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OpEd: Get over it. An engagement ring is a gift

It's time outdated etiquette and ambiguous laws change to recognize that gender has nothing to do with the fate of the ring when a relationship sours.
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Gord Woodward, September 20, 2013 2:22:41 PM

With this ring I take thee to be… my opponent in court.

Not the most romantic of notions, but one that is common given the rate of divorce today. Most couples get married first, then face each other before a judge; B.C. residents Pasquale Angelino Zampieri and Jessica Bennett decided to shortcut the process.

The former fiances got engaged in a lawsuit long before they got near the altar. (Guess they thought “I do” was going to be the answer to the question, “Do you want a lawyer?”)
Zampiere is in B.C. Supreme Court to get back a $16,500 engagement ring he gave to Bennett. He says he was also going to give her a kidney (proving the theory that, upon marriage, men lose control of some of their most prized parts).

Why are diamonds a part of getting married?

Bennett, meantime, says she too ponied up for the ring, is owed money by the Ex, and even went to the trouble of getting a breast enhancement in anticipation of getting hitched (proving the theory that, upon marriage — or any other time, for that matter — men love big boobs).

The court has to decide a delicate legal issue here: Who is the bigger idiot?
We’re only seven years shy of a law degree, but we can render judgment. The idiot here is… Emily Post.

The manner mavens, you see, is often cited as the authority in matters of broken engagements. And in her “wisdom,” the woman always returns the rock. That’s a bigger crock than the “I will be with you forever” line that gets a lot of these messes started in the first place.

For some reason her version of etiquette is accepted as gospel even though it dates from 1922! Are we seriously still living by rules drafted in the Roaring ’20s? If so, here are a few others from that era to follow: women are not considered persons according to the British North America Act; and they must resign from the federal civil service when they get married.

Outrageous, no? And therein lies the problem in Post’s pontification about engagement rings (which, like a tourniquet, are mainly intended to stop circulation). It has long conditioned us to discriminate by gender.

Think about it. If an engaged man and woman split, your first thought likely is that the woman should give back the diamond. But what if two gay men break it off — who then does your mind automatically assume should cough up? If that decision is trickier, you get the point about sexism.

Canadian laws are equally bizarre. Like an engagement ring, one size doesn’t fit all. Our courts have three different options: “it’s a gift — keep it,” “it’s a conditional gift — maybe give it back,” or “it’s a contract — fork it over.” The final decision depends largely on which province you’re in.

Well, it’s time to join the modern era. The law, and etiquette, should treat an engagement ring as an unconditional gift. The recipient can do with it as he/she pleases. For the purchaser it’s truly Buyer Beware, which is why, in cases of a family heirloom or the Hope diamond, the Khloe and Lamar Rule should come into play: sign a pre-nup that covers the gem.

Not even that will prevent courtship from ending up in court. (The only way to ensure a guy sticks with a promise to marry is to have him hand over the family jewels.) But, like a diamond, at least those rules have clarity.

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