Beyonce is every man's worst recession nightmare.
Unemployment is skyrocketing, everyone's broke, and here she is stalking through popular culture in six-inch heels the week before Valentine's Day threatening: "If you liked it then you shoulda put a ring on it."
In case you were inclined to miss the message, fellas, her alter-ego Sasha Fierce lays it out in a few crisp stanzas: The lady wants bling, and if she doesn't get it, there will be consequences.
To underscore the point, Ms. Fierce struts through the "Single Ladies" video in a Lorraine Schwartz metal glove, which looks like it was designed for Freddy Krueger. Gulp!
As a so-called "Hallmark holiday," it is fair to say Valentine's Day is not universally cherished. For the single, it is an annual, v-shaped poke in the eyes. And for unmarried couples it demands a black-and-white token of romantic intent that can feel more than a little forced. "Quite a lot of people get engaged on Valentine's Day," says Diamond Information Center director Sally Morrison. "But there is also a huge universe of people who want to show their girlfriend she's appreciated, but who also want to manage expectations and get her something that's not in a ring box." Morrison's figures indicate that in 2007, approximately 1.2 million people received a diamond gift on Valentine's Day. The average value was around $500, bringing in $641 million for the industry.
But the economy this year is not where it was in 2007. Although figures are not yet available, Morrison says anecdotal reports indicated overall diamond sales were down in the fourth quarter of 2008 and the beginning of 2009.
Cosmo radio host Patrick Meagher, who provides male perspective for the magazine's Sirius satellite channel, says: "One thing I know from being a single guy during the recession: A woman's expectations hasn't shifted with the economy. The lavish weddings, rings and presents you girls got a few years back are done for a while. I suggest finding Mr. Right in 2010."
Meagher quipped that Valentine's bling this year is less likely to come from Tiffany, than it was "her step-sister, Stephanie."
In fact, a call to Tiffany indicates the blue-box jeweler has a surprisingly recession-friendly selection. Frank Gehry's designs in sterling silver include a pendant for $160 and earrings for $175, while the recently-launched Tiffany Notes Collection and Picasso Zellige line offers items around $100.
But would such a token satisfy Sasha Fierce?
"Put a ring on it, Beyonce?" scoffs Meagher. "Please -- how about put a down payment on it!"