The Ring Thing
So, my family got me a birth ring for Christmas. I picked it out, from Pinterest, which is probably the reason I just got it this week. It is absolutely worth the wait; I love the way it turned out. I slipped it out of the black velvet box and onto my ring finger, where it’s been ever since.
It felt foreign and familiar at the same time, like visiting Grandma’s house. A deep memory paired with a jarring sense of visceral change. This afternoon, I caught myself absent-mindedly turning my nonexistent engagement ring. An old nervous habit borne of it winding around towards my palm, but this time there is no stone to worry.
Wearing the ring on that finger just seemed right, but I couldn’t help wondering why, and what that meant. What message does that send me, and what message does it send to you? It is, unabashedly, symbolic of a sacred vow and an eternal commitment. It is probably an indicator of romantic unavailability, though that wasn’t my intention, it does send a clear statement about the amount of room left in my heart. It isn’t about societal status, though my experience is that people do treat women differently when they wear a ring.
I worried that perhaps I was putting too much pressure on my relationship with my son, expecting more fulfillment from motherhood than the act can provide. After all, parenting lacks the mutuality of romantic relationships. Loving, losing love, seeking love- love has ruled my life for as long as I can remember, and now it’s the furthest thing from my mind. Is that an expression of my true motivation all along? Am I just giving myself what I couldn’t get from the world?
The truth is, I have no idea. Maybe. Maybe I mistook the pitter-patter of love for my time-bomb of a biological clock, maybe I only wanted commitment and devotion because it was, for me, a natural stage of progression in building a family. Why does that feel so wrong, when clearly, motherhood feels so right? Should I have had the insight and the foresight to just have a child on my own, without the pretense of a fairy tale? Especially since that pretense nearly cost me my life? I’m not sure I can ever definitively answer that question, or that the answer is worth much moving forward.
I do think that our culture has hit some sort of fucked up speed bump in our progression towards enlightenment, an odd spot in time where we’ve realized that we should honor the equality of love wherever it’s found, but the most socially accepted way of achieving most women’s highest desire and calling is still inspiring a man to give it to her.
We demand independence and self-sufficiency from our single women; we expect them to go out in the world and thrive alone, find a man they can commit to spending the rest of their life with, and hope that he wants what we want, and that he chooses us as his partner. All while pretending we don’t need what motivates us to shave our legs and trudge off on yet another worthless date.
I hate that I sound bitter, because it doesn’t escape me that men get a raw deal too. They deal with ensuring that they’re loved and appreciated as human beings, and not just a vessel of fulfillment. They are expected to be hard enough to protect and provide, but soft enough to nurture. They should be cheerfully supportive of our independence, yet unfailing in their fidelity and devotion. This is an awfully complicated process to obtain a steady stream of sex, sandwiches, and companionship.
I know men that excel at finding that balance, men that are strong and successful, who love their wives unabashedly, champion their identities as individuals, and revel in family life. I often wonder if they always knew what they wanted, or if they simply recognized it when they found it. The men I had serious relationships with seemed burdened by my expectations of them, but I wasn’t very coy about what I wanted from those relationships. Still, those bonds were all destroyed primarily by the wide rift between what I wanted and what they had to give, and the ones I never let get serious were killed for the inverse.
This silver band has a familiar weight on my finger, a grounding devotion that increases my power for its direction, a wellspring of inspiration and determination that calls me to my highest self. I am compelled to nurture, fulfilled in interconnection and interdependence, called to family life. I guess the message sent by the ring and its placement is one of achievement and belonging, a statement about what and who is closest to my heart.
That I slipped it on my own finger, rather than receiving it, feels a little like beating the system. It shouldn’t, particularly after everything I’ve been through, but it does. Maybe it also sends the message that I’m no longer living my life waiting and hoping to be chosen. I’m okay with that.