Maddie hadn't had much of a reaction when I told her on our way from the airport that I was removing my ring for the duration of our trip. If anything, she seemed a bit sad for me. She knew Rob and I were going through a rough patch. And of course those troubles played no small role in my ringless travel curiosity.
But despite Maddie's low-key response, removing my band was significant enough that she mentioned it to her running partners back home. She later told about their collective reaction: "whoa." It seemed they viewed the removal as an invitation for sexual trysts.
While she knew better about me—that sex was not on my agenda—she did remind me of the clichés and assumptions surrounding the man who removes his wedding band. That it will come rolling, telltale-style, out of a wallet or pocket. That you can tell he's cheating husband by the tan-line on his ring finger. That he is out for sex.
She also pointed out that you don't often hear about women removing their rings. In fact, she said, "It seems like I've heard about and even seen women wearing their rings after their husbands pass away." Neither scenario exactly fits me.
The aforementioned rough patch in my marriage persists and leaves me feeling stuck and limited. Like an albatross around my neck, the circle of gold around my finger feels like a burden and a curse.
As I write now from my home office, Rob is watching television in the next room, and my wedding band is back on my finger. Even though nothing unseemly happened in Mexico, I feel guilty. To remove it was to violate a promise to him.
But more than guilty, I feel terribly disappointed. The ring constantly reminds me of a promise and hope that has not been realized. Perhaps the answer to the question of the ring is: if we can get what we want from life only by removing it, we aren't meant to be wearing it—maybe we aren't meant to be married—at all.