cast-net (copy) year end (copy)

A fisherman casts for bait during a September sunset at Brittlebank Park in Charleston. It's probably better not to use your teeth when casting the net. Matthew Fortner/Staff

It’s a cultural thing I suppose, but I’ve heard it said that Southern men — and including men who have moved to the South — are less likely to wear wedding bands than men living outside of the South. I don’t know why this came into being, and the custom may simply be more prevalent in Charleston than elsewhere, because to tell the truth I haven’t observed a lot of such behavior outside the Holy City.

There’s no question that many gentlemen living in Charleston do not wear wedding bands (although, of course, many do), and the reason why they don’t is because their wives don’t expect it based on the habits of family tradition. Now gentlemen insisting on wearing wedding bands would represent a different matter, but I have the feeling most would opt out if given the opportunity (I know I would) because they don’t like wearing stuff. Still, I do have to say that some of my married gentleman friends proudly wear an heirloom, high school or college ring on their right hand.

In any event, my father (although a come'yuh from New Jersey) wore no rings of any kind, and neither did my maternal grandfather. My mother was a Charleston girl and her mother, although born in Newnan, Ga., had strong Charleston connections. Neither expected her husband to wear a wedding band.

My wife’s family, proud Southerners on both sides and with no Charleston affiliation, expect their gentlemen folk to wear wedding bands. So guess what? “I wear the ring,” to quote Pat Conroy’s famous opening line from the prologue of The Lords of Discipline.

As alluded to above, I may not be much of a jewelry guy — and not that I’d ever (seriously) consider doing such a thing — but if I really wanted to stir up some domestic trouble, I’d make the case that wedding bands are potentially hazardous to health — even dangerous. Before everybody’s imagination starts running wild, have you even caught a ring on something that ends up giving the involved finger an uncomfortable pull?

Ask "Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon. He can tell you all about it. As some may recall, he suffered a horrific injury a few years ago when he tripped at home, started falling, tried to break it by grabbing a table, only to have his wedding band catch an edge and hang on to it like a snapping turtle. Meanwhile, Fallon kept falling and ended up nearly having his finger ripped off.

This type of injury, known as finger avulsion, is rare but potentially devastating, up to and including complete amputation. So maybe that explains why certain Charleston gentlemen don’t wear wedding bands. Three hundred years ago, we’ll say that one Lucas Pinckney Mazyck had a similar injury. The particulars have been forgotten, but word may have persisted that fellows better stay away from them things.

Not that you heard it from me or anything ...

Another caution

And that reminds me, now that we’re on the pleasant subject of finger amputation and so forth, of a recent conversation I had (with my wife, fittingly enough) wherein I was told that you better not throw a cast net while biting and securing the edge of the net. You might end up ripping one or more of your teeth out.

It’s bad enough flubbing a cast over a school of menhaden. Your mates are sure to give it to you every which way until you finally manage to get it right. Can you imagine flubbing a cast and having a couple of teeth or even a set of dentures flying in the drink along with the wayward and crumpled net?

Not good ... not good at all. Which is interesting, because I’ve never not thrown a cast net without biting down and securing the edge of it with my teeth. And, thankfully, they’re still all there. It’s better — so I’ve been informed — to purse firmly with the lips or perhaps avoid the mouth altogether.

Edward M. Gilbreth is a Charleston physician. Reach him at