Hitched: Getting Engaged Without A Ring

When you get drunk with your boyfriend at the lake and decide to get engaged while under the influence of a decent-sized bottle of Jim Beam, you don’t exactly get the whole kneel-down, velvet-box proposal. No, what you get is peeling your face off a mattress the next morning and wondering where your pants are and oh my God, donde tacos?, and oh yeah, forever love.

But I’m of the School of Functional Alcoholic Thought that subscribes to the idea that alcohol just lubes you up for stuff you really want to do in your secret heart, rather than forces you to do things you’d rather not. So not only do I not regret our engagement story, I think it’s true to who Patrick and I are (enthusiastic boozers) and what kind of relationship we have (the kind where we do s**t the way we like to do it.)

The drunkgagement is also a good way to end up being engaged without a ring, because who just goes around getting wasted with diamonds in their pockets? I mean, besides fancy people, obviously. 

Another good way to end up being engaged without a ring is to realize that they cost ridiculous amounts of money, symbolize some mildly creepy s**t to do with the cultural belief that women’s primary value is as wife first/person second, and in the Western world are basically a marketing ploy created by DeBeers to sell more diamonds. (I’m not going to harp on about it, just read the Wikipedia page.)

And yet here I sit, writing this column, with a thousand-dollar diamond and peridot engagement ring on my left hand that just arrived last week. In the eternal words of David Byrne, how did I get here?

Well, it all started years and years ago, when Patrick was in college and in love with another woman. (Or, I guess, A Woman, not Another Woman, because she was the Only Woman at that point.) They got engaged. Clearly they did not end up sealing the deal. As a result, he’s been figuratively sitting on an ownerless diamond ring for ages.

Along comes Andrea, along comes a bottle of Jim Beam, and along comes the most awkward question ever, posed drunkenly on an air mattress on that fateful night at the lake. It began, “Hey, so, I have this diamond ring from before …”

And I mean, this is a pretty big mofo of a diamond. It is not the diamond I would have picked for myself (I wouldn’t, probably, have picked one for myself) and it definitely wasn’t the setting I’d have picked for myself, but it was a big expensive piece of big expensive meaninglessness. 

But the other school of thought I subscribe to, besides the functionally alcoholic one, is the one that says you are who you are, and you are where you are, because of the experiences you’ve had in your life, for better or for worse. And right now, Patrick is a huge “for better” in my life, at least in part because he is the man this other woman helped shape in some ways. Is it strange that I don’t mind wearing the diamond he once gave to her? (Because I don’t. Mind. At. All.) And not just because we got it put in a new setting with pretty peridot friends at its side.

Part of the reason I don’t mind my refitted ring is that Patrick started wearing an engagement ring before I did — I bought him a really baller titanium ring that I’ll get engraved with something gross and adorable before our wedding day. Our engagement is about two people, and for us, the rings are not meant to signify the “taken-ness” or even ownership of one person, the woman, but the promise we’ve made to each other to party really hard next April and never be without each other afterward.

I’m not the only person in my relationship getting married, so why should I be the only person in my relationship wearing an engagement ring? If Patrick hadn’t had the old diamond, and if he hadn’t insisted he could afford to get the old one reset, I would have been more than happy with a permanent stand-in. In fact, I did wear a $30 stand-in ring from Amazon for several weeks while we waited on the new, fancy-pants ring. 

There was just something about wearing proof of our engagement that was important to me. My post-Jim Beam hangover was pretty real, but I wanted something that I could really keep with me as a reminder of that awesome night (and terrible, horrible next morning.) I wanted a ring the way I wanted a wedding — I needed something that said to the people I care about, to the people I want to have the love and support of, something that said, “Did you guys just hear that?”

So now this big diamond sits on my hand, and it kind of looks at me, and I am not totally sure it is not giving me the stink-eye. Does that sound terribly ungrateful? Maybe I’m an a**hole, I think, because Lord have mercy, I am walking around with cash money on my hand! Me, the woman who stops by H&M or Forever 21 every year or so to buy new, cheap-ass earrings because I cannot be trusted with nice things.

Can I turn the chair around for a second? I know why I want an engagement ring — like I said, it’s the “Did you guys just hear that?” thing — but I’m not sure I really know why I want or have this ring. I mean, I have it because the diamond existed in the world and it seemed like kind of a waste to just sell it, especially when we can get it reset and sell it later if we need the money. I have it because people get diamond engagement rings, even though kind of for a crappy reason (see: DeBeers), because the ring was Patrick’s before I had an opportunity to disabuse him of the reasoning behind it. I have it because it’s pretty.

But do I want it? I don’t know. I really have mixed feelings about this very specific performance of engaged-ness. And to be sure, it’s a performance — now that I have a “real” engagement ring, I find myself sticking my hand out far more often to people who ask, “Ohh, let me see the ring!” Because that is the cultural script: you get engaged, you get a ring, people ask you about it, they say “Awwwww!” or whatever, and The God Of Doing Things Properly smiles upon you. I do feel like some folks consider me engaged now in a way that they didn’t when I was ringless, even though I’m no less engaged today than I was two months ago.

Because of that performance, I’m not sure when or if I’ll ever become comfortable wearing this beautiful ring. Maybe I’d rather be smiled upon by the God Of If You Lose This Because You Drank Another Bottle Of Jim Beam, You Will Not Really Care So Much. But hey, I haven’t even had the thing for a week yet. Maybe times will change. Maybe I can drink my Jim Beam and have my ring, too.

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