Wedding Undergraduate: The No Proposal Story Proposal

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.

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  • You want to know a secret? I love all proposals, I really do.

    But this one made me cry.

    Because any relationship that is solidified over a good temper tantrum is one that’s sure to stand the test of time.

  • This is a most excellent proposal story! Most people become engaged in a romantic fuzz, your story proves that he loves you most even when you are a big teary, grouchy mess! Wonderful :)

  • Oh yes, the ‘ don’t buy me a ring-speech’. I’ve held that one a few times, even.

    Your proposal story rings (ba-dum-tish) all the more true for the lack of choreographed moments. It’s virtually impossible to plan for real emotion, you just kind of have to roll with them as they come.

    Also, wooden rings are awesome, (but not as good as puppies).

    • Franny

      I’d totally love an “our first puppy” proposal.

      • Jen

        I know someone who received a “proposal puppy”!!!

        I’m sending her this.

        Deb…start writing!! ;)

    • Yeah, it’s pretty hard to top a puppy.

      • Zan

        How about a cow?

        • emily rose

          I think you win.

  • Marriage is ‘for better, for worse’ so I will never, ever get why people feel all things wedding must be sunshine and rainbows. Because my proposal story is, in some ways, very similar to you, I say more power to the ‘perfect terror’ – it is a story and memory all your very own.

  • mell

    I absolutely love this. I’ve had more than one low-blood-sugar-case-of-the-crankies nights where it turned out I was about to be surprised by something wonderful after being my most terrible self.

    Also wholeheartedly agree in the take off your pants and get in bed approach to cranky times–and your beau knew exactly how to deal with this. You guys have a wonderful marriage ahead of you/

    • meredyth

      Our first fight was a result of low blood sugar and misunderstandings on the way to IKEA. I sat in a Chicken Out eating a sandwich through tears while he went for a walk outside. I knew if I didn’t eat it would just stay bad and I wanted to hurry so we could continue our trip but oh man, it’s hard to eat while crying.

      • I have eaten through tears too because my husband has gotten smart enough to insist I eat when he realizes that a lack of food is resulting in me being angry/grumpy…

        • You’re lucky! I’m still working on getting mine to understand that lack of food is really what’s made me grumpy. He understands that lack of sleep does it, but it’s hard to get him to realize it when he seems to be impervious to both!

          • Yes, I am thankful one of us usually has enough sense to realize (mid-fight) that we should eat. We realized his tendency to get grumpy when he was hungry early in our relationship, and then he realized more recently that I did the same thing. :) We have since adopted the word “hangry,” which I saw, perhaps on here, a while back. :)

    • Manya

      I’ll bet he was thinking that the proposal would make you feel better! This is a perfect proposal story, and you guys are adorable.

    • I fully believe that being able to deal with low-blood-sugar cranky (known in our house as b*tch hungry) and knowing how to make it better is a sign that you can get through pretty much anything.

      • Ariel

        I second this! In our house it’s known as “the low blood sugar monster.” My partner made up a song about the low blood sugar monster that he sings when he wants me to stop throwing a tantrum and eat something.

        Coincidently, my partner also proposed to me while I was a teary, low blood sugar mess. I said yes and promptly got some fruit juice. And yes, I often edit that part out when people ask about the engagement story.

        • FawMo

          We call it Grumpy Gus. Though Grumpy Gus encompasses any combination of tired/hungry/stressed out/needing space.

      • It’s known in our house as being “hangry” – as in hungry and angry. I know I’m hangry when the question, “When is the last time you ate?”, asked in response to me being a pill, sends me into a mini-rage.

        • I should have read this before I posted my hangry! haha

      • B*tch-hungry is perfect!! Nick usually just makes some comment about how “it’s sandwich time…”

      • I’m with you! We also refer to this as hangry and it can get pretty horrible on my part. I’m learning to keep some easily prepared snacks on hand, but it can get hard when travelling.

      • We call it “hangry” in our house.

    • My sister dubbed this particular sort of crankiness “HANGRY” (and it has to be in all caps or it’s not as effective in writing): you’re angry because you’re hungry. It’s what everyone we know calls it and my fiance gets hangry too! Hahaha

      Really though, I love this proposal story. It’s so raw and genuine that he asked you while you were in the midst of pitching a fit (weird how being hangry can set the tone for your entire day).

      Interestingly, my fiance purposely tried to piss me off when he proposed by buying me a toaster oven for my birthday. He totally thought I would be all “F%C# you! A toaster oven?!!” But I managed to reign in my horror. Plus, when I asked if it was a joke gift, he said, “If you don’t want that, you can have this instead” and whipped out an engagement ring.

  • Jess K

    Yay! I love this story.

    I also initially had the feeling I was supposed to provide people with a juicy, over-the-top, romantic and earth-shattering engagement story. But I got over it and now I enjoy telling people how my fiance was so nervous that he just pulled the ring out of his bag, said “I know you didn’t want one of these,” promptly forget everything else he had planned to say but managed to mumble a “It’d be nice if we could get married sometime.” About thirty seconds later he realized he hadn’t phrased it as a question and blurted out, “I guess haven’t actually asked you a question yet… Will you marry me?” I laughed, said yes, and that was that.

    • Karen

      Ha! I got the proposal statement, too — “I think we should get married” — and after I recovered, I said, “I’m saying yes, you know,” and then I said, “But wait — it wasn’t a question; I can’t say yes!” And he said, “Do you want to get married?” And I said, “What, in general?” And he said, “Do you want to get married with me?” And I said, “What, at the same time as you?” And he said, “Oh, all right, will you marry me?” And I said yes.

      And then I apologized for being a pain in the butt.

