I loved my wedding rings. The first one, purchased when I was not yet 21, from a jeweler’s case in Golden, Colorado, was a gorgeous delicate band of flowers in white gold. Because it was mass produced, I imagine there were hundreds of other hippish young women who wore the same band to prove their special union, but that didn’t matter to me — the ring proved my very special union, and that’s all that mattered.
My second wedding ring was custom-designed by me, fashioned from the melted-down gold from the bands of our first marriages, as well the diamonds (yeah, that’s what happens). I’m not sure a custom-designed ring offers a couple any more clout or guarantees than a mass-produced one but, regardless — both my former husbands and I wore rings that clearly displayed, “I’m married.”
But does that matter? Must married people wear a wedding band? What if they don’t want to or can’t because of metal allergies or their occupations or maybe they just don’t like jewelry; do we judge them? Is it making a statement about their union?
If we want married and engaged people to wear rings that clearly proclaim “taken,” then what should we think of people who wear wedding bands when they’re not married, or women who wear engagement rings when they’re not engaged? Are they liars?
No wedding ring = available?
A number of married men don’t wear wedding bands — Donald Trump, Prince William and Jay Z among them. Some people believe that if a man doesn’t wear a wedding band it’s because he wants to let it be known, “Hey, I’m available,” even if he’s quite committed or married, which may or may not mean he’s available (there are open relationships after all). “There are many who subscribe to the notion that affairs may be avoided if both sexes would simply adhere to this public signifier that they are ‘taken,'” says the New York Times.
Really? Wearing rings would prevent affairs from happening? Nah …
Does this just speak to women’s insecurities? Why are we looking to a ring to tell us “the truth”? Shouldn’t a direct, “Are you married or in a committed relationship?” be enough?
Because evidently a certain number of men wear wedding bands as a way to attract babes, at least according to research by University of Texas psychology professor David Buss, who calls it mate poaching. Some people are attracted to and pursue others who are in committed, presumably monogamous relationships (which is what Angelina Jolie allegedly did when she “stole” Brad Pitt from Jennifer Aniston and is now perhaps having regrets). A person who is married is “proof” that he or she can commit.
But some people pursue men or women wearing a wedding band precisely because they’re unattainable; all they want is a romp or two and a married person is probably more likely to just want a fling and nothing else.
Which makes me wonder, does a wedding band mean anything anymore (besides to the couple, obviously) and, if so, does it mean what we want it to mean? And while women often wear engagement rings, there’s nothing comparable for men — no bling that says, “I’m spoken for,” before the “I dos” have actually been said. Why not? It kind of speaks to the “women as a man’s property” thing.
There’s power in wearing a ring on the left-hand ring finger: “make no mistake, people always notice rings. They may not say anything, but they scanned your hands within seconds of seeing you and deciding to engage in a conversation. So be careful about what messages you are sending in certain situations (interviews, conservative business settings, trips abroad) where the casual observer may have their own interpretation of what your rings mean.”
Fine. Since I have recently become aware of people in committed relationships who’ve worn rings that might signify that they’re married even though they’re not, I have to question, why? Is it the desire to be seen as “desirable,” the desire to be seen as “taken” (which might mean the same as being seen as “desirable'”), the desire to take oneself off the market, some combination of the above or something else? Some women argue that engaged men should be as transparent about their relationship status as women are — or at least what we expect women to be.
A warning flag for women
It’s funny but if you are a woman, attached or not, certain circumstances may make wearing an engagement ring or wedding band a survival tactic; “Being seen as married will lower your profile and stave off uninvited advances,” suggests the Canadian government’s “Her Own Way: A Women’s Safe Travel Guide,” which got a bit of flack for that advice.
I’m pretty sure a lot of women would agree that we’d rather not have to bother with that pretense, but I have no idea how many have succumbed to that supposed “survival” tactic abroad. But a lot of us do just going about our daily life.
A recent study indicated that most women removed their wedding bands for work stuff, including going on job interviews. “Of the 35 percent who removed the ring for work reasons, their justification was that the ring would harm their career.”
My head hurts reading that. But there’s more, according to Stuff Mom Never Told You:
The problem with this is that in removing wedding bands women are giving in to the societal perception that they’re somehow unable to succeed in both their careers and family life. There’s also the mentality that if a woman is engaged, hiring her could be risky because obviously, she’ll be getting preggers as soon as she can, so whatever training and work went into her time at a company before her maternity leave will be seen as a waste.
So that big rock or the gold band on your finger is sending all sorts of messages. So does not wearing one. I guess the bigger question is, does that matter to you?