Drew Barrymore is engaged to James Walters

True, that chunk of ice she’s wearing on this week’s cover looks big enough to be a Home Shopping Network come-on, but it’s the real thing. Ever precocious Drew Barrymore, who by her own account started drinking at 9, smoking pot at 10, snorting coke at 12, and drying out at 14, has become engaged at the ripe age of 17. Her intended is Boston-born actor James Walters, a semi-regular on ABC’s The Young Riders who has just been cast in Aaron Spelling’s new Fox series, The Heights. He’s 23, a whole 5-and-a-half years older.

”Yeah, I guess he’s an older man,” says Barrymore, whose most recent film was Poison Ivy. ”But we’re good together. We buy our furniture and dishes at thrift stores. Nothing new, because I break things.”

Theirs is a true Hollywood love story; it was arranged by their agent. ”She wanted to get us together for about a year,” says Barrymore, who had been previously linked with Corey Feldman and Jason Priestley but who insists that, pre-Walters, ”I’d never been with an actor.” The two finally met last summer, and on their first date-they tried to see Cocteau’s Beauty and the Beast, her favorite film, but ended up talking on the beach — ”we hit it off right away.”

The first six months of courtship Barrymore recalls as the ”sickening phase, where we were so mushy and gross.” But after he moved into her West Hollywood bungalow last February, life became more domestic and marginally less mushy. ”He does my laundry and I do his. He makes the bed. We garden together. It’s so cute, it’s sick.”

Walters slipped the hefty rock onto Barrymore’s finger June 20th. ”When they need one of those klieg lights for a premiere in Hollywood, they call Drew to bring her ring,” says her mother, actress Jaid Barrymore. Mom says the wedding is planned for next July, although the kids have yet to figure out where or how big. Jaid’s wedding gift will probably be something in the tattoo line, following family tradition. Drew has five, including one with James’ name (on a banner held by an angel), and one on her derriere with Jaid’s name (displayed on a cross surrounded by three angelic cherubs). ”The best thing I can give Drew,” says Jaid, who, like her daughter, wears a cross tattoo on her ankle, ”is adding a tattoo somewhere on my body with her name on it. We’ll always have each other, so who better to put permanently on our bodies? They’re painful, but it’s worth it.”