Customary Confusion

Orthodox Jewish men should wear wedding bands.

Seriously. We could solve the shidduch crisis this way.

The world is full of men I might set up or conceivably go out with, but I haven’t a clue if they’re single or not. And short of asking them, I have no way of finding out. I can just see that one.

Setting: College. Hillel Meeting. There’s an oreo across the room. I approach.

Bad4: Hey, I was wondering…

Oreo: (confused. Why is BY maidel approaching oreo?) Yes?

Bad4: I was wondering what kind of girl you’re looking for.

Oreo: None. I found one a while back, and she’s a keeper.

Bad4: (blushing) Oh, just wondering. (fails to show up at any Hillel meetings for the rest of the semester, missing a lot of good kosher food, and eventually starves to death one day during fluid mechanics class, all because Mr. O wasn’t wearing a ring.)

Or what about these other situations? You know you’ve been in them. You blow a tire and call Chaverim. A cheerful young man arrives, changes your tire, and gives you directions to the nearest honest garage. As you drive off into the sunset and he drives off into the dusk, you turn to your friend while she turns to you and you both chorus, “Do you think he’s married?”

Honestly, why do you think we get rescued by Chaverim? It’s only so we can check out the local knights in shining armor, duh. They should come with tags, you know: “Hi, my name is: ______ and I’m (single/married).”

Okay, maybe not. The real reason we get rescued is because the car jacks don’t have long enough levers for soft feminine types to be able to use them with any measure of efficacy. But what if we wanted to meet our bashert on the side of a highway? It happens.

And then, you know, when a bais yaakov maidel becomes a bit of an old maid, they relax the restrictions on her. Indeed, if she happens to find herself in a mixed venue (Shabbos meal at the local rebbetzin, perhaps), she is almost certain to be asked afterward, “So, did you see anyone?” [nudge nudge wink wink]

“I saw loads of people.”

“I mean single guys.”

“I saw guys. I have no idea if they were single.” I mean, how are supposed to judge? The henpecked look? The shana-rishona potbelly? Can’t they just wear rings?

I understand that it was customary for men to wear engagement rings back in Europe… okay, back in Europe about 600 years ago. But still. I think it’s time we revived that ancient custom. We need some way to know if a guy is taken or not.

49 thoughts on “Customary Confusion

  1. My husband wears a ring! He offered when we were engaged and I took him up on his offer. The way I always figured it, if I have to be marked with a ring and a head covering, leaving no doubt to whether I’m married or not, my husband better darn well be marked also.

  2. I once mentioned this problem to a (married) friend, and she said that her husband claims he can distinguish between the married men of lakewood and the singles. Something about the way they walk, the married men’s gait being more purposeful.

  3. Back in the old days almost every man wore a wedding ring, My hubby wore it for years until he complained that he couldn’t get a good grip on his tools with it on and took it off. But at that point you could tell he was married, not single, because of the file of little kids attached to his hand.

  4. I’ve been promoting this idea for some time, as it may also sometimes help keep men from falling prey to their baser instincts. There are so many single women that make the assumption that no ring= no wife that they flirt with frum co-workers, unaware of the true status. This can be a real problem. Far better to avoid the problem simply by wearing a ring.

    For the protests over how not frum this is, may I point out the many places in Tanach, Talmud, and halacha that we see that our forefathers wore rings?

  5. In the mithnagdish yeshivas, the custom was for bachurim to remain clean shaven and to grow a beard upon marriage — not engagement, though. The book, the Art of the Date (I once flipped through it in a bookstore), seriously recommends this strategy. Ask the young man the time, so that he will reveal his watch. The author assumes all chassonim receive a “chasson watch,” and so take that as the sign of his being taken or not.

  6. Something that’s even worse than not wearing a ring:

    I wear a tallis and when I moved into the out-of-town area for law school, I was surprised that people were not inviting me for shabbos meals or suggesting girls to me.

    It took a while but I figured it out- they thought I was married. I got some shocked looks when I started telling people who I’ve been seeing in shul for the past month or two that I wasn’t married.

    (You can tell who is a newly married guy from seeing how uncomfortable they are in their talleisim or how long it takes them to fold it.)

