It’s been a good long time since we’ve dived into the reality of proposals. (Remember when someone admitted in the comments to throwing up on her partner after her proposal from emotion overload? Rad!) And when I brought up complicated life discussions that I thought we should be having, tons of you mentioned that you wanted to talk about the proposal process. So today I’m delighted to have Evelyn, of Ohio on Purpose, writing hilariously and smartly about how she got engaged. I think her story is not just one for those of you just getting engaged, but one for all of us. It speaks to how we present our relationships as flawless, when they are not, and how the deeply imperfect nature of ourselves is, in fact, what makes us perfect.
I spent the entire evening before my dude proposed to me acting like a perfect terror. That’s the first part of our uncinematic proposal story. Last summer, after five years together, Nick and I decided that maybe we would like to get married. Maybe we would like to get married sooner rather than later!
I said, “Don’t buy me a ring.”
He said, “Why not?”
I flashed him jazz hands (unspangled, nails bitten). “When have you ever seen me wear a ring? You can get me a PUPPY if you want there to be a token involved.”
The ring was important to him, but I didn’t get it. “I’ll look like a schlub if I don’t get you a ring!”
“Only a schlub would call you a schlub for that.”
My best dude friend said “Evie. You have to let him do this. This is a thing that guys get to do. Just let him do it.”
So I waited.
In the late morning of November 13th, a pot of coffee and unseasonably warm temperatures talked me into running twelve miles. Instead of stretching, hydrating, and consuming calories after the run like a person, I collapsed on the couch and marathoned Law and Order: SVU until my thirdshifter boyfriend woke up for the day. By the time we decided to grab a bite out for dinner, I was cranky. By the time we got to the restaurant, my blood sugar was Black Tuesday. I proceeded to wolf my meal like an inmate, get two-drink-drunk, and repurpose every harmless word out of the poor man’s mouth into a savage attack. Did I mention I’m not the hero in this story?
Later, we found ourselves in a pile of friends who were doing a great job of not deciding whether we were going to a bar to see a favorite local band or not, preferring instead to talk about it over the television for an hour. What should have been a standard display of casualness among close friends filled me with rage and exhaustion. I stood up and announced with an acidic sigh that I was going to bed and stomped upstairs.
Yep, this was at my house. Then I sobbed into my sheets. A real class act. Later, Nick crawled into bed with me where I expected to be gently encouraged to maybe not treat our friends like sewer rats? Instead he pulled out a little wooden band and asked me to marry him. And I said “Are you f*cking kidding me?” and then I said “Of course!” and then I said, through my happy-tears, “Oh god… I’ve been so awful today.” And he laughed through his happy-tears and said, “Yes, very awful.”
My simple little rock-less ring did not solicit much eyebrow raising (my people know me), but everyone was dying to dig into a juicy proposal story. You know, the one where Nick choreographed a Busby-Berkley-style production at the spot where we first brushed coat sleeves, with dancers forming kaleidoscopic expressions of all our shared interests and fun vacations together. I felt like I was letting them down when I had to admit, “Well, I was a dick all day to everyone I encountered, then Nick found me upstairs with mascara all over my face, and he asked me if I would marry him. I was not wearing pants.” Doesn’t really ooze “auspicious,” does it?
Did I let anyone down? Hardly. I found that the more I was self-deprecating and honest about what happened that Saturday, the more my friends and coworkers felt empowered to confide in me their real proposal story. There is the version edited for smalltalk, for wedding showers, and that version is factually true. But the real version is often a tale more checkered: surprise pregnancies, explosive arguments, desperation, embarrassment. The wedding world feels quite flowery and feather-light but the people making these weighty decisions are fumbling, flawed animals just the same. I count myself among them.
A proposal is a decision by two of these dumb animals, and it’s probably a decision you made together long before there was ever a ring box. Our relationships are a path that we hew indefinitely, lines made up of an infinite number of points. Some of those points are bright and others dim, but when you pull away from it, it’s always a line.