My engagement ring

I have a weird relationship with marriage.

I’m not very fond of it, as an institution.  While I personally like the idea of staying with one person and growing old together, I am certain of two things – lifelong monogamy is just not everyone’s cup of tea, and for those who do want it the chances of actually finding a compatible lifelong partner are fairly slim.  Therefore, I don’t understand the common assumption that everyone should get married. It’s strange to me that it is so universally expected.  So much so that if you’re over 35 years old and you say you are getting married, instead of people saying “oh, congratulations, that’s great” they are more likely to say “it’s about time!”  Seriously?!?  Like you should have done it earlier?  Whether you were ready to or not, whether you had met the right person or not?

That’s ridiculous.  It causes people to get their priorities all mixed up.  Instead of meeting people and living life and doing things and being pleasantly surprised if they meet someone who they want to marry, so many people seem to want to get married and THEN go looking to find someone to marry.  That’s backwards, if you ask me.

Then there is the fact that the government is invested in people getting married.  Tax incentives – really?  Why?  Two people together sharing space and belongings live more cheaply than the two people would living by themselves – so why do they need a tax break for it?  I guess it’s like tax incentives for solar panels – supposed to be better for the country as a whole if people get them, so tax breaks are an incentive.  But there are two problems with that when it comes to marriage, as far as I can see:  one is that the government can set rules on who can get married (while they don’t tell you who can get solar panels), and the other is that so many problems are caused by the dissolution of marriages that should never have happened in the first place.

Instead of all this assumption that everyone should get married (unless they are gay, in which case people for some bizarre reason think they should NOT), and incentives for doing so…  shouldn’t we be thinking that the idea of pledging to spend THE REST OF YOUR FRIKKIN’ LIFE with someone is a REALLY BIG DEAL and maybe not for everyone?  Also maybe none of the government’s business?

So anyway, long and short of it is I have never put a lot of stock in marriage, personally.  I always figured I could live with someone my whole life without getting married and it would be fine with me.

But here I am, married.  You’re wondering why, I suppose.  Well, my live-in boyfriend, father of my son, man who I love, co-owner of my house got laid off and needed health insurance – so we walked over to the courthouse.  Two weeks later when he got a job with health coverage, I asked him if he wanted a divorce, and he said it wasn’t necessary.

We’re so romantic.

As someone who doesn’t care a lot about marriage, I also could generally not give a flying fig about engagement/wedding RINGS.  I’m not a jewelry type person in general.  Diamonds are shiny rocks – basically expensive sequins to my mind.  I do not understand the fascination exhibited by so many female humans for these trinkets, the magnitude of the world trade in shiny rocks, and the monetary value placed on them.

So combine my feelings about marriage with my feelings about diamond rings, and you can see that it is really hard for me to drum up the expected squealing response when a woman holds our her hand to show off her new engagement ring.  About all I can manage is something along the lines of “Well, that certainly is shiny.  I hope you will be very happy.”

Engagement rings are bizarre to me because [1] they can be given years before the people want to actually get married, [2] in heterosexual couples, only the woman wears one, which strikes me as odd in so many ways, [3] they are “given” by the man to the woman and yet, if I understand correctly, the woman often picks it out or exchanges it for one she really wants (how rude!), [4] they are a promise to make a promise, which makes no sense (“I swear that I will swear to love you forever… later” – WTF?), and finally [5] they are flashier than the actual wedding ring, what’s up with that?

Then there’s the wedding ring, the symbol of your undying love.  Which in movies is forever being thrown back at people, taken off in bars, lost down drains to great wailing and gnashing of teeth, and used as a sign of being “unavailable”.  I have always cringed at the idea of wearing one myself – always preferred the idea of a tattoo on my ass instead.  A more personal expression of my intention of being in love forever.

So, what happened yesterday?  After being legally married for a couple of years?

I was given an engagement ring.  By my mother.

She had given me her wedding ring a couple of years ago, when I told her of my aforementioned courthouse nuptials.  I never wore it, partly because of my general “eh” feelings about wedding rings, partly because it’s a little on the large side and I didn’t want to lose it and never got around to taking it in to be resized.

Now she gave me the engagement ring that my late father gave her in 1956.

It is very pretty.  Very shiny.  Makes a nice flash in the sun.  Makes my hand look weird, like someone else’s – some woman who holds her hand out to show off her rings.

I’m wearing it, and the wedding band, on my middle finger.  Partly because they are still a little too big for my ring finger.

Partly because I am a ornery woman who wants people to be confused when they see the rings – to think “they look like engagement and wedding rings, but they are on the wrong finger – what does it MEAN?”

I showed the engagement ring to my boy Alex, and I told him that some day when he’s a man if he wants to marry someone, he can give her this ring and ask her to marry him.  I told him that he doesn’t ever have to get married at all, though, of course.

My son, who has apparently inherited his parents’ overly romantic nature, said “Well, after you’re dead, I can keep it around, in case I change my mind and want to get married.”


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