No, I’m Not Engaged. It’s Just My Class Ring

My college class ring has gotten me into a fair amount of trouble. It was probably the most expensive pieces of jewelry I had ever bought for myself — I even had to pay for it in installments as if it was a refrigerator. But flat-lining my bank account is not the sort of trouble I mean.

Picking the right style is always a challenge. Old and signet? Modern and bejewled?

I’ll always remember my friend’s brother Tom, Tom’s class ring, and Tom’s first job out of college. When Tom graduated from Cornell, he ordered an old-school signet ring that rivaled an NFL player’s Superbowl “bling.” He wore it everywhere. One day, at the coffee shop, an older gentleman noticed the ring and launched into Cornell talk with Tom. Eventually, the man asked him if he had a job yet.

To cut a long story short,  Tom got a job offer from the man — a job way over his head at a major investment firm way above his aspirations with a salary and sign-on bonus way beyond his wildest dreams — and it was all because of his class ring.

The way I saw it, a good class ring was a great door opener.

A size too big, my feminine and apparently bridal class ring got me into trouble

Torn between something heavy and traditional and something small and modern, I settled on what I felt was an attractive compromise — a feminine piece suitable for day-to-day wear with a white gold band and Columbia’s crown strongly embedded in a blue stone. It was a fantastic conversation starter.

For a while, it was a guy-magnet. From close range, it was clearly a statement of my education, and it seemed to give suitors an excuse to touch my hand, to get a little closer, to cross that threshold. So while the ring wasn’t opening the door to high paying dream jobs, I can’t say I minded the attention it did bring. But there was a problem. A size too big, I could only wear it on the middle finger of my left hand.

It was all fun and games until someone assumed I was married… to my fencing coach.

When I graduated from college, my mother and I were both taking fencing lessons from the same tall, boyish American man who was quickly adopted into the family as a missing son/big brother. That year, my mother was on the Veterans World Championship team and the three of us spent a weekend in Bath, England. Mother was the child I was living vicariously through. I was the sport parent. He was the moral and tactical support.

“It’s so wonderful your husband is your mother’s coach! Is he your coach too?” One of her teammates said as we sipped cocktails at the Assembly Rooms. You could hear the clunk as my jaw hit the floor.

“We’re not married.”

“Sorry, your fiancé.”

“We’re not engaged. We’re not sleeping together. We’re not dating. He’s my mother’s coach. He’s my coach.”

“Oh! Sorry! I saw you two together… I saw the ring…”

“It’s a class ring.”

It’s a flaw of social convention that a white band with a light stone on the left hand implies marriage. It’s a bigger flaw of social convention that when a man and a woman are seen together, having fun with a clearly close connection, the assumption is “couple.”

The ring didn’t go back on my finger for the remainder of the trip. In all likelihood, I won’t be wearing out again until I get it resized… if I get it resized. When it was time for my grad school class ring, small, feminine and bridal just weren’t viable options. I ordered a man’s ring. Bigger, bolder, and shinier, it’s luckily turned out to be the better dude-magnet.

This time, there would be no mistaking it -- this IS a class ring. Luckily, it's still a guy magnet.
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8 thoughts on “No, I’m Not Engaged. It’s Just My Class Ring

  1. schneider

    I’ve never had anyone be confused by my left hand ring finger wedding/engagement rings and right hand ring finger (much larger/heavier/stone with a crown) class ring….

  2. amrys

    I totally get this! It gets especially worse it you’re wearing your class ring on your RIGHT hand (and you think there’s going to be no ambiguity from that), then travel to a part of the world in which people wear wedding bands/engagement rings on either hand! You’d think having it purposely sized to your middle finger (like I did for my signet) would help, but nope, still an issue.

    Completely agree that assumptions made on the basis of rings and friendships are ill-founded and lead to awkwardness. Going to take a page out of your book and make sure the grad school ring is obvious mens’ size “bling!”

  3. Oreo

    Same problem – mine is too big so i wear it on the middle finger of the left hand. And it’s gold. It has writing around the “gem,” but still confuses people!

  4. I totally get what you mean.
    Over the summer, I met a guy who I ended up becoming really good friends with. He’s considerably younger than me and not my type at all but because he looks older and I didn’t meet him through anyone I know- all my friends assumed we were dating. Not only did they assume we were dating but their friends assumed we were dating too- including a few cute friend-of-friends. I didn’t find out about this until later but it’s been a source of annoyance for me. Now, I don’t take him anywhere without declaring to everyone within hearing range that he’s hung up on his ex-girlfriend (I’m sure he appreciates it).
    As for your Cornell friend, um, good deal. I’d wear my ring all the time. Too bad the ones at my school are a serious rip-off. At least I’m not graduating till 2012. That means I have a year to save up.

  5. Mima

    Can you pretty pleeeease share what company and model ring this is? I’m graduating in May and I want to get a signet style class ring and yours is gorg! Thanks for the entertaining post 😀

  6. bjames

    gee, must be something in the water, where you live? personally, i love the ring. wish mine was classy like yours.

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