      But I asked for no ring, and I got no ring. We’re not even sure we’ll have wedding rings (except for the ceremony).

      Evelyn, thank you for your story!

      • My friends chose to go to New Zealand for 6 months instead of buying rings. I’m not sure what they did for the ceremony (I didn’t know them yet). But I know they still don’t wear rings, years into being married. They’re both outdoor types, and rings just seem to get in the way.

      • meg

        David pulled out the ring and just stood there… and finally I asked if he was going to ask me something. I think. The memory is clouded by all the ugly-crying I did after.

        • Joan did that to me, too. He just slid this little (closed!) box across the table. I said, “Do you want to open that and show me what’s inside?” Luckily he did, and he whispered nice things, and then we cried. That’s the part I tell people who are not APW-types (“He found this super cute little restaurant in our neighborhood in Barcelona”, etc.).

        • I had to ask Craig to get down on one knee, and then ask him to ask me! haha I think they get so nervous they forget!

  • Amazing. I love this. Thanks for sharing it!

  • carrie

    This is fantastic. I have a more traditionally romantic proposal story but this one still resonates. We are not perfect people, and hopefully we are all lucky enough to have significant others who love us because it makes us human. And vice versa.

  • Haha!!! This is amazing!!!

    We were eating Dairy Queen when he said, “I want to marry you.”.

    So I said, “OK.”. Then, “Is this a proposal?”.

    “I guess it is,” he said. And that is how it happened!!!

    • Another Leah

      Love this, cuz that’s just about what happened with us! We were having happy hour margaritas and nachos, and he looked over at me and said with a smile, “Will you marry me?” I laughed and said yes. And that’s our story, and I love it cuz it’s totally us! :-)

  • This, to me, *is* a romantic proposal story, even if it wasn’t a “traditional” proposal. While rose petals and soft music are all well and good, the moments when I most clearly know that my husband loves me are the ones in which he sees the worst of me and still chooses to be my partner.

    • I totally agree. Knowing that he wants to marry me despite my flaws seems to fill me with more love than when both of us are happy and being nice to one another. (That is, once my crappy mood has passed.)

  • Karen

    Evelyn, I’m curious — did he have a plan for a bigger proposal that got tossed out the window when you were throwing your tantrum, or was he always planning to just do it at home and in private? I’m asking because I was expecting Brian to ask while we were out somewhere, but unbeknownst to me he’d always wanted to do it in private — which is why I was completely taken by surprise when he asked.

    And that’s probably the thing that most surprised my friends — that he said it while we were snuggled up on the couch with the credits rolling on the TV, and not on bended knee in front of a thousand strangers clapping.

    • Karen – you know, he told me he had been carrying the ring around with him everywhere for weeks in case the apt moment presented itself. But no, no skywriter bailed at the last minute or anything. (And thank goodness..)

      • Karen

        I absolutely LOVE that the “apt moment” turned out to be that one! If you ever needed proof that he loved you (and I know you didn’t, but still), that was it.

    • meg

      David told me rather firmly that “only people with something to prove proposed in public. People that were not afraid of their partner’s answer proposed in private.” I was flabbergasted by that opinion, but there you go, one guy’s perspective. I think your guy proposing at home shows a lot of trust and sweetness.

      • Karen

        It’s nice to think of it that way! And I think David has a very good point. I do think the private proposal made me reexamine what my expectations were, and why. What purpose would a public proposal serve, other than to prove to some outside audience that he loved me enough to put on some show for me? Who would I be trying to impress with his proposal? My ideas about him doing something in public were completely about my relationship with (and insecurities regarding) the outside world — they weren’t about my relationship with my partner.

        The private proposal was all I needed for our relationship — he was telling me that after all we’d talked about (and we’d talked about marriage a lot), he was finally ready. I needed to hear him say it a few more times (in daylight, for a start, and then in daylight but after I had my contacts in, and then in daylight with contacts but at home, not away for the weekend), and maybe I didn’t 100% believe it until we’d both told our families, but it was still a moment that was all about us and not about anyone outside looking in.

      • I think it’s also about knowing who your partner is. I flat-out said I would say no if he did a big proposal in public after we saw a proposal at my favorite restaurant, because I hate being the center of attention. I also think some decisions should just be between a couple, and can’t imagine making that sort of decision in front of a crowd.

        • KEA1

          AMEN!!!!! I couldn’t handle being proposed to in front of anyone–I don’t want to make that decision with anyone else around.

      • emily rose

        Our proposal was semi-public (friends gathered in a public park that was otherwise empty). It was just right for us, but I do wonder if a private at-home version would have felt better.

        • I love this post, so many people look dissapointed when I tell them “the proposal story” because we were at home, in pj’s, watching a Mets game. But it was cozy and pretty representative of how we spend most of our time together, so it fit us. But the part I leave out but can share with you all is that I knew the proposal was coming, I was there in the antique store when he bought the ring and then I had to forget it existed until he popped the already-know-the-answer-to-question. Let’s just say after a few weeks of waiting patiently and pretending I didn’t know what was going to happen I chose a random Sunday afternoon in grand central to not be patient anymore. Tears. Lots.Of.Tears. I love these slightly messy but perfect in their messiness stories!

          • Savychacha

            My guy also proposed while we were in PJ’s! We had just adopted a new puppy (well, not so much puppy as a tiny 2 year old dog) the night before, and in the middle of the afternoon while doing our laundry and changing the sheets on the bed he asked me if I was happy. I said of course I was, and then he asked me if I could be happier, to which I said I was pretty damn happy already. Then he pulled out the ring and asked me to marry him. I said yes, and almost had a panic attack!

            The thing is, we picked out the ring together, and I knew he was going to ask at some point, but I wasn’t expecting it right then. It made perfect sense for us though. We spent all day playing with our 2 puppies and relaxing, and were having fun and being happy. It was a perfect weekend!

