I didn't start out married life planning not to wear my wedding rings. At the time, I was quite young and hadn’t formed any official thoughts about wedding rings, though even then, wedding ring commercials and people who showed off their engagement rings made me uneasy. I didn’t like that couples felt pressure to buy a big diamond even if they couldn’t afford it; that the size of the ring was somehow supposed to prove the amount of love.
Some of my uneasiness was just aesthetics. I wasn’t into the look of 1990s diamond engagement rings at all, so the idea that someone would go into debt for a ring I thought was unappealing was hard for my brain to comprehend. Related to that, I couldn’t imagine liking a piece of jewelry so much that I would want to wear it every day for my whole life — and the idea of someone else picking out that piece of jewelry for me (I don’t even get to choose it???), was about as stressful a thought I could have come up with at the time.
Back then, even with the uneasiness, I assumed I would wear a wedding ring when I was married. But it turns out I don't.
When Ben Blair and I were ready to get engaged, we talked about rings and I told him I would like to design one — something super simple and without gemstones. I remembered seeing some unpolished pieces of jade at my grandparents’ house; my grandpa had collected them from a nearby beach. I wrote to my Grandma Daisy and asked her to send me a piece of jade from Grandpa’s collection so I could use it to design a wedding ring.
Grandma Daisy sent a beautiful piece of apple-green jade. She sent a jade ring she had designed and made in a jewelry class — an oval piece of dark green jade set in silver. And she also sent her wedding rings; my Grandpa had died a few years earlier and she figured she didn’t need to wear them anymore (she wasn’t too sentimental).
She let me know ahead of time what she was sending out in the package and I was nervous. My Grandma was sending me her wedding rings! That’s an amazing gift and I knew the appropriate thing would be to use her wedding rings as my own. But I couldn’t remember what her wedding rings looked like, and I was afraid I wouldn’t like them. I knew it was shallow, but I didn’t want to feel trapped into wearing jewelry I didn’t like.
When the box arrived, the first thing I saw was the piece of apple green jade. It was gorgeous. It’s still gorgeous and I still have it, and someday maybe it will be made into a piece of jewelry or given to my kids for their own jewelry project. The second thing I saw was the jade ring. It was chic and beautiful. I still have it and when I wear it, I think of how my Grandma made it herself. The last thing I pulled from the box was a little cloth envelope with Grandma’s rings inside. A small diamond set in platinum with a very vintage look, and a coordinating band (see the photo above).
I LOVED them immediately. I could not have been more pleased. They were nothing like what was being sold in jewelry stores at the time and I found them incredibly appealing. This was before internet shopping and before easy internet research, so I had never seen anything like them. They seemed so special and out of the ordinary. I felt deeply grateful that she had sent them to me.
When we first married, I wore them everyday. For a few reasons, that didn’t last long. First, I had a fear of losing them. I felt honored to have them, but I was always worried about misplacing them — specifically having to tell Grandma Daisy if I lost them. About a year into our marriage, during our senior year of college, we moved to Athens, Greece for six months, and we ended up traveling around as much of Greece and the rest of Europe as possible. Traveling meant staying in lots of different hostels and hotels and I was quite sure I would end up leaving the rings on a bathroom counter or nightstand as we rushed off to catch a train. So I picked up a simple silver band at an outdoor market, and wore it instead. And I kept Grandma's rings safe at home.
Second, I noticed that when I was in the middle of a project that requires my hands (and I'm very often in the middle of one of those projects), having any jewelry on my hands bugs me. I think it has to do with hand washing. If I wash my hands with my rings on, then dry my hands, I get irritated by the feel of the water under the rings that the towel doesn't quite reach. If I take my rings off to wash my hands, I'm quite likely to forget them, and again the rings are at risk of being lost.
So, while I started out wearing my wedding rings, around the time we moved home from Greece and our first baby arrived, (and handwashing increased!), I wore rings less and less.
The third reason has something to do with my need to simplify my life as each child arrived. Somehow, when life was overwhelming during the newborn stages, jewelry became a burden instead of something fun. This applied to rings, earrings, necklaces, bracelets, all of it. Unless it was a special occasion, I wouldn't wear rings. And that kind of became the norm. I can't say I never wear my wedding rings or other rings. I have some really beautiful pieces, and at a conference, or on a date, or for a photoshoot, it's fun to pick out one (or several) to wear. But 99% of the time, my fingers go jewelry-less.
The last reason I don't wear my wedding rings daily is more of a subconscious resistance. I know the nature of wedding rings and the meaning around them has changed over the years, but the underlying idea still persists.
