The Ring Jar

By Max Bakke

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about singles.

Not Cameron Crowe’s “Singles.” Or base hits, tennis, seven-inch records, or shots of whiskey and espresso. I’ve been thinking about the $1 bill, those scraps of mostly green paper that take up space in your pocket or wallet until an acceptable vending machine, parking meter or g-string can be found.

I’ve been thinking about these singles because I’ve started saving them in a jar next to the sink in my kitchen. Someday, the money in that jar is going to buy an engagement ring for my girlfriend, and so I’m also thinking a lot about what it means to be single, too.

I’ve read that you should save singles because you’ll never miss them. Those two or three bucks at the end of the day will just burn a hole in your pockets, people say, and you might as well put them to good use by stowing them away for something bigger. But they’ve come in handy when I’ve needed coffee a bag of potato chips, or to play those great Internet jukeboxes.

It’s going to take a while to buy an engagement ring one dollar at a time, but that’s probably a good thing. That kind of unhurried pace gives you a lot of time to think about what you want, and what’s left to do, before you stop being a “single person” and become someone’s “fiancé” or “husband.”

It’s not that I’m afraid to lose my freedom, or want to continue to sow my wild oats. I’m set. I always want to know what my girlfriend thinks. About everything. She’s eternally patient with me; and I’ve figured out that hanging out with her every night is better than hanging out with anyone else anywhere else.

When I say there are there’s a lot to do, I’m talking about figuring out how to find the courage to tackle issues head on rather than avoid them, and take better care of myself, physically and emotionally.

As a single guy, I’ve always lived in fear, of everything, really—fear that I’d be cheated on, fear that I’d be hurt, fear that I’d be left, fear of being exposed as someone fearful. It’s like walking around all day waiting for a sucker punch that never comes.

But why? It could be posttraumatic stress from being emotionally water boarded in previous relationships. Whatever the reasons, the paranoia and mistrust are so strong that like clockwork, every time I start to feel comfortable, and dare I say, happy, there’s always a little voice that whispers in my head: “Don’t get used to this—it’s not going to last.”

You can waste a lot of time waiting for that punch; the waiting can take various forms. I’ve avoided certain restaurants or coffee shops, just to avoid an ex. I’ve avoided music that makes me feel a certain way. I’ve tried to will my phone to text back just so I can fill the pause in the conversation with something other than my own panic. I’ve read enough into simple Google chat conversations to convince myself to prepare for the worst.

When you’re single you can be selfish. You can spend days binge-watching Orange is the New Black, wandering Skyrim, listening to Darkness on the Edge of Town on repeat or, if you’re like me, worrying. It’s easy hide from problems, and delay the decisions that nag you forever when you’re single.

But in a relationship, that’s not an option. I’ve realized that worrying about the worst that can happen is a surefire way to trigger something that will bring it on sooner. And all that worrying is exhausting.

So when I drop those dollars into the jar, it’s a daily reminder of all that things that I need to give up so that, when that day comes, when I finally pony up all that cash for that ring, and see her (I hope!) smile when I show it to her.

I’ll be able to enjoy it.

And what will happen if, God forbid, this relationship doesn’t work out? At least I’ll have that jar, as a reminder not that I was right all along, but that it’s indeed possible to give it all up. And all those dollar bills will probably get me a sweet new home stereo.

 

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Max Bakke is a writer and freelance journalist specializing in pop culture, lifestyle and above all else, himself. He lives in New Haven, CT, with an ever-expanding record collection.


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