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Diamond in the Rough 

The bigger the rock, the better the sex, but the truly precious gem is love.

The turning wheel of time finally released us from the weirdest holiday season in living memory, for which we can be profoundly thankful. Having the actual President of the United States--at least, that's who they say that person is--urge us to take our cards to the limit as the patriotic thing to do at that Blessed and Very Special time of year... well, it was surreal.

However, we've now heaved past the next major holy day of the marketing calendar, the Super Bowl, which leads to the single most noxious advertising frenzy of the entire year, even worse than Christmas: Valentine's Day.

It's not love I hate; it's the diamond commercials.

They've infested the entire year at this point, but they peak in mid-February, and every year they're more revolting. The basic message, however, is always the same:

Give her a diamond and get laid.

Oh, yeah, and the bigger the rock, the better the boom. You get what you pay for.

Even for American advertising, which, heaven knows, has no bottom anyone's ever been able to touch, this is so offensive, so outrageous, so cruelly manipulative that it begs to be gutted. Allow me, a long-time connoisseur of these ads, to do the honors.

First, however, I should disclose the fact that no man has ever offered me a diamond. I assume that this is because any guy who's known me well enough to even fleetingly consider doing so would have realized that such a proffer would be, shall we say, counterproductive. But it could be that I'm a character right out of a Marilyn Monroe movie and just in very deep denial.

Second, I am not entirely immune to Valentine wares. Last year I presented my beloved with an Official Elvis Products Edition box of Russell Stover chocolates from Walgreens that, when opened, plays "Love Me Tender." I wasn't shopping for a gift--just walked past it, and wham, there it was. The perfect thing. He threw the candy away but keeps the box on his desk, and, I believe, treasures it. It was first in a series, too, so I'm hoping that eventually they'll come out with a "Burning Love" model.

But back to the diamonds. What's wrong, anyway, with this shuck about why and how to giving her (down-shift into hushed, significant tones) the diamond?

Well, what's right about it?

The profoundly cynical attempt to separate perhaps unduly hopeful men (mostly) from hard-earned money they probably don't even have in the name of "love"?

The snarky, heh-heh, ever more blatant equation of love with sex--not to say there's never any connection there. But do you really want a commercial making it for you?

The cynical reinforcement of the impression that "a diamond is forever" is an ineluctable truth, when, in fact, it's just a brilliant advertising slogan dreamed up by De Beers early last century and the linchpin of a highly successful, long-term strategy to broaden its market.

Before about 1920, people wore all sorts of rings as engagement rings--if they wore them at all. (The concept of "the set," now presented as something as inevitable as the procession of the equinoxes, has also been brought to you by your helpful local jewel merchant.)

OK, and here's where it gets really nasty. What these ads say is that even people who obviously love each other--let us not forget the diamond anniversary ring--buy and sell sex. Guys, you see, are inarticulate oafs capable of expressing themselves only through presentation of symbolic objects, which puts them way back behind Koko the gorilla. But, lucky for them, they have the green, because otherwise the female of their choice wouldn't consider mating with them. A big enough sparkly object, however, practically guarantees she'll put out.

Men buy sex; women sell it. And she gives it up on a strictly calibrated scale based on cut, carat, color and clarity. (You know they teach that in Girl Scouts, right? The Legal Prostitution badge?)

Take it from a lifelong, practicing, heterosexual female. Please. If you really feel like giving her a big old present, you do it. But not because they tell you to.

Kindness, consideration and affection--you know, love, the thing itself--is worth more than a dozen overpriced, scentless roses, worth infinitely more than a frankly useless chunk of fused carbon, and hardly the same thing. It's worth more, even, than a miraculous Elvis chocolate box.

Happy Valentine's Day.

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