Tuesday, February 5, 2008

square cut

I adore Valentine's day, I always have. Even in elementary school. (At our school you weren't allowed to give valentines to some people and not others, which meant everyone was guaranteed at least two dozen valentines each year. A record I've never even come close to breaking since.)

Valentine's day is a great big love fest, and I'm down with that. There's just one part I can't stand: the diamond store commercials.

When I was a teenager, I wished John Wayne would die. I just didn't want to see his face on TV anymore. Same with Elvis, but that backfired on me. Since then I've learned that pop culture can never be completely cleansed of annoyances, but if I could disappear anything, diamond store commercials would be it.

First off, diamonds are ugly. I once visited a museum that had, in some darkened side room filled with glass cases, an amazing gem exhibit. Stones glistened from the centers of cracked-open rocks. I had been planning to leave the museum without even going into this room, but once inside I was so enchanted I never wanted to leave. Visual pleasure overload. Emeralds, sapphires...every imaginable color, liquid with depth and life.

I could see it if diamonds were the only gem in the world. But once you've seen rubies, how could you choose something that looks like a rhinestone you got out of a gumball machine?

Even if diamonds looked good, the kind that are advertised on the diamond store commercials would still suck. It's like they smashed them together in a particle accelerator and then spewed them onto a setting designed by a 9-year old girl. Or a 99-year old lady, whichever.

And all these stores are in the mall and carry products with prices that end in $99. Who mistakes this for romance?

Whatever, the women in the commercials are continually entranced by these godawful gifts. I always scrutinize their expressions for any sign of "I'm totally planning to exchange this" or "we're breaking up straightaway." I'm not sure where I got the idea that a commercial might introduce a plot twist that denigrates the advertised product, but hope knows no logic. However, if the diamond chicks feel any disappointment they're incredibly gracious about it. These women have really good manners.

This year one of the commercials debuted what I like to call the family group sex fantasy. It's where your birth family is overly involved in your romance. It seems to be a common fantasy, especially among religious groups. Like asking the girl's dad for permission to marry her or proposing to her in front of all her relatives, junk like that.

In this commercial, the guy get the girl's mom to give him her childhood jewelry box in order to give it back to her (complete with tacky diamond earrings inside) for Valentine's day. So the mom is a whole romance co-conspirator. A practice I cured my mom of after the fifth time she gave my college phone number out to yet another guy I knew in high school.

I mean, what if the chick in the commercial was about to break up with this guy? What if she thinks he's a dud? And she doesn't want to associate her childhood jewelry box with memories of him? What if he's a stalker and he uses her jewelry box to blackmail her into seeing him? (Okay, that last one's a stretch.)

Even if it's all cool, this gift forces her to think about her mom on Valentine's day. She knows she's going to have to call her the next day and describe the evening in detail. What could be less sexy?

Okay, and I haven't even gone into the slavery, racism, and De Beers cartel aspects to diamonds. (Probably should've mentioned those first, but as an avid consumer of chocolate, bananas, and tea I don't really have any moral authority here.) Add it all up and diamonds are a close second to giant teddy bears as earth's worst romantic present.

The only thing great about diamonds is the Marilyn Monroe song. Which, if you listen to the lyrics, is all about hawking the jewelry as soon as the boyfriend scrams.

Hmmm, maybe that's what the women in the commercials are thinking about.


leesajay said...

i am so with you on this. except the loving valentine's day part. i pretty much hate that, too.

Mike said...

How can you not be most against the teddy bear adverts? The whole "she'll think that you put weeks of effort into it, but all it takes is a phone call!" as though chicks can't actually, you know, watch tv...