The E2 RA and I spent all of my freshman year researching what they hell this is (we had heard rumors, but no one seemed to want to divulged what it was to outsiders). We also researched the slightly related question of whether or not GR had a public school system. So now I can let the rest of the world onto this curious and strange custom.
What they are: A ring with a pearl on it. Similar to a promise ring. It basically allows you, in the words of my friend Eddie, to call “Dibs” on someone. It is also used by young students, to which circumstances/parental expectations do not allow them to become engaged. Also given if the party giving the ring is scared of commitment but wants to reassure his partner that someday he’ll want to commit. Remember: Oyster spit is absolutely binding.
Who participates in this quaint custom: Within the past two years I have observed that this custom seems to be on the decline, but nevertheless it is particularly limited to those who attended Grand Rapids Christian High and others who think it is neat. Horror stories are known of girls who would get majorely pissed if they had not received a promise ring by their four-month anniversary.
Relevance/Usefulness: Current Christian teen culture is all about rings; such as purity rings, true love waits, and silver ring thing (all mostly worn by females, as this trend has not led to a relaxing of the practice of stigmatizing males who wear pretty jewelery). Another sort of ring in this context, since it is rather related to the others, makes perfect sense.
It also leads to the reduction of stress which the unmarried at Calvin feel about finding an mate before leaving college. Hey, you may not have a diamond but you have a promise that you’ll be getting one soon