  • Jessica

    Holy crap, what a beautiful last paragraph! Thank you for sharing your story, Evie :) I love it.

    • Amandover

      Yes, I mostly wanted to comment on how well-written this post is! Really lovely writing, Evie.

      Also, I had a terrible cold the day my engagement ring arrived, and Mr. Amandover couldn’t wait. As such, I really don’t remember what he said before pulling out the ring, and as soon as he put it on, I had to blow my nose. It was perfect.

  • I love this. I always felt bad, because people would ask us about our “proposal story” when we said we were engaged, and we really didn’t have one. My then girlfriend and I had been talking for months about marriage and what that would look like and was that important to us, and when we decided that yes, it was, I said, well, we’re going to see your family for Thanksgiving, maybe we should get engaged before then so that we can tell your folks in persons. And so then we went and bought a ring (just one – Jami didn’t want an engagement ring). Does not make a good story at all! So let’s hear it for non-storybook engagements!

    • It didn’t even occur to me that people would want to hear “the proposal story”. So when I told the first person about it and she “squeee!”d and then immediately asked me for the story, I was unprepared! I said something like, “What? Oh, um, we were at this restaurant. It was really cute, in our neighborhood, had little twinkly lights–” and then I realized she meant more romantic stuff not detail stuff and quickly added, “then he asked me and I said yes and we cried and it was happy!” I’ve since polished the story a bit, and that first girl I told is still a good friend who likes to tease me about focusing more on the restaurant than on the new engagement (good-naturedly, though, since she knows I wasn’t ready to be asked for a story!).

      Don’t let anyone make you feel like yours doesn’t make a good story. I think two people deciding to get married is a fabulous way to get engaged!
      We did that, too, but then we decided that we both wanted a him-proposing-to-me-with-a-ring situation, so we talked about ring styles, he bought one, and “surprised” me (except that he’s horrible at keeping secrets, so I totally knew).

    • Ashley

      THIS! We also didn’t have much of a story–she came out of the shower, put on her PJ’s, I asked, she said yes, we went to bed. I had no idea people would ask about how it happened. When I mentioned at work that I was engaged, all my coworkers wanted to know how she asked–because of course she would have to ask me (I have long hair and am shorter than my partner, so obviously she’s the “man.” *eyeroll*). When I told them it was just a quiet night at home when I asked her, there was a definite lull in the conversation. I was glad there weren’t any rings involved, so that I didn’t get the story request ad nauseum.

  • We had a strange “proposal” too. My boyfriend is fairly introverted and not a feelings discusser. He also gets nervous about big decisions. After sufficient time, and plenty of discussions about us getting married someday, I had been itchy about a proposal. I am ready! I tried to drop subtle hints. Heck, I tried to drop major hints (“honey, here’s a ring I like.” “love, I want you to plan something for a proposal.”). And yet a proposal never came.

    I had intended to do something more elaborate. We like to geocache, so that was my original thought. But the whole thing ended up happening in a completely spontaneous moment. We were volunteering at the nature center where we had our first date — I moved to this town to intern there, and the nature center is why we met. It was a winter event, and we had a fun time working together and keeping our little corner of the event running well. At the end, during cleanup, I was standing with a friend on a little hill watching my boyfriend clean up another area, and I just knew. I just knew then and there that I wanted to marry him. On our walk back to the car, I started rambling about our relationship and finally blurted out “we should get married. for real. as in, let’s set a date. what do you think?” he said yes right away!

    And then, um, it took two months for him to tell his parents. This whole time, I’ve told my parents but haven’t told *anyone* except one good friend. I had finally decided to rescind the offer and move on with life when he said, out of the blue, “oh, but I called my mom already.”

    It’s a bit of a strange story, I’ll admit. and a part of me wishes I was more patient. But he said he didn’t propose earlier because he was worried I’d say no (unfounded worry), and I don’t know what could have made that better for him. But, in the end, we are getting married in 7 months, and I am completely looking forward to being truly together. And that is my novella of a proposal story.

  • Alia

    I like this story, because it’s inspired me to share more of our full proposal story. I always felt a little . . . embarrassed, I guess, that our proposal wasn’t bigger or more exciting, but that’s silly. It was our story, and we got engaged, and it doesn’t matter if it wasn’t some huge fairy tale. So thank you for sharing your story. :)

  • ellabynight

    This reminds me of my husband’s parents’ proposal story. My MIL was driving my FIL home one night and they got into an epic fight–screaming, yelling, name calling, you name it. When she gets to his apartment and is about to drop him off, he asks her–still yelling, mind you–“Will you marry me?” She yelled, “Yes, I will!” as a reply and sped away after he slammed the car door on her.

    Later that night, she called him and was like, “Really? Are you serious?” And he explained that if he loved her that much when they were fighting, he knew she was the one for him. I think this is the most ridiculously romantic proposal ever, but I’m sure it wasn’t what their friends expected to hear when they asked for the story!

  • I think that this was wonderfully expressed, and happen to agree with the other comments that perhaps this way of proposing – during real life, having a typical moment when maybe not everyone is sweetness and light – is fantastic. One of my favorite proposal stories is my friend Jonathan, who had planned for weeks to drive to a romantic lookout spot with his beloved and then say he was unsure how to get home, could she get the map out of the glove compartment and there would be the ring. Instead it went “Isn’t this view romantic” “No, I think it is kinda creepy” “Could you get the map so we can go home” “Don’t worry, I know the way – let’s go” “Look in the damn glove compartment!”

    • Shannon

      I don’t have a ring, but I still refer to myself as engaged! I think you’re engaged when you and your partner decide you’re engaged…

  • Lisa B.

