Physical representations are too often illusions.
I’ve never been big on engagement rings. I’ve never understood the tradition of the man spending an obscene amount of money on a piece of jewelry that the woman was supposed to flaunt and wear everyday, forever. It’s a tradition I never yearned to be a part of.
I even told my ex this for years before he proposed to me on Christmas 2011 (apparently he wasn’t listening) with a ring I knew we couldn’t afford.
Because the thing about engagement rings that has never made sense to me is that I've always chosen a partnership, which means we do equally for each other and we share as much as we possibly can.
So it never felt right for me to have him spend months of his salary on a ring when I wasn’t doing the same for him and when it was just putting a financial strain on us.
And when I ended the engagement I gave back the ring and hoped that he would sell it and do something worthwhile with that money… like save it.
But that was then.
I never considered what the importance of a particular ring could mean. And I certainly never considered that I would feel entirely different about having a ring when I fell in love with a woman.
But on September 19, 2015, my fiancée proposed on Cape Cod with a ring she had been holding for nearly 3 years.
The ring was special for a million reasons and it also didn’t make me uncomfortable.
It wasn’t something we couldn’t afford (Costco for the win!), it wasn’t something I felt I was supposed to want to wear and flaunt… and the best part?
We are a partnership, so on November 21, 2015, I proposed right back with a perfectly complementary ring.
I have truly treasured our rings as unique symbols of our love in the months that have passed…or so I thought.
For various reasons and through myriad precipitating events, the week prior to our 1-year engagement anniversary (when love shows up at your door so unexpectedly, you find a reason to celebrate everything), we were not wearing our rings.
And what I learned from this experience was not at all what I expected to:
1. No one notices.
Or, at the very least, no one says anything if they do.
I rarely, rarely notice people’s rings. I always assumed this was because I personally didn’t connect with the tradition of having a ring, and therefore it was something I just skipped over.
If it really stood out and I found it particularly striking, I might say something. Otherwise, I probably didn’t even see it. I've realized over time that I'm in the minority on this. Most of the women I know (ages 25-35) seem to always be noticing and commenting on other women’s rings.
There are only two occasions I can think of where I have done this — when someone I care about has recently become engaged and I know she wants to show off her new beautiful hardware (I can join in on the tradition as long as I don’t have to play the main role), or when a ring seems wildly inappropriate (and then I just keep that shit to myself).
But when I didn’t wear my ring for a week, I thought for sure everyone would be staring at my hand, that I’d catch eyes darting to my ring finger while mid-conversation, and that I’d even get a side-bar question about why I wasn’t wearing my ring.
I saw a lot of people that week, and not a single person mentioned it. Even after I told a few people I didn’t have my ring on, the overwhelming response was, "Oh, I didn’t even notice."
Now, people are great at lying about or avoiding awkward situations, so maybe that’s part of it. But just like I learned back in June 2015 about weddings, I realized that maybe people aren’t wearing their rings for conversation pieces, maybe it’s not just about the tradition.
Maybe, just maybe, it’s just the symbol of their love.
Of course, that’s what people say the reason is behind their ring — because it’s good, and kind, and honorable. But the steep price tag often attached to that symbol is why it’s not always so hard to believe that honorable reasoning.
I’ve known it for myself since I first put my ring on (sure, maybe it’s because it doesn't have a steep price tag attached), but like most people would agree — the ring is invaluable…to me.
That’s it. I notice, I care, it matters to me. No one else notices.
2. It feels like the weight of the world is missing.
I checked, double-checked, triple-checked my finger 1000 times that week… and I knew where my ring was, it wasn’t lost, I knew why I didn’t have it on.
And yet, it felt like I was missing a very real, important part of me. After nearly a year, it’s hard to describe how a piece of hardware can become part of your skin and bones.
My hand actually felt different to me. The strangest part is that it didn’t feel like it did as a previously unengaged woman, sans ring. It felt deeper than that.
It felt like the very symbol of our love was also the keeper of it at the same time. It felt like without it on my hand, our love was less tangible. It felt like we had nothing to keep us grounded without the strength of that metal and stone.
And because I know that no one notices, I know that this feeling was all my own. That this ring held the weight of my world. That without it, we could stop showing up, we could stop committing to our promise. And I knew I didn’t want that, that I never want that.
3. It is just a symbol .
I know that, and I know you do too.
It’s a physical representation of a commitment, with the hope and belief that there will be a lifetime. That's the theme of every engagement, and yet there's no way to know, from a ring on a hand, how vastly different one engagement is from the next.
I never thought I would be engaged more than once. I never thought someone could say "Oh yeah, she’s engaged again."
I never thought I’d wonder if the subtext of that conversation would be "...and we’ll see if she actually follows through with this one."
But I’m not surprised if it is, I’d probably question the same as an outsider.
But again, this ring is just a symbol. It doesn’t come with our history attached. It doesn’t beat with the passion of our love. It doesn’t bend and break and shift and change with every experience we have. It doesn’t grow stronger as we do.
It is just a symbol.
Without it or with it, our love remains the same — true, honest, and beautifully brave.
So whether you see me wearing it or not, I have learned that physical representations are too often illusions, and even if you can’t see it, this love is more real than anything else in my life.