When you’re a woman traveling alone, hungry men often misunderstand the wedding ring. They believe you are wearing the wedding ring to stave off undesirable suitors. None of them consider themselves undesirable.
With a wink, they say, “I know you’re not married.” It’s unfathomable a married woman would travel alone. I must be single and read in a guidebook that wearing a wedding ring would scare off the riff-raff. The riff-raff, however, wouldn’t be deterred by a wedding dress if they smelled what they like.
One overcast day in Ireland, I visited the Dublin Writer’s Museum. In the grand room, a group of tourists and I listened to an actor pretending to be James Joyce while reading Joyce’s work.
I was obsessed with Irish writing in my youth and was transported by this dark-haired man in his antique suit as he swooned us with his brogue. It seemed to me, as his Irish eyes peered into mine, that he was reading to me alone.
My theory was confirmed when he approached me afterward and invited me to tea. Because tea was around the corner and not down a dark alley or through a discrete catacomb beneath the museum, I agreed.
Why not interview a man who made a living being my literary hero? It wasn’t a date. He was James Joyce. I was an avid reader. I have long forgotten what I once knew about James Joyce, but those many years ago, my tongue was gold with Joycean knowledge and anecdotes.
We sat and discussed Joyce and other Irish writers for an hour. I felt as if I were walking through the pages of Irish literature with a worthy guide. What a happy little pretentious English Major I was that day.
After the hour of our discussing Irish literature settled down, the conversation turned to me. What was I doing in Ireland? Who was I? What were my interests? Did I write? Did I know how lovely I was? Was I available for tampering?
Of course, those were not his exact words, but there came a moment when the mood shifted from my interest in literature to his interest in me. I don’t know why men need to be so hyperbolic.
I was not the perfect woman, and when I was accused of such an atrocity, I became utterly disappointed. Bummer, I thought. He was no longer Joyce, and I was no longer the invisible reader.
I‘m married, I explained to him.
If you were happy, he said, he would be here with you.
No, I said. That’s not how it works.
He smiled playfully. When he ceased to be Joyce, the walls between us lowered. He reached across the table for my hand, which I quickly threw onto my lap.
Oh, I know you’re just wearing that wedding ring to be left alone when you’re traveling, he said.
It’s not working, I said.
I could fall in love with you, he said.
Why? I answered.
I have never met anyone like you, he said.
You say that like it’s a good thing, I responded.
Everything you say is the most delightful, hilarious thing I have ever heard, he said, laying it on a little thick for my bullshit detector.
I searched for the exit.
Well, thank you for the tea, I said, putting my money on the table. Not a date. You’re very good at being Joyce, I said on my way out.
He stood and handed me his business card. His name, occupation, phone number, and email.
If you are ever in Ireland again, he said, please look me up.Especially if you change your mind.
Change my mind about what? I said. He smiled devilishly.
I left my Joycean actor at the pub where I imagined he traded his tea for his whiskey and kept his eyes open for more lost American girls with fake wedding rings.
I walked to a local square and laid back on some steps to feel the brief appearance of the Irish sun on my face. I felt a shadow above me and looked up, expecting the see the Joycean actor.
It was not him. It was a young man in a cablenet sweater bending down to kiss me. I pushed away his pucker with my hand.
Jesus, I said. Who are you?
He laughed. You looked so lovely laying there. I thought I would try for a kiss.
I quickly looked down at what I was wearing, the way women are trained to do when too many wolves appear. Jeans, a hoodie and sandals. Nope, not a bustier, hot pants, and stilettos. Maybe hoodies are sexy in Ireland. Who knew?
For some stupid reason, I held up my wedding ring, like that was the reason I was not available for a kiss. Not that we were strangers. Not that I wasn’t interested in making out with some random dude in a plaza. But because I was married.
I know that’s not real, the man said, smiling like a wolf.