Q: Is it proper to wear an engagement ring posthumously?
It's a sad story. In brief, my fiance' (of six days) died after we decided to get engaged. We got engaged on Aug. 29, 1981, and he passed away six days later without telling his children. (They learned about the engagement from me shortly after his death.) The main reason we didn't tell his children (grown-up) was that we were all supposed to attend a big bash of a party just around the time that my ring would be ready, and we were going to announce it then, with the permission of the hostess of party, who knew all about it.
Anyway, that was a year and a half ago . . . and now I did purchase the ring myself with some of my inheritance from him. At first, after learning of his death, I canceled the ring, but then wanted it very badly, as it was intended for me and it would be his last gift to me after death.
The ring is a magnificent 11-carat gem with a diamond on each side of the gem. He and I both designed the setting that day in the jeweler's.
Miss Manners, what should I do about wearing the ring? I want to wear it on my engagement ring finger--that's not the problem--the problem is wearing it at all! Some people say not to, it's tacky. His children have no idea about the ring. Is it ridiculous to wear a ring that size and have people ask me how, what, where and when, and I have to explain that I'm not engaged, no, it's my engagement ring from my deceased fiance'!
I was going to wear it at a huge party that I'm shortly going to attend, and everyone there will have known he and I were together for seven years, and I know that everyone will be asking questions about the stone.
Please help me to do the proper thing with confidence. We were very much in love.
A: Eleven carats? Eleven? Miss Manners is trying conscientiously to concentrate on the poignant aspects of you situation, but she keeps getting sidetracked.
For instance, the only person who can wear an engagement ring posthumously is the dead member of the engaged couple. And then there is the matter of your late fiance''s haveing passed away without telling his children that he was going to do so.
Miss Manners is rather ashamed at herself for letting these thoughts pop into her mind. After all, you are consulting her on your etiquette problems, not your literary ones. Please forgive her.
There is no rule of etiquette to prevent you from wearing a ring symbolizing an engagement terminated by death. Considering the size of it (it does sound a bit flashy for Miss Manners' taste, but she will not attempt to impose that taste upon you) it is very likely that people will remark upon it, and you can explain briefly. That does not seem to Miss Manners to be too difficult. People wear rings on the left hand for many reasons--perhaps if one has inherited one's mother's engagement ring, for example--none of which are subject to extreme social scrutiny.
Miss Manners must warn you, however, that few people believe in engagements made public only after the death of one of the people concerned. Fair or not, society tends to be cynical about the suddenly announced intentions of people who are not there to confirm or deny them, and the Dead Secret Fiance' has long been a standard character in the lives of unmarried women, to whom it lends a charming air of tragedy.
One does not necessarily base one's personal decisions on the often harsh judgments of society, but you should take them into account and decide how much that is likely to matter to you. If the children deny the existence of the engagement, you might find that you are deriving more emotional damage than comfort from the gesture.
It is Miss Manners' hope that society will behave with more compassion and restraint, beginning with herself.