Are left hand ring finger rings a for sure sign of being in a relationship?
July 30, 2006 9:57 PM   Subscribe

Are there any reasons for a female to wear a ring on her left ring finger that would not indicate she is engaged or married? Do females do this often or is that finger strictly for signifying she is in a relationship.

I sometimes see women out that are wearing rings on their left ring finger--plain or lightly decorated--that I might like to initiate conversations with the intention of potentially taking out but am unsure whether to be detterred by a ring.
posted by atlman to Human Relations (81 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
I wear rings on my left ring finger all the time - because it's my skinniest finger (other than my pinky, but ugh) and it's more comfortable to have it on my non-dominant hand (ie The Useless One).

It means nothing. If it's a big sparkley diamond, then it may indicate engagement. But not even then. A good friend of mine bought herself a diamond ring when she got a big promotion at work (not sure which finger she wears it on, though).
posted by SassHat at 10:07 PM on July 30, 2006


I often wear the rings I inherited from my mother on my left ring finger, because she had smaller fingers than I do and the rings don't fit my right hand. Though I do hope one day to get them sized so that they'll fit my right hand, because some of them are sparkly-diamondy enough that I feel weird that they look so much like an engagement ring.
posted by occhiblu at 10:11 PM on July 30, 2006


I had a friend who wore a wedding band despite not be married (or even enagaged) to keep guys from hitting on her. Pretty girl, just in a Master's program and very busy.
posted by orthogonality at 10:12 PM on July 30, 2006


I wear rings on my left ring finger all the time. I just like rings.
posted by fluffy battle kitten at 10:26 PM on July 30, 2006


Some members of religious communities wear them, i.e.- Catholic nuns. Nuns don't always wander around in habits, either, as many orders do not require their members to wear them.
posted by oflinkey at 10:29 PM on July 30, 2006


I know plenty of girls who wear rings on their left ring fingers simply because they think that's where they look best. I don't think the presence of a ring is by any means a sure way of telling that a girl's in a relationship,any more than the absence of a ring a sign that she's single.
posted by bunglin jones at 10:30 PM on July 30, 2006


I think that any woman wearing a ring on her left hand ring finger is aware that she is sending a signal to the larger population that she is taken (either because she is or because she does not care to be hit on). Tread cautiously until you've heard her say she's single.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:32 PM on July 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


Well... except for me. And apparently SassHat. And therefore probably lots of other women. I don't wear my rings on my left finger because I don't want to be hit on, I wear them there because they don't fit on my right hand.
posted by occhiblu at 10:35 PM on July 30, 2006


>>I sometimes see women out that are wearing rings on their left ring finger--plain or lightly decorated--that I might like to initiate conversations with the intention of potentially taking out but am unsure whether to be detterred by a ring.

loals. retired bar/club scener, but: Me and my friends started doing that about mid/early-twenties for exactly that same reason. It was to discourage boys hovering and trying to hook-up when we just wanted to go out and dance or chill unmolestered.

When i used to go to bar/clubs, it was more common for men to ask first, "are you married?" before they even bothered to know your name (or give you theirs). So we would buy faux engagement rings (never wedding bands, though, they were too frumpy and boring) at department stores, about $100 a ring. (banana republic also makes great faux engagement rings for about half that price, fyi.) It always worked like a charm, because this was a "legit" reason to kindly and graciously diss.

but really, you'll never know the answer until you ask...and as you can see from this thread already, there is just no predictability.
posted by naxosaxur at 10:36 PM on July 30, 2006


On the other hand... there are married women who don't wear wedding rings. I took a first aid class from a married EMT who said she and her husband (also an EMT) didn't wear rings for safety/convenience/sanitary reasons.
posted by lhauser at 10:38 PM on July 30, 2006


I don't wear my rings on my left finger because I don't want to be hit on, I wear them there because they don't fit on my right hand.

But you are aware that plenty of people assume a ring on the left hand ring finger means you're attached, right? And will assume so until you say otherwise?
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:38 PM on July 30, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yes, but your comment implied that was why I was wearing the ring. My point was that it's more a side effect of the actual reason I'm wearing the ring on that finger, not the reason for it.
posted by occhiblu at 10:41 PM on July 30, 2006


(And in any event, your "tread carefully" advice is still good. I was just balking at the categorization that wearing my rings meant I was "either [attached] or did not care to be hit on," since that's not what it actually means. I means I miss my mother, and like wearing her jewelry.)
posted by occhiblu at 10:44 PM on July 30, 2006


SassHat: It means nothing. If it's a big sparkley diamond, then it may indicate engagement.

Not true at all. Many people cannot afford or do not care for big sparkly diamonds. I wear a simple, thick, beat up (the ring is very old) gold ring with an onyx cameo of a Renaissance era soldier and my fiancé wears a thin silver ring with this cool alexandrite stone that changes color depending on the lighting. Diamonds are sparkly, but boring.
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 10:53 PM on July 30, 2006


My point was that it's more a side effect of the actual reason I'm wearing the ring on that finger, not the reason for it.

