Day 76: The Middle Finger

Now that I’m carrying a bit of bling on my left hand ring finger, I noticed myself paying obsessive attention to the location of rings on passersby.

While many of my colleagues are married, very few habitually wear rings to indicate it and when they do they appear on both the left and right ring fingers, seemingly completely and totally random. So, I totally get that often European countries wear the wedding band on the right and if they have an engagement ring they’ll wear it on the left — very few stacking like we do in the states.

But I had to know what was up with the inconsistencies, so in I dug with both hands. In a country so meticulous as China, where there are rules for when you can eat hot/cold/warm food based on all sorts of factors, there has to be some sort of common understanding of what finger & why.

So here’s what I found out…

When Western influence was allowed in the country and rings became more affordable post-Cultural Revolution economic reforms (let’s say 80s, but really more like the 90s when this really starting happening) they started appearing on a lot more fingers across the country. But because it’s a relatively new custom, there are variations on how rings are used, if at all and when.

For some couples, a woman will wear the wedding ring on her left hand and the man on his right representing yin and yang. But I also read that some believe a woman should wear her wedding band on the right side, as women in Chinese tradition are head of the household, and right symbolizes power. And according to word on the street (or really one colleague + Internet search) many couples have wedding rings, but put them away to “protect” it and only wear on special occasions like anniversaries or holidays.

Okay, here’s an interesting tidbit: in Chinese tradition, higher status for men is indicated by having a slew of young ladies (concubines) and wearing a ring would totally cramp that style. So as a result modern guys still don’t wear wedding bands. I also was told by a few that “exclusivity” isn’t assumed because marriage is often for social & financial gain and not love so a ring is “meaningless” (their word not mine). Yikkkkkeesss.

There are a few ladies at my office who proudly boast a wedding band and for many of them next to it on their middle finger sits a blinging big diamond — their engagement ring. The middle finger symbolizes structure, balance, conscience, order, and is associated with Saturn (which has linkage to fertility) which I really like and makes me feel a whole lot better about getting the middle finger back in New York.

This is not a picture of anyone I know. I was afraid my colleagues would be too weirded out by me taking pictures of their engagement rings so I just borrowed this one of the web.

So in conclusion what I discovered is there is no rhyme, but certainly a lot of reasons and I’m certain that’s just the tip of the tip of the iceberg (or diamond).

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