I've always thought there was something a bit strange about married men who don't wear wedding rings.
But I didn't spot a sinister trend until I met "Chris", a tall and fit trader, through mutual friends at a London members' club. After a few minutes of small talk, I surreptitiously glanced down to the third finger of his left hand while pretending to check the time. It was bare, with no obvious white lines or indentations - the single-girl code for green light.
So we clinked glasses and kept chatting. Forty-five minutes in, he asked for my number. "Chris is charming," I told our mutual friend when I went to the bar in search of a cocktail napkin to write on. "Yes, he is," she said, looking bemused. "He's also married." I was a bit stunned, not least because we had been chatting about very intimate subjects and he hadn't worked in a single mention of his wife - every one of his responses began with an "I" instead of a "we". When I asked him about his last holiday, he replied, "I went to the Seychelles last year," without mentioning that the trip was his honeymoon!
"So," I said to Chris, "Where's your wedding ring?" He gave me the old excuse: that he doesn't wear his ring because he "hates the feel of jewellery" and that it "gets in the way of his job". I'm all for banter, but Chris knew that I was a single girl looking for someone unattached. So I felt that his "innocent" chatwasn't flirting. It was false advertising.
As for the job excuse, I suppose that there are some professions (maybe RAF pilot or electrical engineer) in which wearing metal adornments could prove hazardous. But severing an appendage was pretty unlikely on the trading floor.
After a few more mojitos, Chris confessed his real motive for going ringless: he can continue to test the chemistry with unsuspecting, unattached women who don't realise his status. "When a woman sees me wearing the ring, she sees me in a certain way," Chris said. "I still get a rush from that early sexual tension - it's an ego boost; it doesn't mean that I'm going to act on it." My friend Michelle, who has had dalliances with three married men, says that the common denominator was that none of them was wearing rings when she met them. "By the time I found out, I had already slept with them," she said. "I feel sorry for their wives."
Clearly, I'm a long way from the altar. But if I'm ever going to consider wearing an engagement ring, I don't think that it would be unreasonable to ask my future husband to wear a wedding band. I've always seen it as a rather romantic symbol of a union. Besides, it's not like I'm asking him to tattoo my name on his chest.
The irony is that some of my recently married male pals tell me that women looking for no-strings sex have flocked to them since they started wearing their wedding bands. "It's like I'm more attractive because I'm seen as being 'taken'," says my friend John.
As for Chris, he unwittingly proved my theory when he called me later in the week, telling me that he and his wife were living "separate lives". So I told him in no uncertain terms that his ring finger will remain the only part of his body that I've seen naked.