Yes, TPS, your comment also totally discounts those of us who wear rings on our left hand so that we can sneak into "Couples Only" swingers' parties. And walk around saying "Oh I've lost my fiancee, poor baby!"

Seriously - we only have two hand options here - left and right. It's like that middle school "an earring in your (left/right) ear means you're gay" thing. It's just silly that anyone should take a piece of jewelry to automatically mean something so significant.
posted by SassHat at 11:01 PM on July 30, 2006


I am clueless and could never tell you which fingers mean something. Luckily I don't really wear jewellery much, but unless I checked with someone else I could quite easily have a ring on my wedding finger, and it wouldn't mean anything. I also have several friends who wear rings on their wedding finger because it's the most comfortable place to wear one (maybe that's why it was picked for wedding rings?).
posted by jacalata at 11:03 PM on July 30, 2006


Derive: Note the use of the word "may" - I was going out of my way not to generalize there. Also, reread my comment to note that I'm in complete agreement with you in the sense that everyone's different. Also, I agree that diamonds are boring.
posted by SassHat at 11:03 PM on July 30, 2006


Sasshat: Hmmm... ok. I read your comment as excluding all rings except diamond rings from possibly meaning anything. But this is just noise. -
posted by Derive the Hamiltonian of... at 11:46 PM on July 30, 2006


>>It's just silly that anyone should take a piece of jewelry to automatically mean something so significant.

Ladies, please. You live in the freaking US of A. You have established and specific customs and traditions, and clear social signifiers that even your ancestors have partaken for hundreds of years. ancestors from other countries that have followed the same structural protocol. You have created a billion-dollar marriage industry that pushes 20K engagement rings and 50K weddings. It is completely spurious and irresponsible to not acknowledge that wearing an engagementy-looking sparkler or weddingy-looking band in the place that married/engaged people must wear them sends a very distinct message to men and women (i.e. strangers) who want to quickly ascertain your marital/commitment status. Stop playing like you don't get it. Where is this underlying indignation stemming from? Maybe *you* personally don't use it as a signifier of a committed relationship, but strangers will. Mainstream will, and mainstream is what we are preoccupied with here. Granted, some people are above the shallowness/showiness/tradition of it all, but not the majority. Not your perifery colleagues, not your random aquaintances; not that guy at the bar who is trying to pick you up.

If customary society and mainstream culture didn't work like that, then the OP wouldn't have posted this quandary, and it wouldn't be a legitimate question.

If customary society and mainstream culture didn't work like that, the majority of married/engaged people would be putting wedding bands alll over the fucking place. On their toes even.
posted by naxosaxur at 12:00 AM on July 31, 2006 [8 favorites]


She may not be engaged/married, but she sure wants you to think she is!
posted by Lucie at 12:16 AM on July 31, 2006


Apparently the majority of married/engaged people are brainless zombies who expect explicit compliance from everyone else, Nanosaxur?

Just because it's a mainstream idea doesn't mean that women should reserve their ring fingers on their left hand for that one use only.

Granted, if I went out and bought a big diamond ring and wore it on my left ring finger and went out of my way to flash it around, that would seem like I was either engaged or trying to give that impression. However, the OP states:

Is that finger strictly for signifying she is in a relationship
[?]

No, that finger is for whatever you damn well want. And if you want to use the presence of an often meaningless piece of jewelry to weed out potential dates, then it's your loss.

And if someone else insists that only engaged/married women use that finger for ANYTHING, well then they need to wear a copper bracelet on their right wrist- because everyone knows that is the international symbol for being someone who makes asinine assumptions.
posted by SassHat at 12:33 AM on July 31, 2006


I wear rings on whatever finger they fit, and the signals I'm sending never cross my mind.

I think naxosaur has rings confused with chastity belts.
posted by goo at 12:37 AM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


I would expect to get shot down a lot more often by women wearing rings on their left hands, since many/most of them will be married, engaged, or pretending to be so in order to avoid attentions. But some of them won't.

The question is really how comfortable you are with getting shot down, or occasionally even told off by a pissed-off woman who's tired of male attention and put on a ring specifically to deter it.

So long as you approach courteously, don't act like a skeezball who's just out for pussy, and leave politely at the first sign of disinterest, I don't think anyone would seriously fault your conduct. You can always state more-or-less truthfully that you thought (that is: hoped against all probability) that her ring was just decorative and not a sign of anything.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:57 AM on July 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


I just spoke with one of the girls I was referring to earlier. She said that while she knows that some people will assume ring-on-ring-finger = engaged, she's only really interested in talking to blokes who don't make those sorts of tradition-based assumptions. And atlman, she suggests your chatting to whomever it is that takes your fancy. Ring or no ring, you probably won't know if she's single or not until you actually ask her.
posted by bunglin jones at 1:00 AM on July 31, 2006


>>Nanosaxur?

aiight, AssHat.

