The first time I was engaged, I was in the third grade. His name was Nico. He lived down the road from me and we rode the same bus. This is the extent of things we had in common.
During art class one week, we made rings out of beads. For third graders, these rings were impressive; intricate and pretty. Apparently, Nico made his ring with me in mind. I don’t think we’d ever engaged in conversation until the day he insisted I take his art class ring.
As far as beaded rings go, it wasn’t bad; small pink and white beads supported a large white bead in the center… an engagment bead, I think.
Unable to dissuade him from bestowing this gift, I took the ring, thanked him, put it in the pocket of my favorite burgundy jeans, and headed off to the monkey bars. He reached out and grabbed my skinny ten-year-old arm firmly just above the elbow. At that moment, his intention became clear… I was to wear the ring.
I rolled this idea over in my mind, standing there with him holding onto my arm… I wasn’t allowed to refuse the ring, and I was required to wear it?
I uttered the words that all third graders are familiar with… “Make me”. Game on.
He wrestled me to the hard packed, sandy soil and forced that pink ring on my finger. He was a lot stronger than he looked ~ and wiry. I remember sitting there, dust swirling around me, my face feeling tingly where he’d ground it into the dirt, unwelcome ring on my finger, watching him walk away.
I didn’t have adequate vocabulary or relationship experience then, but if I had, I would have yelled something like “Screw you, you big jerk!” Instead, I sat there and made a plan to salvage my life as a third grade girl…
I learned to always carry the ring with me in a little plastic box and put it on when he was nearby. Sometimes, I wouldn’t see him in time and we’d have that same, exact throw down all over again; always ending with that pink ring looming large on my finger and him strutting away like a very skinny banty rooster.
By the time fourth grade rolled around, he’d forgotten our commitment and things went back to normal. I think about him sometimes and wonder what kind of man he is today. Is he married? Did he have to pin her to win her?
I do hope she likes jewelry.