Saturday, February 02, 2008


dis·en·gage [dis-en-geyj] -gaged, -gag·ing. –verb (used with object) release from attachment or connection; loosen; unfasten: to disengage a clutch. free (oneself) from an engagement, pledge, obligation, etc.: He accepted the invitation, but was later forced to disengage himself.
3.Military. to break off action with (an enemy).
–verb (used without object) become disengaged; free oneself.

My relationship with the Ex ended a little over two years ago now. We have for the most part made amends. Every so often, we even talk on the phone -- he called me two months ago about a potential job opportunity at the New York branch of his company, for example. I'd say things are exactly where they need to be...but for one small, potently symbolic thing: the ring.

What exactly does one do with an engagement ring after their engagement has fallen apart?

When I broke the news to my friends that I was to leaving my fiance, they all were in unanimous agreement: I should keep the ring. It's interesting how worked up people get on the topic, actually. Time and again friends said things like "You'd better keep the damn thing!" or "You didn't give the ring back, did you???" GASP!! HORRORS! I was actually amazed at how important people seemed to think it was that I hold on to that expensive little piece of jewelry. As though it was somehow owed to me by his inability to follow through on his marriage promise.

Had the ring been purchased under more normal circumstances (my fiance decides to propose to me; he ventures out to the ring store and spends two months worth of his salary on a sizable diamond ring; he gets down on one knee and proposes) I would have had a much more difficult time doing as my friends advised. Since we had an unorthodox engagement (we both thought we were going to die during September 11th; in a frenzied period of fear and desperation I told him I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him; my sister in law gifted us a very large diamond that she somehow just had lying around; he got it set a few months later and gave it to me on Valentine's Day) I had no problem keeping the thing. But what to do with it when I no longer wanted to wear it?

For a long time it sat in a little glass dish with some knotted up necklaces and other costume jewelry on a plastic vanity shelf in my bathroom. I didn't think about it much. Sometimes after applying mascara and before dotting perfume on my wrists when heading out the door for a date with the Matehmatician, I'd stick my hand into the bowl and rattle it around, just to make sure the ring was still there. There's probably a better place to keep this thing, I'd think, then I'd dash out the door and move on with my night.

For a brief period after I moved into my new apartment last winter, it just sat on the mantle above the non-functioning fireplace in my bedroom. Out in the open. Exposed. Hanging out on the shelf with nothing better to do.

For a while I wasn't sure exactly what I wanted to do with the ring. Should I sell it? Reset the diamond and sell the setting? Recycle the setting and sell the diamond? Give it back to my sister in law? After a while, that's what I determined would be the best move. I'd get the diamond removed and deal with the setting on my own, probably by selling it and putting the money towards something greater, like my 401K or a very expensive handbag.

And today, after months and months and months of ignoring this impossibly errandy errand, I went to the Jewelry Building at 333 Washington Street and dealt with it.

"We don't buy used settings back, I'm so sorry," the Jeweler told me. "If you'd like to trade it in, perhaps look at a new piece...?" He said.

"Well, I'm not sure about that," I said. "But I want to return the center stone to my sister-in-law. Can you at least remove it from the setting for me?" I asked. I assumed I'd need to leave the ring there for him to do this, and come back and pick it up later in the week. Things like this take time, don't they?

Actually, they don't. Minutes later, the Jeweler was twisting the prongs that held the diamond in place back and forth with a pair of long, precise pliers. "Platinum," he said. "It's actually worth something. Come back when you're ready and we can discuss what you'd like to do with it."

"Okay," I smiled. "I will."

And thirty seconds later the diamond was plucked from its setting of six years, as matter-of-factly as the day I moved out of my old apartment and on with my life.

And as of today, I am officially disengaged.

I have to say, it's a good feeling.

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