Does my engagement ring conjure a force field when I wield it against prying men? It feels as though it should. It certainly became my new knee-jerk protector—just as a middle finger, rolled eyes, and a husky “fuck you” were back in my single days.
As I shuffle toward wifedom, nearly a third of my 18-month engagement already gone in a flash, I’ve gotten used to certain things. Used to clipping off my wedding planning updates at the five-minute mark when talking to new friends (12 minutes for close ones) during drinks. Used to hanging back during “single talk” unless my insights are explicitly welcomed in. Used to the new social patterns, but not quite used to the ring on my finger, or the power I imagine it should hold.
I simply assumed the rock on my hand would keep men at bay—street harassers and sulky exes and their grimy ilk. I’m not saying this instinct of mine is a good thing, this sense that because I symbolically “belong” to one man, I should also be symbolically undesirable and essentially invisible to all others, but it would at least be a pleasant side effect of engaging in the systematically oppressive act of, well, getting engaged. After years of heybabys and smilegirls, my ring began to feel like a beautiful ticket to a new plane of existence, one where I was to be avoided like some kind of plague.
Yeah, right. The men still find their way in. All the fools on the subway, legs splayed open, canine tongues out, wet eyeballs licking me toe to head, slow not to savor but to challenge me: Try and stop me. And I stand over them with my book, like every other woman in New York has done a million times before, trying not to notice, trying not look—but at least I have this thing, I think, on my hand. This thing that says “off limits, assholes.” So I pretend to rub my temple and flash it at the fucker. I make a Z-shape with it across my body, from left shoulder to lower-right rib, from lower-right rib to left hip.
A force field?
If getting married is attaching myself to one man and one man only, and becoming a spoke in the wheel of the patriarchy, so be it, but let the ring get this here man looking at something else, sweet Lord hear me now.
Another time, The Scary Ex has found me on Gchat again. My insides sink down and suck in—every six months now, for the past six years, he has found a way to remind me he’s still out there, daddy longleg limbs still creeping, and teeth still oh-so-slightly invested in finding me and sinking cold venom into my veins.
“I’m thinking of moving to New York…” he types from hundreds of miles away.
No. No no no. Nonononono.
I type nothing. Suck in air. Tell my friend, who asks didn’t I go to the cops about him? Yes, but a many, many years ago—don’t you know scary men cease being scary in the eyes of the law after six months? Anyway, now I have this ring. I have this ring. I’m getting married. He cannot touch me. I have this ring.
I look down at it. The heirloom diamond, over 100 years old, poised on its strand of platinum. My sparkly yoke to wifely damnation and isolation in my servitude to one man for all eternity. Hello? Is this thing on?
Later, it fails me again. At the gym, a fuckboy with a chin strap corkscrews his entire body to ogle a woman who walks by him wearing a sports bra and shorts. I watch him while pumping away on an Arc Trainer, disgusted. Just thirty calories later he’s off his machine, walking by mine, and then he’s squeezing sweaty kisses through the air just a foot or two from my face, his eyes all over me.
I keep my focus fixed on my speedometer—820 calories per hour, 840, 860, 920 furious calories per hour—I really don’t have time for this dude’s shit, I’m getting my body ready for it to become my husband’s property. The kisser drags in my periphery, unleaving.
I give him the finger without turning my head. My left-middle. With the engagement ring flanking it on its right. A one-two punch. Hopefully enough to curdle the fucker’s brain.
After my workout, when I’m stretching, the same fool exits a fucking tanning booth right behind me, as if it’s the chillest, most normal thing ever, as if it’s 2004 and he’s a teenager getting ready for prom. He nearly walks into me, then tells me, honey, I should be more careful about where I stretch. I want to bear my teeth. I wish I were just full-on wearing a wedding dress. He finally walks away. No thanks to you, ring.
Some girlfriends say they can’t imagine being married—the heaviness of the commitment, the isolation of being with just one man forever, the loss of independence, the compromise to your bond with the greater sisterhood. A friend’s anthropologist father openly compares wedding ceremonies to funerals. Isadora Duncan said, “Any intelligent woman who reads the marriage contract, and then goes into it, deserves all the consequences.”
I look around at the space I’m in, and the men who own it, sinewy and heaving in cardiac heat as they watch women’s bodies in front of them like television. I think of my fiancé at home making us tacos, and laugh at my foolish idea that a piece of jewelry worn on a certain finger on a certain hand would ward off scavenging men.
I wonder if, when there’s a wedding band right next to it, then the ring will really work for real?
Sign me up, Isadora, I think, and almost laugh. Sign me up, lock me up and throw away the key.
Image via Shutterstock.