There is a whole section of APW devoted to talking about the proposal and engagement…situation. Because God knows it’s a situation. If you want a proposal (me!) how do you reconcile that with your feminist principals? If you don’t want a proposal, how do you talk about it with other people? What does it mean if you’re waiting for a proposal? Hey! Women can propose. Hey! Women can buy rings for men. Hey! Women can buy rings for each other. And of course: ducks are wily. But up till now, we’ve never had a story of a mutual proposal. And I think you’ll agree with me that Lea Rackley’s is the best.
I have an engagement story for you. Everyone loves those, right?
Actually, I want to talk about the love of the story first, because that’s where this really begins. You see, as soon as I knew I would one day marry Christian, I also realized that the cultural narrative surrounding proposals doesn’t suit us at all. Don’t get me wrong—roses and surprises and getting down on one knee are all well and good! But for two people who obsess over the symbolic meaning of everything, and for two people who see themselves as equal partners, meeting everything in life head-on, hand-in-hand, we decided we wanted to enter into our marriage the same way. So we decided to propose to each other, and to plan it together. Two unexpectedly awesome things happened:
1) It was so fun to know all day long that we were getting engaged, because it allowed us to be present and enjoy every minute.
2) I can now appreciate how hard it is to propose to someone! You don’t say those words every day, and they felt heavy and real and crazy and cool.
So, without further ado, the story we’ll tell our children’s children:
We arrive at Sugar Cove after a snow-covered hike through the Smoky Mountains. It’s a Thursday, and there’s no one here but us. We set up camp by the water and play for awhile on the snowy banks. Today is special, which makes every little thing seem noteworthy. I am blissed out over my berry granola bar snack, and the way Christian looks in his green beanie hat.
We are sore and tired in that exquisite post-hike way that makes our little camp stove dinner taste Michelin Star good. We sip red wine from a plastic pouch and admit to secretly wishing we’d see a bear. We practice our bear calls. Get outta here, you bear! Go back to the Hundred Acre Woods!
It starts to get colder. We make hot chocolate and watch the light recede between the trees.
“Let’s get inside our tent and get engaged, Beez!” Christian says, and I love him for being funny and silly and so much fun. We run to our tent, starting to shiver now, and we zip ourselves inside. We put on extra pairs of wool socks and burrow deep into our sleeping bags. I can’t stop giggling as we lay there like two bright blue caterpillars.
I decide to go first.
“Ceez, I got you a little tiny something,” I say, reaching into my coat pocket and then struggling to get my arm out of my sleeping bag. I ask for his arm, and I slip on a black survival bracelet. “I got it for you because, if you were ever in a survival situation, I would want you to unravel this bracelet and use the chord to make an elaborate fire-starter, or something. I also got it for you because I just wanted to put something on you. Like, to tag you, I guess.”
“Oh, I see. You’re tagging me?” he says.
“I’m tagging you,” I say.
We pause. I giggle.
“Was that my proposal, Beez?” he asks.
“Hm. I guess not… I didn’t ask you any of the questions! This is hard.”
He’s laughing. “Why is it hard?”
“Because I want to get it right! Wait. Let me try again.” I think for a moment about what to say to this man I’ve already said everything to. I wriggle my blue cocoon closer to his.
“I love you,” I say. “And I love your knees,” I add, because at this moment I can feel those beautiful knees drawn up against mine. “Will you marry me?”
“Sure, Beez!” he says, which makes me laugh so much. “Hey Beez, what if I got you a little something, too? Since your ring isn’t ready yet?”
It’s a small parcel wrapped in a blue bandana, and it’s been hiding in his cargo pocket with our map. “I got it for you because you’re my special girl, and I love you,” he is saying.
I open the present, expecting the blue raspberry-flavored ring pop we’d been joking about as a stand-in for the real ring that hasn’t shipped yet. I am babbling silly things, like I tend to do, as I unwrap. I am babbling things like, “It’s wrapped in a blue bandana! I like it already.”
“I love you, Beez. Will you marry me, Beez?”
“It was never a question!” I say, and I slowly realize this is no blue raspberry ring pop. This is real.
“I’ve had it in my nightstand for a month,” he says as he puts it on my finger, “It was really hard not to tell you!”
“You tricked me!” I say, “You’re my favorite. I love you the most. Oh my gosh, I’m a terrible girl! I got you a survival bracelet! I thought I was getting a ring pop!”
“I like it, I like it!” he assures me, and we struggle to get our arms all the way out of our sleeping bags, us two caterpillars in the wilderness.
The End/The Beginning.
Photos from Lea’s personal collection