I got officially engaged on Valentine’s Day twenty-four years ago, eight months after I met the Man I Married.
It surprises me now that we got engaged on a traditional day, because nothing else about our engagement or our wedding four months later was by the book.
The engagement ring was my grandmother’s. We paid to have it sized and inscribed, and even that was a stretch on our budget. Back then my Swatch Watch was a splurge for me.
When we took the ring to the jeweler, the pleasant man with the monocle asked what we’d like the inscription to read.
“How about I Love You, Jenny,” proudly said The Man I Was About to Marry.
The jeweler cleared his throat. I could see that he hated to interfere with such a personal matter but that he felt obligated to assist the clueless bloke with the weird hair standing before him.
“Are you sure?” the jeweler asked.
The Man I Married thought the problem was length (not out-of-line for a man considering his wedding night). The ring was tiny. I do not come from moneyed nor large-boned peoples, so the jeweler needed that monocle when it came to inspecting the diamond pebble on the sliver-thin ring. The ring was really all prong.
Still, I loved it. It was a shiny heirloom that would soon be given to me by the man I’d already proposed to. The prongs were apt, rather like metaphorical pitchfork prongs I’d used to persuade him to tie the knot.
“Um,” MIM considered. “How about I Love You, Jen?”
“Well,” the jeweler said kindly, “normally the inscription includes the name of the ring giver.”
“Oh, okay,” said the Man I Married, as open to suggestion then as he has remained to this day. “How about I Love You, Rick?”
The jeweler sighed. I wish I could have repaid him for his patience back then in 1988 by assuring him that two decades down the road that monocle on his head would make him the epitome of cool as he ushered in steampunk.
I used to remember the final inscription, but although I vividly recall that scene in the jeweler’s, twenty-four years later I pulled a blank on how the ring was finally engraved.
I also used to be able to read the inscription.
I easily found the ring but had to borrow the Man I Married’s drugstore magnification lenses that are littered all over the house, so that they are within easy reach whenever he wants to read something that proves that he is right and I am wrong.
I donned the glasses, squinted, held the ring far away, held it close up, held it directly under a 100-watt lightbulb, angled it this way and that, and finally made out:
Love Always, Rick
Ah. And I suppose he has. So far.
At least I still have my ring. MIM didn’t have an engagement ring, but he lost his first three wedding rings, so I can logically conclude that he would have lost an engagement ring, too.
It’s a wonder I can still get that ring on my finger. It’s not that my fingers plumped up along with the rest of me—it’s that my knuckles beefed up. Forget admiring your youthful skin and hair; appreciate your sleek knuckles while you can. Getting that ring over my knuckle is like squeezing an embroidery hoop over a fire hydrant. But with enough ice and soap, I managed.
I still love that ring. The one I gave him to give to me.
On our fifteenth anniversary he gave me a new ring that he chose himself. He presented it to me at a bar with a bullet hole in the wall, and everyone there thought I was luckiest girl this side of the interstate.
But in the end it’s not the jewelry that matters. The real reason to plan out a memorable engagement or a wedding is that it’s a great way to suss out the true character of your chosen one.
If your bride or groom is a closed book to the expert advice of others, I’d suggest closing the book on the upcoming nuptials.
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