    So, I know what pre-engaged is, but is there a phase between pre-engaged and actually engaged? My boyfriend and I know we’re getting married, we’ve discussed it, I’m working on finding caterers, for Pete’s sake, but he wants to do the proposal thing, with the ring, and I feel like since to everyone in our circle, that means we are not engaged yet, that I can’t start calling vendors up and actually getting this show on the road. Which is really frustrating, since I want to be getting married in July of next year. So, could I start calling people and telling them that as an almost-bride, I want to talk to them about catering my wedding? What do you guys think?

    • Jen M

      so in the same boat right now. I have no idea what to call it.

    • I don’t think any vendor will look at (let alone ask for) a ring on your fingers before they’ll allow you to give them money :)

      I think that you’re engaged as soon as you’re planning a wedding, more then when you start wearing a ring, but that’s personal, of course. Me, I’m getting married in November of this year and there simply is no ring :)

    • Pfft. Go ahead and start calling. You don’t have to say anything . . . other than that you’re planning a wedding in such-and-such place for next year with about this-or-that-many people and that you wanted to start getting some quotes/ball park figures. Hell, you don’t even have to say you’re planning a wedding, you can say you’re planning an event.

    • AJ

      I’m not sure if there’s a term for people like us, but my fiance and I had a date set and our venue and caterer booked a couple of weeks before he actually proposed. FedEx had misplaced the ring, you see. Some of our family didn’t understand our situation, but others were very supportive. Just do what you’ve got to do, things will fall into place :-)

    • meg

      Just tell them you’re getting married in July, it’s none of their goddamned business. As long as your partner knows you’re doing it, you’re golden.

    • Shae

      No vendor is going to quiz you, and you don’t have to give yourself a title when you talk to them. Your wedding planning is no less valid just because you don’t have a ring on your finger — plenty of people never have an engagement ring, and get married all the same. No one but you and your partner know your relationship, so don’t let anyone else define it for you!

    • Jasmine

      I’m the in the same boat too. But we got there in a really strange way – after hearing that my boyfriend’s sister got engaged to her boyfriend of a year only a few days before our three year anniversary, I completely lost it. As in, I was sleeping on the couch and about to move out because he decided he may not want to be engaged, let alone married, for “maybe another year or two.” (I’m not the wait around patiently type and make no apologies for that.)
      Some how, it turned around really quickly, I don’t even know how. But I showed him a picture of an antique ring I thought was pretty, and he almost bought it on the spot. He was concerned about the color of the diamond (I think he was afraid of what people would say about it – whatever), and ended up not buying it. But we just spent the entire weekend looking for loose diamonds to buy and a setting. He even talked about it in his sleep two nights in a row. (I’m really really wondering how he thinks he’s going to plan out a proposal and keep it a secret when he talks about really important things in his sleep. :P )
      So some people would say we’re engaged, but we are just working on getting a ring – but I know he wants to do a legitimate proposal with a ring. We also don’t want to set a date or look at vendors for a year or so really we’re at the same exact place we’ll be after the ring, except maybe his family will treat me more like a part of the family than just his girlfriend.

    • We started planning the wedding in June (for an October wedding) with no ring at that point. In fact, there was no proposal (or ring) until literally three days before the wedding, when he decided was the right time to proposal. I loved the proposal experience we had, but I did not feel truly “engaged” while we were planning. Now I wish I had embraced it from the point at which we had a wedding date and were planning concrete details of the wedding, because I feel like I missed a good part of the process of celebrating the coming marriage. You know, embracing the excitement of it all. Instead, I suppressed my enthusiasm a good bit, since I felt like “we weren’t really engaged…” (To be fair, I will add that my husband didn’t understand how much the ritual was important to me, and since he comes from a culture where very few people get married, this was all new for him.)

      All this to say, embrace “engagement” when you and your partner are both ready. And let yourself really, fully enjoy and celebrate this time of “planning a wedding” (with or without a ring). :)

    • marbella

      we actually started our catholic pre-marital counselling a couple of weeks before ‘the proposal’. when the priest asked how long we had been engaged i had to say ‘well he hasn’t actually asked me yet’. he thought it was hilarious. :)

    • Lisa B.

      Thanks, everybody! It’s made a touch more complicated because the place I want to have the wedding at is owned by a friend of Sean’s dad. So, I’d have to go through him, which might be awkward since he knows we’re not technically engaged yet.

      Thanks for all the advice, though!

  • Roadrunner

    Totally love this–in fact, googling for “non-traditional engagement story” is how I found APW in the first place back in January.

    My story: we’d been together seven years, and had already started talking about buying a house together, and so I brought up the fact that we should probably get married before trying to buy property together, because it’s much more complicated with the bank if you’re not hitched (LGBTQ friends–one of a thousand reasons you should be allowed to marry). He agreed wholeheartedly. October seemed like the best time for a wedding for us, but that was a year away, and I really didn’t want a year long engagement–I didn’t want my life to be sucked into wedding planning for an entire year, and didn’t want an entire year of every conversation starting with “how’s wedding planning going?” So we waited a few months, told no one, and he bought a ring.

    We’d generally agreed on when we’d make a public announcement, but I really didn’t think he had the ring yet, so I wasn’t on the lookout for suspicious behavior. One Saturday, after we’d just gone out to dinner at my new favorite restaurant, he came over to sit next to me on the couch, and handed me a ring box. After some excited noises, I pointed out that he hadn’t really *asked* me anything, and made him actually say the words. And so, that was pretty much that. Sitting at home, no big production, just a ring and an (eventual) question.

