Dear Hobie & Monk,
Three years ago I broke (shattered is more like it) my left ring finger. My wedding rings were cut off in the emergency room. The surgeon put five pins in one bone. Since then I can’t wear rings because — to fit over my knuckle — they are too big and flop around my finger. I now wear my (repaired) wedding rings on my right hand but get lots of questions about why. Would having a ring tattoo on my left ring finger lessen the questions? Or, if I opt against a tattoo, how do I deal with busybodies?
– Can’t put my finger on the answer
Hobie: It’s just a guess, but I would be willing to bet the busybodies would have a field day with engagement and wedding ring tattoos (though it’s an extremely cool idea, by the way). I’m also sure that your friends and wildly inappropriate strangers have proposed all sorts of other solutions, from elaborate alterations to your existing rings (hinges! elastic!) all the way to elaborate indifference toward anyone rude enough to give you a sideways glance, much less a snarky opinion.
Here’s the thing about advice on an issue this deeply personal: just as you get to ignore the rude people, you also get to disregard any and all advice from kind friends (as well as from advice columnists who are clearly intrigued by the tats). Weigh your favorite ideas and mentally try them on for a bit to see — most importantly — which delights you, knowing that none will suddenly stun people into politeness.
And if I happen to see you around town sporting a new tattoo, I will keep my grin to myself.
Monk: As you consider your options, consider how you feel, specifically, about the questions. Homing in on the feelings evoked by the constant attention to your choice of ring finger will help you decide how to deal with the busybodies.
Are you tired of repeating the story? (Try saying, “I get asked that question all the time, and I’m tired of answering it” with or without a friendly smile). Do you feel angry about being probed for private information? (Try, perhaps via ring finger tattoo, “My other finger is the bird finger”). Maybe you’re stressed out by all the explaining? (In this case, affect a foreign accent and state with gravity and conviction, “You have asked of the ancient and sacred custom of my people, of which I cannot speak”).
You may be experiencing all of these feelings, and you can manage the situation that evokes them as you see fit. As Hobie suggests, you might imagine yourself employing a variety of options, but you also might want to test new responses out for real. You’re not lacking for opportunity!
How does it feel to reply with the truth: “I don’t want to talk about it?” Are you OK with leaving overly curious/nosey/friendly busybodies with a potentially unsatisfactory response (for them)? A bit of self-examination followed by a road test may be your best approach for dealing with all the unwanted attention.
Hobie and Monk are two Alexandria women with husbands, children, dogs, jobs, mortgages, unmet New Year’s resolutions, obsessions with impractical shoes, English novels … and Ph.D.s in clinical psychology. Their advice, while fabulous, should not be construed as therapeutic within a doctor-patient context or substituted for the advice of readers’ personal advisors.