A Guest Post by Marian of Values from Scratch
One day in 11th grade my English teacher assigned us a writing exercise in which we were to come up with five poems about everyday objects. I think we’d been reading William Carlos Williams, specifically “The Red Wheelbarrow.” I love to write, but I hate poetry, so it was difficult for me. As I cast my mind about for objects special enough to write poems on (completely missing the point of the assignment) my eyes fell on my purity ring, always sparkling on my left ring finger. So yes, I once wrote a poem about my purity ring.
I don’t have it anymore, thank God. If I did, I’d want to include it here, because it was probably too freaking hilarious. However, I’m sure it would also be embarrassing beyond words. So on the whole; I’m thankful I don’t have to reveal it to the world. My poor English teacher though…
Anyway, the poem was about how the heart shape of the stone symbolized my heart (real original, huh?) and the whiteness of the stone symbolized my purity, and the brilliant, ever shifting colors symbolized my… inner fire? Passion? Something like that. The stone was an opal, hence both the whiteness and the colors. In reality, it symbolized no such thing; opal is my birthstone. But ret-conning symbolism into everyday things is standard practice for Evangelicals.
My mom gave me that ring on the occasion of my first period, which at the time made me feel all wonderful and symbolic. “She’s giving me my purity ring at the time when purity starts to really matter… now that I am a woman and capable of bearing a child.” I crowed in my head. First of all, ICK! Second of all, though I may have started my period, a 12 year old child is NOT a woman and SHOULD NOT bear a child even if their body may technically be able to get pregnant. Third of all, that wasn’t why she was giving it to me then. I had been asking for one for months, my 13th birthday was coming up, and she’d found a great deal and had purchased it to lie in wait for my 13th birthday. But when my first period happened it was traumatic (I was at my dad’s house when it started and was too embarrassed to tell him what had happened and he wouldn’t let me go back to my mom’s house unless I gave him a good reason so I ended up stuck there for like, two days with no pads or supplies of any kind. I kept stuffing toilet paper in my panties and praying I wouldn’t leak through) and my mom thought the purity ring would cheer me up.
On the whole, my purity ring was a fairly innocuous thing. Sure, I had way too much pride in it, but as far as I can remember, it really truly was my idea. I wanted the ring, my mom bought it for me; I wore it every day on my left ring finger until I got engaged. Then I moved it over to my right ring finger until I got married. For the ceremony I put it back on my left ring finger so that my husband would have to take it off to put my wedding ring on, but I didn’t make a big announcement out of it, it was a private moment. And by the time I got married, the ring was getting too tight, so I had to twist it halfway off my finger so he could remove it, a fact that in retrospect I like because it symbolizes that I was giving him my sexuality rather than him taking it, though at the time I wasn’t nearly egalitarian enough to think that way. Okay, maybe I still retroactively insert symbolism.
So the ring is in my jewelry box drawer, and I don’t know what to do with it next. I don’t regret having it or wearing it. I really was a virgin on my wedding day, and so was my husband, and I still value that. I’m happy that I will (probably) have only one sex partner my entire life. But, I’m self-aware enough to know that that was partially because if monogamy could be a sexual orientation, that’s the direction I’d be oriented in, and partially because I was only 18 when I got married, and that if I’d waited until I was in my mid-twenties, it would’ve been a lot harder to stay “pure.” Only, I don’t really think of it as “purity” any more. I wasn’t any more or less pure than a girl that had had sex… I made the choices that were right for me.
My original plan for my purity ring was that I’d give it to my oldest daughter when she turned 13, and then she’d give it to her oldest daughter, and she’d give it to her oldest daughter… and it would become this priceless heirloom thing that would get passed down through the generations. At the time, though, I fretted because “what if one of them sullied the ring I worked so hard to keep pure?” Now my thoughts range more towards, first of all, ICK! And secondly, though this was the right choice for me and I still think it is a good choice for others, I don’t want to impose my choices on my daughters and granddaughters. I want to teach them that their sexuality is theirs to own until they meet someone they want to share it with. I want to tell them that even if they choose to share it, they can take it back entirely to themselves at any time. I want to tell them that I hope the person they want to share it with will be their husband, but if it’s their boyfriend or even (I hope I’ll be open minded enough for this one) their one night stand that’s okay as long as it is their decision and as long as they are safe.
I think I have a healthier attitude now, but I still don’t really know what to do with my ring. I value it but I have no use for it. So it sits—a reminder of a different time and a different me—in my jewelry box, and for all I know that is where it will remain.
This post is part of the Purity Rings project, in which young adults who had purity rings as teens and have since come to question the rationale behind them share their stories. For more purity ring stories, click here.