I would make a terrible Hobbit. If I was one I would be one of those jaunty stay-at-home, cravat-wearing Hobbits tending the shire and harvesting cabbages in a jolly fashion because I clearly cannot be trusted to go on some life-affirming quest with a ring. Not even a month after getting our engagement rings, I went and lost mine.
A mix of losing weight and having the only sized ring my bizarrely small hands could hold meant that my first band slipped off and vanished. And just like Frodo, I felt invisible without mine. The first piece of jewelery I had ever owned was maybe gone.
I, of course, turned the house upside down (while in my boxer shorts) like a deranged Gollum on the desperate prowl for my precious. My fiancé tried to kindly (and calmly) say it didn’t matter, but it did. We were meant to be going on vacation in the coming weeks. I wanted to hold hands in engaged unison and take up the privilege of public displays of hand-holding your average British high street still denies us.
I upturned our entire apartment. I retraced our every move. I upturned our apartment again, retraced some more moves and still nothing. Meanwhile, as I had been Golluming in frustration – complete with almost arguing with myself for being so pitifully lax – Elliot had been online and ordered a new one. I was cowering in a corner bashing a fresh fish for answers, and he had it all sorted. A few days later as we were packing for vacation, the brand new ring arrived. Slightly mortified at my queeny panic and still making apologies to the neighbours for rooting through the trash cans in my underwear at least twice, I was fearful of this step-engagement ring -- a circular interloper that was trying to charm its way into my affections without any shared history. But with said vacation looming, I piled all my clothes on the bed for a gay city-break quality test only to instantly find engagement ring # 1 sat on a collar of a polo shirt. More confused mental back-peddling -- and a quick concern our house is actually haunted -- could only surmise that drunken laundry folding late on a Saturday night can result in a loss of loose-fitting finger bling. Our little engagement bubble had been lent a serious blow, but the relief was colossal.
I don't know many straight couples in similar situations who get that frozen second look when answering medics’ “and who are you to the patient?”. I lost count of the times I held up my ring-bearing palm like some defiant ring of Thor as I answered: “Fiancé,” and get thrown that eyebrow-twitching moment of “I see…”. It was not prejudicial. Just sloppy, insensitive and curiously over-compensatory - which is equally uncomfortable especially when you are just trying to be a responsible adult for another adult.
Despite a coven of unpleasant and not overly gay friendly nurses cackling otherwise, Elliot had fractured his spine in four places. It could have been worse. Though his pain and the chaotic attempts at pain relief could not feel much worse. Two months into our engagement and with wedding plans instantly curtailed with a Nil By Mouth sign of their own, I was now a hospital bedside wife, ever familiar with visiting times, which café did the better coffee and somewhat contrasting with the other lady spouses flanking their loved ones and taking their plastic seats with a daily habit I didn’t want to be familiar with. And I don’t suppose any of them went to the trouble of finding which ward window their loved one was just inside so as surprise them with a knock on the glass just as a head nurse notices and almost calls security. I nearly flashed my ring, but am not sure such credentials hold sway with stern-faced ward madams at midnight. Next of kin has a particular resonance to LGBT communities. Denied us for too long it was always like holding hands in public – a straight privilege. Now fortified by equal marriage, it was clearly one of the key pieces of social admin we needed equalising. Until you are thrown headlong into a medical drama with your loved one utterly in your palm of responsibility none of us factor in this particular new benefit of getting married, how it fortifies a gay relationship - and perhaps ultimately more for the couple in question than other people.
We had to cancel the vacation. But with all tests and examinations mercifully coming back clear for Elliot, we tried again a month later. Our engagement holiday was important to us. It was not easy (although airlines, airports, and hotels are thankfully far less eyebrow twitching when it comes to the gays). I left my ring in the apartment every day we were on the beach, folded no laundry, we held hands, and did what folk do on vacation. On the return journey, I insisted Elliot save his weak back by taking a wheelchair through the cavernous airports. There is nothing sillier than jumping the passport checks and border controls realizing you both look like a newly engaged Richard Burton and a wheel chair-bound Elizabeth Taylor, minus the knee blanket and Milan furs. I bet Liz never lost any of her 29 rings folding the laundry. It turns out my ‘precious’ is not my engagement band, but the man who wears an identical one to me and can take a Liz Taylor gag very much at his expense.
Next up in TALES FROM THE THRESHOLD : An interview with the county wedding registrar turns into a quiz show we lose points on and why being given a wedding date you cannot change is terrifying.