    Like you, I was really worried about what I would tell people who want to hear “the story”. I finally just went with, “We went out to dinner, and he asked when we got home.” All true, but not really how we decided to get married in the first place, and leaves room for people to assume something more extravagant than really went on.

    And you know what? Not nearly as many people asked as I expected to. So for the newly engaged: don’t worry too much about your story. Just come up with something vaguely true, and after about a week, people will stop asking.

  • I know we’ve discussed this before around these parts, but since Evie’s best dude friend brought it up, I think it’s worth noting again that the proposal is not just about one person. For as much as some of us don’t/didn’t want/need a ring, it was important to him — and it seems to be for a lot of proposers — to provide it, or at least some physical symbol of this impending commitment. I know that it was a little difficult for me not to make my now-spouse fight against societal expectations, but it wasn’t just about me and what I wanted to do and how I wanted our (public) proposal to be, and I had to come to terms with that.

    • Shae

      Yes, I agree. I didn’t want a proposal and wasn’t too excited about a ring, but I had to respect the fact that my boyfriend had been brought up to look forward to proposing to the person he wanted to marry, and so he had his own expectations that I didn’t have control over. In the end, we were able to figure out a proposal that worked for us, but that’s not to say it didn’t require a lot of talking to get there.

    • McSchnieders

      I think it’s important to remember that a proposal of marriage is not just about the bride-to-be. I think as brides-to-be we spend all of our time thinking about ourselves in this manner and often overlook our marriage partner’s involvement. Proposing, even when you know the answer will be yes, is a huge deal and an important ritual to a lot of men. When did it become all about a man impressing his girlfriend with a big song and dance and stop being about making the choice to embark on a life together?

      As for engagements nowadays, I think it’s just another area where the WIC tells us how we should act and feel and behave. Engagements, like weddings, are about the couple involved. The 300 person wedding at the Plaza isn’t filled with any more love or value than the couple and a judge down at the courthouse. Why do we treat proposals any differently?

  • AMHM

    This is one of my favorite posts ever. The last two lines are beautiful and so true, both about relationships and life in general. I also greatly enjoyed reading everyone’s proposal stories in the comments, I agree that with those who have said that the “imperfect” engagement stories are just as wonderful, if not more so, than the “perfect” ones.

    My husband and I have an “imperfect” engagement story. We had discussed marriage for a long time but he was hesitant; not about the commitment but about feeling confident that we want the same things in life (totally valid by the way). We started looking at rings anyway. One day we had been at an antique shop looking at rings, we stopped to get coffee and he realized he left his cell phone in the shop so he ran back to get it. When we got back to the car he pulled out the ring box and asked “Will you have me?”. I said yes and we made out in the car until it steamed up. Despite months of struggles and stress that moment is what I remember, and it is beautiful in it’s honestly, in large part because of all the struggles we had gone through to get there.

  • Sarah P

    I also spent the entire lead up to my being a whiny baby. I was all settled in for the day (read: I’d already taken my pants off for the day) when he started whining about wanting to go for ice cream. I finally agreed and put on my worst jeans, my hair was a mess, no makeup, etc. We went for ice cream and wandered across the street to a local park. We had our first kiss at this park and he started saying sentimental things about it and I openly mocked him for being romantic. There were also conversations about ducks pooping and catfish and my need to use the facilities. All this lead up to standing on a bridge over the river and watching another couple get engaged about 5 feet away. I’m quite certain that I made some stupid comment about the engagement and as soon as they left I found my man down on one knee. There were no tears, only a very unromantic “oh shit.”

    A couple of weeks ago a friend of mine went to this same park with her boyfriend. They had gone for dinner beforehand and she was a little liquored. They were standing on that same bridge and she was drunkenly proposing (he refused because she had no ring). They wandered around the park for a while and found themselves back on the bridge as well. My friend started discussing our proposal and laughing about the circumstances surrounding it.

    And then her boyfriend proposed. And then a flock of birds flew over and one of them pooped on her head.

    • From my coworker:

      After a really touch-and-go day of arguing, she and her boyfriend went out to dinner. At the end of the meal, he paused, sweating, and said “I have a question…….do you want dessert?”

      She sighed and went into a tirade about how for a split second she thought he was going to propose and THANK GOD he didn’t because OBVIOUSLY they were not ready after THE DAY THEY HAD and OH MY GOD she really thought he was going to do it.

      And then the server comes out with the ring on top of a chocolate torte. Ha!

      (She said yes.)

      • Sarah P

        That is an excellent story. I’m laughing at my desk. I love crazy proposal stories.

    • kyley

      hahahah! This is so epically awesome.

    • HAHAH – this one had me laughing out loud in a room by myself. Cleary that park and that bridge got a little somethin’ special!

  • It seems I’m the anomoly in that my husband actually orchastrated a proposal. Not in the 1000-strangers-clapping way, but in a at-home-meaningful way. But we still have our share of real life moments in there, too.

    1. I didn’t actually see the ring on my finger until a few hours later. In fact, I barely saw him. (He cried. (So did I.) I didn’t register that until I kissed him and realized my cheeks were wet.) I’d just gotten out of bed, and didn’t have my contacts in. Oops! We’re lucky I had managed to brush my teeth. ::laughs::

    2. People ask what we did to celebrate …. and honestly? We went back to bed. It was 6am, and we were TIRED. The rest of the day was spent running the errands we had to run on our one-day-off-in-three-weeks. So, normal life. With a bit of a glow. ::smiles::

    My PARENTS, however, have the fun story. My dad not being one for much sentimentality was sitting with my mom at dinner one night, discussing the fact that they had 3 weddings (friends) to attend in the next month. At some point he looked up and said “When are we going to do that?” And that was it. Perfect. =)

  • Lee

    I’ll be honest: we were a little drunk and stoned at a boring party. He went out for a cigarette and I followed. We talked about open marriages and how no matter what he just wanted to be with me, even if we found sexual satisfaction with others. I proposed right then and we left the party shortly after. Not exactly a skywriter moment. I had bigger ideas but the moment was just right then. We were saying beautiful things to each other and feeling incredibly connected. I felt like I’d heard the things I wanted to hear: that we were both nervous about the commitment but wanted to commit anyway and took it seriously, but recognized our weakness and changeability as humans.

