In our post break-up drinks this week, Best Friend: Partner In Crime said that it was actually an advice column that spurred the death knell of her relationship. In it, a single woman asked how to not feel like she is being “left behind” by all her married friends who are “moving forward.” The author responded by questioning why being single meant “behind” at all.
“That was a wake-up call for me,” Partner In Crime told me. “I realized I can’t keep acting like I needed him in order to ‘move forward.’ I am moving forward and it has nothing to do with him.”
I nodded so enthusiastically I think my brain took a little beating.
So today, let’s talk about that.
In fantasy stories, there is often a piece of jewelry that makes you invisible. But for women, an engagement ring is a different kind of magic – a dark magic. It is The Ring of Visibility.
Engagement rings aren’t dark magic, of course. But the culture and myth that is built up around them most certainly is.
Life Without Dark Magic
I like to think of myself as a fairly successful woman. At the very least, I feel that I have lived the shit out of my life thus far. If there was something I wanted to try – a country, a food, a hobby, a person, a style, a job…I’ve done my best to achieve it. I am brimming with stories and adventures, ideas and feelings.
But I’ve always felt like people weren’t particularly interested in any of that. Like somehow, just as the single woman in that article described, I was falling behind.
I remember coming back from teaching English in Japan and wondering why no one seemed to care. I had accomplished something herculean. At 24, I had lived thousands of miles away, on my own, in a foreign country. Taught children. Traveled. Survived a kidney stone. Fallen in love. And yet when I got back, no one was particularly interested and I got more questions about my boyfriend than I did about own experiences.
A few years later, after 8 months of sleeping, eating and breathing yoga, I become a certified yoga teacher. Four people came to my graduation class (two were my parents and one was Partner In Crime).
Most recently, I got into the top grad school program in my chosen degree. While working full time and paying for it on my own, I completed the program in two years and came out with the highest GPA in my class. When I was done, I hosted my own graduation party and….that was all there was to that.
Then, I get engaged.
And suddenly, I had slipped on the Ring of Visibility.
Life With Dark Magic
Facebook blows up. Phone calls and texts flow in. People want to throw me parties. All those friends and family members who couldn’t make it to any of my graduation parties or celebrations are now moving heaven and earth to show up for my showers. Even when I say I don’t want presents, they are forced on me. “Congratulations!” is the new hello. I’m literally getting stopped in the street by people who want to comment on my ring and my engagement.
All of the sudden, everyone finally has questions for me.
How did he propose? Were you surprised? When is the wedding? What are your colors? Where will the reception be? Have you picked out a dress? How many people are coming? Where are you going on your honeymoon?
The first few months after we got engaged, I would come home and sit on the couch with Mr. Juris Doctor and sob. Just ugly cry sob.
“Why is it that YOU put a ring on my finger and this is the only thing people care about? Why doesn’t anyone care about all the things I did on my own?”
Because. Even in 2017, we as a society are still telling women that marriage is the ultimate goal. That without it, we are behind. We are less than. We. Are. Invisible.
Single Ladies: you are not waiting for anything – you are perfect
You, single ladies out there.
You are not behind.
You are not less.
You are not invisible.
You are not waiting.
You are seen and heard and loved just as your are. Your life is full and wonderful and I celebrate you and all your accomplishments.
Married ladies: You are not complete – you were already perfect
You, married ladies out there.
You are no more visible than you were before.
You are no more complete than you were before.
You are no more special than you were before.
You are the same amazing, wonderful, vivacious woman you were before and no ring, no ceremony, no marriage can make you more fabulous. You are seen and heard for you and not for your marriage and I celebrate you!
Everyone: Rise up and defeat the Ring of Visibility!
You may not think you contribute to the power of the Ring of Visibility, but ask yourself -Do you celebrate as fervently, do you ask as many questions, do you say “CONGRATULATIONS” as loudly, do you feel inspired to shower her with gifts when a woman you know:
- Gets a new job?
- Gets that promotion she deserves?
- Gets into school?
- Graduates school?
- Buys her first place?
- Stops a pick pocketer?
- Stands up to sexual harassment?
- Breaks up with that person that was no good for her?
- Earns a certification?
- Starts her own business?
I didn’t. It never occurred to me, because that’s not what I was trained to do. But now I know. Now I will fight the dark magic with every ounce of my being.
Will you join me? Here are some simple ways to join the battle:
- Make a mental list of five things you think are as awesome as getting engaged (hint: there’s a good list above). Celebrate accordingly. Let’s get into the habit of being happy for our friends as they move forward! Yeah, throw her a party. Buy her a gift. Send her a card. SHE DESERVES IT.
- When you meet an engaged woman, compare your reaction to your above list of awesome things. Be that excited and no more or less. For every wedding/engagement question you ask, you have to ask one question about HER (that is not wedding related!).
- If you’re engaged, don’t indulge the Ring of Visibility behavior! “Yes, I’m very excited about getting married! Did I mention, I just got back from a work conference in New York?”
Getting engaged is wonderful and special and I don’t want to take away from that. But until we can treat it as another wonderful life event and not THE life event for WOMEN, there is work to be done.
Let’s not stop until we can say:
Now go forth and be seen, you adult!