When my husband proposed to me it was a complete surprise. We were just walking in a park and suddenly he went down on one knee – all old fashioned. I was stunned. There was a pause – probably seeming like an eternity for him – while I tried to comprehend what was happening, and if I really wanted to take that leap again. (I had been married once before – a short marriage – a pretty quick crash and burn.) I said yes.
He didn’t have a ring. He said he wanted me to pick out a ring that I would like, not make the choice for me about something I would wear (hopefully!) for the rest of my life. That was very thoughtful of him, except I told him I didn’t want a ring. I didn’t need a ring as an outward sign of our inward commitment. He said he really wanted me to have a ring, that it just wouldn’t feel right to him for me not to have one. I could tell this really bothered him, but the thought of wearing a ring bothered me. So I had to do some thinking about the reasons why the both of us were so bothered, and how we could “fix” it.
Here’s what I came up with when I unpacked my thoughts and feelings about it. I know probably the majority of people, men and women, don’t think about engagement rings this way – but this is the way I see the whole “ring thing.” It’s a commitment on the part of the groom that he’ll follow through on his promise of marriage. Of course he’ll marry you, he’s already spent so much money to “claim” you! Everyone can see in the ring that there’s been a claim made on this woman – so other men, stay away. Also, the fuss that other women make over engagement rings just seems silly to me – and the judgements! All women who hear you’re newly engaged want to see your ring, and if it’s small people think you’re poor or cheap, if it’s big people think you’re rich or a show off – so superficial. It just seemed so archaic to me.
But what to do about it since it seemed really important to my future husband that I have this archaic symbol? He didn’t want to “claim” me – for him it truly was an outward sign of his love and commitment (NOT ownership) – and, because he’s such a “proper” guy, the “right” thing to do. After a bit of thought I explained that if it was so important to him that I have a ring then he should have a ring too. Now it was HIS turn to be surprised and stunned. We talked about my thoughts and my concerns and why this was so important to me.
Well, he consented to wear one too (honestly if he hadn’t, I would’ve questioned my decision to marry him). But what kind of ring would it be? I decided on a very simple stone for myself, but a matching diamond wouldn’t look very good on his hand. In the end he decided he wanted a signet ring with his initials. After he received his wedding band he would switch it to his right ring finger. On the inside of the ring I had our engagement date and our initials engraved for him (not as a reminder – he’s actually much better at remembering dates than I am!).
Perhaps a new tradition… one that’s a bit more equal – for men, and for women…