>>naxosaur

aiight, poo.

Listen ladies, I don’t care what the fuck you wear on your "ring finger". Just don’t be surprised when guys stop approaching you at the bar, or colleagues become confused when they find out you are not in a 'marriage-track' relationship.

It’s pretty passive/aggressive behavior when you decide to adhere to a fashion that has always signified something extremely specific...and then you get all huffy and shrill when someone assumes *exactly* what it is supposed to signify.
posted by naxosaxur at 1:04 AM on July 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


Just to complicate things further, European women (and men) wear engagement/wedding rings on the right-hand ring finger.
posted by availablelight at 1:51 AM on July 31, 2006


Some cultures wear their wedding rings on the right hand, and some don't use rings in this way anyway.

Also, if someone's S.O. dies they may continue to wear the engagement or wedding rings.
posted by Idcoytco at 2:15 AM on July 31, 2006


I'm with naxosaxur. My girlfriend wears a ring when she teaches classes, to keep guys from hitting on her. It's a nearly universal custom in the US, and everybody recognizes it.

Now watch as I attempt to out-offend naxosaxur:
Wearing a ring on your left ring finger because it "feels better there" is like wearing a swastika because it's "an ancient symbol of luck." You could argue your point, but it's completely disingenuous to pretend you're not sending a signal.

And btw, I find it hilarious that someone would wear a ring with the intent of only attracting guys not bound by "tradition-based assumptions." I'm sure it works great, as long as the "tradition-basad assumption" you're talking about is the one regarding marital fidelity...
posted by bjrubble at 3:07 AM on July 31, 2006 [2 favorites]


European women (and men) wear engagement/wedding rings on the right-hand ring finger.

By no means all Europeans do this - in the UK the tradition is broadly the same as in the US.
posted by altolinguistic at 3:13 AM on July 31, 2006


I think lhauser's married EMT's have the right idea. The goatse guy's ring has always struck me as unsanitary.
posted by flabdablet at 4:36 AM on July 31, 2006 [3 favorites]


There are also plenty of women who wear promise rings on their left hand to indicate that they intend to abstain from sex until married. Many are single and wear rings for this purpose. Others wear the ring because they were pressured by their family or community but do not keep with the 'no sex before marriage' doctrines.
posted by Alison at 5:02 AM on July 31, 2006


russians and others wear wedding rings on the right hand ring finger as noted by someone above, but what ismore, Russians sometimes put a ring on the left hand ring finger to signify they have divorced, i e they are available.
posted by londongeezer at 5:09 AM on July 31, 2006


I think that any woman wearing a ring on her left hand ring finger is aware that she is sending a signal to the larger population that she is taken

Holy crap. I had no idea. When I wear a ring it's usually on my left ring finger but it's always been because that's where it feels most comfortable. Hard to type, for some reason, with a ring on my right hand. None of my rings could be mistaken for a wedding ring or an engagement ring (I'm allergic to bling and like weird funky rings) so I never thought I was sending any signals.
On the other hand, (heh), now I have a great new excuse for my dating woes!
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:32 AM on July 31, 2006


yeah, I never thought about that either - I don't really wear rings these days, but when I was in college I used too wear lots of those silver & onyx or lapis type st. mark's crap, and I just wore them wherever they fit, so undoubtedly sometimes on the left ring finger... I mean, it's even called the ring finger; never thought about it being reserved only for a certain kind of ring. Anyway, in college I'd certainly never have gone out with some random guy who approached me in a bar/cafe etc since I met everyone through school & friends and the general scene I hung out in, so it's kinda a moot point. Just thought I'd confirm there are social 'illiterates' like me out there, at least in places like NYC.
posted by mdn at 5:44 AM on July 31, 2006


The answer to your question is...sometimes, but check the context.

If it's an obviously jewelry-loving girl who has rings on many fingers, and especially if the ring is neato-funky-not traditional, then there's a better-than-average chance that she just likes rings.

If it's a very simple or more traditional ring, she's either taken or wants you to think she is. Or she's wearing her mother's jewelry. (See occhiblu's comment.)
posted by desuetude at 6:24 AM on July 31, 2006


I think that any woman wearing a ring on her left hand ring finger is should be aware that she is sending a signal to the larger population that she is taken.
posted by orange swan at 6:36 AM on July 31, 2006


Really? Even if, like desuetude says, the ring looks absolutely nothing like a traditional engagement ring? I wear a ring on my left hand with a large cameo on it. It's not even a gemstone. I can't imagine that anyone would think that my big ol' cameo ring indicates that I'm "taken."

