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Dear Jon helps 'Strapped for Cash' pick out an engagement ring.

by Dear Jon
March 26, 2001

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Thirty-Fifth Sort_Dear Jon-Dear Jon helps 'Strapped for Cash' pick out an engagement ring. ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON

Dear Most Intelligent, Insightful and Ingenious, Inspired and Imaginative Jon,
I have deeply appreciated your wisdom and insight over the past several months of reading your column. Your patience and wit in handling your responses to those who have written to you is quite impressive. Please tell me, what has helped you to develop this skill and what can I do to foster my own abilities in this area.
Sincerely,
An admirer


Dear Admirer,
Clearly you are a person of taste, wit, and manners. Continue to foster these attributes, and people will come to you seeking advice.

As for me, I was raised from early childhood in an environment which encouraged offering unsolicited opinions. I received most of this training from older siblings, who offered to me their opinions about the way I sneezed, wore clothes, spoke with a lisp, ran too slow to keep up, giggled like a monkey, and whatever else. I also had the profound experience of
watching my own father adorn himself in a black robe and speak his opinions uninterrupted for twenty minutes every Sunday morning.

So I began to do as I had been shown. Early on, my unsolicited opinions were not graciously received, as most of them were directed back to my siblings. However, from this crucible of experience I emerge thirty years later as a published Advice Columnist.

My credibility, despite my anonymity, is rooted in my integrated, well-balanced personality which is evident to my enormous fan following week in and week out. I'm everyman. I'm completely normal. I have no problems at all and no secret resentments. Like having to learn to ride a bike on a girl's bike and then I learned to ride it and I rode to the store and a kid from school said, "You're riding a girl's bike." I don't even remember that. Or the time that I was nine years old and I was mistaken as a girl by a
seventh-grader because my Mom cut my hair in this unisex bowl shape. Or that I still hear the laughter of my sisters because I had worn one of their pairs
of socks.

Those things do not eat at me because I am self-secure in my masculinity. This is why they all trust me. Like the song by the Kinks says, "I know what I am, and I am a man, so is L ---" Oops. Okay, that's a bad example. Bad Example! The point is, people need to know that others out there are less neurotic than themselves, and they know they find that in me. So stop laughing. STOP LAUGHING!


ACTUAL LETTER TO DEAR JON:

Dear Jon,
What's a good price for an engagement ring, not that I'm getting married ANYTIME SOON! Some people say 2 months salary is a good gauge, but I've got bills to pay, and it would probably take years before I could part with 2 months salary, not that my girlfriend isn't worth it. So how much does a decent rock cost, and what the heck is a carat anyway?
Sincerely,
Strapped for Cash


Dear Cash,

I am pretty sure that a carat is a unit of weight, but I am too lazy to look it up. I do know that one carat is approximately equal to more money than I have in my checking account. As a unit of weight, this means that engagement rings lose all value when worn in outer space. To protect your checking account, see if you can arrange proposing on the next shuttle launch.

Just so we have our definitions straight, there is no "good price" for anything anymore. Inflation has devalued the priceless. The very idea that the loyalties of a woman can be bought with a stone is demeaning to women and to the priceless ideal of true love. Let your girlfriend know these heart-felt convictions; that to be true to her and true to yourself you just cannot justify squandering money on an engagement ring that could be better used to strengthen the foundation of your new life together.
I am sure that the response of any warm-blooded American girl is that you are an honest, decent, careful, forward-looking, unromantic boring cheapskate.

Now that we're clear, the age-old problem of the engagement ring is; you have to get one, but too often the ring itself will communicate that you are an
honest, decent, careful, forward-looking, unromantic boring cheapskate.

There are some ways out of this dilemma. There is the "Bad Situation Comedy" solution, in which the boring cheapskate conspires with his shifty buddy who,
among other odd jobs, happens also to be a Notary Public, to find a dishonest jeweller who will appraise and notarize that two carats of Zirconium are the
real thing. Of course, you have to guard against the usual Situation Comedy catastrophes, which normally happens when the ditzy blonde roommate overhears the plan and is sworn to the same oaths of secrecy as the FBI and Los Alamos physicists.

Another way is to walk in to a jeweller's and say, "I want to propose to the most wonderful woman ever born. Price is no object." You will make an instant friend who will treat you like royalty. You will leave with the most gorgeous diamond in the store, and with the realization that the only way you will make the 10 years worth of monthly payments is if you work nights as a gigalo. But no price is too steep for love.

A third way is to be real. This way worked for me. In most relationships anymore, if the proposal is a surprise the relationship is not on good footing anyway. So begin talking about marriage. Begin talking about the values placed on material things. Talk about how much you love her and how much you want that love announced and symbolized with an engagement ring. And then shop for rings together.

If you absolutely have to be Prince Charming about this and intend to go shopping by yourself, aim for a smaller but purer stone. If you make between $10 and $15/hr, spend for something pure in between one-third and three-quarters of a carat and you don't skimp on the settings, you will be considered tasteful and modest in your circles, rather than tacky and gauche.
Aim just a little bit higher than you think is comfortably affordable, but don't get stupid.

If you are already an established professional and this is your first fiancee, sure, go over the top. But if you're all that and signing your letter "strapped for cash," I've got to let you know: You are an honest, decent, careful, forward-looking, unromantic boring cheapskate.

On Thursday: Dear Jon answers the question "Why do fools fall in love?

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