The Curse of the Ringbearer

Some of you already know that I wear one of those oh-so-millenium symbols of feminine independence, the right-hand ring.  It’s one of those ‘marry yourself first’ kind of things – it went on right after I gave my last serious live-in the boot and it pretty much never comes off.  It’s a reminder to be a little more cautious in the future about what kind of crap I put on that same finger on the other hand.  (Yeah, okay…and it’s pretty…)

But today I took it off to do dishes (okay – fine – I wasn’t doing dishes.  It was to measure my finger for some half-baked Facebook quiz a friend challenged me to.  Whatever.  Shut up.)  No biggie, I put it back on right afterwards and carried on with my day (which still didn’t include doing the dishes, sadly).

Imagine my reaction when I had that ‘something’s not right here’ tingling – and looked down to see that I had somehow put the ring on the wrong hand!!  You may be having trouble picturing it.  Okay, try this:  Imagine the reaction I would be likely to have if I looked down and saw a seriously pissed-off tarantula about to take a slice of my finger for lunch.

Why this drama, you ask?  Why the slightly mental overreaction?  Let me illustrate.

I’ve been proposed to a lot.  This is not a boast.  It is case in point of the fact that I possess that je ne sais quoi that brings out the crazy in people.  These proposals have ranged in seriousness from the dude who threw himself down on one knee three seconds after being introduced to me – to the tool who showed up at my parents’ house in a suit and tie, requesting an audience with them to ask for my hand (result:  mom, wearing her Rolling Stones tongue logo t-shirt, secretly wishing she were a drinker; dad, not saying a word, but quietly chuckling away to himself the whole time.)

People probably think that the reason I haven’t gotten married yet is because I have commitment issues (not really), or because I value my freedom too much (possibly), or maybe I just haven’t met the right guy (could be).

But I believe the real reason is this:  Every time some guy sticks a ring on my finger, I get hurt!  I don’t mean emotionally – no, I mean full-on physical, literal HURT.  Like with blood.  I swear to god.   Here, I’ll show you…

Ring # 1:   4th grade (shut up – it still counts).  Royden…somebody.  I arrive at school one day and on my desk is a small brown box.  Inside – a ring (gold with a green stone), 29 cents in change and a note on a scrap of paper that says, “Just a little something.”  Cute, huh?  Yeah, sure.  Until I tried the thing on, and immediately developed a horrifying rash highlighted by the bright green circle it left around the afflicted digit.  Not cute.  Not at all.  Of course, setting a pattern for later stages of my life, I still let him take me to the movies.  (Okay, so not a lot of actual blood in this one, but hang tight – I’m just setting the stage here, people.)

Ring #2:  Age 28.  Fiancee #1.  We’d been together for 10 years.  I’d moved out and moved back in about five times that year.  Things weren’t going so great.  In a final act of desperation, during lunch one day he comes over and does the whole one-knee thing (which I just find really silly – and my first thought at the time was “Shouldn’t he know I would find that silly?”).  Now, you should know that if this had happened about 10 years earlier – hell, five years earlier – I would have been ecstatic.  When I was in my early twenties, I wanted nothing more than to marry this guy.  A classic case of too little, too late.  And I believe the actual proposal went something like, “If we work things out, would you consider marrying me?”  (At that moment, a tiny rift occurred in the fabric of space/time and my younger self, overhearing this, paused in her browsing of china patterns and proceeded to slit her wrists.)

ANYWAY – the ring.  It was silver (score – I hate gold).  It wasn’t a diamond (score – at the time, I hated anything so traditional.  I have since been enlightened.  Though I still only approve of fair-trade bling.)  It was wrought in the shape of a sun; a recurring theme in our relationship…partly because of a dream we once shared of starting our own theatre company in Jamaica and partly something to do with me being (yeah, I know) the centre of his universe or something (yes, I am aware that the sun is only the centre of a very small solar system, not the whole universe.)

It didn’t take long.  As it turned out, the sun shape had some very pointy bits.  Which proceeded to completely shred my fingers.  One day it got so bad, I ripped the damn thing off and threw it across the bedroom, where it was forgotten about until later that day when it embedded itself in the sole of my foot.

Ring #3:  A couple of years later.  Fiancee #2.  This time I picked out my own ring – a simple silver band with a small round amethyst set flush with the rest of the band.  Loved it.  Until the day I was being rushed out of the apartment by F2 and in going to turn off the light, the ring somehow got caught on the corner of the switchplate.  In some freak moment of ridiculousness, the momentum was just right to force the ring to open up at the seam where the ring had been re-sized (made smaller for me), pulling the ring, with its now raw metal edges, all the way up and off my finger, creating two long ragged gashes the entire length of it.  I still have the thing, actually, and it looks like it was hit by a train.  That wedding never happened, either, by the way.

Ring #4:   A few years after that.  Fiancee #3.  This one proposed on the second date, so a ring was not immediately produced.  Actually, this guy was bipolar and refusing medication, and was also an artist, so while there was big talk of the amazing ring he was going to design for me, and many intricate drawings made, no ring ever actually was produced.  So technically this ring never actually hurt me, but since he tried several times, I still feel it counts.

In any event, this is why I panic at the sight of any jewelry anywhere near that hand.  My friends find it kind of entertaining.

But you know, I might consider marriage…if I ever got a ring on that hand that didn’t try to kill me.  I’m not holding my breath, though.

My Beach (or…The Luckiest Chick in the World)

It occurred to me today (not necessarily for the first time) that I am a very, very selfish woman.

Simultaneously, it occurred to me (also not for the first time) that I am a very, very lucky woman.

I was on my favourite beach. It was nearing twilight on a day that had been cold and rainy, but burst forth with a brief blast of sun just as the day was winding down. That momentary flash of warmth was enough to send me flying for an end-of-day run.

