than my right ring finger, which bumps it up to a perfect size 6, while the right is a hair under, making it hard to fit it perfectly. For years, I have worn rings on whichever fingers they fit best. If one of those fingers happens to be the left ring finger...oh, well! Thankfully, I haven't gotten any mean-spirited comments. In fact, I don't think anyone has ever commented on it, and I also see other women wearing rings that are obviously not engagement rings on the supposedly sacred finger.

Anonymous said...

I personally have a fake engagement ring, it makes me feel good and that people treat you different, than just single.