For a significant percentage of the male population, a wedding ring is a lot like pro football in Los Angeles. Sure it plays a very significant role in your life, but only when it's gone do you stop taking it for granted and discover its real value.
And no, this is not some weepy divorce saga. That would be easier.
The sad truth is, I lost my wedding ring. I was at an outdoor party. The night got cold. My finger got smaller. And at some point the band must have slipped off. All I know for sure is that when I got in my car to drive home, something didn't feel right. My ring finger was naked, and my life was about to change.
As I made that long drive home, I tried to think up various excuses that would at least make the ring's disappearance seem a bit more dramatic.
Up to that point, the ring thing seemed pretty much like the grown-up version of the toy decoder rings I would wear as a kid. I'd imagine that they were capable of emitting a powerful force field that kept all evildoers away.
The wedding ring emitted a powerful force field that kept all women away. It showed that I was taken and unavailable. Kind of like getting branded, only significantly less painful. Of course, this wasn't exactly a foolproof plan.
I still remember my college friend, David. One evening, during a bachelor party for another friend, the newly married David showed up and took great pride in flashing his gold wedding band around the room. Not because he was so overcome with wedded bliss.
"It's like a woman magnet," he told the rapt crowd of men. "You get one of these, and the women can't resist you."
I knew that babies and puppies were good pick-up tools, but a wedding ring? I wasn't so sure this was a good idea. Nonetheless, David offered up an explanation for his theory, something about how married men offer thrills without commitment. The fact that David was divorced within a year was not the most convincing proof that his theory was particularly desirable.
I never forgot his advice, though, in the three years I had my wedding ring, I never followed it either.
Now, with my ring apparently gone for good, I actually experienced the evil opposite of his philosophy. If the ring isn't in place, no matter what the reason, it means the man has to be fooling around. It's amazing. Nobody ever commented on the band when it was on my finger, but as soon as it was gone, everyone took notice. And nobody believed that it disappeared accidentally.
"How convenient," was the usual response from ring police. To the women, I was a pig. To the guys, particularly the married ones, I was a folk hero who was getting away with something they could only dream of.
Figuring that a man sans band is automatically having affairs is pretty silly, of course. I mean, if I wanted to start fooling around, I don't think claiming to have lost my wedding ring is exactly the smartest way to go. You have to admit this one is just a tiny bit obvious, ranking only slightly behind "Really, she was just showing me this birthmark that would prove she's my long lost sister."
Still, after a few weeks of this, I began to question my own motives. And the truth is, I had been pretty cavalier about the ring.
I think the lackadaisical attitude began even before we got married, when Judy asked me if I planned on wearing a wedding ring. This came as news to me. I never realized I had a choice in the matter. I'd just assumed there was some law about mandatory wedding ring wear.
We eventually bought matching wedding rings, which featured the Native American symbol of Kokopeli (the god of fertility, among other things), but mine never did fit right. It always managed to slip off when I was asleep or in the yard playing with the dogs. I'd quickly find it again, though, and vow that I'd get the thing sized properly.
Or I'd take it off to go to the gym because it pinched my finger when I lifted weights. Or I'd hold it in my pocket for safe keeping because I didn't want it to slip off.
Mine wasn't the first ring to be lost. A year ago when Judy and I traveled to Boston to visit friends, she accidentally dropped her ring down their bathroom sink drain. We spent a great deal of our travel time and money rescuing it. Having grown frustrated during the search, I suggested that we give up and I just go buy Judy a new band.
This was the point where I believe I was elected president for life of the Missing the Point Club.
As I made that long drive home, failing to think up any dramatic excuse for my missing ring, I thought of Judy and the strong possibility that she would kill me.
She actually went pretty easy on me. By "easy" I mean she didn't sic the dogs on me or have me sleep in the garage for a month.
The person who should have been most upset about this was the only person who wasn't--me. And that made me feel worse.
All I could do to assuage the guilt was to find a replacement ring immediately. We couldn't find anything similar, so we settled for a slim silver band with a Native American water symbol.
As I handed over the cash and slipped the new band on, the whole experience just seemed so empty.
During my first wedding ring experience, we stood in the woods of New Mexico overlooking a picturesque creek while a local minister blessed our union. This time around, we were in Studio City overlooking picturesque Ventura Boulevard while the shop's owner kept looking over my shoulder to keep on eye on the TV in the corner showing the Dodger game.
It wasn't until we left the store that I suddenly and finally got it. At last, I was able to grasp what had eluded me for the past three years. You don't wear that ring for others. You don't really even wear it for your spouse. You wear it for yourself. It's your own constant reminder of your wedding day, of that pivotal moment when your life changed forever.