  • Jen M

    This post comes at a perfect time for me. We’ve begun planning without a ring or a proposal. We’ve been talking about getting married for two years, we know we want to get married next year, so we’re planning. But of course, the BF (fiancee?) refuses to spill the happy news until he picks out a ring. I’m always surprised by how much men can also be influenced by the WIC. And my sister said, “Wait, isn’t he going to propose to you?”

    There’s definitely some guilt involved in not having a pretty story to tell. And while I’m sure I’ll have something a bit more pat once a ring comes around, it’s a bit frustrating that it has to be that way. It’s like you’re forced into this artificial timeline for the sake of fulfilling other people’s Hollywood movie fantasies.


    • Shannon

      Oh, but you DO have a story! Just not the kind you’re “supposed” to have… Isn’t it interesting how difficult it is to recognize the legitimacy of a story that doesn’t fit in to our culture’s stories for “how we are supposed to live”? Despite the fact that your engagement story doesn’t revolve around a particular day or event, I bet there are lots of little moments you can think of when the two of you talked about marriage, or when you really felt like you wanted to marry him, etc. Who says all those moments together don’t make up a story?

      • Jen M

        awww, that makes me feel awesome. thanks :)

  • Marley

    Thank you for sharing your story! I’m one of those people who have the happy edited proposal story for coworkers and grandmas and a less than fairytail story with months of long-distance sobfests for those who really want the cold hard truth! It’s comforting to know that other brides are in the same boat.

  • Jeannine

    thanks for this post eve! so well-written and really touched a chord with me as well. with us, the only thing that indicates there was a proposal is how nervous i was when we were talking about it. my narrative has been: “he kind of mentioned it, but i was so taken by surprise that i laughed it off, and a few days later, i kind of mentioned it again, and then we talked about it and so the wedding is june 26th yay!” when telling this “proposal story” it feels odd for the story itself to have not much traditional proposing in it, and yet we are, in fact, getting married.

  • Rachel

    I love this. True, how many times you hear from other sources.. oh he took me down to my family’s lake house and proposed during the perfect sunset” phooey…I bet somewhere in the story they left out the part where she got crapped on by a bird or he fell in the lake after she jumped on him while saying yes.

    I prefer Evie’s story and ours wasn’t much different.

    J tried to have the “perfect” proposal at an observatory but hoards of unexpected crowds showed up that night and then while waiting in a line to view some planet my inpatient self found the ring and the ringbox in his jacket. So self sabotaged it was. I felt so bad and he was quite upset that I decided that we should go to the beach afterwards “to make up for it”. He proposed there while my hair which I had so perfectly coiffed for the day became a giant frizzy mess (hello beach) and then I burst into commitment phobe tears when we got home for a good six hours. Classy :)

  • I haven’t teared up from an APW post in months (months! I attributed this to getting off of birth control — not to a lack of beautiful and emotional posts) but this one touched me in a way that was so brutally honest. I love that one person sharing the blanket truth can bring out the truth in others. Thank you for sharing your story!

    • meg

      Wait till this afternoon, sucker ;) Then tell me you didn’t tear up twice.

  • What a great story. Hell, if the man loves you so much that he still wants to propose to you even while you’re pantless-raccoon-eyed-and in total bitch mode? You’re marriage is going to be able to weather anything!

  • Jamie

    Love this! I didn’t want a proposal either because I wanted us to sit down and make the decision to get married together, just like we make all of our other big decisions. There was no proposal, and we decided to get married while talking in a divey pizza joint. No ring, no fanfare, no one of us leading the other. It was perfect. (But, YES, did people hate on my partner for not getting a ring! It was so awful for him that I finally broke down and picked one out. )

  • Lynn

    I had a more traditional proposal on the beach where he said, “Will you be my bride? Some day?”

    Everyone asked me if I cried, and I didn’t. I felt like I should have cried. So many things make me emotional these days…Extreme Makeover Home Edition makes me cry, the closer we got to home last night made me cry (we’ve been a long-distance relationship for 3 years now and now I’m finally home). But I didn’t cry when he asked me to marry him.

    And I didn’t have a ring because he’s known forever that I wanted to wear my grandmothers’ rings (I have both my maternal and paternal grandmothers’ rings). He asked his mom if I could wear her engagement ring, but it was too small for my hand. The first question everyone asked was, “Where’s the ring?!?!?!” When I replied I didn’t have one, I could see the look on people’s faces; I felt bad for him. When I said, I’m going to wear my grandmothers’ rings, people would say, “Oh,” and walk away. I felt like they were judging him and us, and it makes me angry that there was such emphasis on this one stupid thing. Like none of the other ways that he shows me he loves me matters.

    I’ve brought out one set of my grandmother’s rings and have started wearing them so as to avoid the whole issue…even though I don’t want to wear them now because they are my wedding rings, not just my engagement rings.

  • Brilliantly told story. I love the realness. My bff caused her proposal to be premature in a fit of tears and crankiness too. Now I’m off to Ohio on Purpose for more of Evelyn’s awesome writing.

    • Michelle

      A drunk fit of tears and crankiness! And worries and insecurities and pressure-induced craziness!

      I think its hard to balance the expectation/dream of a story book proposal with the reality of being in a long term committed relationship where you have discussed and planned the future, right up to when you will get engaged.

