putting ring on fingerI don’t wear much jewelry but I do have a few pieces I really like and I put them on for special occasions. I recently gave an invited address at the meeting of the Western Psychological Association, so I wore my ring with a topaz stone in an interesting gold setting.

My talk (about the research on single people and single life, of course) was one of the last ones of the conference, and no other speakers were scheduled after me. That meant that I could stay and take questions for as long as people wanted to ask them. Happily, the room filled up, and when I finished my talk, lots of hands shot up. For a while, people asked the kinds of questions all academics come to expect – for example, questions about the specifics of the studies I had described, questions about whether there was any relevant research on their favorite topics, and so forth.

Then – a rarity during formal talks at professional conferences – the questions started to get a bit personal. I didn’t mind a bit. In fact, I welcomed that. I think the audience members felt comfortable asking because I had already volunteered some information about myself. Whenever I talk about single people or single life, I let my audience know that I have always been single and always will be – that I love living single (except for all the stereotyping and stigma and discrimination that I call singlism).

One of the personal questions was about my ring. It went something like this: “Are you making a statement about marriage by wearing a ring on your left hand?” I asked him which hand my ring would be on if it were a wedding ring and he said my ring would be just where it was at that moment, on the ring finger on my left hand.

I guess you’ve surmised by now that I’ve never been obsessed with diamond rings. I think diamonds are boring, though I’ve seen some pretty settings. Usually, I just don’t notice people’s diamond rings.

When I decided to wear my ring, it never even occurred to me that there was something symbolic about where I chose to wear it. In fact, I wore the same ring the month before when I gave a TEDx talk, “What no one ever told you about people who are single.” Then, I wore it on my right hand. (I didn’t remember that when I started writing this article – I had to look at the video to see.)

I asked my questioner if he thought I should switch my ring to my right hand. I went ahead and tried it on the other hand. Someone came up to me afterwards and said she thought I should wear my ring wherever I want to. I think she is exactly right.

To answer the question I was asked, I wasn’t making a statement by wearing a ring on the ring finger of my left hand. In the future, though, I think I will wear my favorite ring there. And I will consider it a statement. The statement is: Marriage doesn’t own anyone’s ring finger. We all get to do whatever we want with all ten of our fingers.

[A few notes: (1) I was inspired to write about this by Arianna Davis’s article for Refinery29, “The politics of wearing a ring on your ring finger as a single person.” She included some great personal stories and some intriguing historical nuggets. (2) Singled Out is being translated into Japanese, in several parts. Part 2 has just been published. Part 1 is here. The translator, Yuko Ishikawa, has also started a blog (in Japanese) about topics relevant to Singled Out. (3) Want to read about other aspects of single life? Check out these collections of articles. (4) Check out my website, too, if you’d like. (5) Finally, did I mention I gave a TEDx talk? What can I say? I was really delighted to have that opportunity.]