Saturday, August 2, 2008

Mate Branding

In a very sweet gesture, my brother has recently purchased a promise ring for his girlfriend, a gift the two will exchange and make vows to stay faithful while they are away at different colleges.

I have never been much of a fan of jewelry (except for that time I won a gold-colored dragon necklace from a crane game when I was 12! How cool!). It always seemed frivolous and expensive. Where's the utility?

Well, now the utility of wedding bands and promise rings is fairly obvious, even if the bearers are unaware. They're not just signs of affection, are they? They act as a kind of branding, a signal to other potential mates that says, "Hey, back off. This one is taken."

People realize this fact and even rely on it as a crutch in moments of defense. Just tap your ring twice, say "I'm taken," and this magic spell will deter most interested parties. But have you ever considered the strangeness of this ritual? The symbolic ownership of another individual is a little disheartening. Moreover, there is an awesome yet belittling effect that lingers in the realization that we have succumbed so readily to forces of sexual selection, that those deeds we do out of kindness and love may have darker, deeper evolutionary significance.


SuiginChou said...

If we live our lives by the saying "all's fair in love and war," then promise rings or even wedding rings are ineffectual, meaningless. I've written a longer explanation that I may or may not post on my weblog.