One of my favorite Valentine’s Day quotes is not from a beautiful sonnet or anthology, but by musician Andre 3000, who says, “Every day is the 14th.” It’s a trite, simple idea that we hear time and again, especially when companies shove glittered greeting cards, cheaply made bears holding hearts and red candy down our throats: that love should be celebrated and practiced every day, not just on the 14th. But every year around this time, commercialism tells us otherwise. We flip on the TV and see the woman nostalgically looking over a bridge into a fog. A handsome man, confident in his approach, pulls out a ring. She gasps in ecstasy and says “Yes,” before they both collapse into a loving embrace. And then your girlfriend gives you that look. You know the one.
It’s that special time of the year when the number of engagement ring commercials increase triple-fold and restaurants find an excuse to double their prices, all in the name of love. And, many of us, play right along. What’s most interesting about the way we express our love for each other in this country, is how deeply entrenched those practices are in consumerism. Jewelry company De Beers, for example, after seeing a drop in their diamond sales in 1919, started a massive product placement campaign in 1947 with the slogan, “A Diamond is Forever.” Suddenly, everyone from Hollywood stars to fashion designers were rockin’ the bling — and boom, women around the world followed suit. Diamond engagement ring sales took off. DeBeers’ fairytale interpretation of the origins of the diamond ring on their web site is quite different. We’re still told that a diamond is forever, though statistics show that marriages may not be.
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