Although, to be fair, a guy that I know is interested in me asked me about the left-hand ring the other night. He didn't specify why he was asking about it, but he had no interest in the (equally interesting, in my opinion) ring on my right hand.
posted by amro at 6:56 AM on July 31, 2006


The responses in this thread totally baffled me. I thought about them all the way to work, on the subway. And there I discovered more evidence for the "left hand is the wedding hand" custom- men wearing wedding rings. I've heard of women wearing non-relationship related rings on their left hand (at least, I have now!!!), but never men. For the custom to change, and people to not automatically assume the left hand ring finger means you're married/takenw (which they DO, I'm sorry), I think single men would have to start wearing decorative rings there, too, which I've never heard of happening. I've heard of married men taking rings off, but not the other way around...
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:09 AM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


There are also plenty of women who wear promise rings on their left hand to indicate that they intend to abstain from sex until married. Many are single and wear rings for this purpose.

I totally forgot about this! Yes, Alison, you're right- I knew girls at the Christian college I went to who wore rings like this ("promise rings" or "purity rings").
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:11 AM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


The first thing many guys do is look for a ring on the left hand. If the only ring she has is there, then we walk away.
posted by blue_beetle at 7:13 AM on July 31, 2006


I think that's still in line with the "if you see a left hand ring, assume she's not interested" line of thinking.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:13 AM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


The first thing many guys do is look for a ring on the left hand. If the only ring she has is there, then we walk away.

Really? Even Obviously Not A Wedding Or Engagement Ring rings? My favorite ring is an ancient Greek silver coin, with the solar system engraved on it, attached to a chunky copper band. It's usually the only ring I wear and I wear it on my ring finger. Have I really been sending unintended signals all this time?
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:18 AM on July 31, 2006


If I see a woman with a ring on that finger, I assume she's engaged or married.

Wear what you want, but rest assured that the vast majority of men will assume you're married or engaged.

As for being deterred by the ring... 50% of all American marraiges end in divorce, and lots of women cheat.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 7:20 AM on July 31, 2006


I agree with desuetude, there is a lot of subtle context that informs whether a ring on a woman's left ring finger is an engagement/wedding ring. A funky ring, especially if she wears other funky rings, is completely ambiguous - most likely not an engagement ring. On the other hand, a big diamond ring on that finger probably does mean she is engaged (or pretending to be - same difference), and a very simple precious metal band on that finger probably means she's married (or pretending to be).

Other than those two extremes, I think it's possible she's engaged/married, or not. I frequently wear an emerald & diamond ring on that finger, and I am not engaged nor intending to portray myself as engaged. I wear it there because it was a beautiful, valuable gift from my parents, and because it only fits that finger. I have very rarely had problems where people mistook it for an engagement ring, and otherwise all indicators are that people understand that it is not an engagement ring. Granted, I usually dress like someone who would wear a traditional engagement ring (although I don't ever intend to), and I tend to socialize with people who would wear/give a traditional engagement ring.

I completely disagree that just wearing any old ring on the left ring finger should convey that a woman is engaged, or that the woman should assume she's conveying the impression that she is engaged. A big diamond ring, a simple gold band - now that, I think, is a clear message of unavailability, however you figure it. If a woman is wearing either of those rings, I think she either doesn't want you to hit on her, or she needs to make the effort to let you know she is actually single.

And anyway, so many people are in committed relationships now without marriage, so I don't know how relevant the whole ring issue is anymore. I am not engaged/married, but I am certainly not available. I think I convey that with my body language, my eyes, my conversation, etc.
posted by Amizu at 7:21 AM on July 31, 2006


I completely disagree that just wearing any old ring on the left ring finger should convey that a woman is engaged

Oh me too. I'm just interested to learn if it's a widespread phenomenon that it does.
posted by CunningLinguist at 7:23 AM on July 31, 2006


Oh me too. I'm just interested to learn if it's a widespread phenomenon that it does.

Okay, I also disagree that it does send that message, and that is in part because I have not received that sort of reaction (plenty of guys have hit on me while I have been wearing random rings on my left ring finger). However, I do think your average man is not as astute as your average woman when it comes to the subtle messages sent by clothing/accessories, and so I could believe that a number of men would not understand those subtleties, even though I haven't experienced that in practice.
posted by Amizu at 7:31 AM on July 31, 2006


Reminiscent of Jim Carey in Dumb and Dumber, when told that he has a one-in-a-million chance: "So you're saying there's a chance!"
posted by Eiwalker at 7:40 AM on July 31, 2006


TPS, naxosaxur, and others: Y'all kinda seem to be answering, and responding to, a different question than was asked by the poster. If a woman had asked whether wearing a ring on her left ring finger might give off the signal she was married, then yes, I'd agree that it does. But here we have a guy asking if every single woman who wears a ring on her left ring finger is married/engaged/attached, and for that question, the answer is obviously no.
posted by occhiblu at 8:12 AM on July 31, 2006


(Unintentional pun up there: Take "Every single woman" to mean "each and every woman.")
posted by occhiblu at 8:12 AM on July 31, 2006


To clarify my earlier statement: "The first thing many guys do is look for a ring on the left hand. If the only ring she has is there, then we walk away."

