We took our wedding rings off today. (Not for the first time actually but this feels more permanent.) It wasn’t about breaking up. I guess it’s more about staying together? We’ll see.
Not just two rings but four total, each with a story. First, her engagement ring. Diamond with sapphires. I was still in college when I bought it. I told the guy at jewelry store it was for a friend. I looked at a few options and he said, “How long have you two been together?” “Two years,” I lied. (It was really five but I thought he wouldn’t believe me. I was only 19.) “That’s nice,” he said. “It’s time.” I presented it to her in high romantic style, on a trip to Europe over winter break, down on one knee.
I kind of wish I hadn’t done that. I was trying to keep up with the straight guys around me, who made me feel desperately inadequate and never quite let me in. I wish I hadn’t needed their approval so badly. I wish I’d known I wasn’t the only person like me and that I didn’t need to contort myself to plead admission that way. It’s a nice ring, though.
Second, my engagement ring. I like this one better. It’s a loose Celtic knot design in silver. She bought it for me for $11 from a dyke street vendor off Boston Common. I might want to start wearing that one again, at least sometimes.
Finally, our wedding bands. They’re gold with a sort of leaf design. I insisted on the design, partly because I though a plain band would remind me too much of my parents’ rings and partly because I wanted the rings to look feminine. This is hard to explain. I got married in a dark suit (not a men’s suit, but still) and pink strappy sandals. I had this whole undermining/caveat/apology thing going on. I haven’t quite figured it out. Anyway I think the rings are attractive but the design has always vaguely bothered me.
I was really proud to wear the rings. They felt like a badge of honor and legitimacy on my hands. Seeing them on hers felt like proof that she was mine. But they were never entirely comfortable, either—worrying about them falling off, clanking into things, altering the shape of the skin and muscle of my ring fingers.
Having them off feels good, physically. I can shake my hands out windows or over bridges and I can feel water and air run freely through my fingers. It feels freer emotionally too (not to get all Lord of the Rings or anything). Marriage is such an incredibly powerful thing, truly a force to conjure with. I had no idea what a burden of history and society and emotion we were taking on when we put those rings on. I’m feeling cynical about marriage at the moment—I don’t mean to hate on it. I mean, I’m still married. And I sure as hell support gay marriage as a legal institution—we need to be able to say, this is who gets to pull the plug, raise my kids, inherit my stuff, and this is who I’m making my life with, before the whole edifice of the official world. But I think marriage can be a poisoned chalice, too. It comes with so much freaking baggage. I think it fed into feelings of owing the world something on my part, feelings of being owned on her part, and feelings of being trapped for both us. I think I’ll have more to say on this as time goes on.
For now, though, I called her my girlfriend today to a random stranger. And it actually felt right.