After polling my Facebook fans and blog readers about which Archive story they most wanted me to bring back… I pulled this classic tale from my single girl days. Enjoy!
Several times a week, I drive by the World’s Biggest Engagement Ring Store. It’s on my way to Pilates class, my favorite little coffee place and the grocery store. The building is hard to miss. There’s a monolithic, ring-shaped structure out front. On many days, I barely notice it. On other days, I sense the big ring mocking me. And I recall the precise moment my mother handed me the book How to Marry after 35 and with a straight face ‑- no, a sincere face ‑- uttered the words, “I thought you could use this.”
Did I mention I’m only 33?
Which is why I recently paid a visit to the World’s Biggest Engagement Ring Store. No, not to torture myself, but rather to demystify what it must be like to get engaged. To have the man you love (possibly) get down on one knee and tell you he wants to spend the rest of his life with you. To have him present you with a glittering piece of jewelry that society (and not-so-subtle advertising) tells us probably cost two months’ salary. To then have a story about how he proposed that you can tell over and over while people admire your left hand and the ring that now resides there. I have yet to experience any of this for myself, so I decided it was time to take matters into my own hands.
And so I boldly go where (I assume) no 33-year-old single gal has gone before. Up the front steps, through the double doors and into the lush interior with its pristine cases of sparkling jewelry and oversized photos of smiling couples along the walls. Instantly I feel like an imposter. But there’s no time to turn and run as I’m welcomed by a cheery young man who invites me to look around while he locates a sales associate. It’s then that I realize I should probably get my story straight.
I recall a recent jewelry ad directed at single professional women like me. I believe the exact verbiage was: Your left hand says we; your right hand says me. Women of the world, raise your right hands. And while I’m footloose and fancy free of a romantic entanglement at the moment, I’m far from thumbing my nose at an institution I think I’d like to join someday. So I quickly concoct a different story ‑- one that involves a “we.”
And just in the nick of time, as my sales associate Merry approaches.
“My boyfriend suggested I go ring shopping,” I hear myself say. “You know, to see what I like.”
Over the next hour, Merry and I discuss ring shapes, sizes, color and clarity. Before I know it, there are dazzling diamonds being brought forth in various settings. I’m mesmerized. And to be honest, a little excited for me and my faux beau!
Between pear-shaped diamonds on platinum bands and 1.5-carat emerald cuts (my personal favorite, I discover), Merry and I chat about life, love and engagements. I’m surprised at how easily the details of my faux beau come together.
His name is Jack. We’ve been together almost two years. He’s a writer. We were just on a cruise along the Mexican Riviera, and one night, out of the blue, he suggested I go ring shopping.
Merry tells me I’ve got quite the catch, and for a few seconds I feel like the luckiest girl in the world. That’s the thing about faux beaus. They don’t snore, hog the remote or have any other annoying qualities.
From the impressive ring selection, I eventually find an antique-looking setting that matches my grandmother’s wedding ring, which I wear on my right hand. Merry shows me a matching wedding band. Together, they make a smashing pair.
While I admire the twin bands sparkling on my left ring finger, Merry asks if I have any idea when or how Jack will propose. I smile and say no, adding that I’m very excited ‑- and a little nauseated ‑- nonetheless. She nods in understanding, and I have to admit that I really do feel a mixture of thrilled queasiness. Thrilled about the life I’ve created for myself in my head, and sick that at any moment Merry will realize I’m a liar.
But Merry doesn’t catch on. Instead, she takes me into her office, measures my ring finger and helps me create a wish list on the store’s Website. That way, Jack can look at my selection and call the store with any questions. Merry is so helpful, and even chatters on excitedly about an ex who’s recently started calling again. I want to listen to her, to care. But truthfully, I’m too caught up in my own euphoria to catch many of the details.
My wish list created, Merry arms me with a “Welcome to the Family” packet chock full of engagement- and wedding-related goodies, and sends me on my way with a hug and a smile. I leave there feeling giddy. It isn’t until 15 minutes later, when I’m safely seated at my favorite sushi restaurant nursing some miso soup, that the faux beau fog lifts.
It was just a field trip, I tell myself. Still, I have visions of my perfect engagement ring dancing in my head. Not to mention the life I created for myself with my faux beau. It’s not that my life right now is bad. In fact, most of the time, it feels fabulous. I own my own home and have an amazing circle of friends who love and support me (and vice versa), fun dates with interesting men I meet here and there, and a career that I dig. But if I’m completely honest, there’s a part of me that wonders what it’s like to be That Girl. The girl whose boyfriend is so enamored of her that he goes out and buys a ring and asks her to spend the rest of her life with him. That could be fabulous, too.
Visions of my spectacular ring still dance in my head as I savor the last bite of sushi. For a moment, I contemplate buying the ring for myself. It really was beautiful. But you know what? It’s not the ring I’m after. It’s what it represents. A commitment to someone I love and who loves me. That’s what makes “the engagement” so exciting. After all, I got giddy with just a faux beau. Imagine what it’ll be like with Mr. Right, imperfections and all. And so I decide that the ring will have to wait. I think it’s worth it ‑- holding out for the real deal.
I just hope Merry and Jack will understand.