Of course, when I got to the shore, it was grey and misty, and a wicked wind was openly pummeling the coastline without reserve, buffeting my poor little ragtop like a poorly-set sail. A weaker person than myself might have turned around and driven home. But I had just rediscovered ‘my’ beach after missing out on it last year due to an injury involving broken bones and a couple of surgeries, and I was determined not to let a moment of summer pass me by this year.

Resolute, I wrapped myself in a sweater and set out.

This particular beach and I have a long history. When I was a little girl, my parents used to bring me here. For some reason, although the place is often bright, clear and sunny now, every memory I have of it from back then is the way it was today – foggy, cold, windy. My mother would goad me, insisting that I join her in the icy waves (for some reason, my father was exempt – he was permitted to remain onshore, dry and warm). Even at such a young age, I was made to feel it would be an unforgivable loss of face to opt out, although the water was so frigid I would feel it in my bones for hours afterwards. My mother took hours to tire, laughing as she jumped in the swells and bodysurfed on the breakers, and it was unthinkable that I should go in before she was ready.

I remember sitting afterward, wrapped in a blanket, teeth chattering as I tried to regain sustenance from the bread and cheese we’d brought with us, my long bedraggled hair draped over my shoulders like seaweed. That half-painful, half-blissful sensation of the feeling returning to numbed limbs, the heavy drowsiness that set in before the drive home.

As I got older, I stopped going to the beach with my parents. Childhood turned into teenage-hood and now the beach took on a new significance. It was a place far from the interference of adults – a place where bonfires were lit, beer drunk, and youthful bonding took place. The beach became a place I saw only at night, lit by the headlights of cars and the tips of cigarettes (or other smokables). The water became a mere backdrop for our furniture of driftwood logs and stone fire pits. The roar of the surf and the cover of the night lent this place I knew so well from my childhood a new air of mystique and perhaps even a little danger. Nature in its rawest form meeting with youth in its rawest form.

Then I grew up and moved away. But somehow, perhaps due to being born so close to the sea – or maybe because of my early indoctrination – I found I sought out similar places. A boyfriend and I discovered another beach that felt a little like this one, on another part of the coast. It had a similar rustic feel, the same untouched beauty, the same wild roses that tossed their scent on the salt air, the same kelp-strewn sand on its long-reaching arc that disappeared into the horizon. We would take picnics, brie and baguette – I realize now, my own version of the aged cheddar and crusty rolls my mother would pack – and we would nap in the sun on the handwoven Mexican blankets we spread in the shelter of the dunes (this was before the population of such areas made the protection of them necessary – we were careful to avoid disturbing any residents). In fact, there were times we would spend entire days in the sun there and not encounter another person. We even made love there a few times, quietly and sleepily after a long day of running and swimming, on our brown wool blanket.

More time went by, and desperate to see ‘the world’, I took off on a road trip across the country, fully expecting to be blown away by the rest of it.

And while this is a land full of marvels, Canada, it took seeing the rest of it and coming home to recognize the beauty I so took for granted here.

Today, walking on this beach that I’ve rediscovered, I realized that I live in the most beautiful place in the world. Yes, there are tropical isles where the sky is always blue and the waters are clear, and there are waterfalls, and flowers the size of your head…but I get high from the unpredictability of our wild North Atlantic coast. I love that my beach has moods of its very own. I love that some days the sand is completely covered in organic rubbish spewed up from the bottom of the ocean, rotting and swarming with tiny sand flies; other days, it is jellyfish, as far as the eye can see. But those days are rare. And those days make the rest of the days – the ones where the sand is pure and perfect, where the sun shines hard and hot and makes you want to merge body and soul with the crisp green seafoam – that much more delicious.

Ironically, this beach has also now become a place of bonding for my father and I. That’s right – he has finally entered the water, too. Years ago, he took up windsurfing – became completely smitten and is now teaching the art to me. Like when I was a child and he patiently taught me to ride a bicycle, a motorcycle, and later, to drive a car, he now patiently (and excitedly, when he watches me successfully perform a tricky maneuver) watches me learn this new form of transportation. We leave the beach sunburnt and exhausted, but exhilarated at the end of the day.

As I ran tonight on that beach – ‘my’ beach – I did a full turn as I ran, and saw that I was alone. Not a soul as far as the eye could see, except the gulls scouring the shore for crabs and clams to smash open on the rocks. These are my favourite times here.

The fog was hanging heavy, and between the surf and the wind, I realized I could have sung at the top of my lungs and barely be heard, even by myself. The wind was so fierce that I was able to spread my arms wide and lean into it, give myself up to it, without falling over. The wind took the laughter away as quickly as I created it.

A lot of time has passed since I began going to that beach. I haven’t followed the path that most of my friends and acquaintances did – that one involving marriage and kids and the suburbs. I didn’t want to (remember, I started this story by telling you I was selfish.) In that time, I’ve followed most of my whims – a luxury I realize very few people have. And now, I am able to afford myself the decadence of my daily dose of negative ions, spending time getting strong and getting to know myself as I suspect few are permitted due to the constant background noise of life. As I watched a seagull maneuver itself into the wind to navigate a landing in such ferocious conditions, I recognized the technique I perform myself as a skydiver, and my chest swelled as I remembered how lucky I am to have been given this particular life, the freedom and the opportunities. I thought of the people who will never know what it is to see the ocean, to surf on the waves, to experience flight. I spread my arms to the wind again, my hand-painted batik scarf (a gift from a boy I once knew, who helped nurture this freedom of spirit I now enjoy) whipping around my head, and I smiled a thanks to the universe for bringing me back here.

Is it still selfish if you are grateful with every ounce of your soul?

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Published in: on July 18, 2008 at 5:28 pm  Comments (1)  
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