  7. The tallis confusion makes so much sense; in my family, they also start at bar mitzvah. But it’s also sad, because it means nobody stopped to have a real conversation for that long.

    My husband also wears a ring. He works out in the real world, and wanted people to know so that there wouldn’t be any confusion. In his work world, married men wear rings, period. (And for men who would object to having it physically feel weird, I never wore rings before I got married either and it was an adjustment but it’s done.) So this idea makes so much sense to me. Although I was at one wedding where the kallah gave the chosson his ring under the chuppah, which was just bizarre.

  8. While of course I agree that single men should be obviously single, and flirting should be prevented with married men, rings . . . I dunno. Something about a man in bling kinda doesn’t mesh with me.

    How about specifically shaded ties? Different colored hats? A pin that says “I’m taken”?

  9. A plain gold band is bling? I can’t recall ever seeing a men’s wedding band (actually being worn) that was something other than that.

    My husband and I traded simanim that were important to us–he got the wedding band and I took his last name.

  10. staying afloat – there could very well be halachic issues with a ring exchange under the chupah, since indeed the kinyan needs to be done by the man to the woman and not the other way around (which is what the exchange implies). From what I’ve heard regarding those that do wear rings, it is best to leave his ring out of the ceremony and have him don it in the yichud room (I guess that makes a good yichud room present).

    And Bad4, I have a few friends that wear rings (surprisingly, many from different hashkafos, with one or two yeshivish) that have gotten married in the past few years. It seems that a silver/white gold band is more popular these days. I do have one close friend who chose Tungsten (I think it is black Tungsten: for his ring. It is very distinctive looking with a dark grey/metallic sheen that is very visible – a clear indication of his married status. It also looks fairly “manly” in style, for those concerned with wearing jewelry in general. I’ve heard that possible issues of beged isha have basically been circumvented nowadays since a lot of married men wear rings (or at least in the previous generation).

    I think this would be a great topic for R’ Gil Student @ Hirhurim to blog about. I’ll suggest it to him…

  11. “The author assumes all chassonim receive a “chasson watch,” and so take that as the sign of his being taken or not” – I’ve got a watch and I’m not a chasson.

    I can understand why married guys should wear rings though.

  12. My husband wears a ring. I think we basically decided together that we wanted him to wear one. I like the way it looks, I like the way it says that he’s taken. 🙂 Also, where we live now, and he’s in medical school, everyone wears one. It’s weird if you don’t, actually. In a secular environment, I think it’s definitely important that he wear one.

  13. Not planning on wearing a ring, nor receiving a watch, upon marriage. Then again, I also tease my mom about how wasteful the idea of jewelery is. But wearing a ring would just feel way too weird.

  14. The wedding bands cannot be given as an exchange because that would invalidate the kinyan done with the ring for kiddushin. However, I believe that most authorities do not object to men wearing bands, particularly if they are in an environment where it is expected of married men. But for those who take it as a long-standing tradition, the fact of the matter is that wedding bands for men in America only took off around WWII. In Europe, men took to them far earlier.

  15. I have not seen many frum married men wearing rings, so I usually rely on the watch and the tallit. The problem with that is that some guys buy themselves these huge watches that look like something their kallahs might have bought, and as some people mentioned in the comments here, some guys start wearing a tallit earlier. So I would DEFINITELY appreciate the whole wedding band thing, because it would make it easier for me and for all the other girls.

    The only place where I did see a lot of rings on guys was in Israel.. but then again, most of them were not religious.

  16. I have long been a proponent of men wearing rings. For at least this reason. Also, there is the feeling that a man should be proud to bear a sign that he was “taken” – after all, that is what a woman wears. We wear simanim to indicate our special status with Hashem (tzitzis, tefillin, etc) so why not with our wives?

    And on the topic of tefillin, don’t men say a passuk referencing betrothal AS THEY WRAP THE STRAP AROUND THEIR FINGERS?

    Anyway, as long as it’s not formally given under the chuppah (which is indeed a problem with the kinyan of marriage), there is no problem with men wearing rings. It’s not beged isha (it’s a male thingy) and it’s not chukos hagoyim (which refers mainly to things that are either avoda zara or dumb, while this is neither).

