Many of you have been asking me for months and months to start a conversation about getting engaged. Since we started wedding undergraduates yesterday, it seems fitting to move a step backwards: to the wedding sandbox, if you will.
First, let me say that I think there are two lines of cultural chatter about engagements, and if it is even possible, I think they are more screwed up than our cultural dialogue about weddings. The first is, in short, that a guy has to do something TOTALLY INSANE to wow you, and that the quality of your love and your manliness will be judged by that, and by the size of the rock. Your job in this scenario is to wait patiently (duh), and save your energy for how totally insane YOU will need to go while planning the wedding. Fabulous. The second line of chatter is, very simply, that if you get proposed to by a man, you are not a feminist (excuse me?) let alone practical (whatever that means).
So. Obviously I think both of those lines of thought are (as one of my acting teachers used to dryly put it) maybe-not-so-helpful. What would *my personal* alternative line of thought be? Well, first I’m going to quote recent wedding graduate Cara and say that the first rule of getting engaged should be, “Know thyself and be thyself.” The second rule of getting engaged should be open and clear communication with your partner.
What do I mean by that? Well, let me talk you through how we thought about our engagement. First of all, we had a proposal. By which I mean, David proposed to me. Why? Well, I wanted that to happen. Perhaps I read too many Victorian novels growing up, or perhaps it’s just that we’re both theatre people and we like big moments, but I wanted a proposal, so I told David that. And then we discussed it a little. He ruled out proposing in public (‘makes it look like you’re afraid you can’t close the deal’* he said). I ruled out him picking a ring for me (as if!) So, as discussed, we both got what we wanted. And he didn’t get down on one knee (‘too cliche,*’ he told me, when I offered my review of the performance afterward).
So then it was just timing. And timing is, in many ways, the real meat of the issue. I heard somewhere recently that, “Being pre-engaged sucks, because you’re just waiting on him, and you have no control over the timing.” And I swear to god, my head almost exploded. Because you’re getting married, it’s time to start getting on your-joint-timing, not his-timing or your-timing. And I mean that in a fairly complicated way. To be frank, I was ready to get married before David was ready to get married. I think we both knew from way way back that unless something unexpected happened (like the world exploding), we were probably going to get married. But knowing you want to get married to someone and feeling emotionally ready to get married to someone are two totally different beasts. So what did we do about our timing? Well we handled it the way we handle most of our problems, by which I mean we yelled at each other and then we calmed down and talked it through. During that process, I realized I need to re-adjust a few things in my head, because getting engaged to someone who isn’t ready to be engaged is unwise. So was I waiting? Yeah, sort of. But I wasn’t waiting because he was the guy and I am the girl, and I wasn’t this-is-out-of-my-hands waiting, I was couple waiting… you know, where you sometimes have to slow down a little to let your partner do things at their own speed.
So. What do I have to say to all you that are, achem, pre-engaged? Know thyself and be thyself. Maybe that means saying you want a proposal and knowing you can still be a feminist and want that. Maybe it means you get off your ass already and propose to him (all the best ladies have). Or maybe you say f*ck the proposal and go straight to the engagement (or f*ck the engagement and go straight to the wedding, for that matter.)
And if you haven’t had a heart to heart with your partner about this yet, put down the computer and go do it. Finally, I’d say, if you are feeling out of control of the situation, take a deep breath. Being married is like learning to dance with someone: it’s not about waiting, it’s about timing.
PS Yes, there is more to talk about. Like rings, for example. But I thought that was enough for now.
*I don’t think that, don’t get offended.