Thursday, December 6, 2007

Baby Baubles?

Should I be disturbed by this? Because I actually found it kind of sweet.

Though I have to believe that a diamond bracelet is nowhere NEAR just compensation for being pregnant, if the only scale for comparison is pleasure and pain. But maybe I underestimate the joy of diamonds.


Seb said...

I am disturbed by it. I know Angela would be resentful in the extreme, given the bills we have, though she might feel conflicted if the gift were something she wanted badly enough.

This is what we friends of Bill W. call a "high-class dilemma." For the vast majority of parents, diamond bracelets for mum simply aren't an option, now or ever, and the money, even supposing it were available, would be better spent on sprout's future. A poor man wouldn't think twice about it, though he might buy mama flowers and do his utmost to pamper her in other ways.

Frankly, I find the practice (to say nothing of the fashion) of push-presents to be a frightening indictment of modern parenting and romance alike. I detect a note of misandry here, as well: "you can't know our pain, and a diamond is the least you could do to show your appreciation for it."

Rubbish. Love and family are life-long commitments. As our friend Dr. Lasher has noted, one doesn't get time off for good behavior; no one applauds a man, deep in the grip of testosterone, for doing what society expects, which is staying faithful to his wife. Mama should be supported and cherished, always, always, and if diamonds or baubles are all you have to say to her, I must exhort you to broaden your vocabulary. It's the little things that keep love going. If you've got the cash, well, I don't see the harm; but you'd better be prepared to understand that not every expenditure of money is a gesture of empathy, and that the most important things in love and life cannot be bought or sold at any price.

I am choleric today, I find.

JMW said...

I find myself agreeing entirely with Seb on this one, and not only so I can avoid the fate of Annie Dillard. I second the indictments he makes about this trend -- it insults men, women, and the concept of Romance; a rare trifecta -- and add that it also seems part of the increasing "childization" (to use a technical term) of our culture. If you don't want to do something, ask for a gift in return. Dentist trip? Here's a lollipop, Sweetie. School? I'll buy you ice cream at the end of the day. Childbirth? Here's a diamond necklace -- pretty please!?

Johannes said...

To agree less eloquently, I find this to be a complete misguidance of values.

Statements like ‘Honey, you wanted this child as much as I did. So I want this,’ and “I knew what I wanted, which is very awful,” to be, well, very awful.

I've been exposed more than most men to the splatter-punk gorefest that is child birth (I really don't like it), and it's a diamond necklace or two worth of suffering and sacrifice. However, that bill should be paid in "love and emotional support" from the husband, as the surprisingly wise and grounded gift counselor Grote said.

It's the spirit of the thing though, right? I can see WANTING to give my wife something to make her feel appreciated and beautiful, and that's a fine and beautiful gift. A pet cougar perhaps, or a ham. But I find it nothing less than repulsive, that some of these women, 55% apparently (!), want, expect, or feel entitled to such a thing. Spoiled.

My mother came within a hair's breadth (hare's breath? hmm) giving birth to my brother when my father was in the Air Force. She likes nice things, but she would scorn such material entitlement shown by these women in the setting of childbirth.

JMW said...

Yeah, just to follow up on Johannes' point, I didn't mean to imply that childbirth isn't WORTH a few diamond necklaces -- or even a fully body suit studded with diamonds. I've often said that if I was a woman, there is no way in hell you could get me to go through it. (I whine about paper cuts!) But again, it's all about the tone of the thing. Romance leaves plenty of room for gift-giving at any time, including after having a baby. But talking about it like some negotiation -- especially when babies are rightfully called "gifts" themselves -- seems gross.

Wombat Lord said...

Well I agree with all of you, actually--the tone of the piece is off-putting. It's very NYTimes actually: snarky and materialistic all at the same time. (What I loathe about the Times most of all is that 2/3 of their content implicitly denigrates all those who want to do anything so bourgeois as get rich while the other 1/3 trumpets the joys of consumerism--totally unironically.)

Anyway, what I guess I did like was that it seemed like a sweet gesture. The fact that many of the women in the piece did seem to be bargaining for their jewelry, was, as you all note, revolting. (You almost got the impression they got pregnant only so they could get their necklace). I guess as an unexpected surprise, it seems sweet to me.

But John is right: a cougar is a much more appropriate gift. And memorable!


JMW said...

"(What I loathe about the Times most of all is that 2/3 of their content implicitly denigrates all those who want to do anything so bourgeois as get rich while the other 1/3 trumpets the joys of consumerism--totally unironically.)"

Yes. Yes. A thousand times yes.

