Why I gave my wedding ring the middle finger
I never thought I would get married. Unless you grew up Mormon, you may not understand the impact of that sentence.
(Full disclosure: I was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (LDS/Mormon), but I was excommunicated when I was in my 20s because I am gay. I also realize that other religions hold similar views, but I am speaking only of my experience.)
I'm not intending to bash the LDS church, but growing up gay as a Mormon isn't easy. At least, it wasn't for me. I knew I liked boys the way other boys liked girls from as early as I can remember. It didn't take me long to figure out that other people didn't think that was cool. At church, the message was clear. Grow up. Get married. Have kids. Repeat. Forever. (They're serious about the forever part.) Problem was, I didn't want to get married to a girl, and apparently getting married to a boy was not an option. In fact, you couldn't even think about getting married to a boy because that was gross and evil and god would hate you and the devil would get you and it was your fault because you masturbated that one time. There was a constant message of heteronormativity, but I knew what I was. To survive, I kept my head down, tried to be a good boy, and hoped I would figure it out later.
I felt excluded from this tradition that was so central to the church, which was so central to my family. You can't go anywhere as a Mormon without tripping over a wedding, so it was always in my face. There's even a joke that young women go to Brigham Young University to get their "Mrs." degree. It was easy to get bitter about it. Don't get the wrong idea. I love love. I love to be in love. I just got a bad taste in my mouth about the whole idea of marriage. The more I learned about the history of marriage, the worse the taste got. I just wondered why everyone else was so enthralled.
After "coming out" (I hate that term but I don't know what else to call it), I had a few semi-long-term relationships and a whole bunch of short-term ones, but nothing that felt like forever. Which was fine, because getting married wasn't an option anyway, although I sometimes wondered if that was part of the problem. If marriage was an option, would we be putting more effort into forming forever relationships? Who knows? Not me. And I didn't really care. I had some gay friends who would call their boyfriend their "husband" and I would roll my eyes and feel superior and think, "why do you let yourself be drawn into this stupid misogynistic construct that society wants to exclude you from anyway?" Married straight people just seem to complain about being married all the time, so it must not be that great.
And then, in 2001, I met Scott. Everything changed. This was my forever. Right here. This guy. I get it now. I get what the fuss is about. This guy was not my boyfriend. This was more than that. I could call this guy my husband, except that we can't get married. At least we live in California, so we could register as Domestic Partners. Sounds like we started a house cleaning business or something, which you would find hilarious if you saw the state of our house right now.
At least we get some legal protection as long as we're in California. Wait, now it sounds like we're under arrest, "just don't leave town, sir." I started getting bitter again. Still, it could be worse. I could be back in North Carolina with no legal protection at all. Now that I had found someone I wanted to spend the rest of my life with, I realized the point of marriage. For me, at least, marriage was a way to protect our relationship so that we were related in the eyes of the law. Either of us could make decisions for the both of us. That was going to be really important in the long run. I started to become more of an advocate for marriage equality, although I was still feeling a little bitter about the religious entanglements in this legal issue.
On our first trip together, we took a vacation to Provincetown, MA.
While we were shopping, we tried on some rings for the fun of it. While eating some pizza, we discussed getting rings. Commitment Rings? Partnership Rings? I wasn't sure I wanted a ring. We weren't married and you know how I feel about that. I didn't like the idea of keeping my head down and blending in and pretending that I was fine with being "pretend married." At the same time, I liked the idea of having a symbol of my commitment and connection to Scott. In the end, we got the rings (as many couples do, someone I know made sure to point out) and I decided to wear mine on my right hand instead of my left so it wouldn't be mistaken for a "wedding ring." I can be a petulant child sometimes.
When you pick out rings, there's something you should consider that no one ever told me. Your fingers shrink and swell in different climates. The climate in Provincetown in the summer is very different from the climate in San Francisco at pretty much any time of the year. Many people don't realize that San Francisco is pretty chilly most of the time. As a result, the rings that fit so perfectly in Provincetown were too big in San Francisco. Because of the type of rings we had selected, they couldn't be resized. So, my ring fit better on my left hand after all (so much for petulance) and Scott's ring was always slipping off his finger.
In 2008, marriage equality in California started advancing rapidly. San Francisco began issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Suddenly, we had the chance to get married for real. The atmosphere in the city was amazing. So many couples wanted to get married that you had to sign up on a waiting list. Now that it was a real possibility, I had to get over my marriage bitterness and get married. There were too many legal protections at stake. What if something happened to one of us? I signed us up for the earliest date, which was over a month away. For the first time in my life, I started thinking about planning a wedding. We picked out invitations, looked at venues, thought about guest lists, and worried about how we were going to pay for all of it. I was embarrassed to admit to myself that I was getting excited about the whole thing. The bitterness was starting to turn into romance.
