My engagement was memorable to owners of jewelry stores within a two-hour driving radius of my home. I’m no celebrity, but apparently I’m a well-recognized…type. As unforgettable as the feel of grit on sandpaper, some might say. I didn’t set out to earn a reputation. I’m simply a person who struggles to find meaning, and since there isn’t an occasion more meaningful than a wedding, I struggled a lot. In public.
Perhaps the jewelers would have been more empathetic if I’d told them the whole story—that I’d done this all before, eighteen years ago. That it hadn’t ended so well. That my new beau recognized me as a potential life partner right away through the newfound honesty with which I expressed my vision for my life—a vision that almost word-for-word echoed thoughts he had written down himself, years before. With that knowledge, certainly anyone could understand my need to find the perfect ring, right? Past childbearing age, why remarry at all unless the union adds meaning to your life?
Since the average length of each store visit was already bumping the one-hour mark, I spared jewelers the narrative and picked my way through dozens of rings that any less demanding woman, they’d quietly inform me, would be thrilled to own. Dating had offered a similar quandary—it’s hard to find the right one when you have no idea what “the right one” looks like. The ubiquitous answer: you know love when you find it.
I loved my first engagement ring, a round-cut diamond with two smaller stones on either side, and kept finding myself attracted to similar rings. But wasn’t this why I’d sought therapy after my first husband’s suicide? To break the habit of seeking out the same old relationships? I forced myself to look at styles to which I’d never before been attracted—marquis and pear cuts, unusual shapes that required a matching band, estate jewelry, different kinds of stones.
While shopping for rings that spring of 2000, one exasperated chain store owner told me to come back later—much later, in July—for his setting event, when he would have a thousand different settings to choose from. “It’s your only hope,” he’d said with a smirk. Dave and I had planned a September wedding—call me old-fashioned, but I’d been hoping to have the ring on my finger for longer than two months.
“If only you could describe the ring to me,” said another, plopping down a pile of catalogs. If only. I half-heartedly flipped through one of them. I knew one thing—I wouldn’t find it on paper.
Weeks later, I was trying even my own patience. Dave had asked me to marry him in March, and we were coming up on May. While telling those who knew my story that I’d gotten engaged, I’d been touched to see their faces light up with hope for my sons and me, but the “Let me see your ring” part was getting old. I began to see a “setting event”—or two, or three—in my future. [Read more…]