Similar to the Rules of Engagement in a formal battle, getting engaged has snares, traps, pitfalls and pain enough for a battalion.
The origins of giving an engagement ring are lost in the dim and distant past, back when cavemen supposedly tied grass ropes around the ankle of the woman they claimed, the better to keep them near the cooking fire.
We are far more civilised now.
Bonding jewelery until classical antiquity times was more usually actual chains or bracelets, symbolising the possession of the woman by the man. The earliest acknowledged engagement rings were found in Ancient Egypt, where placing a ring on the fourth finger left hand was considered to be banding the love vein. The Romans, disdaining the traditional materials of hemp, leather, bone, or ivory as barbaric trinkets, made betrothal rings of iron, often decorated with a key. This ring served as a slave band, showing that the woman was a chattel and so not available without negotiation.
God Damn you to the deepest pits of Hell, John Stuart Mill !
Like apartheid, tulipmania and drug for weapons exchanges, we can blame the whole modern engagement ring phenomenon squarely on the Dutch. Hence the old phrase "getting into Dutch" when you fail to buy an expensive enough ring. After a saturation advertising campaign by De Beers, 2 months salary has come to be the norm to spend. Many women angle for three months salary - if you have one of those, release her to the wilds and find a more realistically priced woman.
WHAT! No diamond!? BASTARD!!!!
For the Ladies
Look - he bought you a ring. So what if it is not the style you wanted. He'll not remember what it looks like - take it back and exchange it for the one you acutally want.
For the Men
Not to put more pressure on you here, but your choice of ring is going to be judged by her family, friends, work collegues and nosy passers by. Accept that you will fuck up the selection if you go on your own. Either take her with you - boring, or make sure she knows where the receipt is.
So, you found a man. One that looks like, with a little training, he'll be a keeper. It is time to stake your claim by hinting about getting engaged.
Subtlety won't work - after all, he only notices you want sex when you strip in front of him. So forget the stopping in front of jewelers windows while absently rubbing your ring finger. You need to speak out.
A little bit too obvious. You don't want to look desperate ...
Men are used to ignoring you wittering on about needs and emotions, so keep at it until he actually pays attention to you. Standing in front of the TV while talking is an effective technique. Once he gets it into his head that you want to commit, he will be humbled and proud. And probably panicky as hell, so give him a clear run to the door, or bathroom.
Hmm. Your girlfriend has started acting all weird, eh? Buying matching pans, encouraging you to go out for a pint and not complaining when you don't take her along, examining jewelery shops and offering sex without the usual begging?
Psstttt! I think she is trying to communicate.
Seems like you are getting pressure to commit. Well, it is your call, but redoing the whole "finding a new source of sex and sandwiches" route is a real pain in the ass. So you may as well get engaged.
If you do the proposal right, the memory of how romantic you are will stave off the inevitable pressure to actually follow through and get married. If Octavio Guillen could manage to postpone his wedding for 67 years, you can manage 3 or 4.
Do it right. Walking through the door and tossing a ring at her is the quickest way to wake up in hospital with diamond provoked concussion. Especially when the rules are so simple.
Get dressed up.
Um - OK. If you must.
Take her out for a meal.
Not here. Christ, are you even listening?
Down on one knee and offer the ring.
Pro tip - Have a waiter standing by to help you up again.
She'll look surprised.
"Oh, I never expected you to understand my flat out statement that I wanted marriage!"
And say "yes."
We REALLY can't go back to that restaurant again ...