Ah, wedding rings. Whenever I see an ad for them on TV, I immediately shout out “Hūnjiè,” (婚戒), the Chinese word for this most intimate of all jewelry, and then shoot my husband a grin. He usually laughs and nods at what’s become our husband-wife running joke — that I still have no wedding ring, and John still “owes” me.
This isn’t some post-wedding inner Bridezilla of mine coming out, as if I enjoyed putting my husband on a guilt trip for all the ways our wedding never lived up to expectations. No, as weddings go, I’m pretty happy over how we tied the knot and wouldn’t change a thing. I’ve never even pressured him about buying things; if anything, I’m the one usually clamping down on our family budget, and he’s the one encouraging me to “reward myself” with something I really wanted. Still, behind this running joke of ours remains a real promise — that, someday, he hopes to buy me the perfect wedding ring.
I never experienced the typical proposal straight out of a romantic comedy, where all of a sudden the guy kneels down and opens a box hiding a diamond ring. Well, for starters, John proposed to me by phone, since I happened to work in Taiwan at the time. But even so, I never expected that ring when I returned to Shanghai. I knew China didn’t have a tradition of engagement or wedding rings, even though nowadays, more and more Chinese couples borrow this Western tradition of exchanging rings at their wedding.
I also knew John’s situation. After all, as a graduate school student, John only received a stipend equivalent to around $25 a month — not exactly the kind of finances that prepare you for a trip to Tiffany’s.
But while I could have easily stepped in to buy the ring myself — my corporate salary took care of the two of us — I never did. As it turned out, my traditional side (a side that my very strong, feminist “women can do anything” perspective liked to believe didn’t exist) still wanted John to do the same thing expected of any American guy with marriage on his mind: to buy me the ring.
So did John. In his words, he considered it his “responsibility,” something he should do for his wife. Even though he never grew up with this tradition, he embraced it because he embraced me. But with an unspoken caveat that we had between us — that he would only fulfill this promise once his finances fell into place.
Well, John went from graduate student in China to aspiring graduate student in the US to PhD student in the US. So far, he hasn’t had the means for a ring, and I haven’t pushed him about it, always saying it’s better to wait. But in a way, I feel as if I already have a rock on my finger, because the man I love never forgot his promise.
Or, for that matter, never forgot to laugh on cue whenever we see another wedding ring ad on TV. 😉
Has your loved one ever embraced a tradition that wasn’t part of their culture, just because it meant something to you?