You do a significant amount of research about the history of engagement rings in Sparkle. How did you go about that?
“I didn’t just research the history, I researched everything about the ring that I could think of – I talked to anthropologists, lawyers, consumer psychologists, etiquette experts, relationship therapists, gemologists, historians, social scientists and evolutionary biologists. I went where my curiosity led me. And each person I spoke to had something interesting to say about the ring. There wasn’t room for everything in the piece, but all the research informed my journey to understand why we wear the freaking things.”
What was the most surprising information you found?
“Doing the research was amazing because there is so much more to the ring (or as I came to think of it: The Ring) than I’d assumed. One startling piece of information was that the ring, under U.S. law, is considered a contract rather than a gift, which means that the woman does not own the ring until the wedding vows have been taken. Therefore, in the case of a pre-marital breakup, the ring will always go back to the man, even if he was douche who cheated on her, etc, etc. (except in Montana). The law, I was told, stems from an early American viewpoint that women are inherently gold diggers. YUCK!”
Is there anything interesting that you learned that didn’t make it into Sparkle?
“I spoke to a couple of anthropologists who shed some evolutionary insight onto the use of the ring and also made me rethink my Marking of Territory Hypothesis. Anthropologists posited that because a woman takes care of her offspring for so long, she needs a sign that her partner/mate will be in it for the long haul.
But it can’t be just any sign; the sign has to be costly. It’s what Coren Apicella, a biological anthropologist at Havard University, called an honest signal. ‘A man could say, ‘Hey baby, we are going to get married,’ and then abscond and leave her high and dry,’ she explained. ‘Engagement is cheap talk unless you have something to back it up.’
Because an honest signal can only occur if it is extremely costly, this might be why we, as a society, have seemed so gung-ho about adopting the two to three-month salary rule. Spending two to three-months salary on a ring substantially cuts into anyone’s resources. So the ring, according to evolutionary biology, has to show more than that the man can provide – it has to show that he is planning stay.”
After doing all of your research, are you happy with the ring you chose? Do you feel bad about breaking tradition?
“I don’t feel good or bad about breaking tradition — and if one reads the story, they will see that tradition doesn’t always mean what we think it means. But, I wanted to be sure that my choice came from an authentic place. I didn’t want to choose an alternative ring for the sole purpose of being alternative or nonconformist, but because the ring actually appealed to Dave and I.”
Sparkle is exclusively available on Amazon. The Kindle Application can be downloaded for free on any computer or smartphone. For more on Mara Altman, visit her website and follower her on Twitter, @maraaltman.