A week ago, I listened to a podcast host announce his colleague’s recent engagement. He put a ring on it, he said more than once. He punted beyond his coverage. His bride-to-be, the host implied, is out of his league.
I found the conjunction of those two phrases a little unsettling. If she’s out of his league, it seems to me he needs to do more than put a ring on it.
It’s healthy to perceive the person you choose to spent the rest of your life with as a little out of your league; it might inspire you to become a better person in order to be worthy of them. It’s healthy to get butterflies in your stomach when you’re near your partner, to have just a little bit of a hard time believing she could have chosen you just as surely as you chose her.
But when you make that choice, when you decide to spend the rest of your life with someone else, I hope the idea of putting a ring on it, this casual phrase we’ve used for the last couple of years, is inadequate. First of all, if you’re referring to the love of your life as it, you may want to reexamine your priorities. And second, you’re doing a lot more than just claiming a piece of property–you’re entering into a covenant with another human being, a human just as aware as you, just as capable of making decisions, just as flawed and uncertain and opinionated. You’re not claiming someone as yours so much as tying your leg to theirs for a lifelong three-legged race.
As the father of a teenage boy, I hope he never puts a ring on it. I hope he finds the woman of his dreams. I hope it takes him months to work up the courage to ask her to spend the rest of her life with him. I hope when the moment comes he’s so nervous his hands are shaking as he slips the ring onto her finger. I hope she notices he’s distracted all evening, because he’s repeating what he wants to say over and over in his mind, trying to make sure he gets it right and prepare himself for anything she might say in response. I hope he still gets it wrong, and years later he can mention how he flubbed his line and she can tell him she didn’t notice because she could barely hear him for her own nerves. And I hope when they face each other before their family and friends and say the words, they say them loudly and with conviction.
As the father of a teenage girl, I hope nobody ever puts a ring on it thinking he’s claimed her. I hope she knows it’s coming but not when, or I hope she’s the one doing the asking, or I hope they do something elaborate like taking a long weekend in Cancun and coming back engaged. I hope the one she chooses is out of her league, romantic and driven and supportive and ambitious, and she’s out of his. I hope he asks her because he can’t imagine his life without her, and I hope she says yes for the same reason. And I hope when they face each other before their family and friends and say the words, they say them loudly and with conviction.
I want so much more for my kids than for them to just casually put a ring on it. Why do we use such cowardly language to describe one of the biggest choices we ever make?