The Utility Ring

The only luxurious things I do in earnest are linens (no less than an 800 thread count , ever ) and even if I’m flat broke, I’ll still pay exorbitant prices for conditioner.  Outside of that, practicality seems to be my strong suit. 

I broke up with Women’s Magazines in my twenties, as they had a way of making me feel bad, rather than the Get Happier and More Confident, they often promised.  But, sometimes, I pick one up in the salon or spa and check out Beauty Tips or the Latest Trends for Fall while I’m waiting for my latest deep conditioner to step up and do something magical.

Recently, I saw this article in one of those dreaded magazines I find in the spa about how accessories are everything.  The author told women that every accessory counted as a point, and one should never leave the house with more than ten points.  That point system included all jewelry, eyeglasses, scarves, and even shoes with a high heel.  They recommended women take a look at themselves before they leave the house, and take off all the accessories after ten.

I scoffed.

Then I walked past a mirror on the way to get the super-conditioner rinsed out. All of a sudden I became clownish, some kind of sports fanatic gypsy without a closet who wears everything she owns rather than putting things down.  My count was horribly high.  I had:

  1. High heeled boots- stepped into at the back door where I’d kicked them off
  2. A  belt- because I hate sagging jeans
  3.  A baseball cap- I was on my way to the salon.  Who combs their hair before going to the spa?
  4. A scarf – What? It’s freezing out there!
  5. Gloves- See #4
  6. Clip holding my hair down under the cap- obviously
  7. Sunglasses
  8. A necklace
  9. Another one
  10. Two kinds of earrings- one that never comes off and just sits in that back hole no matter what I’m wearing, two that matched one another
  11. A watch-A Mother’s Day present.
  12. A tennis bracelet – A gift
  13. Another bracelet- Charms that I’ve been collecting over the years
  14. A thumb ring my father bought for himself at a street fair, which he later decided looked too girl-y but works just right for me
  15. A right hand ring I got for myself in a fit of pique at a going out of business sale, and three pieces of wedding jewelry;
  16. my engagement ring,
  17.  my wedding band, and
  18. my utility ring.

I bought the utility ring at a discount store after my husband accused me of not loving him enough to wear the rings he shopped for months for.  I explained that I always strip off my fancy clothes and jewelry before starting a dirty project, and I seem to have lots of dirty projects.  Sometimes, I don’t put that jewelry back on for days.  Finally, after he complained- AGAIN- I marched into a store, found the thinnest, cheapest piece of gold they had, and put it on. It was kind of tight, but I figured that would slow me if I got the mind to ditch it.

You think I didn't get dirty restoring these hundred year old windows?

You think I didn’t get dirty restoring these hundred year old windows?

It’s not that I want to be unmarried.


I want to be unencumbered.


I thought it was a compromise.  The utility ring let him mark me, should some Prince Charming pass through our back yard while he’s out and that’s all.

Fine. I can’t run off with you Denzel, because I’m married.  Happy now, Gregory?

Point made, but it seemed a useless rebellion.  HE’s not trying to make jewelry an obligation and a burden… I am.  To leave the real rings alone in a box seemed the most unromantic thing my unromantic ass had ever done.  Wanting to be able to get dirty without ruining something is practical. And utility has nothing to do with love and partnership.  Sometimes we get dirty – and sometimes we find ourselves doing extra things that we never imagined we’d do.  Like wearing monster diamonds for no reason at all.

And my response to the article which ( surprise) left me no happier or more confident? I took off:

  1. the necklace,
  2. the other one,
  3.  the thumb ring,
  4. a bracelet,
  5. the hair clip and
  6. the baseball cap

The wedding jewelry got to stay.  All of it- including the utility ring.  Just in case I need to be useful while I’m being Romantic.




About thanks amen

Michelle is an artist from Milwaukee, Wisconsin whose professional experience spans working as an educator, nonprofit executive, and consultant. She has a fear of clowns and pecans, and works every day to listen at least twice as much as she talks.
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