By Joe Rector
I’m fascinated by business pitches on television. Some of them, such as E Trade or Aflac, are funny. Others like Northern toilet paper or Viagra are nothing short of inappropriate. One thing is for sure: none of them paint life as it really exists.

One particular subject confounds me. It’s the commercial about men buying engagement rings and presenting them to the women they love. The familiar line, “He went to Jared,” comes to mind. These men are heroes because they visit the jewelry store, choose a hunk of diamond and mounting, and present those “perfect” rings. Is that how life really works?

Amy and I had dated for about seven months before a discussion about an engagement ring began. We’d both discovered within the first six weeks that our paths were destined to cross. Neither of us definitively stated that the time was right for purchasing a ring. It just happened.

I was still a college student whose income came entirely from a small check for being the head resident of a dorm. Somehow, Amy knew the jeweler, and on a set day, we hopped in my VW Bug and drove to Carthage, several miles from Cookeville. A balding man in his late fifties or early sixties greeted us and sat us at a counter. He opened up a velvet pouch and poured out several various sized diamonds onto it. Then, one by one, he described them and told us the size, quality, and cost. Some were exorbitant in price, so much so that my heart palpitated as I tried to calculate the monthly payments for them.

After the presentation ended, it was Amy, not I, who made the choice of stone. Bless her, for she chose a diamond that wasn’t perfect; it had one area that contained a small amount of clouding, double speak for “flaw.” The size was good, but the price was much more in line with my wallet. I breathed a sigh of relief and developed even stronger affection for my bride-to-be.

Then the other shoe fell. The discussion turned to the mounting. Huh? I thought the cost quoted included something to put the diamond on. WRONG! Amy and the jeweler began a discussion about the ring part. She wanted something that was made of pink and green gold and that looked antique. Yes, gold can be colored differently by adding alloys, and my brilliant wife knew this. At any rate, she described the ring, and the man produced it.

In April, I gave that ring to Amy. It was the first time that she’d seen it assembled, and it passed her approval. Of course, it pleased her because she created it. One more thing should be made clear: I had no part in choosing this ring! The only role I played in the event was as the person who paid the bill. As things turned out, Amy and I worked to pay off the ring with the small income from my teaching job and her part time job after college classes.

I asked her Poppa for permission to marry Amy, and he consented. We told her mother about our engagement, and for a long period, she refused to speak to me. I didn’t understand that until my own daughter reached the age of nineteen, and then it became abundantly clear how concerned Mary Alice was that Amy would marry and never reach the goals she’d had set for life.

So, I don’t understand this pitch about the surprising a woman with an engagement ring. It’s like someone allowing his friend to pick out a car for him. Too many things can go wrong, and then a friendship is strained as the person is stuck with a car he doesn’t like. When a man says, “With this ring,” at a wedding, it better be one that his bride has chosen and wants to keep for the next fifty years.