Cartooniste said...

I have to go with Wombat on this one. Leaving aside the tone of the piece, which was abhorrent, and the scheming of the interviewed women (also abhorrent), I see nothing inherently wrong with a present to commemorate a tremendous, life-changing event. Our culture associates jewelry with life changing events- I suspect every last one of you bought an engagement ring or wedding band. Perhaps your parents gave you a class ring when you graduated from high school. Did your grandfather get a gold watch when he retired? Maybe your godmother gave you a charm bracelet at some point, with charms to denote things you had done of which she was particularly proud?
A man I know gave his wife a pretty little stacking ring when she was given a clean bill of health after having cancer. It means "I love you, I am proud of you, here is a little thing that you may carry with you, and whenever you touch it or look at it you will be reminded that we came through this thing together."
Of course this should not be expected, nor should it take pride of place in a family with other budgetary concerns. But I think there is meaning to be found in this trend, and it is not as callow as you guys would like to think.

Le Chat said...

Ditto everything Cartooniste said (much more eloquently than I could have done myself). I actually found it interesting that up until now, this was only being debated among the male readership. I'm not sure how receiving a gift on the birth of a child is any different than receiving a gift say, for Mother's Day (how many of you went along with a gift orchestrated by your father, especially when you were young - a pendant, charm, or the like?). Certainly it's vulgar to view it as an attempt to bargain, or to set up a registry, but I think there is something sweet in this idea. I also think it can be viewed as a reaffirmation of a husband's affection and love for his wife especially seeing how priorities change with the arrival of a child (romance giving way to parenthood). Not to mention how unattractive and unspecial some women can feel at the end of pregnancy and in child birth, there's something to be said for receiving ANYTHING from your partner that is a reminder of "I value you, I am thinking of you."

Saxo philologus said...

As usual, there isn't enough mention of "Beowulf" on this blog. The Germanic warrior-ethos dicated that a lord should dole out gifts to his retainers to reward them for loyal service and demonstrate his affection. And of course, the secret to having a long and happy marriage is to treat it as a feudal contract. Hence, the giving of rings is highly appropriate.

Anyway, our modern skepticism about public professions of friendship or love - whether in the form of fine words, flowers, or jewelry - does not seem to have existed in quite the same form in the Middle Ages. I recall an excellent discussion of the opening scene of King Lear by C. Stephen Jaeger, who points out that Lear himself, Regan, and Gonneril are all baffled by Cordelia's refusal to profess her love for her father openly at court. While Cordelia is repulsed by what she takes to be the hypocrisy of such public demonstrations of love, everyone else is pretty much willing to accept that outward expressions of affection reflect the real beliefs of the participants. The potential distance between ritual performance and interior belief was not really discussed all that much.

Which is all a very pedantic and roundabout way of saying that my sweetie can look forward to a gift whenever one of our children is born.

As long as I get to name them.

JMW said...

I'm perfectly willing to agree with much of what Cartooniste said, but I would just add this...

To me, writing "Leaving aside the tone of the piece, which was abhorrent, and the scheming of the interviewed women (also abhorrent)..." is the same as writing "Leaving aside the reason for the post." In other words, I was reacting to the two things you told me to leave aside, not the general notion of buying romantic gifts for people. I'm all about Romance. Wombat can tell you that, as can my current girlfriend and all my exes, if any of them can manage to coherently speak through the diamond coating I had installed in their mouths (for which they're very grateful, believe me).

Wombat Lord said...

1) I will add more Beowulf. It's a good point.

2) RE: John and gifts. It's true. He showers diamonds on only casual acquaintances. Where I think it sometimes goes too far, John, is the elaborate Grillz you make all your girlfriends wear whenever you're in public. The diamond coating in the throat is only the first step. Most of them have so much bling in their mouths they can barely even speak. I just question whether a woman WANTS to have 200,000$ in emeralds in her mouth when she goes to Taco Bell. But you're the MacDaddy--not me.

3) "...the secret to having a long and happy marriage is to treat it as a feudal contract." This should be the first line of your book, Saxo: Marriage Tips From The Middle Ages. I predict massive sales.

4) Given my current budgetary issues, any immediate pregnancies around the Wombat household will probably result in the purchase of a 25$ Borders Gift Certificate--maybe.

5) Or a ham.

JMW said...

A good ham can run you. I'd stick to Borders.

As for my ladies, they like the bling. They're not as crazy about the Taco Bell, it's true, but they understand it's a necessary trade-off if the throat diamonds are going to be provided.

Seb said...
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