Ring Finger

I couldn't decide between a 14" chain I already owned, and the 18" gold-over-sterling silver that I eyed online. Because the longer one was inexpensive, I opted to order it, figuring that if I disliked it, I could use it for some other dangle.

In the three days that my ring finger has been absent of my wedding band, I have used the 14" one to hold it. Although the chain feels a bit snug, a bit too close to the neck, I still wear it 'round-the-clock, just as I have done ever since Tommy and I married in 1998, and beyond his death in 2012. In all these years, the ring had never left my finger, until now.

During those 18 years, the band (purchased from Service Merchandise for $25) has narrowed the skin of my finger so that, minus it, the digit appears misshapen. Perhaps in time, without its wrap, the pinkie's partner will fill out and look like its four brethren.

There are actually two reasons I removed the ring and placed it on a chain. You may prefer the first because it is true; or you'll opt for the second, which embarrassingly, is also true.

The initial motive was prompted by two recent occurrences: swimming four days a week; and through healthy eating, losing 10 pounds in five months. Lately, my wedding band had become loose on my finger, as if it had been coated with WD-40. I worried that on one of my sloppy strokes, the ring would slither off, and I'd have to scuba to the pool floor to find it.

The thought of not wearing my wedding band away was unbearable; I could not dishonor a beloved husband and our easy-going marriage. So, I searched a drawer where I stow my jewelry and discovered the 14" chain that held a charm of a lion. Because my birthday is in August, I think the neckpiece and the Leo zodiac must've been a gift from my first spouse. It had been stored -- not because of any animosity towards her -- it's just I seldom wear jewelry, save for earrings, and of course, the wedding band we're discussing.

When I found that 14" chain, and slipped off the tiny lion head, I realized the irony: I was deleting a keepsake from one partner and replacing it with one from another.

I'm assuming you're content with my explanation of a wobbly ring, swimming practice, and the possibility of loss. Perhaps you're even teary-eyed as you witness me fondling the band dangling from my chain. But because I've always tried to be honest with you, I'll confess to reason number two for the ring's removal: I'm opening myself to dating and reckon a gold ring on my left hand signals married status, and therefore unavailable.

I've landed on that theory because on my daily walks or at events, I eye grey-haired men who appear to be about my age. After verifying neither a spouse, walker, or cane accompanies him, I focus on the left hand: banded or blank?

Now, he could be a widower with loyal feelings toward his deceased spouse, and still wear the wedding band -- just as I had done till my recent removal. But, I'm guessing that men, without the social support of a wife, return to the hunt sooner than women, hence a quicker removal of the telltale band.

Admittedly, it could be reasons other than my ring that have kept prospects at bay. There's my authentic gray hair, wrinkles resembling crossword puzzles, arm flesh flappy as a flag, and other realities of an unvarnished aging life. And because healthy, single, older men are a desired demographic, they have their choice of women 10 years younger (20?) than themselves, sans all of the eyesores I've just described.

But, despite my confessed challenges, and my contentment with my single life, something is kindling a desire to be coupled. Not married -- two musically accompanied walks down the aisle have been sufficient -- but a companion, pal, dinner date, or cuddler would be nice.

When the 18" chain arrived, with difficulty, I unclasped the shorter version, slipped off the ring, dropped it through its new home, and with more difficulty (hence the need for a companion to assist clasping and zippering) fastened it. This length works better; it doesn't feel as restricting as the first.

And, because I often feel the ring still on my finger, somewhat like the sensation of a phantom limb, when I glance at my left hand, I startle: Where has it gone? Then I remember: It has been relocated to a new home -- closer to my heart.