I wasn’t eavesdropping. Two young women standing next to me were having a conversation when I heard one ask the other “How do you know if you really love someone?” To myself I thought ‘If you have to ask, then you don’t.’ Then I noticed the one asking the question playing with the huge diamond ring on the third finger of her left hand. The person she was asking was ringless. I felt like giving Ms. Engaged a slap upside the head. Did you only say yes to get a ring?
Sometimes the answer is ‘yes’. I know someone who got engaged to a person I had seen firsthand was prone to violence and fits of temper. I was concerned for her future health. So was her family. “But I’m 28 and not married!” She could not be convinced that there were worse things in life than being 28 and single, her fiancé being a prime example to forego a ring and laying a claim to the title of ‘Mrs‘. The groom even got into fistfights at the reception because he felt the gifts weren’t ‘sufficient’ (to be polite).
As for gifts: engagement, shower, wedding. Besides getting their apartments/living quarters set up with sheets, towels, pots, pans, dishes, glasses, small appliances, etc., these days the betrothed set up funding/registry sites to request specific purchases — even to pay for their wedding reception and honeymoon, down payments for a house.
A single woman attending an engagement or shower event commented she could use several items the future bride received for her own apartment and perhaps the way to get others to buy them for her was to announce an engagement. She had had to furnish her apartment by herself, for herself, working full-time post college. She was reminded that proper etiquette required that to keep the gifts, one must actually get married, not just announce a marriage — at the very least produce the fiancé in the flesh for people to meet — else the gifts must be returned. Once married however, regardless how brief the marriage, no gifts need be returned as they are then considered
It is an effective game plan, though it can only be used once and after a certain age/number of times moved, utterly useless as people assume by that time you have already amassed your own stuff and feel gifts are unnecessary. You’ll be lucky if they voice any congrats at all.
There is no comparative event for single people.
There are no parties/gifts/celebrations for those Finally Moving Out of Parents’ House or Getting First Apartment Without Roommates, most certainly not for Buying House But Still Not Married. Apparently it is perceived and assumed that single people don’t need the same things as married people. Flannel sheets? What would you do with them? Sleep in a nice warm bed in winter, same as you. Matching dishes? Surely the one or two plates swiped from the college dining hall should suffice. Garage sale leftovers, mismatched mugs, towels, sheets and discarded furniture are deemed sufficient and appropriate for singles. Silverware? Surely you can eat with your hands.
While it’s perfectly acceptable for those getting married to ask people to pay for their honeymoon, it would be considered gauche for a single person to ask people to fund their vacation, since after rent, food and other living expenses and all the money spent on engagement/shower/wedding/baby/Christmas/birthday gifts for other people and paying the highest taxes, they can’t afford a vacation for themselves.
Emily Post deemed it ‘inappropriate’ to send invitations to a housewarming party and expect gifts for the home, instead of just a bottle of wine or a plant. And certainly not have a registry. Most apartments, and almost no houses come furnished including linens and tableware. Are you supposed to pass around the bottle of wine to your guests to take a swig because you don’t have any glasses?
Single people pay the same rates for utilities as married people. They do not get discounted prices on food and beverages, no discount in rent/mortgage simply because they are a force of one — usually on a single job salary. They also have insurance costs. Cooking utensils, and a well stocked pantry (think of all those spices) do not magically appear for them, so yes, it is not only appropriate but a kind, decent, loving gesture to treat the milestone achievement with the same respect as if they’ve announced they’re getting married.
So you don’t accept the diamond ring because it’s a ring, or for the title of ‘Mrs.“ You accept it because you love that person and believe he loves you, because you want to spend the rest of your life with him and grow old together. Marriage isn’t about the ring, the dress, the reception or the gifts. It’s about spending your life with the person you love. Maybe it doesn’t last ‘till death’, but if you’re unsure or have doubts, you don’t marry the person. You can buy your own ring and wear it on any damn finger you like. You can buy a fancy dress and throw a fancy party for yourself.
And you can certainly ask for gifts to decorate and use in your abode — for any celebration in your life. You may not get them, but they are not reserved for married people only.
Single people are just as worthy and entitled to have matching dishes and linens as those that marry. You are not a lesser human being if you have no wife or husband. You’re actually an unacknowledged and underappreciated superhero for living solo.
If you do get engaged, then marry, don’t be smug. Not only is it uncouth, you have forgotten that love is a more precious gift than a set of Lenox.