Why I’m Glad I Bought My Class Ring: a follow up to an earlier post

My signet ring. I never leave home without it.

Back in January, I ran a post about my grad school class ring. In an attempt to remedy the error I made in purchasing a college class ring that resembled a wedding band, I purchased  a super-sized man’s ring to mark the completion of my MA. I wanted a conversation starter. Little did I know how useful it would be…

I was sitting at the bar of the Brasserie, a restaurant in midtown Manhattan where I can say “I practically grew-up here!” It was happy-hour hour and I was enjoying a St. Germain spritzer with my mother who had just survived hours of unpleasant dental work. Her face was puffy. We both agreed champagne and elderflower liquor would be a more effective pain killer than the Vicodin in her purse. There was a group of young bank management trainees clustered at the end of the bar, awaiting an orientation cocktail party to begin.

The Brasserie -- the resturant I practically grew-up in.

I had yet to put in my drink order when one of the trainees slid onto the stool next to mine.

“Can I have an ice-water please?”

I could feel him looking at the side of my head — sometimes I think those crimson feature extensions I installed send the wrong message — and he crunched his ice in my ear.

“Nice signet ring. Where’s it from?”

After a several minute assessment,  he had decided my over-sized class ring was his best in.

His comrades stared at us like this was a middle school dance and he was the boy dared to ask the one female in the room if she wants a turn on the floor. My mother and my new best friend Karissa, the bartender, giggled like 12 year girls.

sometimes I think the feather extension I installed send the wrong impression.

The conversation was short. “Oh! Art History! Very, very in-te-ressss-ting. You must speak French and Italian.”

“French and German.”

I returned to my menu and minutes later, he got the  message and abandoned his efforts. My mother gave me her signature smack in the back of the head.

“It doesn’t matter that he was short. Or balding. Or creepy. He probably makes as much in a week as you do in a year. You could have at least been friendly.”

I shrugged. Luckily, I was given a second chance, of sorts, the next day.

Justin was the 6 foot something, Mediterranean-colored, plaid-wearing North Face salesman who sold me my snowshoe-ready anti-slip snow boots during a lunch-break trek to the shopping district.

“Nice signet ring. Where’s it from?”

Looking at his dark complexion and athletic build, I was sold. I happily explained my course of degree with self-deprecation.

“You sound just like me!” he replied, referring to my economics undergraduate turned art history grad student.

"Leave it to you," my mother cried, "to pick the starving artist."

I settled on the boots and we quickly swapped life stories. He was an economist turned ceramic artist turned pro golfer. Besides an affinity for this sporting life, green tea and Hudson Bay coats, we shared mutual friends in the local art world.

By the time I signed my receipt,  he had asked for my business card and promised to stop by the gallery to see our current exhibit.

In less than 24 hours, my class ring had won me the attention of two very different guys. I won’t pretend my mother wasn’t disappointed in my choice — “Leave it to you to choose the starving artist over the secure businessman!”

To make amends, I promised I’d do happy hour at the Brasserie more often… signet ring in tow, of course.

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.