The Ring Thing

I was sitting in class gazing at the whiteboard with glazed eyes when the student next to me, who was also a bit bored, whipped off her engagement ring and wedding band and slipped them on my fingers.


That looked weird.

And felt weird.

I’ve never been much of a ring person. Rings get in the way. They weight down your fingers. They bang and snag on things. Having that big rock sticking off my finger felt… weird.

I can kinda get why engagement people always seem distracted by their rings. It’s a weird feeling.

Hard to imagine wearing one of those things the rest of my life. Do you get used to it eventually?

An Endless (Not Bottomless) Market

Every now and then someone in a gaggle of women will kvetch that all the good boys are already taken.

Everyone else in the gaggle will sigh in agreement because none of them have met any single good boys either – if they had, they’d be married. Not that any of them would agree on what constitutes a ‘good boy,’ but they all know that there aren’t any.

Then, a month or so later, the kvetcher has morphed: she’s now an NEF. No good boys, huh? You don’t even have to vocalize it. She’ll sheepishly defend herself without prompting. “I got the last good one,” she’ll say.

Some people take offense at this line. “So what’s she saying,” they’ll huff. “That there’s no hope for me? Gee thanks. With NEFs, who needs enemies?”

But I always saw it as something with encouraging implications. Here is a young lady who had thoroughly worked her way through the season’s line of available men. Her conclusion? It’s hopeless. And yet, just when it seems that the bottom has dropped out of the market, she unearths a decent specimen!

Who knows? There might be another one hidden out there. Keep looking. It’s really more of a flea market than an outlet  store, anyway.  Keep sifting through and you’re bound to find a hidden gem.

Engagement Rings

I do not like mall dates.

I haven’t got a vast experience to draw from. Just one, in fact. But it did not go well.

Malls are noisy and crowded and littered with traps and pitfalls. And I’m not just talking about Victoria’s Secret, though that’s bad enough.

Actually, I think things went south around the jewelry display.

In general, a casual pass of the jewelry is, in my opinion, a strategic move. Let’s face it – if you marry the guy, he’s going to be buying you jewelry (probably), and you should know beforehand whether you can trust his taste. I’ve had dates I was reluctant to dump merely because of their saving grace of having better taste than mine. Meaning, not only could I trust him to pick out nice stuff, I’d actually want him to do my accessory shopping for me.

But it wasn’t the earrings that threw us into discord. It was the engagement rings.

Yes. There we were on a second date discussing engagement rings.

He said CZ ought to be fine.

I said absolutely not.

We then proceeded to not see eye to eye for about five solid minutes.

What exactly is an engagement ring? To him it was just an expense. Something you have to do when you decide to marry someone. A way of irretrievably consolidating a whole lot of handy green into a very small, shiny, and completely useless object.

I see his side of things. Diamonds are pricy. A young couple has enough expenses without throwing in a rather expensive rock.

I agree that frivolous expenses should be cut down. Skip the bracelet. Skip the necklace. Skip the atara for the tallis. Skip the gold watch. Skip the silver leichter tray (most are ostentatious and awkward anyway). You can skip every “required” gift on the planet and I wouldn’t object. But you can’t skip the engagement ring.

Because to me, the engagement ring symbolizes so much more than an expense.

This ring custom dates back hundreds of years before anyone thought to put an atara on their tallis or their leichter on a solid silver tray. It predates hot desserts at weddings and seven-man bands with singers.

The ring symbolizes a man’s intent to marry a woman, and also exactly how much he values that intent.

Chocolate, flowers, and love letters may also symbolize this, but they severely lack the value. Small gifts and sweet nothings are courtship rituals. A ring is an investment. Nothing says it like diamonds. Or any precious stone. Cubic zirconium, pretty as is it, completely misses the point. We don’t need something glittery to stick on our finger to dazzle passersby and make our friends jealous. Seriously – the very suggestion is insulting.

It’s a Torah concept that once you decide to do something you should perform a tangible action to solidify it for yourself. The ring symbolizes the engagement. There it is – yes – on her finger.

And don’t guys get some (any?) thrill at all from seeing their ring on their betrothed’s finger? Is the engagement not, somehow, more real?

After a bracelet engagement I can see to turning down the ring – might do it myself (those rings are a bit too bulky and flashy for my taste). But that’s the woman’s prerogative. And really, a bracelet doesn’t have the same solidity or cultural clout. No, really, there’s nothing quite like a ring.

So guys, don’t rock the boat.


Please Don’t Engage Me

Sorry ‘bout being late today. It’s been a busy week. I usually have some posts “in the galleys” for busy weeks, but last week was busy too. And don’t you dare look at me like that; it’s term paper season. Being “busy” doesn’t always mean being “busy.” No, I am not on the brink of engagement.

It seems like a “girl” in shidduchim can’t make any changes to her routine or appearance without being accused of serious dating. A friend of mine told me that at her friend’s l’chaim, someone said, “I thought there was something going on… she’s lost so much weight!” To which friend replied, “Nice try, but she lost half of it before she met him.”

At the beginning of last year I had a job on Mondays and Wednesdays, 9-5. So on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Touro College days, I dressed down, in a way that was probably bad for shidduchim. Then, about halfway through the year I switched to a job that had morning hours, Monday through Thursday. And suddenly I was showing up in Touro College dressed up instead of down. It is absolutely disgusting how many people said things along the lines of, “Is there something I should know about?” or otherwise hinted that it was just a matter of time before they heard from me at a strange hour of the night. Irritated, I borrowed a costume jewelry bracelet that was silver and set with a few dozen rhinestone diamonds, which, if you don’t know, is the symbol of engagement among local young ladies. It raised a few eyebrows and made a few people, in their own words, “wonder,” but nobody congratulated me. Oh well.

Then there was the time I briefly took up a tutoring job and had to get home at certain hours and be unavailable shortly after. “No it is not for a date,” I had to specify, because otherwise the rumor-mill would have my wedding date settled on by the end of the week.

Many people figure they can plot dating patterns based on frequency of “doing” hair, niceness of dress, new additions of clothing to the wardrobe, and lack of availability in the evening. When these patterns persist or increase over time, they believe they can confidently expect an engagement. Unfortunately, these are all rather superficial signs, and easily read into when there’s nothing to read.

Commenter mickey mouse has her own methodology for predicting engagements. She points out that after a certain period of dating, you begin to hear with greater frequency things like “I was discussing that with someone and…” or “Somebody told me…”

I have learned the hard way that you never ever ask “Who told you that?” no matter how outrageous it is. Not unless you want to watch a friend blush, squirm, and eventually, lie. (Because “Oh I don’t remember I heard it somewhere” is still a lie.)

But, says mickey mouse, you know an engagement is impending when the pattern changes to “we.” Meaning, “We were just discussing that yesterday!” More subtle than dress patterns, and possibly more accurate; we should probably do a serious study to test it out (and by “we” I mean the general population involved with dating couples, and not me and some significant male).

Considering how briefly I think before I speak, the “we” pattern will probably be a fair predictor for me, so please don’t monitor my clothing or availability because you are just going to be disappointed. And someone agrees with me.