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“Where’s your ring, Ms?” A student asked me in class a couple months back after sharing that I have married over the summer. When it comes to middle schoolers, once you open the door to your personal life, you cannot avoid more questions from coming in.
It has now been almost a year since I got married, and the “ring” question has now come up around 3 times: once from a student, once from a dentist receptionist, and once from another teacher, which is fewer times than I expected.
I would give the same spiel to them all:
My ring does not fit perfectly and is loose.
I am a clumsy person. I almost lost it one time in the parking lot.
I’m not really a jewelry person. I tend to lose or damage any piece of jewelry that I wear.
As a teacher, I am always on my feet and moving. I don’t feel comfortable having valuable items on me that can be easily lost.
And apparently, according this article from YourTango, they are all “bad excuses.” The author’s responses and “counterarguments” are quite aggressive and seems to assume people who do not wear their wedding rings have bad motives overall. However, there are also plenty of other articles out there saying these are all understandable reasons for not wearing your wedding ring despite being a married person.
Practicality over Social Anxiety
As an ISFJ, I waver from being practical and caring too much about what people think of me. So, I do have mixed feelings about not wearing my wedding ring to school when I teach, but for now, my practicality wins over my anxiety in this case.
Growing up as a Chinese American, or what Chinese immigrants call “ABC”—American Born Chinese—I never saw my parents or any family relatives wear wedding rings. At most, I would see a jade bracelet sometimes on one of my great aunts or on my cousin’s grandma. My mom has a gold wedding ring that she keeps locked up at the bank. In addition, whenever I went to China, I never really saw anyone wear wedding rings either. So, I’m not sure if it is part of the Chinese culture to just not wear much jewelry, specifically wedding rings, on a daily basis. Because of this, I do not worry too much about not wearing a wedding ring in public. However, if I did get the ring sized perfectly the first time last year, I would be making an attempt to wear it on a daily basis.
Nevertheless, the emptiness that surrounds my ring finger does make me a bit self-conscious from time to time, especially when I am teaching at my school.
What do the other staff think of me when they see that I don’t wear my ring?
Do my students and other teachers think I want to “hide” my married status for disingenuous reasons?
Do my students doubt that I am “really” married?
Will I get questioned about not wearing my wedding ring?
These are all thoughts that would invade my mind from time to time at work. During that one time a teacher made a comment about not seeing my ring, we got into an interesting conversation about wedding rings. He was married also and did not wear his ring. Apparently, when he was in the military, he had to take off his ring to go into some gas chamber. However, he had a lot of trouble taking off his ring because he never took off his ring up to that point, so the ring was stuck on his finger. It had to literally be cut off of his finger. I was very impressed and shocked that he never took off his ring to this point. After this conversation, I felt more comfortable about not worrying so much about not wearing my wedding ring at school.
Solidifying A Covenant
The societal pressure to wear a wedding ring is quite real. So, this got me thinking—do I need an outward sign or object to really show or prove my love and commitment to my husband? Do I really need to wear my wedding ring to prove to society that I am married?
Even when I was dating my husband, we never really announced our relationship to the public. We are not even “friends” on social media due to a long history of events that I will not go into. Our relationship was only revealed in bits and pieces through private conversations with family and friends. In fact, I hardly talked about having a boyfriend during the first three years as a teacher. I only revealed my relationship when I was asked directly about it. I just found it very uncomfortable to talk about my relationship publicly.
There’s much to be said about the history and symbolism behind wedding rings, veils, and the whole marriage ceremony in relation to the power dynamic between a man and a woman, but I will not be going into that.
Instead, I want to dive into the connection of needing a physical object or sign to solidify a covenant or a promise being made between two parties.
In the book of Genesis in the bible or the Torah, God “called” Abraham to a new “promised land” and to be His people by making a covenant with him. In Genesis 17:9-10, it is stated,
9 Then God said to Abraham, “As for you, you must keep my covenant, you and your descendants after you for the generations to come. 10 This is my covenant with you and your descendants after you, the covenant you are to keep: Every male among you shall be circumcised. 11 You are to undergo circumcision, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and you.Genesis 17:9-10
The common and medical definition of circumcision is the cutting of the flesh, specifically the foreskin. I am not entirely sure why God required specifically circumcision as a sign of His promise and covenant to Abraham. There is an interesting article that explores possible reasons and benefits of circumcision here. Circumcision is a physical sign and a reminder of God’s covenant that Jews would see every day. Similarly, albeit less painfully, the wedding ring is supposed to be a promise between two people that is also seen every day. There is definitely some value in keeping physical and sentimental objects to remind people of love and their loved ones, but I guess how much would vary depending on the individual.
However, with the rise of the digital age, with everything almost available online, like cash, gift cards, birthday cards, music, emailed letters, Instagram photos, video games, etc…perhaps consuming and keeping physical objects have taken a back burner. I, personally, am a packrat of sorts. When I moved out of my parent’s place, I took many things that held practical and sentimental value. Every year, I find myself having a hard time decluttering, but in the recent months, it has become easier. In contrast, my husband barely brought the clothes off of his back into our new home. Clearly, we both place different values on physical, sentimental objects.
A Reflection of the Heart
Now, the bible also brings up another form of circumcision that is not physical—circumcision of the heart. It is referenced in Deuteronomy 30:6 and extensively in Romans 2:25-29:
25 Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. 26 So then, if those who are not circumcised keep the law’s requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? 27 The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the[c] written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. 28 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. 29 No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.
Here, circumcision is all about purity of the heart, to truly follow God and not be over focusing on needing a physical sign. At the end of the day, God cares more about your heart than physical circumcision.
So, a more pressing question burns in me as I make these connections: when I fear not wearing my wedding ring, is it really about proving to the public that I am committed to my marriage, or is it more about proving to myself, that my heart is in the right place, in that I shouldn’t even be worried about how others think of my marital status. Do I need to wear a wedding ring to show the public of my love and commitment? Or do I need to wear my wedding ring to remind me of my love and commitment to my husband?
Marriage has become a bit murky in the recent years. Initially, I thought that the divorce rate in the United States was still around 50%, and I was just about to make a blanket statement about how it seems like the modern culture does not value marriage and commitment much. Surprisingly, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the divorce rate for 2022 is only 2.3 per 1,000 population. There are also many factors to consider, like people are getting married later, or just not getting married at all. So, it’s just overall a very complicated world out there when it comes to love and marriage.
Currently, I am still debating whether I should buy a cheaper stand-in wedding band with an adjustable size to wear to school, just to comfort my mild ongoing unease of not wearing my ring.
What is your take on publicly showing your love and commitment?