The Ring of Power

I was on the phone when my six-year-old ran into the room, grabbed my hand, and began working my wedding ring off my finger. Once he’d wiggled it free, he looked up at me and grinned conspiratorially then put it on and hid behind the bed.

This has been happening for the past week or so and is a symptom of the Lord of the Rings mania that’s gripped him since we read the books together (and pointedly did not watch the movies). Apparently, my wedding ring is the Ring of Power, and he uses it to turn invisible at bedtime and cleanup time.

When I asked him why it is I don’t turn invisible when I wear it, he said in what I think was supposed to be a British accent, “It only works with its true ownah.”

But I wonder sometimes if my wedding ring really does make me invisible, or at least makes it possible for me to be invisible. We’re past the era of me being “Mrs. Husband’s Name.” My spouse and I both hyphenated our names, each taking the other’s last name and tacking it to our own, but people generally attribute my original last name to him, leaving me essentially invisible name-wise despite the hyphen.

And although I could easily fall back on the “Mrs. Husband’s Name” formality or take my spouse’s last name in a non-hyphenated form, our marriage allows me to be invisible in other ways.

I can let my spouse’s name be the only one on our utility bills and on our mortgage, making me largely invisible to creditors.

As a stay-at-home parent, I am invisible in the work world.

People in some of our social circles see us as such a package deal that they talk to one of us as a representative of both, and because my spouse is taller, louder, male, and more approachable (he smiles more and doesn’t scowl when he’s thinking), he’s usually the one who gets talked to.

Mostly, this is more an asset than a liability. Every time someone asks the question about which superpower you’d prefer—flight, x-ray vision, or invisibility—I always pick invisibility. I prefer to be anonymous most of the time. I prefer to let my words speak for themselves without my name and personality attached. I prefer to be able to leave when I want to and have people walk past me when they’re looking to gossip or engage in political machinations.

I actively do not want to be famous. If I’m known, I want to be quietly known as someone solid, someone who can be depended upon, and as someone who cares more about outcome than about getting credit.

Until my wedding ring became the Ring of Power, it didn’t occur to me that by marrying I’d actually facilitated this invisibility.

I don’t think it works the same way for my spouse. His visibility doesn’t seem affected at all by our marriage. If anything, he’s got more piled onto his identity, carrying me and our kids in addition to his career.

I wonder how this works in same-sex marriages. Is there always an invisible spouse and a visible spouse? Is this a male-female dynamic, or just intrinsic to coupled relationships? Or maybe it only happens in relationships like mine in which one party is happy being invisible.

What do you think? Is there an invisible/visible dynamic in your relationship? If so, to what do you attribute it—individual personality/preference, societal expectations, or something else?

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