Friday, April 20, 2007

I Met a Man without a Wedding Ring for Lunch

I made the call soon after everyone had left for the day and the house was quiet. I knew the number by heart and dialed it with anticipation.

"Hello?" said the deep voice on the other end, almost a whisper. I got right to the point, knowing that our call could be cut short at any moment. "Can we meet for lunch?" I asked.

"Yes, that would be nice," said the voice. "But I can't be gone long. I'll meet you in the back parking lot. What time?"

"1:15," I suggested. And so it was arranged. I showered, dressed in black slacks and a casual green sweater, and applied just a touch of make-up and an ever-so-slight mist of Hawaii perfume. His favorite, of course.

At 1:15, I pulled into the back parking lot with just enough time to freshen up my Desert Rose lipstick before I saw him walking toward the car. "Damn, he looks good!' I thought to myself, but when he opened the door I only said "Hi," and gave him a quick kiss.

The hostess at the restaurant greeted us with a smile. "Two?" she asked. We nodded. As she gathered the menus, I felt her eyes glancing almost imperceptibly at our hands. I knew what she was thinking. This has been going on long enough that I've figured it out by now. She's thinking that the wedding rings don't match. As in, she's wearing one and he isn't. "

Right this way," she said as she led us to a small table for two in the darkest corner of the restaurant.

We'd been discovered. She saw it, she noticed it, and she knew. And somehow there was a slight thrill in knowing that she knew.

He spoke first. "I've been thinking. I think we should just do it. We've waited so long. I think it's time."

He's right. We had waited too long. Spring had come, somehow making it feel more urgent, and there could be no more waiting. "OK," I agreed. "When?"

"Soon. Before I change my mind."

He was teasing me now.

"When?" I implored again.

"We need to consider the electricity. There's no denying that..."

"Go on," I pleaded with anticipation.

And then, once he began, I knew he'd spill his thoughts and plans quickly. I knew there'd be no holding back from this man without a wedding ring.

"First I'll run electricity to where the current garden shed is, so we can have a light in the new shed, and so we can plug in things like the leaf blower. After I dismantle the old shed, I'll use some of those 4x8 sheets of plywood in the garage for the floor of the new shed..."

So add this to the upside of unemployment: lunch with my non-wedding-ring-wearing husband!

But geeeeeze! And growl and roar! And grrrrrrrrr! We'd bought a gorgeous ring together back in 1983 -- a gold band with a channel of gold nuggets. Very 1983, you're thinking. And you're right. But if he'd been wearing the ring for the past 24 years, it'd now be a beautifully smooth gold band with just hint of mystery where the nuggets had been. It'd be different now, changed over time, with the kind of personality that takes years to develop -- well-weathered, well-loved and well-worn. Like its owner. Like the marriage it signifies.

Instead, it's still new and angular, with no earned personality, no softening edges, no signs of the weathering and mellowing and deepening of the relationship it represents. Even the inscription, "love, Carol," is still perfectly legible.

It doesn't even feel like our ring anymore. Instead, it feels like a ring that belongs to that young couple who purchased it at the Santa Monica Mall so many years ago. That couple is only slightly familiar now, like an old acquaintance whose name remains in the address book, but with whom no real connection still exists. We went through so many changes and experiences while the ring sat motionless in the dark box, cradled in velvet and undisturbed, lest it be nicked or scraped or weathered. The ring wasn't there for children's births, or for up-rootings and re-rootings, or for fights and silences and re-connections. It never had to be re-sized, it never got lost and welcomed back, it was never cleaned -- or dirtied.

It's the exact same ring that was purchased by a two young people in love in 1983, but it's their ring, not ours. Because we are very different people than we were then, this is a different relationship than it was then, and any ring that is a symbol of this 24-year marriage would need to show some age, some mellowing, some weathering, a few scrapes and scars, and a whole lot of changes from what it looked like in the beginning.

If we met for lunch tomorrow and my husband wore his shiny, angular wedding ring, the waitress wouldn't give it a second thought, but I'd definitely wonder what was up!

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Berlinbound said...

Beautiful post ...

christina said...

Great post! My dad doesn't wear a wedding ring either. When my parents were first married he got his ring finger caught in one of those European style door handles when they were on vacation and caused some serious damage so he swore he'd never wear any ring ever again. He took his ring to a talented jeweler friend of his who fashioned it into a ring for my mother so she's been wearing BOTH their wedding rings for the past 47 years. :-)

Dixie said...

I like this post very much.

B doesn't wear his wedding ring either. His fingers are curled under and he used to wear it but over it's become harder to get it on and off and I'm afraid his fingers may get to the point where we couldn't get the ring off if we needed to.

I wish he could though. Not to show that we're married or something but so that for once he can have something completely normal.

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