Wednesday, 13 February 2008

Wedding ring

Usually, I do not wear a wedding ring, even though I remember getting married. I remember it clearly, almost minute by minute. I even recall the evening hours before the looming day, when I became transfixed by the terrifying journey I was to embark on, clenched my fists, and threatened to run away. Perhaps it was a test. Perhaps I half expected Dig to say, 'Alright then, I agree. The registrar wouldn't be upset if we didn't show'. But he didn't, thank goodness, and here we are, married still.

I know I am married too because the day itself is the only day our mothers ever met each other. Can you believe that? This is how selfish we both were; we wanted no-one to come into this private world with its defences and fortresses. No-one. Not family, not friends, not colleagues.

Anyway, that's another story and only tangentially relevant to why now, I do not wear a wedding ring. Here are the reasons.

1. Our fortress exists, somewhere else, and does not need a sign. We will probably grow old and die together. Hope so. Meanwhile, our marriage has, by degrees, become a public place. Everyone now wanders through. Doctors and midwives have invited passing strangers moving through corridors to come and peer up my marriage bits. Three children have torn me all to pieces, gurgling probably, while surgeons sharpened knives. The accountant tots up my wifely status, annually, while the roofer tramples on me with bad wife jokes. The gas board cannot get its head around the fact that I do not call myself Mrs Dig and the local council doesn't care and calls me Mrs Dig regardless. With this onslaught, to signal the gates to our loyalties seems strangely pointless. And what difference now can a gold marriage band make to this?

2. Gold. Ahhh. The soft yellow liquidness of that band as it wraps itself around your wedding finger. Unless it is not gold, of course. Because Dig actually suffers from a kind of northern blight which means that if your wedding ring has more than one molecule of pure gold inside, it may be too expensive and anyway, brass does a champion job and looks the same. Meanwhile, H. Samuel has cottoned on to the fact that most marriages don't last more than three years, and has thus created a self-destructing cheap gold band that after a few washes turns your wedding finger a sour green. Green is not a good look, creeping up your wedding finger like leprosy or plague or a symbolic sign of your impending divorce.

3. When we got married I was size 8. Now I am size 12 and unlikely to return to slender times unless I am faring badly in the eating department. On the basis of the last few years, this is not likely. Squeezing a tiny wedding ring on and off my chubby finger has become something of an ordeal and one that I have had to grease-assist with industrial strength washing-up liquid. Unfortunately, washing-up liquid seems to be one of those substances which hastens the black and green colouration of the entire finger area.

Which all comes to explain why I do not normally wear a wedding ring. Unless I am flying into an area of the world not noted for its liberal attitude for relationships between the sexes. Like Arabia, for example. And then I spend a midnight hour hunting round the house wondering where I left that brass ring 18 months ago.

Before marriage, travelling unmarried with Dig was largely unproblematic. I was challenged on two occasions. The first, drawn aside in India by a young woman airport official who sternly demanded to know if I was married to the man I travelled with. I considered lying but decided that if someone younger than me could act like my maiden aunt then I would throw my permissiveness straight at her. I was young too, and fortunately didn't get a custodial sentence.

The second occasion was Israel. This was worse because I had been cautioned not to get that Israeli stamp smacked down in my passport if I wanted more freedom to move. The question 'Are you married?' was not really the point. It was merely a way of detaining me long enough to follow it with 'Are you ashamed of Israel?'

These two incidents have probably been enough; flying into the Middle East where I suspect that by male preference I should be black shrouded, and better still locked up in case I compromise my modesty or inflame the passions of the immigration officer, is a journey enough to cause me to get out that narrow brass ring and wedge it onto my finger in order to pass unchallenged through the security system. Of course I do not intend to do this until absolutely necessary. I am not mad, and jamming a tiny band onto a fat finger too early will, I reason, cause my finger to swell up like a balloon 30,000 feet in the air. Thus the first requirement of landing in the UAE will be to get my finger amputated. I know it sounds unlikely but my mother came close to this after being stung by a bee in Belgium.

So dutifully, but intermittently, today I wear the wedding band, and wave my hand about a bit to show it off. And then, in Dubai passport queues, I realise that no-one is the slightest bit interested in me or the children, or my hand and its status. The passport control officer does not turn his gaze to us mere females to check that we look like our passport pictures. He only seeks to peer at Dig. He asks questions only of Dig. Only Dig matters.

Then we are all in, stamp stamp stamp, following meekly. So I pull off that painful wedding band and slip it into my pocket, resentful. All that hour's search for nothing. Sleep-deprived, five-hour flight, bolshy Grit contemplating the consequences of a Dubai jail should I chance as I pass the desk to chuck out a challenging, disdainful remark, like 'Did you know I'm married?'


Michelle said...

Registering the stillbirth of our first daughter. We have different surnames, though are married.

Registrar fills in our names and asks the next question on her form "Are you married?" to which we reply, "Yes" and she looks back at her form and our names and says,

"but not to each other?"

You gotta laugh or cry. Manic laughter works best for me.

grit said...

omg. you are right: laugh or cry. at least with laughter, sometimes other people join in.

HelenHaricot said...

god michelle, how absolutely awful. and just how callous and unthinking can people be!we
also don't share surnames with my spouse. it must be soooo common. on the girls birth certs i am surname 1 AKA surname 2- weird