By Afia Kwakyewaa Owusu-Nyantakyi
I love rings. I always have. They are my favorite pieces of jewelry. When I was growing up, I would wear my mother’s rings to school just because they were so pretty. I loved to wear them on my fourth finger on my right hand, partly because it simply looked great there. As I grew older, the other reason, was that my mother would not allow me to wear any rings on my left fourth finger. Why? Because I was not married yet.
I was always puzzled by that analogy. It WAS my finger and it WAS my ring after all. Why would I have to wait for someone to ask for my hand before I wore it? I felt trapped by this mentality.
Nevertheless, I simply could not wear it without feeling the disapproval. I had a co-worker once who would pull my rings off my finger because she felt the same sentiments towards marriage. There was also the fact that every ring I wore there felt tighter than it should have been. I’m still not sure whether this was and has been a subconscious awareness playing out. The beauty of a ring is being able to fit perfectly without you knowing it’s there. It just did not feel the same. It felt like a part of me succumbed to that truth that a girl must wear a ring on her left hand only when wedded.
But more importantly, I could not help but notice the curious stares I got from both men and women for wearing rings (and anklets), because they knew I was not married. It baffled me that such a small insignificant trinket could incite such an urgency from people to let me know that “it was not good”. From men, I was always told: “You have to let a man put a ring there”. Don’t rush it.
My inside voice was fighting an internal war most of the time. “It’s just jewelry, ok!”
What irks me even more now, is how I easily accepted the truth that this was the wrong thing to do when my mind told me it couldn’t possibly be. Even now, while my love for jewelry has not changed, especially rings and anklets, I still take them off so others who have personal prejudices can be comfortable.
It’s almost laughable that this little thing must give me so much angst. But of course, a deeper reflection just shows that time and time again, the lives of women have been structured to fit the dictates of society; From my grandmother to my mother to me. We are all victims of a non-egalitarian world that still fights for a safe unrestricted spot for women
You can’t wear short dresses
Anklets mean you are a prostitute
Your hair is too long
Your hair is too short
You must wait to be married to have sex
Know how to sex your husband or he will leave you
Cross your legs when you sit
Speak softly, you’re likable that way
Don’t talk to boys, they are bad for you
When are you getting married?
A woman’s pride are children. When are you having another one?
A woman who doesn’t know how to cook?
You’re too dark
You’re too skinny
I lived most of my 20s trying to tow the line. I kept my head down. I tried to be everything that society expected me to be. In other words, unremarkable. Unremarkably proper. Unremarkably accommodating. Unremarkably agreeable. I’ve been told I’m well spoken, well behaved; Quite gentle for an Asante girl. Well mannered.
I like many unremarkable girls console ourselves for achieving anonymity with pride and living under the radar. We applaud and part ourselves on the back for being “no Ebony” but being nothing else either. We are marked “approved” because we fit the mold.
When it’s all said and done, what is it all for? To whose benefit is it?
Who does it benefit should I choose not to wear my ring on my wedded finger while unmarried? Who does it hurt if I do? No one.
No one gets hurt if I choose to live a life that is truthful and authentically me. No one hurts, except me, if I choose otherwise!