“They symbolise an attitude which is in complete antithesis to the idea of an independent woman - signifying that the woman with the ring belongs to another person. They are also a way of signifying status: the bigger the diamond, the greater apparent value they give to the woman wearing it.”
The funny thing is, I've never looked at another woman who is wearing a ring and been even slightly bothered that the ring was a gift from her spouse; I’ve never connected the ring to her value. In fact, I like seeing people's pretty wedding rings — it's fun to see the different styles and hear the stories behind them. So clearly, this is just a personal hangup I apply to myself.
Your turn. What's your take on wedding jewelry? Do you have strong opinions about it? Did you pick out your own ring or did your partner? Do you have both an engagement ring plus a band? And if yes, do you wear them both? Do you wear your wedding ring or other rings daily? If you've never married, but plan to someday, do you think you'll wear one? I'd love to hear!
Here are a few links I saved for you:
- A recent op-ed in the Washington Post: “I was sentenced to 30 years to life at 16. I shouldn’t have been sent into the adult system.” I’ve been thinking about this and about the recent Supreme Court ruling. I found it especially disturbing that Kavanaugh, who didn’t want to be judged for his actions as a teen, ruled that life without parole for juveniles is just fine.
- A lovely thread about United States Navy Petty Officer First Class Charles Jackson French.
- In Florida, Republicans passed a law making it legal to run over protesters. I am alarmed by this.
- For the first time in the city’s modern history, Newark Police officers did not fire a single shot during the calendar year 2020, and the city didn’t pay a single dime to settle police brutality cases. Oh, and crime is dropping.
-Evidence is mounting that a tiny subatomic particle is being influenced by forms of matter and energy that are not yet known to science but which may nevertheless affect the nature and evolution of the universe.
- Yes! I keep trying to explain this concept, and this tweet does it so well.
- This made me laugh.
- Is Maslow’s hierarchy of needs all wrong? I read this article and learned that his work was informed by the Blackfeet Nation— and he mixed up their hierarchy, because he didn’t know how to make it fit within America’s individualized culture.
Some happy news: Ben Blair and I officially have a contract to write a parenting book! We’re still not sure on the title, and it will be published next year. We’re working with Artisan Books and the brilliant Lia Ronnen (they published my earlier book too!).
We spent many months of quarantine working on the book proposal and we’re so excited to write this book and share it with you.
Related, you can check out a discussion on Instagram with the prompt: What are your top parenting concerns?
I hope you have a lovely week.
Hi, I’m Gabrielle Blair and this is my newsletter. It’s completely free to access and read, but if you feel so moved to support my work, please consider a paid newsletter subscription: just $5/month or save money with the $50/annual sub. You can also go way above and beyond by becoming a Founding Member at $75. Not a fan of newsletters? You can support the work directly via Paypal or Venmo (@Gabrielle-Blair). Thank you! Support from readers keeps this newsletter ad and sponsor-free.
I stopped wearing my wedding ring(s) during the pandemic. The pandemic was hard on my marriage. I feel like we are in a stronger place now after a lot of difficult conversations but I also realized I needed to not hold so tightly to our marriage. As I continue to evolve as an individual and become more myself as I approach my mid-40s, I needed to accept the possibility this would not last, even as I continue to want it and work for it with all my heart. Not sure if that makes sense but I realized I had to prioritize being true to myself, no matter the consequences. For some reason, it felt right to just not wear any rings for a while. I also dramatically downsized all the type of jewelry when I had kids. Too many grabby hands!
42 years ago ... I didn't want an engagement ring at all, but my fiancé thought it was the right thing to do (1979!) -- and I admit when I saw all those glittering diamonds on a velvet cloth I did kind of want one! We had so little $, and he spent $500 on a 21-point diamond -- it was minuscule but it wasn't terribly uncommon to have less than a carat back then. But, I am a lefty, and to have that sticking-up diamond on my left hand was incredibly annoying. I took it off after about three months and never wore it again, although I would occasionally take it out and admire its shine. My husband didn't mind :) We both wore/wear wedding rings, and that is fine with me. I have a very plain white gold etched band (because I don't like yellow gold), and I never take it off. It's survived fine. About a year and a half ago, our eldest asked me if he could have my engagement ring to propose to his girlfriend (he's a near-starving artist). I immediately said yes but I told him it's at least only about a quarter the size of diamonds these days; would his girlfriend be okay with a tiny ring? Turns out she loves it, she loves the sentimentality of it, and she has pretty, slim fingers that make that little chip look very good. I'm completely content!