Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rings and Surthings

I had the weirdest conversation with The Princess*, my new sister-in-law, when she was in town for my husband's birthday. It's taken me this long to write about because I just wasn't sure how to process it. Translation: I don't know her well enough to know if she was deliberately being rude or if she is just really clueless. I'm erring on the side of clueless, though deliberately rude is a definite possibility.

Anyway, she and my brother-in-law have been married less than a year. I generally hate talking to newlyweds, for a lot of reasons**, and she hit two of them in less than five minutes:

Why don't you guys wear wedding rings? Don't you want people to know you're married?

Why didn't you change your last name? Is this some kind of feminist thing?

So, here's my reply to those questions, feel free to borrow whatever is applicable to you any time you'd like.

1. Wedding rings:

Does anybody even know what the point of wedding rings is, anyway? I guess to show people I'm married, but why does every random stranger need to know my marital status? An unmarried person could buy a wedding ring. It's not like jewelry stores require proof of marriage. A married person with a wedding ring could simply take it off. And I'm still not sure why everyone I meet needs to know whether or not I'm married.

I've been told that my husband will cheat on me if I don't require him to wear a wedding ring. I told them I had no idea circles of metal had such amazing powers.

I've been told our refusal to wear wedding rings means we're not serious about one another. I've been known to say "fuck off". Seriously, seriously fuck off. We've stuck together through both of our chronic illnesses, poverty, and other stuff I don't talk about here, and you're telling me that the ring is what denotes serious commitment? C'mere, I wanna show you something. It won't hurt for long.

So why don't we wear wedding rings? Neither one of us likes the tactile sensation of rings. My husband won't wear any jewelry at all, not even a watch. I regularly wear earrings, bracelets, and necklaces (I'm actually rarely without all three), but rings bother me. I can't really see how "Hey, I know wearing a ring makes you wildly uncomfortable, but you must wear one every day for the rest of your life" means love.

2. Taking my husband's surname.

This is not a feminist thing. Well, actually, some feminists do promote this as a feminist thing, but it has nothing to do with feminism for me. I'd like to say it does. I'd like to claim to be a feminist warrior, changing the world through my bold refusal to change my name, but Hell is all about the honesty***.

I didn't change my last name because I didn't really care about it and I'm lazy about things I don't care about. Actually, thinking about it, I had just spent a very frustrating six weeks getting a new social security card so I could switch jobs and the thought of doing that all over again to change my name was just too much at the time, so I put it off. After a few years went by, I asked my husband if he cared that I didn't use his name and he said, quite reasonably, that while I was welcome to use his name, he didn't see why I should. I didn't become a different person when I married him, why should I have a different name? And, it bothers him to see men stay Mr. John Doe, but women become Mrs. John Doe as if she had to marry John Doe because her parents named her Mrs. John Doe. What if she wanted to marry Frank Doe? It would be tragic!

Yeah, he's as weird as I am.

I've been told that this means I don't love him. I've been told this means he'll leave me, cheat on me, be heartbroken. I've been told feminists are ridiculous, that I hate men and that I'm a bad wife.

People seriously froth at the mouth about this one, more so than the rings.

Multiple people have suggested a "compromise" as if we were fighting about it: hyphenate our names. First of all, this always means I change my name to the hyphenate and he does nothing. Secondly, I have a four syllable Scots/Irish name and he has a three syllable Italian name. Can you imagine?

Mrs. Faith O'Hannigan-Agnoli****.

That's better than Faith O'Hannigan?

People often ask what name our children (will) have. My husband agrees that in the highly unlikely event that we do have a child, they will have my name because I'll be the one doing all the work. This upsets people so much that I've suggested we simply combine our names into one unhyphenated, bizarre Iritalian mix. O'Hannoli, perhaps. Nobody finds that funny, other than my husband.

Anyway, I really want to know why are either of these things anyone else's business? Why does anyone at all care whether or not we wear wedding rings or whether or not I change my name? I have asked people that, but apparently, I'm the rude one for asking.

*No, I really don't like her all that much.

**Hey, you're happy, good for you. Stop pretending you know anything about marriage. Call me back in ten years and then we'll talk all about it.

***Carefully edited honesty.

****Not our real names. Our real names would be even worse. And longer. Much longer.


  1. My wife and I had the name change conversation when we were getting married. I thought it would be cool if we both changed our last names to Zinn.

    How cool would that be?

    She didn't see it that way. :(

  2. I didn't change my name in my first marriage (mainly because I didn't want to be Ms/Mrs Broom). However, I like my second husband's last name much better than my father's last name, so I adopted that on marriage. In my case, it was entirely my choice.

    We had our rings made for us to our design (back then, 22 years ago, we could afford such extravagances) and they mean a lot to us both (we first met at college in 1975, then separated: we got back together in 1988 in extraordinary circumstances). I love my ring. But something stung my finger just above it; my finger is now permanently too swollen for me to wear it, and I can't afford to get it resized. Hand doesn't feel right without it...

  3. I miss my wedding ring... stolen from my locker at the Y.
    My wife didn't take my name and I don't blame her one bit. (Doench, pronounced Dench... the O is silent.)

  4. My husband and I tattooed our names on our ring fingers. However, the lack of "ring" made people think we were single, and they hit on us. Unfortunately, in the military, people have the assumption that people fall in the category of faithful, or temporary-divorce (When the spouse's away... what happens on deployment stays on deployment).

