I was halfway through a meeting with the head of a biotech startup when I realized drug development wasn't really on his mind. The 41-year-old CEO suddenly paused his ramblings about venture capital and leaned toward me. "Now that my company is taking off, I'm ready to start a family, and I'm looking for the right person," he said. "Can I take you to dinner next week?"
As a writer covering one of the biggest biotechnology industries in the country, getting hit on is an occupational hazard for me. I go to a lot of events where I stand around and drink warm beers with men in khakis and button-down shirts, interviewing the mostly male scientists and entrepreneurs. And because I'm 27, tall, and blonde, they often mistake my interest in their work for an interest in them. But it's a conflict of interest for me to date my (very geeky) sources. So when I heard that a startup in Seattle called Ms. Taken was making fake engagement rings, I ordered one.
Fake diamonds are nothing new, as the robust cubic zirconia market shows. So, sure, I could have put down a few bucks for a facsimile from Target, but I'd never have thought of it myself. Besides, it would feel a little lonely hearts-ish, something one of the secretaries on Mad Men might do to send the rest of the steno pool into fits of envy. Which is why Ms. Taken's $30 crystal-and-stainless-steel rings are a stroke of genius. They're meant for "party girls, waitresses, divorcées, jet-setters," the website explains — hot chicks fed up with players, not sad cases who buy fake rings because they're dying for a real one. "We call it two carats of pure deception," says Katherine Lake, who started Ms. Taken last year with her husband.
I decided to try out my new sparkler at a networking event. I wore the same gray pencil skirt and ruffled blue oxford that I'd had on when I met that CEO — the only difference was the rock on my ring finger. I'd been at the event for just five minutes when a chubby guy with glasses made a beeline toward me, thrusting out his hand with an eager introduction. As he talked, I lifted my left hand and fixed my hair, making sure he saw the "diamond." In less than 30 seconds he walked away. A few minutes later another approached, and after I made the same gesture, he also retreated.
I realize that an engagement ring isn't always enough to keep the dogs away: "There will always be smarmy guys who don't care if you're married," says Lake, who notes that some men consider a woman with a diamond "more of a challenge." I'll bet a fake wedding band would be even more effective, or even a fake pregnant belly. But I think if it came to that, I'd just find another line of work.
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Claire Trageser is a journalist in San Diego, where she works for the NPR affiliate KPBS. She also contributes to a variety of outlets, including Marie Claire, Runner's World, and Parents Magazine.
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