Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Engagement - a One-Ring Circus in More Ways Than One

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Engagement - a One-Ring Circus in More Ways Than One

Article excerpt

A couple of guys here in the office recently got engaged. (To women, not to each other. Relax.) And we never would have known if they hadn't told us. As a woman, this struck me as odd.

Traditionally, it is obvious when a woman gets engaged. One day, a diamond ring appears on her left hand. This might pass unnoticed, particularly if the gem is of modest size, except that her hand rapidly becomes the center of attention for all other women in the room. She may even have made her entrance waving it and shrieking.

Meanwhile, men can remain secretly engaged indefinitely. It looks to me as if they prefer it that way. Even when they come clean, it isn't so much an engagement "announcement" as a "sheepish admission."

In general, a woman is more than happy to have everyone know she's about to get married. A man seems to prefer to keep it quiet. If I think too hard about it, I can't decide which attitude is more mystifying.

Why don't men get marked for matrimony? OK, maybe a diamond solitaire wouldn't be all that appealing to them. But it seems only fair that there should be some universal signal. An engagement jersey? An engagement hat? An engagement chain? No, that's no good - a discouraging symbol.

Back when my parents got married, it wasn't at all uncommon for only the wife to wear a wedding ring, too. My dad never had one. He felt it was nobody's business whether he was married. To his credit, he applied the same logic to my mother: She had a ring, but she very rarely wore it, and that was fine by him. Which seems weird but fair.

After all, that's why we had to invent "Ms." Because you can't tell whether a man is married or not from "Mr.," but "Miss" is single and "Mrs." is a wife. If marital status is important for total strangers to know instantly, then men should have two different forms of address, too. Maybe "Mr." for husbands and "Dude" for bachelors. I'd be willing to go back to being Miss Bennett if men had to identify themselves as, say, Dude Bongiolotti.

Frankly, I'm mystified by the whole mechanics of engagement. For example, the ring. Fundamentally, it is a way for a man to mark his territory and warn off rivals, made palatable to the woman by being pretty and expensive (much the way grain alcohol is made palatable by being mixed with fruit punch). …

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