Atlas Shrugged: The Mocking

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Princess Bride, Part II

Today, Megan McArdle discusses the most fascinating subject in the world, Megan McArdle. You may have heard her mention once or twice that she is affianced to boy tea bagger P. Suderman, ret. McArdle spent the weekend buying her wedding ring and happily announced it to the world, but one small speck, one tiny blight, marred her Perfect Day.

Via McArdle's link to her boyfriend's present and cross-your-fingers-and-hope-to-die-future employer, we learn that some jewelers are eager to open a new market and increase revenue, the God-given right and duty of every free market entrepreneur. This should warm the cockles of McArdle's heart, but as we already know, if the gays get their hands on marriage, they'll just ruin it for everyone else.
It seems to me that there is a market opening for the brave young entrepreneur who is ready to redefine the gendered engagement ring for the gay community. But I'm a little puzzled about the idea of gay wedding rings. We bought ours yesterday, and though there was a big difference between men's and women's rings, I can't say that any of the rings in either gender screamed "gay" or "straight". The form factor for a circular band seems to have been pretty well settled, and I'm just not sure there's a lot of room there to express your sexual preference.

What puzzles our princess bride? Marketing? Niche marketing? Niche marketing for a new market? If a product is "pretty well settled" in form, should the form never change? Or should it not change just for gay couples?

Oddly enough, not everyone suffers from McArdle's lack of imagination and entrepreneurial spirit. If you Google "gay wedding and engagement rings," you get a wealth of information and merchandise available for the happy gay couple.* McArdle once again depends on her gut to tell her what other people want, and lo, her gut just happens to say that almost everyone wants the exact same things that McArdle and her friends want.

Ah, but that's not the good part. Let's take a look at the comments. We will paraphrase the commenters for brevity and directly quote McArdle.
Commenter: It's marketing.

McArdle: "Mmmm . . . but it's not like gay men are going to want to wear bigger womens' rings, and studding men's wedding rings with diamonds is more of a class thing than a sexual preference issue."

Commenter: Rings can't be designed for gay men?

McArdle: "I was in Act-Up, so yes, I'm familiar with triangles! But a very small minority of my friends from those days, gay or straight, have wished to incorporate those kinds of symbols into their wedding bands, and believe it or not, there are wedding bands with triangles already on them, for gay or straight people who like triangles."

So wedding rings are already designed for gay men, but there is no market for wedding rings designed for gay men. And if a friend of McArdle does not want them, nobody wants them.
Commenter: Small markets aren't served?

McArdle: "I'm saying that top of the line jewelers don't usually introduce "their new line of [celtic . . . asian . . . african-american . . . etc] rings, because only a small minority of any given population wants to make their group identity a major statement on their wedding rings. Yes, you can buy wedding rings emblazoned with any group symbol you'd care to name, but the problem is, then they don't look so much like wedding rings, and only a tiny percentage of the group in question usually buys them.

I'm not against it--I'm very pleased that they're trying to cash in on gay marriage, insofar as it recognizes that gay marriage is a coming trend. But like most attempts to cash in on trends, it seems a little dumb, too.

If y'all weren't totally convinced that everything I say is some sort of coded attempt to advance a right-wing agenda, you wouldn't need to work yourself into a lather every twenty minutes."

You see, gay marriage is just the trend of the moment, and cashing in on it will be dumb. But there will not be a market for specialized designs, despite the fact that there already is a market for specialized designs, because they don't look like traditional wedding rings. And we all know that the question of what a wedding should look like is "pretty well settled."
Commenter: So it's a class issue?

McArdle: "As for class issues . . . um, yes? I'm not under the impression that class doesn't exist, or that it's somehow bad taste to talk about it.

But then, we bought our wedding bands at Zales."

Commenter: What about Celtic rings?

McArdle: "I have seen them . . . but none of the Irish Americans I know even considered one. It's a very niche market, and weirdly, a lot of its customers don't have much connection, genetic or otherwise, to Ireland."

Well, if none of the people that McArdle knows buy Claddagh rings or rings with the Celtic knot, that means nobody does. Someone should tell all those people selling Irish rings that they're wasting their time.
Commenters: Megan doesn't know what gays want. Megan is being elitist.

McArdle: "Yes, Rob, because unless you're a liberal, you don't know any gay people! What a reasonable, informed conclusion to draw.

I'm not going to start iwth the "some of my best friends are gay" act, because that's ridiculous. Let's just say, I know a lot of people who want to marry folks of the same gender, and finding wedding rings that work is not one of the issues we've discussed. Engagement rings, now, are a big issue.

Calling this elite is even more moronic, Ginger . . . "not knowing any gay people" hasn't been a characteristic of the elite . . .well, ever, but for not knowing any "openly gay people" it's been a few decades at least."

Commenter: What? Also, your spelling is bad.

