Lost Journal: Dad’s Dating Advice Has a Ring of Truth to It

By Tim Mollen

Journal entry:  December 7, 1996 (age 27)

My dad has always provided pretty solid advice regarding dating.  There was the “For God’s sake, put on a nice shirt!” incident of 1991, for example.  Or the “Stop writing her letters and just ask her out!” talks throughout the Reagan administration.  And I will never forget his admonition to refrain from expressing my undying love on the first date, no matter how much I wanted to.  But Dad has outdone himself this time.  (And if you think his advice was to stop starting sentences with conjunctions, you’d be wrong.)

This weekend I made the drive from my place in Northern Virginia to my parents’ house in Vestal.  I did so in a really good mood, because I’ve been dating a fantastic woman since April.  Her name is Amanda, and she has everything I’ve been looking for – intelligence, beauty, a sense of humor and a complete disinterest in sports.  So far, I have managed not to scare her away.  My strategy involves wearing nice shirts, not writing her letters, and reserving my use of the word “love” for discussions of brands of cereal.

At dinner tonight, Mom asked what I was planning to give Amanda for Christmas.  I said that it needed to be something special, since this will be our first Christmas together.  My plan, I said, was to give her a Claddagh ring.

The Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish gift that dates back hundreds of years.  The ring’s bezel is cast in the form of two hands clasping a crowned heart, signifying friendship, trust and love.  There is added symbolism in the manner in which the Claddagh ring is worn.  When worn on the right hand, with the crown turned inward, it signifies that the wearer’s heart is not yet spoken for.  With crown turned outward on the right hand, the ring says that the wearer is considering love.  Wearing the ring on the left hand, with the crown turned inward, tells the world that the wearer’s heart is truly spoken for.

“This way,” I said to Mom, “I can give her a heartfelt gift that leaves room for some ambiguity.  She can wear it however she likes.  I know the way I like, but it’s up to her.”

Dad, who had been listening with quiet bemusement till now, set down his fork and cleared his throat.  It was obvious that an important proclamation was forthcoming.  “Speaking of symbolism, Tim, has it occurred to you what Amanda’s reaction might be if you hand her a ring box on Christmas Eve?”  After a long pause, I stuttered, “Um, uh…well, uh…,” to which Dad responded, “Correct – that’s exactly what she would say.”

Unwilling to completely give up on my idea, now I’m thinking I can give Amanda a Claddagh necklace.  It’s still traditional and special, and the box will be unambiguously larger than a ring box.  Unfortunately, there’s only one way to wear a necklace.  As far as symbolism goes, I guess I’ll just have to wait and see if she’s still wearing it next Christmas.

Tim Mollen
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