      We talked for a long time about how we saw our future together and when the right time was to get married. Even with all the talking and the planning and being in agreement on everything, I found it really hard not to feel pressure from family and friends. Internally, we were in a good solid place. Externally, I let myself be distracted by what everyone else was doing and saying.

      The engagement didn’t happen when I thought it would, and I started to get upset…like maybe my BF changed his mind, maybe he didn’t want to get married after all. Too many glasses of wine one night opened the flood gates and I was a drunky mess of tears and emotions and worries. Turns out he already had the ring (which he gave to me with a wad of tissues to blow my nose) and a great proposal plan which I had rendered useless with my meltdown. But he said in the end, it wasn’t about some great plan. Its just about being together.

      At least now its just a funny story.

  • This is great! We have set a date in our heads (November 2012 – our ten year anniversary!) but we haven’t really told people because it’s still so far away. And I don’t want a ring because I’m not into that. (We do have two dogs, though I wouldn’t be opposed to another puppy!) Even though I have a wedding ideas board on Pinterest and a venue picked out, I don’t really feel “engaged.” I think we’ll just send out save the dates in a few months and that will be our formal announcement. It feels strange but I don’t want to have to give in to a bunch of stuff I’m not into in order for it to feel “real.” ANYWAY. I just wanted to say that reading through these proposal stories has made me laugh, cry and feel a lot better about my choices. So thank you for that!

  • MamaMelli

    I freakin’ love this. And, the truth is, I think that’s the kind of proposal story that makes a person think, “yeah, we’re definitely husband-and-wife-y.” If a guy can love you so much that he wants to marry you when you’re slimy and in a poor mood, then he REALLY loves you, and you really really really should be together forever.

  • Love this post! My husband’s proposal started out very traditionally, on bended knee, and as he opened the box with my ring inside, he said, “You know, you have flaws…” I was like, what?!?!? He was so nervous, haha. He said something about how we BOTH have flaws, but together we’re perfect, and would I be interested in spending the rest of my life with him? It was just so funny, the way he started. We’re married now, but we still look at each other sometimes and say, you know, you have flaws… Haha.

    • baaahhahahah. that’s awesome.

    • Oooh man, that reminds me of our wedding. The pastor started his welcome by saying “You’ve both spent your lives looking for a perfect partner. And I tell you today that you’ve failed.”

      Cue the stunned looks, a few gasps, and me busting out laughing.

      He went on to say something lovely about building each other up and so on, but man, what a way to start!

    • FawMo

      This is a little too much Pride and Prejudice for me.

      (Is that not everyone’s favorite part of the book?)

      • It’s taken me three tries and I haven’t been able to get through it yet . . .

      • I assure you, my husband’s never read it! Haha. And even though I have, I never thought of that until you mentioned it. It’s just “us” now!

  • Bri

    Oh THANK YOU for this. I am still feeling guilty about how I behaved around my proposal… I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that I was the only one.

  • Arya

    This story makes me feel much better about my own recent engagement. (“Recent” being a relative term here.) I must preface this with saying that my boyfriend and I did the whole promise/betrothal ring thing (or, as I liked to call it, a “pre-engagement ring.”) We had dated, broken it off, and then been casually dating each other for about a year. I wanted to make it serious, so I bought him a ring and asked him out. I ended up getting a ring so we both had one, which was fine. But anyways, I digress.

    Boyfriend and I agreed we were going to get married a few years ago. I asked if this meant we were engaged. He said yes. So, we told everybody we were engaged. However, we didn’t set a date. A year rolled by. Then two. Then three. Finally, I felt like I had given him sufficient chances to propose. We’d been “engaged” for three years, together for four, living together for three and a half…

    So I took him out to a steak dinner one night about a month ago, and then I took him out to the beach we spent the night on the first day he asked me out. (Still lived with my parents at the time while attending in college, which meant I spent a LOT of time wandering around in the middle of the night.) And I carved, “[His Name], will you marry me?” in the sand with my finger. It was an impulsive decision that I hadn’t planned, really, outside of having known I was really ready to get married for the last year. But he said yes, and I set a date, and here we are now. Our proposal story ended with us sneaking off into a stand of sea oats to make out, but we ended up in thorn bushes instead, and got more sand spurs than kisses for our trouble. And that is the disingenuous and awkward ending to a romantic situation that always seems to follow in my life, but I like it. :)

  • CAMinSD

    “I was not wearing pants.”

    I’m starting to think half-dressed proposals are more common than people let on. Because I started our engagement morning by bounding out of bed at sunrise to have a Productive Weekend, fiance never had time for the “start the day together, start every day together forever” thing he had planned. He had to catch me between costume changes — which meant topless and in our bathroom. Thanks for sharing honestly and hilariously!

  • I love every single bit of this. I spent the entire morning of our engagement day being a pouty ball of irritational. I was snippy and sharp and my wonderful then-boyfriend just kept on smiling and trying to make me happy—since we’d been talking about getting engaged forEVER and the ring was apparently having to be mined from South Africa (we were already planning a July wedding and it was the LAST DAY OF APRIL!!).

    So I love every bit of this. Go you!

  • Zan

    Yo Meg, I know you already finished the book but if they call you and demand that you make a last minute addition then you should for sure put this gem in there. I’ll have to print this essay out and include it as an addendum when I give the APW book to all the engaged ladies of my life, ‘cuz it’s gooood.

    Evelyn, you are the bomb diggity and I wish I lived in Ohio so we could hang out and be besties.

    • Ha, thanks!

      Ohio is pretty rad, to be honest, despite our “flyover state” reputation.

      • Alex

        True story. Ohio gets a lot of grief, but it’s a very underrated state.

