Today was the day. On what would have been our fifteenth wedding anniversary I remove the delicate yellow and white gold band from the third finger of my left hand.
It had been my mother’s. I was never much for diamonds, and happily wore this modest symbol of my commitment for the entire world to see. Today I remove its magical and protective powers with a small tug on my hand and a big one on my heart.
Being married conveys instant status in our culture. Like being born white or able bodied or straight, it bestows upon us an abundance of privileges that we often take for granted.
Being married rules out unspoken thoughts that people have if we are a certain age and do not yet have that ring on our finger—-“I wonder what’s wrong with them?” or “Too bad they never found the right person.” The circle sends an instant message that, at some point in time, at least one other person thought we were “good enough.”
This precious orb ensures that we have a companion for countless occasions, both family and public. It protects us from being eliminated from the dinner group made up of only couples. It reassures our best friend that an intimate conversation with their spouse need not be taken as anything romantic.
This little hoop signals “I’m taken” so don’t bother hitting on me if I’m out with my girlfriends. I’ve known many a woman to wear a fake ring just to avoid this very hassle.
Our wedding band is a symbol of more than heartfelt vows once made so sincerely. It also means that we are more likely to have our children be given full status, be accepted as a member of our spouse’s family, and enjoy greater financial security.
It’s a lot to let go of.
People forego the wearing of the ring for a host of reasons. A mechanic may find it impractical or a less than committed spouse might enjoy having others think they are single.
But most who make a conscious choice to remove this powerful symbol do so because it no longer holds the same meaning. Some wedding rings are thrown across the room in rage when an infidelity is revealed. Some are rebelliously removed on the way out to a Saturday night singles scene. Some are quietly placed back in the small box as silent tears pour down.
The first wedding band I removed over 20 years ago was due to divorce. This time it was due to my husband’s death. When the ring is placed on our finger, we never envision the day we might remove it. We don’t anticipate the countless losses, both real and symbolic.
I look down at my hand. Where the lovely little ring proudly made its home since that breezy May afternoon a decade and a half ago, I now see a clear indentation. Though the marriage is no more, the mark remains. I suspect it always will.