    For those who are uncomfortable with men wearing jewelry, I heartily agree. That also weirds me out, in general. But I don’t think that a wedding band – stoneless, usually plain – counts as jewelry. Maybe it’s ‘coz I grew up seeing my father wear a ring. I assumed it would be in my future. It was only when I was in college did I even hear that men don’t in more yeshivish circles.

    And as an aside, how does it interfere with using tools?

    And “assuming” chassanim wear their watches is awful. I mean, rely on a baseless “keeping up with the Joneses'” minhag? And shouldn’t this watch be nice – maybe he only wears it on Shabbos? (I turned down a watch b/c I liked my Shabbos watch).

    And for the guy who is pretentious enough to say that he can tell the difference in how someone walks? Why isn’t he making money on stage reading minds? I’d like to do a controlled trial.

  17. The way to do it is to ask someone ELSE if he’s single. This strategy is useful at weddings and Hillel meetings, but not for the Chaveirim scenario.

    Case in point: At a wedding, two of my sheitel-wearing friends (one married, one divorced) once asked another girl to ask her husband to ask a guy if he’s single ‘cuz they thought he might be my type. (I was standing right there, mind you, except they got a better look than I did.)

    Which brings me to my next point – although it’s great that sheitel wearers can stand at the mechitza and scout, I think divorced girls should also have some sort of sign that they’re NOT married (other than their lack of a ring).

  18. to the commentator about wearing rings to avoid flirting. I know a guy who wore a ring in college to avoid girls flirting with him, and the opposite occured- they would flirt because he is more of a challenge.

    and to chan re:divorce- R’ Moshe has a teshuva about younger girls who get divorced that they do not need to wear a shaitel. obviously everyone should ask their rabbi, and R’ Moshe only said it if the girl does not have a child.

  19. its so true! and its so funny you’re posting about this now- a week or so ago i was at a wedding and saw a cute looking boy across the aisle after the chuppa- (you know as the new couple make their way to the yichud room and everyone is standing looking at them… ;- )and that thought went through my head that i can’t even figure out if he’s married or not!!, which i repeated later to my mom that night LOL…

  20. hmmm, a future post? Where do women of marriageable age notice guys the most? Do the women look at the guys on the aisles, standing against the wall, or simply look at everyone? Are you turned off if you see guys looking into across the aisle?

    Personally, I like to sit in the second row from the front, on the aisle, for the sole reason of seeing the chuppa and getting to the chosson and kallah right after they face the crowd.

  21. “the opposite occured- they would flirt because he is more of a challenge” – The problem then is the women flirting with a married guy.

  22. That’s very interesting. I guess that was her psak. Plus she loves wearing a sheitel – it’s low maintenance compared to hair. I mean she needs a different sign.

  23. Yosef,
    The tools in question are the smaller ones for fine detail work in building furniture and carving details. The ring was plain and polished and kept catching on some of the tools or not allowing a full grip because the ring was too slick.

  24. One of the reasons I became a BT was so that I could take the ring off for good. It was a reason that was very low on the list, mind you.
    The problem is that you get on the derech and there’s so much food that the ring doesn’t fit any more. I did get yelled at by a Rebbetzin for not wearing a ring to a conference. I guess I’m not too fat then. If wearing a ring becomes the minhag, I’ll join them Ble Nedir. I still have the band. It’s just way too small now.

  25. But why should girls have to chase after boys, frantically figuring out their married status? Isn’t that a dude thing? I’m supposed to sit on the side of the room, looking gorgeous, waiting for some chivalrous fellow to park white stallion and clunk over to me in his rattling armor and say, “Forsooth, my lady, thy beauty and virtue asdoundeth me.” (I can do it in a Middle English accent.”

    Seriously. It is not up to me to track men down. THEY are supposed to be looking for ME so they can fulfill the commandment bit. Why are the females out there selling themselves so short? Make them earn you!

  26. Princess, perhaps in days of yore, when men were men, women were women, and small blue furry things from Alpha Centauri etc. then the male-type hunters would approach the female-type gatherers. Alas (or hooray, depending on your point of view) times have changed, and women can choose what they want for themselves. Advantages include not having to wait for the one you want – just go and get him! Men do like it if women show an interest in them. Perhaps the commitment-phobic ones don’t like excessive interest… And anyway, who’s talking about tracking men down? We’re talking about grabbing the ones that wander into range of their own accord.

