Contemplating whether to propose to your girlfriend is probably one of the more monumental decisions you might have to make since deciding between UVA or Cornell (aren’t they both state schools anyway?) or picking living at MPP vs. Aqua (can’t do another 2 years of being a GDI and NOT belonging to a house). I have found that once I tell people I am thinking about pulling the trigger, I get a binary response. Some of my more mature friends, the ones that have already made the plunge, tend to laud and support my decision in deciding to join the brotherhood of monogamy. But my bachelor friends, the ones that barely put up with me scaling back going out from five nights a week to a meager one or two, tend to question the wisdom of my decision (mind you, these are the guys who didn’t have a problem with me ordering 3 AM Patron shots). Some of these friends actually have apocalyptic prophecies – it’s like they think I’m walking into the Red Wedding while they are hoping for a Dothraki wedding.
Once I’d decided to go forward, I learned of the cost of doing business – the engagement ring. I started out by asking my mom if we had a family stone (she laughed), then asked friends where they got their ring. Asking about 10 friends (I’m from the South… all my friends are married), I realized that there are many different ways of ring shopping. There were recommendations for a number of different jewelers but most recommended buying the diamond from a wholesaler and getting the setting done separately. After going for a walk in the diamond district and talking to people, as well as talking to some wholesalers that happened to be friends’ parents, I started to realize that I was opening a serious Pandora’s Box.
For someone who prefers Panda Express over actual Chinese food for simplicity’s sake, this was truly an overwhelming revelation. There are ten different shapes and the four C’s of diamonds: five to six different cuts, seven or so colors, eight levels of clarity and, most importantly, carats. And that’s just the diamond alone – you also need to figure out what type of a band to get. Solitaire? Halo? Cathedral? Channel? Side stones? I always thought more is more, but it turns out for an average guy such as the famed Barry Schwartz and myself, we can’t really handle too much choice.
There is nothing worse than getting something you don’t want from your loved one, like when your mom gets you suits with pleated pants, let alone an engagement ring that you’re supposed to wear for a few months to an eternity (depending on who you ask). So I decided to ask my girlfriend but it turns out even when there is another decision maker, we still suffer from the paradox of choice. As the French say, trop de choix, tue le choix… Maybe some beers and onion rings will help…