I've known quite a few girls (in several countries) that will wear a ring on where an engagement ring usually goes to signify that they are in some sort of a commited relationship. Kind of like training-wheels for an engagement. As in "he hasn't asked me yet, but I expect him to'. If a girl wears a lot of rings and happens to have one on that finger, it's not as clear.
The way I see it, there are guys that won't care, and will hit on your/flirt with you no matter what. These are the guys that aren't affected by a ring. However, there are MANY borderline shy/sensitive guys that have to work up the courage to talk to a girl, ask her out, ask her to dance, etc, that will see a ring as a red flag. I guess it depends on what type of guy you're interested in getting. If you want to make it easier for men to not have to second guess their cultural norms before talking to you, avoid a ring on the ring finger.
posted by blue_beetle at 8:23 AM on July 31, 2006


Here's what the poster said, occhiblu

I sometimes see women out that are wearing rings on their left ring finger....that I might like to initiate conversations with the intention of potentially taking out but am unsure whether to be detterred by a ring.

What we're saying, occhiblu, is that GENERALLY, a ring means a woman is taken, or wishes to appear taken. Not that it's always true. Which is why I said tread cautiously, not OMGZ STAY AWAY WOMEN WITH RINGS, THEY HAVE MENFOLK WHO WILL KILL YOU!!!111
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:24 AM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


Yes, and I'm agreeing with you on the advice. Just not the general "Wearing a ring there always means she's taken or wants to be thought of as such" ideas, followed by the freak-outs (not yours) about why on EARTH any unattached woman in her right MIND would even CONSIDER wearing a ring on her MARRIAGE FINGER!!!

The whole discussion's getting a bit "Women must indicate the state of their virginity and male possession for all to see, and any woman who violates this cultural norm is a slut" for me.
posted by occhiblu at 8:29 AM on July 31, 2006


Oh, come ooooooooooooooon. I don't think anyone thinks that. Some of us are just saying, look, here's how it *is*. You may not like it, you may not abide by it, but it's one of those symbols that generally means the same thing in all places, at least in the United States. I was trying to think of a clothing-type symbol that's considered more clear-cut (IMO), and I couldn't think of one (religious attire, maybe)? You can do whatever you want, nobody's gonna stop you, and like said above, once you get to know somebody, all bets are off, but to say that there are not social consequences for wearing whatever you want is misleading. It's more a question of thinking it through and deciding what's important. If I had beautiful jewelry that only fit my left hand ring finger, I'd wear it there, because who gives a care, but I'd still be aware of the signal that would send.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:37 AM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


. But here we have a guy asking if every single woman who wears a ring on her left ring finger is married/engaged/attached, and for that question, the answer is obviously no.

Actually, if you read the question he's wondering if he should be deterred.

Most men would be deterred by a signal that means that failure is about 10x more likely than in other situations.
posted by Tacos Are Pretty Great at 8:45 AM on July 31, 2006


Tofu taco time?

My point is that rings have much symoblism. They don't just indicate "I'm married" or "I'm engaged"; there are centuries of meaning in them, good and bad. For women, especially, there are undertones of sexual possession and of material dependence, among other things. Of course there are good connotations as well, but I feel you can't assume all people are embracing one level of the symbolism (married/not-married) but ignoring all other levels of the symbolism.

It's hardly inconcievable that a woman would be wearing a ring, or not wearing a ring, in a way that doesn't conform to the "standard cultural norms" you (or anyone else) might be living by, given how charged the symbolism is. And writing off those choices as somehow deluded or ignorant or whatever seems really regressive to me.
posted by occhiblu at 9:17 AM on July 31, 2006


The first thing many guys do is look for a ring on the left hand. If the only ring she has is there, then we walk away. - blue_beetle

I don't often think about my engagement ring because it's just part of me now, but men regularly comment on it, even though it's very subdued. Older men especially. They'll say "he's a very lucky man" or "family ring?" or something to that effect. It's obviously fishing for a clear "can I hit on you or not" message.

Men my own age (early 20's) notice it less than men that are of an age more likely to be married/engaged/looking for something serious. I've been surprised how many men DO notice, because I had assumed, like Amizu, that they were "not as astute as your average woman when it comes to the subtle messages sent by clothing/accessories". But my experience wearing this (fairly traditional) engagement ring is that men do notice.

