So, about six months after Ed and I got married, I got this phone call. He was at work, but he had a lot of downtime between calls some days, so I didn't really think anything of it.
"Hey, baby," he said, "don't be mad."
That's never the most auspicious beginning to a conversation, is it?
At the time, Ed worked for a mobile locksmith company. He opened people's cars for them and also changed tires. He changed big giant tires on the side of the highway in Florida in August -- Ed was a professional hero.
That day, alas, his struggle had been more intense than usual. In the valiant pursuit of his tire-changing duty, my darling, wonderful, freshly wedded husband did something he worried might just be awful.
He broke his wedding ring.
That's, uh, less than ideal, even I have to admit. I mean, I'm just superstitious enough to think it's a poor portent of things to come. But outside of my own irrational concerns about magical things happening, I wasn't entirely surprised. Our wedding rings at that point were silver claddagh rings that Ed had bought, when we were still dating, at a small science fiction convention.
Okay, yes, he bought our rings at a nerd show. I opened the package he sent me after that con (because we were still living in two different states) and freaked out a little because, hey, I wasn't sure I was all that serious yet. After I calmed down, I was that serious, and all was well.
This is just how some geeks roll.
But his wedding ring fell victim to an enormous tire, and Ed and I were faced, for the first time, with the question that has continued to echo through our marriage: What should we do about wedding rings?
The question came up again recently, when we both laughed at the idea of the anti-cheating wedding ring. It leaves raised lettering on your finger that says, "I'm married." And it seems to be marketed exclusively to wives who are afraid their husbands will cheat.
Leaving aside for a moment the idea that plenty of people are willing to get with married people, my immediate thought was that the ring would have to be uncomfortably tight to leave that kind of embossed effect on your finger. Also, you know, if you need to brand your man that way, you might be married to the wrong person.
By which I mean, yes, you are married to the wrong person.
Ed's next wedding ring was a silver band I'd had for several years. I got it from this guy I knew. Fine, fine, because I embarrass myself on the Internet professionally, I will tell you: this guy with whom I was surprisingly madly in love (which I did not realize until some years later) but we were only friends gave it to me. I think he got it in Mexico. I didn't hold onto it because I was pining or anything -- I just like wide silver bands. It fit Ed well, so that became his wedding ring.
It was meant to be a temporary measure. But we couldn't ever come to an agreement on what we wanted. We're nerds, so we considered meteorite rings. We read about this couple in the UK who had rings made of lab-grown bone harvested from each other. We even designed fantasy rings with the idea that we could make them -- I am a fair silversmith, but we quickly moved beyond my skill set.
Despite having a temporary replacement wedding band, Ed generally took his ring off for work. I don't sleep in my jewelry, so some mornings I would just forget to put my own ring back on.
Funnily enough, not wearing rings did not make us less married. It did not increase the odds that we were going to cheat on each other, either.
I've always been somewhat baffled by the importance placed on engagement and wedding rings. I'm not trying to minimize the importance of any individual's rings, of course. I've just never understood our cultural obsession with them, to the extent that the diamond engagement ring industry was manufactured based on the interest.
I mean, how else can two months salary last forever? All other questions aside, why do I want two months salary to last forever in the first place?
It's not that I don't understand the history of wedding and engagement rings. Maybe it's because I do understand the history that the fervor over engagement rings in particular often skeeves me out.
A few years back, Ed took me to Disney World for my birthday. I hadn't gone in years and had, with typical Florida jadedness, forgotten just what a damned good time the Disney parks are. While we were at Epcot, we found a kiosk where they were carving silver signet rings. And, because we are those people, we got rings carved with our Internet user names.
We used those for wedding rings for a little while.
We've also had stainless steel bands we purchased at the airport in Cancun. That's what Ed is using now -- this time I'm the one who's lost my ring.
See, when I travel, I almost always opt for the early-out-of-town flight. It's usually about four in the morning when I'm trying to make sure I've remembered everything; I pack the night before but there are always last-minute details.
One of those last-minute details is putting on my wedding ring. And sometimes, well, let's say that sometimes best intentions are not enough. Those are the times when I find myself at the airport with no wedding ring.
The first time I found myself at the airport sans wedding ring, I stopped at a jewelry stall and bought myself a stand-in. That's what I'm wearing now.
I like the personal symbolism of wedding rings but not the way culture has turned them into this magical talisman. A wedding ring doesn't make a married woman worth more than a single woman. A wedding ring doesn't make a commitment real. It's a symbol. But a symbol can't take the place of the thing itself.
The other day, Ed and I were being sweet -- or what passes for sweet between the two of us. He told me that his ideal evening was to sit on the couch with me and the dog and watch something. And I told him I don't like anyone else enough to deal with them as much as I deal with him.
Neither of us were wearing our rings for that conversation. But that was the most married I've ever felt. (And I was happy about it, too.)
What do you think? How attached are you to your ring(s)? What do rings mean to you, whether you have them or not?