These days I have thought – like half the population of the country, it seems – about gifts during relationships, the exercise of power to which a relationship that involves money lends itself (that is, practically all of them) and above all, gifts from men to women. I wish it had been because of the engagement ring thing. Belindabut at least I got there too.
Of course my reflections are far from the drama that turned out to have received an engagement ring valued at least 60 million Mexican pesos.
Like many women in this country, I grew up very familiar with the power that a man automatically acquires socially by having money or being a provider. If in financial terms we have not grown accustomed to the fact that if someone else provides monetary resources we cannot complain, at least we grew up scared of accepting gifts or money thinking that something is expected in return or we are left in debt.
It is very easy to make this relationship from the beginning of courtships. How many men do not feel worthy that a girl, with whom they have not even spoken, accepts being their girlfriend for having spent money on flowers, gifts or even paying for a movie ticket? How many women don’t automatically feel that they owe something to a man who did something as basic as paying for dinner or movie tickets?
Worse: How many times in our lives have we thought that some woman was ungrateful for rejecting the attention of a man, whether material or emotional?
The proof is everywhere in entertainment and social networks, after hearing the news of the public breakup of the relationship between Belinda and Christian Nodal. Automatically, without knowing the context, everyone had an opinion on what Belinda or Nodal should or shouldn’t do about said ring.
This chapter has already been seen in the sentimental history of the Mexican show business between the diva Maria Felix and Jorge Negrete. In short: the children of the late Negrete demanded that La Doña return a very expensive necklace that the singer gave the actress just one year after marriage.
Since we cannot know exactly what happened -in this matter of the lives of others who do not have to give public accounts-, we will take the version of La Doña. The actress clarified that in the end she paid for the necklace with her money and then fragmented it to embed it in another Cartier necklace. (A point of gifts is not that someone is in a position to acquire them or not, it is that someone very considerate thought that you do not have to do it yourself, I think).
How many things did they not tell Belinda for not having returned the engagement ring! Even a man on the Internet came out to quote Carreño’s extremely obsolete and prehistoric etiquette manual (written in 1800). In this way, it was argued that the “correct” thing to do for the singer -or “Miss” in question- was to return the ring if the marriage had not been “consummated”.
I think that now the generational trauma of women with the issue of money is understood: that if you receive an object with sentimental value, you have already become either a wife or a “prostitute” (and the refusal to be called as such only reveals fears and stigmas against sex workers). That if you do not accept it, you are rude and the other a “fallen soldier”. That if you don’t return it, you’re interested. That if you return it, you never wanted it and so on endlessly.
In this of my reflections on gifts, I concluded that the will of the giver ends when the other party accepts or rejects it. That what happens from the gift -made from an assumption of kindness and generosity-, already remains in the court of the other person and none of this should “commit” her to anything.
I know that I am invalidating even the meaning of the word commitment, because in this context of Belinda and Nodal’s ring, it is about “the promise of marriage”. However, it is already 2022! and I believe that although we need to learn the concept of “consent” tirelessly, commitments, promises and words can be dissolved, because we have the will and we can make a decision or repent as many times as we want. (Not to be confused with breaking contracts, which makes it much more sensible for me to talk about such a prenuptial document, considering the disastrous scenarios).
Because although originally, engagement rings implied a “transfer of women’s rights” from father to future husband, now owning one makes you owe the same to the SAT or tax authorities. And yes, before the rings represented a macho symbol of supposed possession of a woman and it is currently mistakenly considered a status symbol for the man who acquires it. For many people still, an engagement ring carries gender stereotypes: it implies the value of the love of the one who gives it to the other person and if it is tiny or was not acquired with the supposed rule of three months’ salary (as savings insurance for dismissal), they don’t love you enough.
However, more recently it has acquired a sentimental value for both parties as a romantic reminder or the meaning that each one has decided to give it. So much so that most of women who return or pawn engagement rings do so more to get rid of the keepsake than to get a large sum in return.
(I remember I once had a boyfriend who, when I broke up with him, took me receipts for all the purchases he had made in order to go out with me and even the gifts he gave me. I never gave him any of the grand sum he was supposed to pay the cinema, but it made me completely sad).
Now, it’s not in my interest defend belinda because it seems to me that she is an adult woman with many resources at her disposal, but she definitely brought a debate that even brought into focus constitutional issues about what would happen if they took legal action for the happy engagement ring.
In courts it has been pointed out that if an engagement ring meets three requirements, they may not be returned, two of them are: 1.- that it be a gift (That they are a gift!) 2.- That they be a conditional gift (again the word “condition”, although the condition is the nuptial event. And 3.- the “compensation ring”, which is basically payment for a job you did for the other person .
It is becoming increasingly clear that there are no financial talks in relationships, which continues to be a very taboo and complicated subject to approach because in Mexico we were taught that way, not to say anything about money, to be discreet about it. However, it has only brought misunderstandings and even economic violence.
In this matter of dilemmas -which I think prevail on the heterosexual field- each couple will have their understandings about what the engagement ring represents, about the intentions of each person in giving an object with such a high monetary value and the other person in accepting it . If you ask me, I’m from the team that supports Belinda keeping the ring, but I understand that it can be a reminder of something that she may not want to keep in mind. Although, who knows? With 60 million in your hand, perhaps you can make an effort to put aside the bad time.
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