It disturbs me that anyone who claims to love another can actively want to hurt them if they try to ‘leave’
OK, full disclosure: before I begin this piece, I have to confess that when news broke of Machine Gun Kelly and Megan Fox’s engagement – the pair allegedly “drank each other’s blood” to celebrate – I had a lot of texts from friends pointing me towards the… unique qualities of Fox’s engagement ring and telling me I would “love” it.
A pear-cut emerald (Fox’s birthstone) set next to a pear-cut diamond (Kelly’s), the art deco-style jewels are set, allegedly, on two magnetic bands of thorns that Kelly said in an Instagram post were intended to “draw together as two halves of the same soul forming the obscure heart that is our love”.
Away from the lyricism, what this means is that Fox’s ring is embedded with sharp, thorny spikes that – were she to try to take it off – would hurt her, because, the singer told Vogue magazine, “love is pain”.
“The concept is that the ring can come apart to make two rings,” he said. “When it’s together, it’s held in place by a magnet. So you see how it snaps together? And then it forms an obscure heart. And you see this right here? The bands are actually thorns. So if she tries to take it off, it hurts.”
On first glance, as my friends knew I would, I’ll admit: I swooned. Why? Well, like any self-respecting, vampire-loving, grown-up goth, the poetic intensity of such a gesture – the Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton-style drama of it all (the couple famously wore vials of each other’s blood around their necks) – can certainly appear romantic.
It’s strange, it’s taboo, it’s passionate, and it appeals – in its sheer, WTF intensity – to those who similarly sigh over the type of love affair found between Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston’s characters in (my personal favourite) Only Lovers Left Alive; or in the platonic blood-bond between Brad Pitt and Kirsten Dunst in Interview With The Vampire; or even Twilight, for younger fans of the macabre.
Some of us are attracted to darkness, to the intensity of a gesture that mirrors the actions of Romeo and Juliet; the “I would die for you” dizzying romance that not even death can quell; that feeling of being so utterly in love with someone that you want to consume them and be consumed, as the poet Pablo Neruda puts so beautifully in his “Love Sonnet XI”: “I want to eat your skin like a whole almond”; as I wrote about here. And yet.
There is a huge “and yet” that even I – someone attracted to the scarily strange – cannot reconcile, and that’s the murky nature of a relationship built on pain. It disturbs me that anyone who claims to love another can actively want to hurt them if they try to “leave”; not least when it is centred around the institution of marriage – which is in itself founded in the concept of possession.
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Machine Gun Kelly is a man giving a woman a diamond ring as a symbol (yes, of love) but also to show the world she “belongs” to him. That is what engagement rings represent; it’s fundamental to their history. The tradition of women wearing them in heterosexual relationships is believed to originate from a Roman custom in which wives wore rings attached to small keys to indicate their husbands’ ownership – according to the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), Roman women wore rings of ivory, flint, bone, copper and iron to signify a business contract, or to affirm “love and obedience.” It surprises and saddens me how little we’ve moved on since then.
It also inspires images of domestic abuse: of jealous husbands threatening to hurt their wives if they step out of turn; of overbearing, toxic men keeping close watch on “their” women; of the kind of men who coercively control their wives and girlfriends by telling them they’d “die” if they left them; the insidious threat of, “if I can’t have you, nobody can”.
Kelly giving Fox a ring that could cause her physical pain keeps her bound to him – it is beyond her control. It feels to me like a not-so-subtle display of toxic masculinity – and it simply doesn’t sit right. In fact, it gives me major red flags. I find myself asking: is Kelly’s gesture truly romantic, or is it actually just abusive?