Rings and Things

A favored law professor technique is to begin a controversial argument, fan the flames and instigate sides to grow ever more entrenched and extreme, then sit back and enjoy the havoc they’ve wrought. It’s not unlike politics, really.

Take my Property class today. My professor, who has clerked for a Supreme Court judge, earned both a JD and an MD and serves on the faculty at the Michigan Law School and Med School, as a means of introducing the legal definition of a gift, asked the class this question:

Is an engagement ring a gift, or a representation of a conditional transaction?

He then sat back with a self-satisfied smile and refused at all costs to render his own judgment or opinion on the issue (a wise decision, and a course most of the men in class similarly took). I, as well, will refrain from siding one way or another for the purposes of this post, but what follows are direct quotations (as best I can remember) from various members of the class. I’ll let you decide which were put forth by men.

“I think that if the break up is mutual, you should give the ring back, but if the guy is a jerk, you should get to keep the ring.”

“I think it’s conditional. I mean, if I say no when he proposes, I’m not going to take the ring anyway.”

“Wasn’t it originally part of a dowry since a wife wasn’t allowed to provide financial support on her own?”

“I thought the reason it was supposed to be worth three months salary was so that if anything happened to the guy in between the proposal and the wedding, she could support herself.” “No, that was De Beers.”

“It could be a gift as a part of inducement… like a box of cookies to convince someone to go to the movies with you.”

“The ring could be like a marker of a claim, like staking the ground or peeing on a tree.”

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