I forgot to wear my wedding ring to class the other day, not that students necessarily notice that sort of thing, but my hands felt bare, as if exposed in some way that lacked propriety, as if I were nude. We are so used to rings; they’re customary, symbolic.

When we decided to get married (after many years of living together), I went to Tiffany’s to buy my new almost husband a ring. When I showed it to him, he said, “Why do I need that? I have a perfectly good one left over from the first go-round.”

I almost canceled the wedding.

He immediately back-pedaled by saying, “I feel like it’s the bride’s ring that really matters. You know, diamonds.” His smile radiated warmth. Carats, actually. “And you know,” he continued. “Some women are more apt to make advances toward a man who wears a ring because he’s considered safe. Ha ha ha.”

Ha ha ha, my foot. Quit when you’re ahead.

So what does it mean to wear a wedding ring? My friend Bunny once told me her husband was half way to the airport for a business trip, when he discovered that he’d left his wedding ring home, on the bathroom sink. He rushed back to get it, barely making his plane. Why did he do this? Perhaps he didn’t want her to think he’d left it on purpose, but more likely he didn’t want her to think the ring didn’t matter to him. Rings matter–when you’re single and when you’re not. We automatically, almost subconsciously, check out a person’s ring finger to learn something about them.
Is she available?
Is he committed?
Is she loved?

When I was madly in love with husband #1, he said these words to me after a romantic date, “I’ll give you a ring tomorrow.” I hardly slept; I was, as we used to say, in “seventh heaven.” Early the next morning it occurred to me that he was not, as I had thought, going to give me an engagement ring; he was simply going to give me a phone call.

The ring came later.


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