I sat in front of a pilot on my way from Buffalo to Austin last Tuesday. As the plane descended into fogbound Newark, I flipped through the fashion magazine I’d bought for the flight, wondering if there was any reason to lug it on the next leg of the journey.
I decided to leave it in the seat pocket for the next passenger. The only thing I tore out, inexplicably, was a two-page Tiffany’s advertisement for Celebration Rings. “Good taste,” the pilot said, resting his forearms on the back of my seat. I said I had never been into fine jewelry, and wasn’t sure why this particular ad appealed to me. He told me his grandfather had been Mr. Tiffany’s secretary, and had such perfect penmanship, he’d handwritten his daughter’s wedding invitations.
I said I spent so much time on my computer, I could hardly write a grocery list legibly anymore.
I didn’t tell him that I had left another Tiffany’s ad taped next to my bed in Buffalo, this one showing a man standing on a doorstep in the snow, holding a little box behind him. The copy was something like “This is the one, this is the moment.”
I love jewelry like everyone else, just not the kind of jewelry you have to lock up. But lately I’ve found these images of gold and diamonds as mysteriously compelling as a pregnant woman finds a jar of pickles.
Just before Mr. Hotness came to visit me a year ago, he got really stressed out about how little money he had for the trip. It took half an hour of calming conversation before he admitted he was disappointed his savings was so small because he’d wanted to arrive with a ring.
At the time, I wasn’t feeling quite as confident as he was that our relationship merited engagement rings. And even in the months prior, when my love for him was at its strongest, I had found the idea of marriage and all its trappings showy and unrealistic. Not only did I feel mystified by the ceremony and cost, I couldn’t take the idea of lifelong commitment seriously in the middle of my parents’ dissolution.
When he told me he’d wanted to buy me a ring, my audible response was, “That’s sweet, but you don’t have to right now.” Inside, I was thinking, “Gee… that would have been kind of nice…”
It took me a long time to realize that while I was attracted to him for his complex intellect, sense of humor and, well, hotness, I loved him for his devotion, rationality, and stability. These qualities, that I do not have in abundance, were also the qualities that made him consider buying an engagement ring despite my scoffing. At every step, I struggled with the slower pace at which he makes decisions, the thin veins of traditionalism running through his bass-playing, Japanese horror-movie-watching personality, his hesitancy to throw everything in a suitcase and fly someplace new and strange. But the same way he may need my impulsive unpredictability and grandiose emotional gestures, I may need someone who looks before leaping.
I’ve enjoyed myself since landing in Austin on Tuesday night. I’ve walked its beloved Sixth Street, crowded with college kids and noisy with live blues. I’ve had wine and hummus at a great coffee shop, talked to welcoming strangers, ridden clean buses, meandered downtown, had a delicious Tex Mex dinner with one of my new roommates, and been on two dates.
After not dating at all for more than a year, I’d forgotten the thrill of interesting conversation with someone you might get to kiss as well. I’d also forgotten why I keep circling back to Mr. Hotness. It’s very hard to find someone capable of witty date-night banter, who can also learn from his mistakes, cope with challenging emotions, and not require a lot of ego-feeding.
Meanwhile, a Tiffany’s ad from a magazine sits on my desk here, displaying rings made of gold, silver, and tiny diamonds. Rings you have to save up to buy for someone. Rings you can’t take off when your fingers swell in later years. Rings you worry about losing. Like so many traditions that cynical young liberals like myself mock, the wedding ring is more than something to wear; it’s symbolic of a relationship that shares those qualities. A relationship you have to work for, that becomes part of you, that you can’t bear to lose.
A relationship you’re willing to take risks for.
Mr. Hotness can’t leave England, and I have moved to a town in Texas that, at least on first impression, looks like a great place to be single. A few years ago I would have cherished the tattoos, vintage clothing shops, and huge Mexican Margaritas. And I may wind up staying here for years, enjoying those things. But the magazine ad sits on my desk for a reason. I can’t take the next step alone, and I can’t take it without investing in someone.