Andy Lee, 200 ring emojis and the pity we throw at perfectly happy couples.

Andy Lee and Rebecca Harding have been together for nine years. 

We know that because Andy – TV host, comedian, one-half of the likeable kings of all-media Hamish And Andy – just marked the milestone on Instagram. 

He posted pics of him and Bec (as he always calls her) nine years apart, in New York City. In the new picture, just like the old, their smiles are as wide as the frame. They look happy. They always do. Lee has never shied away from public displays of love and praise for his partner, his person, the woman he lives with, owns a home with, the woman who's 'mum' to their puppy.  

But for us, his 370,000 followers, it's not enough. It's never enough. We're hungry for the next stage. 

The comments on this post, like most of the others that feature Bec, are a river of diamond-ring emojis. 

"Put a ring on it, mate!" 

"I thought this was an engagement post. I am disappointed once again." 

"Come on, Andy, it's time to get down with the diamond." 

It's always the same. Beyoncé lyrics, armchair analysis. Much urging to Bend The Knee


I know, I know, stories pulled from the comments sections are lazy, a cheap hit. They can elevate trolls to the status of legitimate counsel. But in the case of this singular, overwhelming reaction to something as innocuous as a picture of a happy couple, they can also tell you a lot about our culture.

And our culture is confused by Andy Lee and Bec Harding. They seem happy. They seem in love. They've been together for NINE YEARS. Why aren't they married? 

Why, though?



Obvious answer #1: None of our damn business. 


Obvious answer #2: If they wanted to be, they would be. The budget for a party doesn't seem to be an issue. Back off. 

Obvious answer #3, also a question: Why do we persist in viewing de-facto relationships as less than? As nothing more than a waiting room for the real thing? 

And a follow-up question: Why do we choose to believe that a woman, in particular, is deeply unhappy about her unmarried status? Like it's an embarrassment to her, a glaring public statement about her desirability? 

The most toxic of all tropes about relationships that don't fit into the narrow space we've carved out for acceptable hetero love stories is this one: That Poor Woman.

The pity we level at women who are just brazenly walking around with a bare ring finger is, frankly, bizarre. It robs her of all agency about her life and her choices and reduces her to the idea she is really just suspended in time, waiting to be chosen. It suggests that right up until the moment 'he' decides to pick her off the shelf, she is roiling in some sort of existential confusion about her status.  

With a ring on her finger, we know what to do with a woman. Exhale, you're chosen. Sorted. 

Image: @wainwrightholly Instagram.


Full disclosure. My partner and I have been together for 18 years. We are not married. We have never wanted to be married. 

It has never been a priority, and I've never been attracted to the word wife. As in, I don't want to be one of those.

My partner and I have two children. We have a mortgage. We have a dog. For a while there, we had a white picket fence, which we have swapped for an unruly hedge, but I digress. 

We do not have rings, or a picture in a frame of a white-dress day. Or a shared surname. Or a legally binding certificate professing our commitment. 


What we do have is a real, messy, heart-filling, nerve-shredding, honest-to-goodness relationship that we choose, daily, to stay in. For us, it works. Just fine. 

There's nothing uncertain about it. We are together. We are in love. We are a pair. We are family.

Maybe that's what Andy and Bec want. Maybe it's not. Maybe next week the engagement post or the surprise wedding announcement will drop, and all the passive-aggressive ring emojis will explode into a riot of confetti-sprinkling delight. 

But if it doesn't, their relationship, their long-term love, isn't any less legitimate. Any less real.

It's 2023. We have marriage equality. We also have monogamish. We have throuples. We have couples who have "opened up" their relationships. We have people living 'together apart'. There is no mystery to the divorce statistics, should be no stigma in leaving an unhappy relationship to find something safer or more fulfilling. And yet, with all the variables, the straight world remains stubbornly fixated on one perceived truth: It's not serious until there's a ring.

We flat-out refuse to entertain the idea that Not Everyone Wants The Same Thing.

And we'd like it, please, if you would do the Same Thing to make the rest of us feel comfortable. 


Here's a case study for you: I'm having dinner with a friend. She is two glasses in and she starts to cry. She's about to go on holiday with her boyfriend of five years. To Europe. Sounds terrible. 

The problem is, she says, that any time they go anywhere, all of her friends, all of her family, all of the people she barely knows on Facebook and Instagram and in group chats, come alive: 'Maybe he'll propose!' ''Oh my God, he's totally going to propose!' 'Get your nails done, babe, time for the ring shot!' It's the same at Christmas. At New Year. On her birthday. 

My friend doesn't give a stuff if he proposes. She has never dreamt of a fancy dress and a gold ring. But she can't stand all the projecting. No one believes that she doesn't care as much as they do. It almost makes her not want to go on holiday at all, with all that pressure, and all the pitying sounds and looks that will come her way when she gets back from Greece without a ring. 

I don't want to get married, she says. But maybe we should, just to shut them all up. 

And here's another case study, just to really loop you in on the mayhem: An old friend has just proposed to his girlfriend of two years. 

He tells me over drinks. Once the congratulations and the questions about the ring and the wedding date and all the formalities are done, I asked him why he did. We're properly old friends. I knew he'd tell me the truth.  


She was insecure about my ex, he said. I wanted her to know I liked her better.

Rings on fingers say a lot of things. They say, All your friends know you're special, now. They say, Yes, I'm taken. They say, See, I like you better than the last one

And of course, they say, I love you. I choose you

But so do lots of other things. So does making the commitment to make a home together. So does meeting each other's families. So does putting someone else's needs before your own, even just sometimes, every day. So does hearing all of each other's messy stories, unpicking each other's mysteries and hang-ups, and staying all the same. So does slowly creating a shared history, so you now have joint stories, and mysteries and hang-ups. So does celebrating someone else's successes, loudly, publicly, proudly. So does choosing to become parents. So does texting someone just before a plane takes off. So does bringing them a cup of tea in the morning. 

So does choosing, every day, to stay in each other's lives because you want to. Because it's worth it, what you've built. Because it makes your life better, not worse. Because you love each other, even on the days you don't like each other that much. 

You don't need a ring to say any of that. 

You just need the two of you to know it's true. 

Image: @andytomlee and Getty. 

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