It Don’t Mean a Thing (If You Ain’t Got a Ring)

I can honestly say that the idea of getting married was not a big deal to me until 2003. Before then marriage was something I had hoped to do, but mostly because I wanted to have sex and still be allowed to go to church. I wasn’t that interested in becoming a “Mrs.” or buying a starter home or getting a ring. Ok. Maybe I wanted the ring. But mostly I just wanted to have guilt-free sex.

Things changed, however, when I joined a sorority. It was then that I was introduced to the candlelight ceremony. I’m pretty sure every sorority does this, but for the uninitiated readers a candlelight ceremony was the ultimate in sororitydom.

The candlelight ceremony was how you let your sisters know that you’d gotten pinned (if you were dating a fraternity guy) or engaged. So the newly engaged sister, and those close to her, would bring a candle to the meeting and let the president know that there would be candlelight ceremony that night. At the end of the meeting we’d form a circle, turn off the lights, light the candle and pass it around while we sang a song about pretty girls in rose and white. You let the sorority know you had been pinned or gotten engaged by blowing the candle out when it was handed to you. Squealing would then begin. Because what’s more exciting to a woman pursuing advanced education in a field she’s passionate about than GETTING A RING FROM A BOY? Right?!?


Getting engaged (or pinned) is like picking teams at recess. And as you watch all your friends march down the aisle you can’t help but wonder, at times, why doesn’t anyone want to pick me?

What’s worse is that once girls get picked to be on Team Married they seem to do everything they can to make it look like the most fabulous thing to ever happen to them. Everything in their world magically falls into place and they have pictures on Facebook to prove it. Their new fiance or husband never does anything wrong and they haven’t had a negative feeling since. Well, other than being tired from all the love and wonderfulness going on, of course! And married people, especially the wives, offer their condolences for you not being married. Because who wants to miss out on this awesomeness??

I used to believe it. That getting that proposal and ring and wedding and marriage license would mean that I would be happy forever with my fabulous spouse by my side. And having the person who completes you in every way would mean you’d feel forever cherished, desired, loved, appreciated, supported and never alone. Til death do you part.

But it’s not true.

A ring, a wedding and all the guilt-free sex you can handle (more lies) don’t get rid of any of the bad feelings…

You still feel lonely when you’re silently eating warmed up lasagna together on the couch watching another episode of CSI.

You still deal with the insecurity about your breast size when he takes too long to change the channel from the Victoria Secret fashion show.

You still feel ignored and not very special when he tells you that watching that episode of CSI was date night. Duh.

You still feel sad when he doesn’t get just how devastating the “retirement” of Samantha the American Girl doll is for you.

You still feel irritated because someone can’t seem to ever fold your underwear correctly.

All you did by getting married was make a decision. You decided to enter an agreement to do your best to love each other through good times and bad. And more than half of you are going to decide you made the wrong decision within Β 5 years. Life did not, and will not, become perfect when you said “I do”. It just became different.

So if you think, like I did, that life is somehow not complete because you haven’t found your until this gets too hard forever love, then I would like to shake you. Shake you until you see that there is, more than likely, Β tons of things in your life to be thankful for and to enjoy and to be excited about that have nothing to do with your marital status.

I promise.

*Before anyone thinks this post reflects the status of my marriage, I’ll let you know that I’m more likely to write funny posts when things are “eh” and these kinds of posts when things are “awesome”. I do, however, cringe about my A-cups when the Victoria Secret commercials come on.

18 thoughts on “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If You Ain’t Got a Ring)

  1. Kathleen Quiring says:

    This was wonderful and brilliant and totally true. Marriage doesn’t fix you. Life is still life, whether you’re married or not. In some ways life becomes very different but in some ways it stays very much the same. You’ve done a beautiful job exploring that.

  2. Rebecca says:

    I love your funny posts, but I really love this one too. Besides being in agreement about a-cups, I’m with you that a significant other doesn’t make your life complete. Okay, I just wrote several sentences on this, but I think you summed it up better than I could have so I’ll just leave it at, I really love this post πŸ™‚

  3. Secret Agent "CT" says:

    I agree with everything you said in this post. Being that we are in the same sorority, I look back on candlelights semi-fondly. There are several girls that blew out their candle that I was super excited for and knew they were just heading into the next phase of their lives. Then there were other girls, that seemed to just want that little sparkly something on their all important finger and were more interested in planning their fabulous wedding instead of beginning a marriage. (Remember Leslie’s candlelight…what happened there? Poor Joey.)