Then, we woke up one day and the courts had put a stop to all of the same-sex marriage licenses. I was pretty crushed. I had never cared one ounce about weddings or marriage for my whole life. Then I get all excited about it and the rug gets ripped out from under me at the last minute. Not nice.
Then, in 2010, we had the opportunity again and we took it. No time to plan a party or invite family. We couldn't risk losing our chance again. We grabbed two friends and our rings that were too big and went to the courthouse and got married.
We got married! We were both so sick that day, but I remember looking into Scott's eyes as I put that ring on his finger and feeling like everything was going to be all right forever and always. And hoping that the rings didn't fall off. Now our misfit rings were proper wedding rings at last. Thank you, California!
Then we moved to Houston. Texas does not "recognize" our marriage. That seems weird to me. I guess to the State of Texas, we are just two dudes, no relation. I have no idea how that serves the interest of the State, but I'll talk about that later. We need to get back to the story of the wedding rings.
Scott lost his ring in the move. The climate in Houston is very hot and humid. We arrived in August and I thought we had moved to Hell. The Mormons were right all along. I married a man and now I'm in Hell and what's happening to my fingers? They're swelling and now my ring is cutting off the circulation. This ring has to come off. NOW. I finally got the ring off with only minor skin loss.
Then I lost it.
So, to summarize, we're legally married but we live in a state that doesn't believe us, and we lost our rings that were too big to begin with.
Some of the bitterness is coming back at this point.
While we were out shopping one day, Scott suggested we look at rings. Sure, why not? But I wasn't expecting to get one. For one thing, we've been a couple for nearly 13 years and married for three. Rings draw attention to the marriage. "How long have you been married?" I get that all the time. How do I answer?
"We would've been married for 13 years if the government hadn't been discriminating against us the whole time."
That seems a bit aggressive for most social situations. Plus, haven't we been through enough with the rings already? But, again, I do like the idea of a symbol, so let's look at the rings.
What do you know? We find rings we like. We don't get matching rings. We didn't the first time either. We're just not a matchy-matchy couple. Mine was so comfy on my finger (on the left hand, in case you were wondering). I was worried about it being too tight after my other ring getting stuck, so I left a little extra wiggle. I left so happy and not at all feeling bitter.
You know it doesn't end there, right?
As part of the mysterious illness that resulted in Adam Tilted, I was put on a low sodium diet. Have you guessed what's coming yet? My fingers shrank. My ring was now too big. I was in denial about this for a while. It slipped off my finger into a hand towel when I was drying my hand, but that's normal, right? It came off in my sleep and I found it under my pillow, but I'm on a lot of medication and I was reading an article about the tooth fairy around that time, so maybe that had something to do with it. It was when I was trying on a vest at a clothing store and it flew off my finger and rolled across the length of the store that I realized I had a real problem. Of course, I made the same mistake I had made the first time and picked a ring that couldn't be resized.
I've been basically stuck at home for the last six months, so I've had some time to think about the problem while my ring was safe in its box. My first reaction was to just not wear a ring. Keep it simple. I don't have much jewelry. I've got a box of crap that I've picked up at festivals over the years, but only a few pieces that mean anything. That got me thinking about those pieces.
I have this necklace and pendant from TeNo that are connected to my transition from teaching to administration. I bought the pendant when I was a teacher. The "A" stands for Adam, of course, but it also stands for Administrator and Amazing.
I had a necklace picked out for it, but I wouldn't buy it until I reached my goal of completing my training program and getting a job as a school administrator. I had that pendant, shiny and new in its box (it's so old and worn after all these years now!), and reminding me to work hard and not give up.
The necklace has an unbreakable steel core. To me, that represented my unbreakable drive to achieve my goal. When I wear this necklace, it reminds me of that time, of that version of myself, of what I achieved. There is definitely value in that.
A wedding ring has value, of course. But for me, it has always seemed to be more trouble than it's worth. For the second time, I had a wedding ring that didn't fit and in some people's minds' still didn't apply to a real marriage.
And then I Tilted. Who says I have to wear my wedding ring on my ring finger?
I put my ring on my middle finger. It fits perfectly.
I've been wearing it on my middle finger for weeks and it hasn't slipped off once. It's like it was meant for that finger all along. Maybe my fingers change size all the time and I'll just have to keep changing fingers. Maybe I was just having a fat-finger day the day we picked out our rings. Anyway, who cares. I get to wear my wedding ring. Some people will think it's on the wrong finger. It's not. It's on the right finger.
And I've even thought of the perfect response to satisfy the petulant child in me if someone asks why I wear my wedding ring on my middle finger:
I wear it on that finger because it fits. My middle finger is longer than my ring finger. Scott and I have been in love for longer than we have been allowed to be married, so it fits.
And that is why I gave my wedding ring the middle finger.
Works on this page credited to Adam Brown are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.