After about five years, I’m finally able to tolerate a wedding ring again. My sensory processing issues have absolutely become more reactive and severe over the past few years, but even right after I got married, the feeling of the ring against my finger all day would progressively drive me crazier as the hours of wearing it ticked by. While it was a gorgeous band that went beautifully with my engagement ring, it was a bit too large after my finger girth shrunk, so its movement against my skin was unacceptable for me from a tactile perspective. We tried resizing it, yet its constant presence against my adjacent fingers, forcing them slightly apart, still drove me bananas. So, alas, the ring was safely stowed in our home and my finger went naked for years. I’d occasionally try it back on, hoping for a more favorable outcome, but it only felt worse. There is some degree of conditioning that occurs with constant wear overtime, such that the stimulus signaling its presence gets muted to a degree; at least that’s what other people say. I initially wore mine for probably 6-8 months, but was never blessed with that phenomenon; if anything, I got more keenly aware of it and uncomfortably sensitive as months passed.
My husband was not mad that I couldn’t wear it, as he’s confident in my loyalty to him, but it was something I still constantly missed and yearned for. As silly as a culturally-imposed symbol is, it’s one that I longed for, not for its outward social implications and significance, but for its inner meaning: a reminder of the special bond that only the two of us share, as teammates, partners, and loves. Obviously, Ben is always these things with me, ring or not; however, the tangible reminder of this bond serves as an emotional comfort, a hug wrapped in your favorite blanket. Since I spend so much of my time alone and away from Ben, this type of simple symbolic reminder feels especially desirable. I’ve often envied other women who seem capable of donning all types of beautiful jewelry with minimal discomfort, adorning their eyes, wrists, necks, and hair with artistic and feminine details.
These accessories are wildly uncomfortable for me, both for their tactile sensory impact and for the attention they draw. I’m so socially uncomfortable and avoidant that I never like to have anything about my appearance that may cause me to stand out. I’m shockingly self-conscious and also as fashion-blind as is possible for someone living in my part of the media-penetrated world. I have zero sense of what looks good together, what is “in vogue,” what looks good with my body type and coloring, and what is socially expected clothing-wise for various functions. This has been a blindness since young childhood; I’ve never felt I looked like my peers or looked the way others do in terms of dress and accessorizing, partly because I’ve always been childlike in stature (so appropriate professional attire, for example, is hard to come by), and also because I simply lack all skills and fluency in fashion-sense or style.
Even though in many ways I’d think that I’d gravitate towards the most sensory comfortable clothing as possible regardless of its social incompatibility, the social desire to “fit in” and especially “blend in” often trumps my desire for comfortable materials. Although my skin would much prefer to be draped in soft or seamless athletic wear or special tagless clothing and materials, my ego’s vehement loathing of potentially drawing attention by not wearing the “right” thing and looking like others around me many times “wins,” forcing me into the “I’m-trying-to-guess-what-others-will-wear-to-this-and-feeling-so-uncomfortable -in-it” camp. Despite my wholehearted research-backed attempts, I rarely ended up wearing something I felt I looked good in and helped me “fit in,” let alone something that didn’t make my cheeks burn bright red with shame and embarrassment. Ah, besides no fashion sense, I’ve also been blessed with the lifelong predisposition to turn vibrant shades of pink and red with the littlest rise in self-consciousness. Needless to say, despite being a tomboy at heart (and perhaps mind), there are definitely times I’ve longed to look prettier, more elegant, more attractive, more feminine, more mature, etc.
When I went to Las Vegas in July for the IDEA World Fitness Convention, I was introduced to a company called Qalo that makes flexible silicone rings. Qalo targets athletes and service personnel (firefighters, those in the armed services, etc.) whose lifestyle or career makes it such that traditional metal wedding bands can be uncomfortable or even hazardous. For example, while lifting weights, wedding rings dig into the skin on the palm and cause painful calluses over time; I used to have quite monstrous ones when I wore mine years ago. At the fitness expo, I tried on the Qalo bands and was pleasantly surprised with how comfortable they were. The silicone makes them smooth, light, flexible, and chemically inert (I’m allergic to many metals). They come in a variety of pretty colors and designs, and aren’t intended to mimic the “look” or a metal band with some poorly phoned in attempt; instead, they embrace their own unique appearance and do a good job creating a fresh space in the ring market with a new idea.
I immediately felt the Qalo rings would be a good alternative to traditional metal rings for other adults on the spectrum whose sensory processing issues make the discomfort of metal rings intolerable. I reached out to Qalo thanking them for making this kind of product and suggesting the autistic adult market as a potential customer base. They returned my message within the same day; talk about remarkable customer service!
When the rings arrived, I was excited to try the different styles and settled on one to test drive for the day. As to be expected, it took some getting used to (going from not wearing a ring to wearing one always will be a detectable change), but it felt much more comfortable than any other ring I’ve had and I’ve been working up to wearing it full-time. As cheesy as it sounds, I was beaming with happiness when I looked down over the course of the first day and saw my finger adorned with a band; this excitement and joy has not faded. As silly or unrelatable as it may sound, wearing a ring helps me feel even closer to Ben and more like a wife. I also feel more confident and safe, like somehow it arms me against people looking to bother me or hurt me; I imagine there’s no truth to that premonition, but sometimes just a feeling or impression alone lends itself to having a notable positive impact on one’s life.