McArdle: "I do appreciate your corrections of my many spelling errors, but I do wish you would practice Reading Comprehension 101. On a side note, all you're contributing to the blog these days is hatred of me. If your target were anyone else, I'd already have banned you. Please try to get the "You suck!":discussion ration down to, say, 1:4, or I still may."

Commenter: You bought your ring at Zales?

As of this time McArdle has no responded to the comment on her choice of jewelry stores. Of course there is nothing whatsoever wrong with shopping at Zales, but it does do some damage to McArdle's elitist creds. It's kind of hard to argue from elitism when you buy your wedding ring next door to Hot Topic and an Orange Julius hut.

UPDATE: McArdle says that she bought her wedding bands (not her engagement ring) at Zales due to time limits.

*I also found out by googling that Hitler sent women who used contraception to death camps. They had to wear a black triangle, the same as lesbians and prostitutes.


Clever Pseudonym said...

I think it's telling she felt the need to respond to someone's shock that she were lower herself to the level of mere plebes like me and buy her gay wedding bands at Zales. My goodness, it's just that she didn't have the time to take the special trip to Tiffany's to be served champagne on a silver platter by someone wearing white cloves while the rings were being sized.

Susan of Texas said...

I can't believe her responses--nobody she knows buys such rings, so nobody will want them? How does she know?

McArdle is elite when people discuss taste in diamond jewelry, but is middle class when people accuse her of being elite. Strange.

mw said...

And not only do her friends not buy such rings, but they "never even considered them." So she just happens to know each and every ring that each and every one of her friends once considered buying?

She never tires of arguing by anecdote. Why on earth does she still think she can get away with it without being roundly mocked?

Batocchio said...

Today, Megan McArdle discusses the most fascinating subject in the world, Megan McArdle.

Shorter (Almost) Every McArdle Post Ever.

Batocchio said...

Also, it's a combination of laziness and arrogance. Why bother with reality? Every worthwhile thought about how the world is or should be is obviously to be found in Cranium McArdle.

bulbul said...

Someone clue me in, please: what's wrong with Zales?

Susan of Texas said...

McArdle's argument is that there is no market for specialized wedding rings, and when she went to buy her rings she didn't see specialized rings for gays and that the form of wedding rings was settled and done. No variation needed. But she went to Zales, which is very middle-market and aimed at the average consumer.

I used to visit Zales every time I went to the mall to look at the semi-precious stones, which are my favorite. But I bought my wedding ring at a very large local jeweler because I wanted an ornately carved band.

Tommykey said...

You mean Megan and her fiance didn't go to Jared?

aimai said...

i love the "shorter" commenters. I think you should make it a regular feature.

Also, I think the Zales thing is indicative of McCardle's real grasp of the market--high class/expensive/hand made wedding rings are *already* a niche market. And one that she apparently didn't fall into--she went to a definitional mass marketer, who caters to the mass taste. Its like going to the Olive Garden and declaring that "no real italians cook tripe" anymore because its not on the menu there.


aimai said...

Wonder what she makes of the "grooms cake'" and cake toppers? Are these, too, not subject to cultural revision for gay couples? Can't wait to see her new wedding themed column "uninformed comment" in which she discovers, reports on, and dismisses every "fad" of the wedding market.

And then, oh the joy of hearing about her eventual pregnancy and/or adoption saga! I'm on the edge of my seat.


Susan of Texas said...

Perhaps there are two kinds of weddings--the kind that are a celebration of the couple and the kind that are a celebration of the ritual. One kind will design their own rings or buy rainbow rings, get married in their back yard, or have Princess Leia and Han Solo cake toppers. The other will adhere to tradition, seeing the event as admission to a club, with all its rank and privileges.

Susan of Texas said...

Discretion is highly undervalued.

bulbul said...

Thanks, Susan, I think I get it. She basically went to jewellery Wallmart (Costco, Target, Tesco, Carrefour ...) to buy her wedding rings. Now I know very little about these things, but having been at a few weddings, having witnessed their preparation and extrapolating from various other types of human interaction, I always thought the only option here is to have the rings custom made by a specialist craftsman to make them, you know, unique, special. Somehow picking out rings out of a catalogue just doesn't seem right.

I really don't know where all that came from...

The other will adhere to tradition, seeing the event as admission to a club, with all its rank and privileges.
And how about when the only reason there is a formal wedding with all the bells and whistles are the parents? I've seen a lot of those, both where the couple goes along with the spectacle because they love they parents and when they do so out of fear of them. Has Our Lady of the Cheap Jewellery mention her parents' involvement at all?

aimai said...

Megan's a really interesting example of something--I'm not quite sure what to call it--I think Bourdieu explored some aspects of her public life in his big book "Distinction" (IIRC) when he explored the ways in which class/social status was inherited and expressed even when the financial or economic underpinnings aren't continguous with it.

