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An Irish father gave his four daughters each a Claddagh ring one Valentine’s Day. At the time, we had one IBM computer set up in our basement, used for Pac-Man championships only. We were about five years away from dialing on to cyber space for the first time. It was a long time ago.

Claddagh ring

The rings were sterling silver, the fancy stuff that wouldn’t turn my hyper-sensitive skin green. I slid it on to the first finger it fit. Later that night, my father explained that the rings were a way to communicate relationship status. Huh? I was mortified when he told me I had spent the day proclaiming to the world I was married because I’d worn the ring on my left hand. So I switched hands only to learn the direction of the heart, point facing me, meant I now had a beau. The plot thickened.

The correct way for a child to wear a Claddaugh ring, in my opinion at the time, was not to wear it at all. The idea that a ring could share the secrets of my heart was both thrilling and embarrassing. It’s not as if I didn’t know what love is. Pretty woman was my favorite movie, but I wasn’t quite ready to show this romantic side of myself so I wore the Claddaugh only in private.

To this day, I still haven’t found a comfortable way to express my relationship status. I’d rather not express it at all. What do you even call a boy toy of the last 7+ years. ‘Boyfriend’ makes me feel like I’m 13. ‘Partner’ sounds very platonic, like we do si do, and put up fences then go halfsies on a hoagie – I’ve yet to read a love poem to a partner or a gut wrenching song about cohabitants torn asunder. Recent marriage statistics show that more than 50% of the United States population is unmarried. So why is there still no word for a happy, unmarried couple that has no intention of getting married?

Unfortunately, indicating nothing on Facebook made my guy scowl at his non-existent status. I surrendered to the modern relationship status update because as much I hate Facebook’s drop down options, ‘It’s complicated’ ‘In an open relationship’ and my fav ‘In a domestic partnership’, clicking a drop down is easier than trying to explain how I’ve managed to lose three Claddagh rings.

In an age where corporate giants like Apple are praised for the simplicity of their designs, why is the Claddagh ring not enough? Why complicate relationship status? The heart is taken or it’s not. Facebook is smart. They should either stop watering down relationships by trying to define them at all or be brave and add a fill in the blank and more options: “I’m afraid to be alone” “I’m lucky” or “See my Claddagh ring”.

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