    The rings we have are just a preventative measure against the rumor mill (the military has a terrible one because sometimes there's nothing else to do. The military is like a giant soap opera).

    We might take them off when we're overseas, and let the tattoo stand for itself. However, the knock-out ring (seriously, it looks like a weapon!) that I wear keeps many men away, and prevents the interactions that would force me to file against them for sexual harassment. Things are more tranquil and no one can say that I"m trying to "appear" unmarried while my spouse and I are separated.

    I didn't change my name, because I got degrees and commissioned under my last name. We may hyphenate both of them in the future, but right now, it's just inconvenient.

  5. Names:
    The Trophy Wife took her first husband's name, and brought twins along with her. She thought about keeping her maiden name when I married her, and then thought about hyphenating.

    The hyphenation went the way of disco pretty quick, when she thought about fitting "Annette Blankenship-Minnich" into the 3" they give you on a check.

    For a very short time, we considered me taking her name, but I was in the military at the time, and (as K. Syrah above could tell you) they aren't really open to new ideas.

    She finally agreed to go with my name, primarily because keeping her maiden name would put 3 surnames into the family (mine, hers, and the twins), and that seemed needlessly complicated.

    When we got married, on an airman's salary, we lucked into a pair of plain, sterling silver rings for $36 total. (Screwed up the minister my FIL got for us, who had apparently memorized the phrase "bands of gold" in his standard wedding spiel.)

    A few years later (similar to Joules' story), I got a cut on my finger which got infected, and the ring magically transformed into a tourniquet and had to be cut off. I did without one for a while, and then got deployed to Kuwait, where gold was a lot cheaper than it is here.

    I came back to the states with the rings in a fancy wooden box, and later, at our welcome back gathering (which also happened to be her birthday - timing is everything), I dropped to one knee and asked her to marry me again.

    (It's good that I do stupid things like that once in a while: she thinks I'm romantic and just hide it most of the time; it keeps her happy.)

    I lost a little weight in the course of the deployment, though, and have always had to wear it on my middle finger (2-tone, lightly patterned gold doesn't resize well), which has been known to confuse the weak-minded.

    (Wedding rings used to be traditional only for the wife, making them much like slave bracelets, I guess. It's only the 20th century that's given us ring-wearing husbands.)

  6. I love this because I'm not wearing a ring or taking his last name. And I'm sick of being asked why. People should just STFU.

  7. It's your marriage, your life, your name and your finger. Who is she to question what is right for you?

    The whole ring, surname thing is just stupid. She is making it sound like your decisions are threatening her marriage, as if you not wearing a ring makes her ring powerless and pointless.

    I wear a ring and most people still don't think I am married - mostly because they think I am 18 (I'm 26) and therefore way too young to be married. Also, my wedding ring is my engagement ring. It is a unique design that no wedding band would fit, so why spend more money? I don't get furious when people don't know I am married. The people who matter already know that I am married.

    And I gave my husband a ring because I didn't want it to look like he was buying me.

    Since my marriage, I claimed my mother's maiden name as my own and hyphenated my husband's name. It makes my initials spell MERM (I am still trying to figure out how to get the AID on the end). Legally, my last name is his last name but I did that because it was the fastest, cheapest, easiest way to change my last name from my father's last name. I had no business having that name and I would have changed it sooner if it didn't always seem like such an expensive hassle (it took several months and quit a bit of money for mom to get her name back after the divorce).

    When I eventually change my name, my husband is planning on changing his as well so we will have the same last name. We will probably only give one name to our (hypothetical) kids but at least if we hyphenate, we will be able to avoid some of the annoyances that comes with not having the same name.

  8. when i got married, i almost didn't change my last name because no one noticed

    it went from "barnett" to "barrett". it took the AF THREE TIMES to get my MID right - because it's really hard, sometimes, to see the difference between lowercase "r"s and "n"s.

    then, when i got divorced, i went back to my maiden name - and again, NO ONE NOTICE. my SS card has one name, my driver's liscence [and everything else] the other - and it has NEVER BEEN AN ISSUE. i got my liscence with a SS card that had the "wrong" name.


    if Pete and i ever get married - i dunno. i refuse to be "Elizabeth Taylor". it just seems like a bad idea and all...

  9. "Ah! Mister Rory Pond!"
    "Yes! I mean... uh... no, not Mister Rory Pond, it doesn't work that way..."
    "Yeah it does."
    "[pause] Yeeaaaahh it does."


    If I get married I'm going to change my last name to F'taghn, and my wife can change her last name to Cthulhu. Let's see them ask us to hyphenate it then!

  10. I'll admit I'm an incredibly curious (read: nosy) person. I might ask a married couple why they don't wear rings (not so much about the names thing), but only out of honest curiosity. To me, their decision is no big deal to me.

    And I also graciously accept instructions to mind my own business. ;)

  11. I like my wedding ring, because I like shiny things, but I certainly don't think it "guards" my marriage. It's a pretty piece of symbolism, nothing more.

    As far as names go, I like my last name and had no interest in changing it. I'll sometimes use both names (sans hyphen) socially, but changing it legally would have been an unnecessary hassle that neither of us really wanted. So far, while people have asked about it, no one's really given me a hard time (thank goodness!)


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