No Rings on My Fingers


Jewelry is not my thing especially when it comes to rings. Not only are they a cinch to misplace, they get in my way when I’m at the sink, in the shower or out in the garden which is why I can’t find them for the week following. Although at present my hands are naked, they have been clothed with a ring or two along the runway of my exotic life and could be still if there were a reason to pluck one from the safety deposit box where I have placed treasures, including several knock-your-eye-out finger encirclements, left to me by my mother.

When he was my fiancé, my first husband, the eventual father of my four children presented me with a small box and ring within. The stone was sallow and loose despite the four prongs that held it down and it glittered darkly. In fact, it was a fake, a stand in for the real thing, the perfect metaphor, though I had no way to know it at the time, for what my marriage would be. I wore it back to college and, for a while, pretended it was a diamond in the same way I pretended almost everything. In defense of my then self—a now unfathomable person— she lived, as did many others of that time, in the world of ‘shoulds’ and ‘musts’ hoping to please everyone, and thus never got the hang of pleasing herself. As that young woman I should love the young man who pursues me relentlessly, who loves me or says he does, whose friends say he does, whose brothers, aunts and uncles are eager for us to plight our troth, whose future mother-in-law, my mother, says to me when I want to break up with him,

“How could you do such a thing to that poor orphan? He loves you.”

Ergo I should love him, shouldn’t I? It suits everyone. Approval abounds. And then in the winter before the marriage planned for August I go all the way with him.

What? Do you mean you had sex?

Sort of and having performed this act not only should I love him but also I must love him otherwise how could I have done that? And now I had to marry him.

A month later the stand-in ring was discarded in favor of a 2.5 carat round cut diamond with diamond baguettes on the sides mounted in platinum. On my thin finger it was top heavy owing partly to its size and partly to the setting which was placed high up in a way I considered ostentatious; light came from underneath the stone; it floated in space rather as if it was on display. I was appreciative but embarrassed. I would have preferred something more modest. I disliked being set apart, longed to be exactly like everyone else but I pretended I was thrilled especially since the sight of mine was usually greeted with, “What a rock!” When I told my mother what I really thought—that it was too showy, she said, “You’re crazy,” According to her there was no such thing.

Poor girl—possessor of a lovely diamond ring not exactly to her taste. Fortunately I had a kind of distance toward myself. I knew this wasn’t something to obsess about but it was a better focus than looking toward the future when I was set to marry a man who bored me to tears, slumped like a rag doll when he sat down, wasn’t funny or a great dancer, didn’t give me the time of my life and nearly always failed to hold his end up in a conversation. Because he was so silent and unresponsive I believed he must be very wise. Certainly he seldom agreed with me or found anything I had to say of interest and I concluded therefore he possessed superior intelligence. Also I thought at the very least we would have a great sex life though I can’t say why and, of course, I was wrong.

I knew I couldn’t make it to August when mother said she planned to tie a ribbon on every blade of grass and where certain people related to my stepfather would be in attendance. My stepfather said he’d rather give me the ten thousand dollars my wedding would cost—please note this was the 50’s—and suggested we elope. Also I thought I might be pregnant. We took off for a three-night, two-day honeymoon in Williamsburg, Virginia.

I got my period as we were saying “I do.” but it didn’t matter—I had to marry him because we’d slept together. I had to be as true as possible to my standards—a rigid set of commandments constructed with the help of nuns, fundamentalist relatives, my mother and the romantic movies of Hollywood where the smiling bride on her way down the aisle at fade-out was almost always a virgin, madly in love and headed for bliss.

None of it described me and I never got the ten thousand dollars either.

The first glimmer of wondering, what did he pursue me for? entered my mind when he asked for twin beds at the hotel. Later I realized he wasn’t going to kiss me goodnight—I was, after all, bleeding, but he did, finally, without enthusiasm. He played eighteen holes of golf both mornings, then daily we had lunch, saw the sights, took a few pictures, had dinner, a sexless night, no cuddling, and I returned home the same untried near virgin I’d been before except now I had two rings, the newest a plain, slender platinum band.

Those rings accompanied me through twenty years of marriage though I only wore the diamond when I got dressed up, put on contact lens, mascara and heels and went somewhere other than the schools or supermarket. I soon loved my “rock,” forgot about size and setting and often soaked it in ammonia and water to remove residue and enhance its brilliant sparkle. Alas, the ring had to go when following the divorce and after the last child graduated from high school I was forced by my ex to sell the house, half of which was mine, and needed money for fixing up my co-op. It paid for five ceiling fans, and a new kitchen built on the cheap. I should have kept the ring. Its plain consort still hangs around in my jewelry box.

My second fiancé did not burden me with a floating diamond, a down-to-earth sapphire or for that matter an engagement ring of any description. When another ring of importance was placed on my finger it was a wide wedding band of gold and platinum. Handsome. I picked it out myself, by myself and paid for it, the perfect metaphor, though I had no way to know it at the time, for what my marriage would be. Several years later the ring was so tight I doubted I could get it off—and once I did with the help of Vaseline and my husband’s determined twisting—it was unwise ever to put it back. As for a replacement, it would never occur to him to buy one and, don’t look at me, I’ve been there, done that.

The image

3 Responses to “No Rings on My Fingers”

  1. 1 Grandma Janet November 9, 2007 at 8:35 pm

    Nan, I loved the piece on engagement rings.
    We realize so many signs in retrspect.
    Amazing how bringt we become as we age.
    Ah, to have the understanding I have now about men and be able to return to yeasteryears and have a redo.
    I know I would make the same or similiar mistakes agin.
    No matter how wise we think we have become, no one wants our advice.
    It’s nod your head and listen to me.
    Fondly, Janet

  2. 2 Angela November 21, 2007 at 11:35 pm

    Nan….I am laughing my ass off……you touched on so many familiar things that occurred in my life too. I have not worn my wedding rings for a while now and gosh, even lost the diamond wedding band that went with the engagement ring. Guess what – it doesn’t bother me a bit. I know it’s in this house somewhere.
    My first engagement ring was truly beautiful and I too had to sell it to meet my mortgage payments after the divorce from my first husband. Oh what tales we can compare….I feel so normal now. Have a great Thanksgiving….

  1. 1 » No Rings on My Fingers Trackback on November 7, 2007 at 5:40 pm

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