    ProfK – OK.

  27. Seriously, guys. What’s up with that shana-rishona (and shneya, etc.) pot belly. There ARE other ways to complement your wives.

    Anyway, I think there are some subtle ways to detect bacheloredom. Especially the way he talks to girls/women.

  28. Yosef – you had me at the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” reference.

    I’m not saying that females aren’t permitted to stalk a fellow; but how come dudes nowadays don’t check out girls anymore? Fear of rejection?

    How come girls are gazing longingly at the men’s side at weddings while the males aren’t trying to look single? It’s easy for girls to look single or married. So the other side that has no such distinctions should be doing all the work.

  29. Well, if the ring thing is really not an issur then-why not? It really can be unfair when you just don’t know if the guy who caught your eye in the college library is already taken! And, yes-( Princess Lea) apparently there is a problem with the opposite gender in fulfilling thier jobs.

  30. Princess Lea – it would seem to me that the standard “good guy” doesn’t want to be caught staring at the women’s section at wedding since it is deemed “sketchy,” so they make due with short glances here and there. There is also a difference of reaction between the genders when you discover someone looking at you quite intently. As Yosef said – guys tend to like that, and from my personal understanding (limited though it is) girls don’t quite enjoy that as much. There’s a distinction between showing chilvalric courtesy to attract the attention of a fair maiden, and awkwardly staring at an attractive female for a lengthy period of time hoping she’ll make eye contact and get the hint.

    Also, I think that weddings seem to be more strategically favorable for women to check out the guys than vice versa. We can’t look at you dancing because it’s halachically problematic. Y’all can watch us (and laugh or cheer) as much as you want. The most poignant example of this when the kallah is brought over for circle and shtick time. The guys know they aren’t JUST entertaining the newlyweds, but we’re entirely on display as well. A lot more goes into planning the shtick than you might realize. I’d say take advantage of these opportunities!

  31. you know… a simple (and casual) “you married?” will get you quite far. Most of them won’t bother asking why you asked. For the ones that do, you can usually get away with a “just curious..”

    Some more tips: Mention your nephews or something and casually ask “you got kids?” The non marrieds will usually respond with a “I’m not married..”

    You can also ask related things that show your “innocence” :

    “whens the wedding?”
    Yea… I thought you’re engaged…
    No… not yet… or … I’m married… or….

    Or… “does your wife make your lunch?”

    Use similar tactics.

    You girls must not be so desperate… these are all easy things to do… (of course they require actually asking direct questions… I don’t know if thats a no no.)

  32. Again, girls are the ones starting conversation.

    Dudes! Channel the hunter-gatherer and say “Hi! So . . . you know the chosson or the kallah?”

  33. the problem is that if guys start the convo….. then there are 2 scenarios: a) she’s attracted to him, so its cool. b) she’s not attracted, so he’s a creep for talking to her. We’re afraid of b)

  34. @42, see my post numbered 6.

    @41, totally agree. I have actually started conversations with solid frum girls and they thought I was a creep- even though one was looking at me for the previous ten minutes.

    @40-Princess Lea, give me a sign so I’ll know who you are and worst comes to worst, we can always discuss star wars! Or I can just try every girl until I get the response, “so, you’re the hunter-gatherer.”

  35. Many people we know feel that guys are more likely to get flirted with at work while wearing a ring (either on purpose or more often, because they’re viewed as “safe” as married Orthodox Jewish males).

  36. Cute idea. There are certain groups that have men wear rings.

    But even rings don’t help. I’m wearing my engagement ring and it’s funny how people still think I’m 15. I was on a plane coming home from Israel, and a lady comes over to ask if I was in seminary. Another lady in shul asks me what grade I’m in. So by girls, it’s known that a girl wears an engagement ring, and they don’t check the hand. So where it’s uncommon for guys to wear rings, I don’t think people would think of checking.

    I did once hear that single guys in Lakewood don’t wear beards so that you can distinguish between single and married. That once they get married they grow a beard.

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