‘I don’t need a visual aid to let everyone know I’m married.’
When my friend Himali Singh-Soin got married last year, there were no rings exchanged at the ceremony. “We exchanged pineapples because we had to exchange something,” said Singh-Soin, who’s an artist and writer living in London. “Pineapples are fractals. Each part is a part of a whole.”
That symbolism was important for Singh-Soin and her partner, who chose to get married on New Year’s Eve so that it would feel like a celebration for all their friends and family, not just for the two of them. “We felt that rings might somehow exclude the community that we are part of and is part of us,” she said. Eliminating wedding rings was a way for the couple to uphold values of inclusivity and universality.
Singh-Soin also asked wedding guests to put away their phones, so that “nothing was on public display.”
The tradition of brides wearing wedding rings is thought to date back 4,800 years to ancient Egypt. The tradition of grooms wearing them is much more recent, having only become popular during World War II, when men on the frontlines of faraway battles wanted a reminder of their wives back home.
But it’s 2016, and the old-fashioned patriarchal convention appears to be dying out. More and more celebrities?—?from Jay Z and Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter to Prince William and Donald Trump?—?are foregoing the gold band.
Normal people, too, seem to be sick of the symbolism of the whole thing. I talked to a dozen married people in different parts of the world who don’t wear wedding bands; many of them think rings are a pointless societal construct. A number of them pointed out how ridiculous it was to think such a material thing could possibly signify deep-rooted values like fidelity and commitment, which, they said, can only come from within.
“I don’t need a visual aid to let everyone know I’m married and have chosen not to have sex with other people,” said Jessica Reker, a radiation therapist in Connecticut. “My personal integrity does that.”
Others said a ring made a public statement about them that they’d rather not make. “The point of a ring, in my opinion, is to show people that you’re married, how much money you have or how much your husband loves you,” said Samantha, a research manager in Massachusetts. “I like to keep my personal life to myself.”
Personally, I’ve always liked wearing a wedding ring: Aside from being a union with the person I love most in the world, I consider my marriage to be a kind of accomplishment. I know that sounds kind of douchey, but let me explain: For a period of my life, I was kind of a fuckup. I was smoking weed every day and was very self-involved. I had a series of relationships I destroyed through sheer selfishness. When I fell in love with my partner, Adele, I tried really hard not to screw things up, and I succeeded. So I’m proud of our marriage, and my ring is a way of showing the world that my life is no longer such a mess.
A friend of mine who’s a jewelry maker made my ring as a wedding present. So that shiny gold thing on my left hand has the added sentimental value of being a gift from a loved one.
But I completely understand people who don’t want to wear a ring. There’s something inherently possessive about sporting one, as if the wearer is telling the world: “I belong to someone, so don’t get too close to me.” This is especially true of engagement rings?—?Why does a woman (but not a man) have to mark herself “taken” the minute she accepts a proposal??—?but also for regular old wedding bands. Genevieve, a freelance journalist in Jerusalem, told me she takes hers off when she gets annoyed with her partner, to give herself “some space.”
I took off my ring for a couple weeks while I was working on this story and was surprised at how freeing and natural it felt. And I was troubled by that, because I realized that all the time I’d been proudly wearing this piece of engraved gold on my finger, I may have been showing off?—?if only subconsciously.
I eventually put it back on. My marriage is still pretty new, and it’s still a source of pride for me. But I’m thinking that some day, when I’ve got a few more years of successful partnership under my belt and I’m feeling more settled, that pride will become more private, more personal.
And the ring might come off for good.