As a woman who wears a ring on that finger, I think ROU_Xenophobe has good advice:
So long as you approach courteously, don't act like a skeezball who's just out for pussy, and leave politely at the first sign of disinterest, I don't think anyone would seriously fault your conduct. You can always state more-or-less truthfully that you thought (that is: hoped against all probability) that her ring was just decorative and not a sign of anything.
If she's available and you approach her asking for the story about her ring, you've found a great way to break the ice because now you know somehting about her and have shown yourself to be observant and interested. If she's not available, you've just given her a reminder about her sweetie and an excuse to think about all the goodness associated with that. Nothing to lose, I think.
posted by raedyn at 9:21 AM on July 31, 2006


I've heard of women wearing non-relationship related rings on their left hand (at least, I have now!!!), but never men.

Oh, I have. But again, these are younger men (college-age at the oldest) who are comfortable wearing jewelry, wearing rings that wouldn't look marriagey in the slightest.

What the hell else does is symbolize other than "I'm now owned by a man"

Huh. I thought it symbolized, "I've got him by the balls now!" Kidding! I don't actually think that! But some women do.
posted by desuetude at 9:23 AM on July 31, 2006


It's not ownership, occhiblu, it's "Don't bother me, I'm interested in someone else". The matriarchy cares way more about wedding rings than the patriarchy does these days.

And yeah, just nth-ing the common male viewpoint: if you've got a ring on the fourth digit of your left hand, I'm going to assume you're taken. Heck, even with a ring on the fourth finger of the right hand you have to be careful not to give offense. And yes, based on me and my friends, it is absolutely the first thing a guy looks for when he's interested in a woman (though it doesn't always stop him). What kind of ring does not matter---I recall one woman who wore a 25 cent bubble gum ring as an engagement ring. Who are we to guess what's an "official" ring or not?
posted by bonehead at 9:29 AM on July 31, 2006


No, it's not the whole point of feminism. Women don't get blank checks to act in any manner they like and call it "feminist" just because they're women, because there's still a lot of bullshit in this society that constrains women's choices and effects.

Women can wear engagement rings, not wear engagement rings, get married, not get married, whatever. My point is not that they're awful people for doing any of those things, just that assuming that everyone is carrying the same ideas of what those things mean, or that everyone should agree on what those things mean, is wrong.


I certainly did not mean to attack anyone personally , and I'm sorry if I came across that way. I'm glad everyone here is happy, and has happy friends. Really. I'm not sniping on those people. I would not say any of these things to a newly-ringed woman. But that doesn't mean these things cannot be said ever, or that we can just say "Oh, it's tradition" and not examine these things further, or that such an examination is worthless or mean-spirited.
posted by occhiblu at 10:18 AM on July 31, 2006 [1 favorite]


I wear rings on my left hand because I have lots of rings I like to wear from time to time. The ring my grandparents gave me for my bat mitzvah stays on my right ring finger, anything else goes on the left.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:30 AM on July 31, 2006


I do think your average man is not as astute as your average woman when it comes to the subtle messages sent by clothing/accessories...

As a man (who is actually more interested in clothing/accesories than most men) I would say that it's a matter of indifference, not lack of astuteness. We are, however, pretty interested in the science of understanding female signs of interest in, and availability to, us. The fact that there is so much ambiguity even within that field leads a lot of guys to hold in mind the old standbys, such as a ring on the ring finger of the left hand. If I see that, generally speaking, I assume that it's a sign of marriage or engagement, whether it's being sent by someone who's actually married or engaged, or someone who just wants to seem like they are. Not being a complete idiot, I'm well aware that the woman in question may simply share occhiblue's attitude on this subject, but that's okay, because if my willingness to take the ring custom seriously is really that much of an issue for you, then I guess we're not that compatible to begin with. We all make decisions about who we're going to pursue, or even converse with, based on a lot of little factors, and for me, this is one of them. Women who have a problem with my attitude can easily avoid guys like me by wearing a ring on that finger. It all works out pretty well.
posted by bingo at 10:40 AM on July 31, 2006


interesting. I wear a $10 silver 'namaste' junk shop ring on my left ring finger almost always... because that's where it fits. I wear a similar silver floral junk shop ring on my right ring finger... because that's where it fits.

put me in the camp of women who had absolutely no idea that men were so observant. very informative thread, despite all the name-calling above.
posted by lonefrontranger at 11:06 AM on July 31, 2006


very informative thread, despite all the name-calling above.

I'd like to ditto this. I'm going to have to get used to wearing rings on my right hand now.
posted by CunningLinguist at 11:17 AM on July 31, 2006


[a few heavily flagged comments removed. please take feminism discussions and insults of feminists, nonfeminists and polyamorous and nonpolyamorous people out of this thread. metatalk might be a good place for them, or email]
posted by jessamyn at 11:30 AM on July 31, 2006


Regarding the right/left hand ring thing: I've met several women who wore the engagement ring on the right hand then switched the engagement and wedding ring both to the left post-union. They were obvious taunt-the-crows engagement rings though.
posted by bonehead at 11:30 AM on July 31, 2006


Also dittoing - but I'll still wear my rings wherever they fit. People can perceive what they will - I'm with Amizu in that it hasn't made a difference to the rate at which people try to talk me. ROU_Xenophobe has it - if you're not skeevy you'll get along just fine, ring or no.

