The other day I was talking to a friend of mine about gay engagement rings. He fell in love with these engagement rings by Rony Tennenbaum. They really are gorgeous, and as my friend and I cooed over the black diamonds and their masculine allure, I started to wonder who got which ring. My friend explained that one was an engagement ring and one was a wedding ring.
“Yeah,” I said, “I get that. But since we’re gay men and all, who wears the engagement ring? The guy who is proposed to?”
My friend started to nod. “Of course!”
“But what about the guy who proposes? Shouldn’t he get to wear an engagement ring, too? Where’s his?”
The more I thought about it, the more confusing it became. If the one who proposes buys two engagement rings — one for himself and one for his love — then isn’t the romance removed from the proposal ritual?
“Honey, will you marry me?” asks one gentleman.
“I would love to, my love,” responds the other as he holds out his finger.
The first gentleman places the engagement ring on his newly-betrothed. Then says, “Oh, and I got one for me too! I’m just going to put it on myself here . . . I guess.”
Sure, we’ve been fighting for marriage equality, but what does that look like in practice? When we can get married, how do we get married?
When I first started turning this over in my head, I, of course, hit on the gender inequality inherent in most traditional heterosexual marriage proposals. The guy proposes to the girl, slips an engagement ring on her finger. She is marked as engaged, as belonging to someone. He is not. And it’s not until the marriage ceremony itself with its exchange of wedding rings that both man and woman are both marked as belonging to someone else.
Trying to translate this gender-specific finger-bedazzling into same-sex couples seems archaic. With two men, the idea of one man wearing an engagement ring while the other doesn’t oddly feminizes one of the men. “He’s the woman,” people would whisper. In the case of two women, the effect would be similarly masculinizing on the one not wearing the engagement ring. “Oh, she must be the man.” One engagement ring is a reflex, then. A mimicking of a world that had always sought to subjugate at least one kind of person. What is this, 1918?
I hopped online to find out just why women have for so long been so visibly singled out as belonging to one man or another. Imagine my surprise when I learned that, in the United States and the United Kingdom, it’s really only been since the 1930s.
Continued on the next page . . . .
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