In Megan's case her parents booted her up a class level through her expensive education and her own monkey like imitative genius. Now she's attempting to continue enacting an upper class life (its consumption patterns, entertainment, weddings, houses, travel, etc...) without the real financial base to do so. Making it all that much more interesting (or maybe I mean surreal) she is actually attempting to support her fragile class status by marketing it: selling herself as a kind of anthropologist or journalist of class and consumption to her blog/atlantic audience.

She's like a Sally Quinn for losers: she thinks she commenting wittily on a technological and social scene of which she is Queen, to a readership of fawning friends and social equals. But her column really reads like the diary of a poor relation, a hanger on, endlessly reviewing the activities and social experiences of a class to which she doesn't really belong.

Naturally her wedding would be one of the most painful moments for her bizzare social/class position to be worked out. Weddings are one of the major areas in which middle class financial and sexual anxiety are worked out publicly--debts to one's parents friends/relations need to be paid off (and also reaped in the form of return gifts) while class status vis a vis one's own school friends must be displayed. There's a space of play left for the unique and the personal, but for a would be upper class poseur like Megan its a very tiny space. She will want her wedding to stand out and be unique, but not tip over into kitsch or vulgar display--while she will be unable to afford the highest level of cost and the kind of display that is forgiveable because its upper class excess (like a restrained and elegant wedding in Greece, say, instead of a vulgar and over the top wedding in a faux greek palace in Brooklyn).


Kathy said...

So, Meg is a social climber with pretentious of being an intellectual, a wit, and of course a brilliant (and funny) writer who's talent need not follow mundane rules of spelling and grammar, let alone veracity. Being so superior and lofty *she* can shop at Zales or Walmart and not be tarnished with the blue-collar brush.

Heh. We ( Husb. & I) got my engagement ring at an "Antique" store which specialized in estate sales. It was made in the 1930's and had a very pretty setting, tho ho-hum diamond. Beat THAT ArgleBargle!

Kathy said...

pretensions, not pretenses.

Batocchio said...

aimai, I've toyed with the term "bourgeois authoritarianism," but it's clunky and I'm not sure it strictly applies here anyway. I think of that as more the Beltway Villager attitude that one takes stock of Beltway Conventional Wisdom, which is naturally always right, and one goes along with whatever those in power say – unless they're seen an outsiders and they get blow jobs, of course. But that's basic courtier/suck-up behavior, really. Aristocrats and their wannabes. Propriety is wielded as a weapon.

I'd say McArdle is closer to Madame Bovary without the brains or romantic soul. She had her heart on getting at married at night by torchlight, as was the fashion – but had to settle for Zales.

Batocchio said...

Also, I knew a Southern family so concerned with appearances they borrowed money and went into debt to keep up with the Davises. (That became more common this past decade.)

aimai said...

I like the locution, I don't find it clunky at all. But the other thing Megan reminds me of was a book I saw, years ago--wish I'd bought a copy--it was black and white photographs and little paragraph interviews with the descendants and hangers on of wealthy wasp "old names." It was weird, and moving, and nauseating all at the same time. These were the collateral branches, or the failed younger sons' sons--sort of like the branch of the Forbes' that produced John Kerry.

The girls fought to stay in the game, in high society, by selling their beauty, if any. Lots of attention was paid to getting the girls into the "right schools" and keeping them available, beautiful, and well dressed so they could marry back up the ladder. The boys were in a much more complicated place--lots of attention on the right schools and attending the right parties but if they couldn't get into the good law firms or marry wealth they knew they would eventually be disinvited *if they married down, or out.* One man in his forties said firmly that he would never get married because as a single man he would still be invited to "all the right places" but if he were dragging around an inappropriate wife from the wrong class and ethnic background she, and their children, would be a drag on him.

Megan looks at that life as a hanger on and wishes it were hers.


Susan of Texas said...

KWillow, I was dying to buy an antique wedding ring, but those Edwardian ladies were tiny and I'm 5-9. Rats!

Aimai, I'm rather amazed that McArdle didn't try harder to marry up--like Elaine in Seinfeld, overcome with ambition and lust at the thought of JFK Jr. Were there no lesser Buckleys or Bushes to be had?

aimai said...

Susan of Texas,

You know, I think she would have tried harder to marry up but I think she's even farther from dateable, or marriageable, by that type than we can possibly imagine. She's a hanger on, in a marginal position--her work at the Atlantic is the opposite of social or public. And she's old. By this time her highschool classmates and college friends are married and busy and they can't fix her up with anyone high powered. The marriage with Suderman is definitively the marriage of two mediocre lickspittles. Talk about settling! But the market is what the market is.


aimai said...

Susan of T.

BTW: on the subject of antique rings. I think its very easy to get them "sized" although I've never known what that entailed. presumably cutting and extending the ring. I looked at a ton of victorian and edwardian rings a few years ago, for fun, and the dealers all assured me they could be expanded to fit a normal finger. My own "engagement" ring is bakelite, and too small for me and quite ugly. But those can't be expanded.