Monday, September 14, 2009

The Ring's the Thing

For most of my adult life I longed for a significant relationship with an amazing boyfriend that would eventually lead to engagement and then marriage. But most importantly, and let’s be honest, girls, I longed for engagement with that all-important accessory: the diamond ring. That ring which legitimizes your membership in the “I am loved” club. That ring which tells all those would-be suitors “sorry boys, you waited too long to realize I was fabulous.” That ring which signals to all the singletons that you have finally left their sorry ranks and are on your way to becoming a smug married.

I’ve been engaged once before and oddly the ring was sort of the undoing of it. He’d proposed on one of our early dates and we’d moved in together quickly. I should add that ‘moving in’ involved me quitting my job in San Francisco, packing up my life and moving to New York. Ah the folly of youth. The thing was, we thought of ourselves as engaged, we were even picking out caterers and venues, but he’d somehow never gotten around to giving me a ring.

I let it go for a while but after a year I started to get cranky about it. When I mentioned my fiancée, women’s eyes would inevitably dart to my left hand and I got tired of explaining. I unengaged us and insisted we refer to each other as boyfriend/girlfriend until he got off his ass and officially bejeweled my finger.

He pled money concerns but I didn’t buy it. His sister-in-law had given us a diamond from an old ring of hers and his best friend was the son of a diamond district family. He could have gotten a ring together if he’d really wanted to. It would only have been at most a few hundred for a wholesale setting. One day he inadvertently (I assume) left his credit card bill unfolded on my desk and I noticed a charge for several hundred dollars at a local strip club. Suffice it to say, that was the beginning of the end. I had to face the fact that he just wasn’t that into me or he would have made more committal use of that g-string tip money.

I left that coast and that chapter of my life with a broken heart and an unsated hunger for a diamond ring. Luckily, in the ensuing years, I got my grandmother’s depression-era engagement ring that had a round diamond and all the silver filigree an antique-fixated girl could want. I was happy. So it seems New York and I didn’t work out for myriad reasons. Maybe I didn’t really want to be married to him after all. I had just wanted the damn ring.

So now, older and wiser, I faced engagement with a more pragmatic, less ring-centric outlook. Let’s see if this guy loves me for me and wants to spend his life with said me - how’s that for a litmus test? When the ring conversation came up, I told him I didn’t want a diamond, I already had one. Maybe something low-key with our birthstones. And as I was newly into gold, maybe not silver.

Let it be said that I have never been a generic Tiffany’s platinum solitaire girl. I was once given one of those Tiffany’s ID bracelets that every trendy cheerleader wears and insisted on exchanging it for something I’d never seen on anyone. I have a beautiful necklace now that I wear proudly as its giver intended and have, to date, never seen anyone else with it.

My point is I’ve always been that girl who, if everyone else is wearing black, will show up in pink polka-dots just ‘cause. My fiancée wisely knows this. When it came time to pop the question, he did and then as he nervously held out a closed ring box begged me to remember I’d said no diamonds.

“Of course, honey,” I murmured.

“No seriously, when your friends look at it funny you have to tell them you said no diamonds.”

“Okaaaaaaaaaaaay…” Now I was nervous.

I am now very proud to report that look at it funny they do. I opened that little ring box to see a crazy whopper of a ring. Over one hundred years old and once owned by a daughter of one of Milan’s ruling families, it features an emerald flanked by two pink rubies in a massive gold setting that can only be described as two barrel vaults edged with filigree. It came from my fiancée’s mother who was obliquely related to said ruling family. It’s got everything that’s right for me: family history, antiquity, gold, color, and has unique out the ying yang. I can’t believe I get the honor of wearing it both for the fact that it was my fiancée’s mother’s and for the fact that it represents the actual real commitment a wonderful man is making to me.

My favorite sport is now watching the reaction when I mention my fiancée. As before, the eyes flick to my left hand. They usually go wide. Then there is either a gasp and squeal of recognition of the ring’s outright fabulousness, or a delayed “Ooooooh,” as the viewer scrambles to fabricate an appreciative comment. It takes people off guard and I love that. I also love that it’s definitely not for everyone’s liking. There will be no knock-off at Tiffany’s!

Turns out I was never missing a diamond ring. I was missing the guy who understood what I wanted was the life that goes with the ring - and wanted it with me.

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