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Real Talk: Whose Ring Is It Anyway?

Earlier this week, I had the divine pleasure of reading about Roy Williams, a NFL player (Cowboys Wide Receiver) and perhaps the least tactful man alive...
Earlier this week, I had the divine pleasure of reading about Roy Williams, an NFL player (Dallas Cowboys Wide Receiver) and perhaps the least tactful man alive (and for clarity, not Kelly Rowland’s ex-fiance).

Let me tell you a story about Roy. He had a girlfriend, Brooke, a pageant queen. On Valentine’s Day, he sent her a care package that included a check to cover some bills, a signed baseball for her brother, and oh, a $76K engagement ring along with a recorded proposal message. Um…what else was so important that he couldn’t show up? Or better yet, what was Roy’s rush that he couldn’t wait until he could ask for her hand in marriage (on bended knee) face-to-face?
Unsurprisingly, and rightly so, Brooke turned down the proposal. I mean, if a man can’t be bothered to appear in person (by the way, the Cowboy’s active season was over) to ask a woman to spend her life with him, the chances are he’ll suck majorly as a husband, and it’s likely the pending union would end in a bitter and nasty divorce. But it’s what Brooke did next that’s making news: despite not accepting the proposal, Brooke kept the ring, or better, claimed she’d “lost” it when Roy asked for it back.
And while that’s massively cruddy — decency says you don’t accept the ring if you don’t accept the proposal — I see where she could have been going with this one. If, as the saying goes, one bad deed deserves another, perhaps one faux pas deserves another. Maybe she was so offended at the idea of her man not popping the question in person that she wanted to show just how little she thought of him by keeping the very pricey ring. I mean, he can’t be bothered to appear, so she can’t be bothered to make her way to Mail Boxes, Etc.

Ethics, civil social society, and the State of Texas would say she’s wrong (under Texas law the ring qualifies as a conditional gift, meaning “the engagement ring must be returned to the donor upon termination of the engagement”). The right thing to do was two-day-mail the ring back to the sender.
So Williams sues to get the “lost” ring back from Brooke, and it turns out, her dad has it. He says he’ll return it and all will be right in the world again, or as right as a failed proposal can be. But even though this story has a happy-as-possible-under-the-circumstances ending, it’s raised some hypothetical questions for me, like:
  • What’s a reasonable amount for a man to spend on a ring? I get that Williams is a professional athlete with money to burn, so 76K may be within his financial realm, but what do you expect the average guy to spend?
  • If you get engaged and you break it off because of something he did, do you keep the ring or return it? 
  • I hope no man you ever encounter will be as tactless as Williams, but what if you don’t like your man’s proposal? Would you decline the offer? What if you don’t like the ring? 
  • I wonder if this couple discussed marriage before the proposal. Will/did you?   

Would you keep the ring if you declined the proposal?
Demetria L. Lucas is the Relationships Editor at ESSENCE and the author of “A Belle in Brooklyn: Your Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life” (Atria) in stores now. Follow her on Twitter: @abelleinbk