Naxosaxur, all apologies, but the names were really unnecessary.
posted by goo at 12:01 PM on July 31, 2006


Additional interpretation of "funky, non-traditional" ring on left-hand ring finger: "Damnit, he/she's got a really cool wedding ring that's not the usual boring bullshit. I bet their wife/husband is really cool and they've got an awesome, quirky relationship full of intellectual jokes and hanging out in bed reading together. I wish I had that kind of relationship. *mopes*"

Whether people like it or not, whether they intend it or not, wearing a ring on the left-hand ring finger is a signifier for probably 99% of people (in America) of marriage. Luckily, this has relatively little correlation to whether or not the person will have sex with you, but it does have a high negative correlation with the success of a potential long-term partnership with that person.

On preview: Jessamyn--I've never heard anyone say "taunt the crows," and I can't find any online explanation of the phrase. I love it. What does it mean?
posted by Coda at 12:13 PM on July 31, 2006


On another preview: Whoops, I meant bonehead. Nm, Jessamyn. As you were.
posted by Coda at 12:14 PM on July 31, 2006


I assumed it was because crows like shiny things. Waving a big sparkly diamond around would therefore be taunting the crows. (And yeah, great phrase!)
posted by occhiblu at 12:18 PM on July 31, 2006


she's only really interested in talking to blokes who don't make those sorts of tradition-based assumptions

Of course the funny thing there is that those blokes will be about 1/10th of who approaches her. The majority will actually be scummy ones who are just as happy to get into her pants even if she is in a relationship...

atlman, to answer your actual question I would say yes, there are reasons women would wear a ring on that finger other than engagement/marriage. That said, odds are that better than 90% of the women you see with a ring on that finger know exactly the message they are sending, even if it's not accurate.

When I was unattached I simply steered clear of anyone with a ring on that finger. There's no shortage of humans on the earth and rejection is unpleasant enough without courting it by bucking the odds.
posted by phearlez at 12:33 PM on July 31, 2006


i'm another one of those guys who will notice if you have a ring on your left finger. Though I also try and notice the culture of the girl wearing the ring.

I've known several latinas who received rings from their family for their 15th birthdays who wear their ring on the left hand - ring finger. If the girl is latina and has an engagement style ring but not a wedding band, then she might not be "taken". But latinas also tend to marry young so when you get to my age, you can never be sure if those rings are from family or from her fiancee/husband/etc. Like phearlez, when I was single, I'd just steer clear of any girl who has a ring on her left hand that could be engagement or wedding style. If it's a mood ring or something wacky, then it's 50/50 if I'd make a move.

And yes, guys do notice these things just like we notice everything else about a girl that we approach (clothing, hair style, her looks, etc). We just might act like we don't.
posted by Stynxno at 1:03 PM on July 31, 2006


Sorry to be late to the party, but add me to the list of people who have a number of professional and personal acquaintances who are married but don't wear their rings.

It's apparently fairly common for both men and women in the intarweb industry to avoid wearing their wedding ring because, allegedly, it interferes with typing. This may be apocryphal.

What's not apocryphal is the EMT thing to which lhauser alluded. I don't wear my ring on duty (I'm a guy), nor do my married partners: it's risky, for one (if you get a ring caught in a gurney rail or you're working on an extrication, it's a good way to possibly lose a finger), and, for two, I fear accidentally stripping the ring off when I take off my gloves. As I change gloves about 102875 times a shift, and my ring tends to fit differently depending on ambient temperature, this is a real concern.

So, when I'm on duty, I wear my ring around my neck on my MedicAlert necklace. I've seen other people do this on a short enough chain that you can see the ring above the neck of their scrubs or uniforms, which is another way of sending a signal.

Anyway. It's probably best to assume that the presence or absence of a ring on the finger is not necessarily the most accurate indicator of "relationshipness".

I hate to be simplistic, but, IMNSHATBO, the best way to find out is to engage in a real conversation with them. If they're married or otherwise attached, and you instantly feel like you wasted your time, maybe you should reevaluate your reasons for striking up a conversation.

I mean, if you're just out for a quick lay, well, okay, but as for me personally, I never really thought that way, because it made me feel like a sleaze.

Or, rather, when I did think that way, I used Craigslist's "Casual Encounters" section or chose my venue appropriately.