    Anyway, I think too many girls/women want a sort of status symbol of being engaged or married. Then after the wedding, they seem to realize that the fabulous wedding they planned created a marriage that requires work at times. A marriage wasn’t what they signed up for…they just wanted to have a ring and wedding!

    I sometimes wish that I had gotten engaged in college….just so that I could have had a turn blowing out the candle and hearing the squealing. Then been requested to tell over and over, how did he do it? Just to hear awws. But I am thankful for the way that I was proposed to, when the time was really right. We had been through the “for better or worse” and “in sickness and health”. We knew that this was forever and what we both truly wanted. It wasn’t a “status symbol” or just to blow out a candle. During our 4 years of dating, we learned what it meant to be partners, best friends, and to depend on one another. We weren’t college kids anymore and had life changing events happen where we could have just thrown in the towel. It all happened the way it was supposed to happen and I’m thankful for that.

    Marie, I think we are the lucky ones for not having a candlelight in college. We have great husbands and marriages. If you want, you can come over and we’ll have our own candlelight. We can take turns passing a candle back and forth, then blowing it out. I’ll do my best to act surprised and beg you to tell me your engagement story again. I’ll eww and aww over you and ask to see your ring. (again) πŸ™‚ Then we can go to McDonald’s to celebrate! lol

  4. Emily says:

    Like CT, I know we’re also from the same sorority, and I’ve seen so many candlelights, but never had one of my own. That’s one of those funny things that I hope I’m close enough to an alumni chapter one day so I can still have a candlelight. I will say that I’m glad I didn’t end up with any of the guys from college. I wasn’t ready then, and they weren’t right. While I hope the best for every one of my sisters who have gotten married (and that’s most of the ones from my time at school), I also know that I have the opportunity to learn for my own future. Even with observation, things may not work out for me, but I have the opportunity to learn about how to love from these couples. From people like you. So thank you!

    • Secret Agent "CT" says:

      Emily – Marie and I were in the Kappa Pi chapter at the same time. That’s how we know one another. What chapter were you in and when? Maybe we’ve met at state day?

      PS. I didn’t even think about doing a candlelight with an alumni chapter when I got engaged. If that doesn’t work out for you, I’m sure Marie and I would be up for witnessing you blow out your candle. We’ll act surprised. πŸ™‚

      • Emily says:

        I’m from the Gamma Alpha chapter at William and Mary. I had been talking about finding alumni chapters when Marie and I realized we were both Phi Mus. I told her that if I have a road trip opportunity, I’ll come visit and meet her IRL. If you’re there too, it can be a party!

      • Secret Agent "CT" says:

        Sounds good Emily! However, I’m only in if a McDonald’s is part of the deal. lol (I’m totally kidding.)

  5. Linda says:

    CT you seems funny and sweet!

  6. Elisa says:

    Haha, well that might help explain some of my singleness over the past 10 years. During our candlelights I’d always hold my breath hoping that certain girls I knew were going to blow the candle out didn’t. What were they giving up? Sex with one guy for the rest of their lives? Tied down and chained in? I broke out in hives FOR them! πŸ˜›

    Since then I’ve seen MANY a friend get engaged, get married, have kids, the whole shebang. A few have ended in divorce, I’m happy to say that MOST of my married friends are happily together (though, doing some quick math, I gotta say that a good 50% of the sisters who blew out those candles are most definitely not together any more.)

    It makes me curious with the whole ceremony. Or moreso the idea behind it. I mean sure, there’s the hives thing, but overall the squealing joy and overwhelming happiness WAS nice. But how many got engaged or pinned or committed a little too quickly (I’m sure you had that girl too…one day she was dancing on the bar in the basement of the fraternity house and less than 45 days later she was getting married…how does that happen?!) for the pure excitement and thrill of it? Of those who did, how many are still together.