It must kind of suck to be a woman or man at a social venue and have someone waltz over with their first question being basically
"Are you available for conversation, the sole purpose of which is most likely to get you into bed? I have no real interest in your responses except as they further my own agenda."
Have a better reason to talk to them than "I want to find out if you're available for the whoopee", and be interested in the conversation whether or not it takes a turn towards the You. Married people like having conversations too. And, as has been pointed out, there's also a fairly large subset of people who may be married or in a relationship, but are also available.
posted by scrump at 1:08 PM on July 31, 2006


scrump, you're making a bizarre assumption that the only reason to find out if someone is single, is to determine whether they will have casual, meaningless sex with you (although there's nothing wrong with that whatsoever, but that's beside the point).

Maybe you're looking for a girlfriend, who could eventually become a wife (or maybe just stay your girlfriend). Maybe you're already in a relationship, and you're looking for an exciting third wheel. Maybe you're looking for someone to fix up with your cousin. Who knows?

Sure, we could all go around talking to random strangers and then doing our best to enjoy the conversation, but thank god, for a great many of us, that is not a priority. Otherwise, nothing else would ever get done. The world is not just a big sugar-coated playground full of huggy bears.
posted by bingo at 2:14 PM on July 31, 2006


As a man (who is actually more interested in clothing/accesories than most men) I would say that it's a matter of indifference, not lack of astuteness Sorry - indifference. Anyway, my point was that (to wildly stereotype), I know that generally men will notice the presence of a ring on the left ring finger, but I believe they won't necessarily be able (interested?) to analyze the subtleties inherent in the woman's choice to wear that ring. Whereas I bet I could make a pretty accurate assessment of whether such a ring was an engagement/wedding ring. Not perfect assessment, but I bet I'm pretty close. And that assessment would be based on lots of little factors, added up together and subconsiously analyzed. So, my answer is that no, just the presence of a ring on a woman's ring finger is not necessarily an accurate indication of whether she is taken or not.

Lots of percentages thrown around here - 99%, 90% etc. While this thread is just anecdotal evidence, lots of women here are telling you that they were not aware of what their particular ring connoted - just read all the surprised, "oh, good to know!" responses.

I think you got your answer with ROU_Xenophobe's post anyway. Good advice.
posted by Amizu at 2:32 PM on July 31, 2006


While this thread is just anecdotal evidence, lots of women here are telling you that they were not aware of what their particular ring connoted - just read all the surprised, "oh, good to know!" responses. - Amizu

Keep in mind that there's a definite sampling bias on MeFi. The average here tends to be younger and less traditional family values than the average in Meatspace USA (yes, this is a generalization as well. I'm only talking about tendancies) I think you've got a decent sampling in this thread, but don't assume that the percentages here are reflective of those offline.
posted by raedyn at 3:12 PM on July 31, 2006


In my younger years I never looked at ring fingers. That changed when the first of my friends got married. Suddenly I realized the women I was interested were old enough to be married (People get married at an older age in Quebec vs. North America). Now I check. A while ago I saw a girl with a rubber ring a la Lance Armstrong wristband in bright orange on her left hand ring finger. I thought she was flirting with me but I took a pass based on the ring.

On the non-traditional funky ring on the left hand ring finger issue... In Quebec there are lots and lots of couples that refuse to drop 20k on a ring, much preferring to put it towards a down payment on a house. These people tend to have non-standard rings. Heck my best friend and his wife have rings that don’t match (I’m told it traditional to have matching rings, right?).

The long answer to the poster’s question is: context, context, context. Depends on the woman, her age, her culture, and the location. There are a lot of reasons for a single woman to wear a ring on the ring finger of her left hand that aren’t marriage related. There are a lot of reasons for a married woman not to wear a ring on the ring finger of her left hand.
posted by cm at 5:34 PM on July 31, 2006


Interesting entry about engagement rings on theNew York Observer Bridal Blog.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:38 AM on August 1, 2006 [1 favorite]


Man this generated much more useful information than I though--awesome posts everyone.

Guess there really is no way to tell other than to just talk to them. Fair enough.
posted by atlman at 8:13 AM on August 2, 2006


Huh, and another entry on the NY Observer Bridal Blog, interestingly titled "Will They Feel Sorry For Me When They See My Ring?"
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 8:42 AM on August 2, 2006 [1 favorite]


Another vote for promise rings, I know a few girls who wear them, I even know one or two guys who were them on their left hand ring finger, (myself being one of them). I can think of one or two though that aren't really interested in having guys make a pass at them so I guess it serves both purposes.
posted by chrisWhite at 5:39 PM on August 2, 2006


I agree that engagement rings on the wedding finger "should" signal that the woman is taken. My question is whether anyone knows of a trend for married women to only wear the wedding band and not wear the engagement ring.

Does it mean anything if a married woman doesn't wear her engagement ring?
posted by Dahrkannen at 5:39 PM on August 8, 2006


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