    You may not have had the squealing ceremony, but from reading your posts I think you ended up with a whole lot more. But you already know that. πŸ™‚

  7. Katie says:

    My sorority had the candle light ceremony, too. Of course, most of the girls who had the ceremony in honor of their engagements? They never actually the guy they were engaged to. Some of the girls later married other people, but only one of them who had the ceremony actually married the guy she was engaged to at the time of the ceremony. I’ve taken the whole thing as a sign that getting engaged when you’re 19 or 20 really doesn’t mean anything…

    I’m getting married in a month and a half. I’ve never really understood the fairy tale thinking where marriage was supposed to be this super happy perfect thing where nothing bad–and no bad feelings–ever happen. I’m excited to be marrying the guy I’m marrying. I still know, though, that at some point, we’re both probably going to think, “Why the hell did I ever marry this person?” I think we have the stuff to make it through those moments, but…

    Another thing: while I’m super excited to change my facebook status to “engaged” and to know we’re going to be married soon and to take really cute engagement pictures, that doesn’t make the rest of my life perfect. I want so badly to find a job where I feel satisfied, and where I am successful. I want to be appreciated by my peers for my intellect and ability, not the size of the ring on my left hand. I want to do something big, and I don’t necessarily think that getting married or even having children will ever qualify. I have other needs, other goals, other desires. I don’t think you can be a truly healthy person–married or otherwise–unless you have OTHER things you want, other areas you where you want to grow and do something good.

    I’m not sure whom this is directed at, but I think a lot of girls probably need to hear it. Falling in love is amazing. Getting married is wonderful. And certainly, parts of marriage are very gratifying and a lot of fun. But there are so many other things to strive for, things that can be just as amazing and wonderful and gratifying and fun. No use missing out on them because you’ve got blinders on in pursuit of marriage.

    • Secret Agent "CT" says:

      Katie – because I’m so very obviously the co-author on this blog since I take over the comments section… I can’t stop myself. Congrats on your upcoming wedding! It sounds like you have a realistic view on marriage and the umph to make it work. πŸ™‚ Best wishes for a long and happy marriage!!

  8. Miranda says:

    Thanks for enlightening (no pun intended… really) about this whole ‘candle lighting’ ceremony thing that seemingly occurred on campuses all over the place… I didn’t get into the whole ‘sorority’ thing so maybe that’s one of the reasons I was never bothered (or threatened) by the engagement/proposal aspect of college life.

    I remember that when I was pregnant with Canyon I had a slight urgency that seemed to creep up so I didn’t feel as though a scarlet ‘A’ was emblazoned on my chest… but, I wised up and realized that my child would be no less loved if his momma and daddy didn’t have a marraige license and wedding photos prominently displayed for him when he arrived. James and I have been together now 6 years, have already outlasted many of our friends marraiges, and are seemingly more happy than most others so this ‘baby’s mama’ is just fine with her status….

    However, the wedding (when it does happen)… will be an event to remember πŸ˜‰

  9. Hey! I found your journal through mine…I think you or someone else visited it and your link popped up.

    I completely agree with your article, though I’m not married yet. I don’t get where girls (and guys, too, but they don’t seem to talk about it nearly as often) get this idea that life will be perfect once they’re married. My relationship with my fiancee isn’t perfect and it never will be. I’m not happy every second…it’s not unusual for me to be pissed off for days on end. That’s not going to change once I’m married. I, of course, don’t know exactly what to expect out of a marriage. I don’t presume to know everything about it (though most people think I am making such a presumption), but I’m not so naive to think that marriage makes life oh-so-wonderful. I guess I can be thankful for that…maybe keeping a level head will help me make it work.

    Being engaged isn’t such a huge thing…I don’t see why so many girls obsess over it. And that candlelight thing is…strange. o_O So thanks for the post!

  10. Monica says:

    Marker and CT when you two have you candlelight ceremony I wanna come. You know, so I can squeal and awe too!

    • Secret Agent "CT" says:

      Monica!! I’ve missed your comments. How are you? About the candlelight, it’s tonight at 5. So you only have like 15 minutes to get to my house… HURRY!! πŸ™‚

  11. Akirah says:

    I hope you’re right.

    And I hope I can believe this more and more as I adjust to my new entrance into singlehood.

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