      • Genevieve

        I just moved to Columbus from Chicago in August and it’s not nearly as dreadful as I fretted it might be. :)

  • Eryn

    My little sister married her high school boyfriend when she was 23. They reconnected in college and dated for exactly one year before, star-gazing on Mount Bonnell (theee romantic spot here in Austin) after their anniversary dinner, he presented her with a staggeringly Dallas-sized ring and asked her if she wouldn’t mind watching stars with him forever. When she told me about it I felt a little sick from all the freaking romance. Their wedding took place one year and one week later on the most perfect freaking April morning you can imagine in a garden and she looked gorgeous in her thousand-dollar ballgown. They promptly built a house in the suburbs and adopted a dog named Rex. Sometimes I want to shake them, just a little bit, but if my sister hadn’t decided to get married I don’t know that I’d even be planning a wedding right now, so I owe her one.

    Our story is a little bit messier. In the first place it took us at least a year to decide we were an actual couple and not just hanging out every day and having sex only with each other. In the second place I took a job 1600 miles away after college graduation and wasn’t sure I wanted my boyfriend to come with me. When he finally joined me in Chicago six months later I was incredibly glad he did. There were serious ups and downs that year, but while we were struggling to make rent- I worked for a non-profit, he had trouble finding a job- and dealing with weather so cold that you could see your breath in our (admittedly beautiful, if devoid of furniture) apartment, he evidently decided he wanted to marry me. But he didn’t let me in on this secret at that time. My company transferred me back to Texas far sooner than we expected, and finances sucked for the next year. As my sister’s wedding drew closer, there was a persistent increase in the number of nosy relatives asking us when we were going to tie the knot. I got closer to 30 with no proposal and started to turn into just the worst perversion of my type-A, goal-oriented, ambitious self. All this time he had this big proposal plan working in his brain, he just couldn’t get things together enough to pull it off (my fiance has ADD and is also the polar opposite of me personality-wise. “Goals? Ambitions? Meh. Anything good on TV?”). I started orchestrating frequent Serious Discussions about The Future that almost always turned into fights. His parents started asking him if he was happy, which was code for, “If you are happy, why aren’t you married yet?”

    Finally, two years after returning to Texas, one year after my sister’s wedding, he broke down and asked me to marry him during one of the Serious Discussions. He didn’t have a ring and I didn’t want one. Barbaric, archaic, chauvinistic, all that. He insisted I was going to get one. He told me I should start planning, but that we couldn’t set a date until he got my ring. But that man is procrastinatey. It took him almost a year from that point to get the ring I told him he didn’t have to buy in the first place taken care of. Only after it was on my hand did I realize that even though we had been talking about marriage for over two years, I finally felt like I was actually engaged. And every time I look at it, it is a reminder that he saved up the largest amount of money he has ever paid for anything that wasn’t a computer in order to do something for me just because he felt like it was the right thing to do, and because he knew it would make me feel like the package was complete despite my protests. It’s a reminder of how well his laid-back personality compliments my sometimes Cassius-level ambition.

    Also it’s very pretty, dammit.

  • My best friend’s fiance filled their apartment with flowers and was on one knee when she came home. He had to avoid her all day to orchestrate it and she thought he was upset with her somehow. That’s a great story.
    My fiance had to tell me he’d ordered a ring, because it had to be signed for when it was delivered (three weeks too late; he’d tried to keep it secret and send it to our friends house, but it was then sent back because his name wasn’t at that address. Then our postman kept forgetting to deliver it and FH had to chase him down the day he finally got it).
    A few days after I knew there was A Ring in the house, I took our dog to meet him at the bus stop and he immediately wanted to go on a walk to our neighborhood park – where we run and play frisbee with the dog. He’d actually worked up a whole speech, and got through that, and then asked me. It was December, unseasonably warm, and I loved that he asked privately, at a place we have a lot of memories at.
    Of course, the parts left out of that story are how he’d wanted to do it earlier in the week but I didn’t want to go on a walk, and then when we arrived at the park, someone else was there with their dog and we let them play, and he was getting increasingly worried that we’d leave the park entirely without him being able to ask me – so it happened at the edge of the park. Oh, and there was a point in his speech where I thought our dog was going to bolt into the street, so I frantically screamed his name and interrupted FH. And then the ring was a size and a half too big, so I had to clutch my hand in a fist so it wouldn’t fall off.
    But it was all perfect, and so was my best friend’s story.

    • HA! I love your friend’s story. My fiancé’s first surprise for me ever, back in the dark ages before we had driver’s licences and had to rely on parents for cars, resulted in me having a screaming fight with my mom, because I thought she was trying to keep us apart when she was trying to help him with the surprise. It pretty much ruined him for trying to surprise me ever again.

      Love your story! Dogs always have a way of interrupting quiet romantic moments.

      • Now her sister-in-law and I are trying to plan a surprise bachelorette party (her wedding is Saturday! yay!), and she caught us sneaking off to talk logistics last night. Whoopsie. We tried the “god, leave us alone, we’re trying to make out” thing, but I’m not sure it worked. :)

  • What a great proposal story! I do find it romantic that he’s so in love that he proposed while you were being a “terror.” I enjoyed reading the fun, different proposal stories in the comments too. Our proposal story falls in the standard romantic category, although my hubs will tell anyone who will listen that I forgot to say yes. It would be so boring if everyone had the same old standard flowers & chocolate & fireworks proposals!

  • peanut

    you are hilarious. I always feel like one of the cool kids when someone awesome has a delightfully imperfect getting-engaged story (we didn’t even pretend to do the proposal thing).

  • Like many others, I’m so glad to hear I’m not the only one with a no-proposal story proposal. Or really, I have one, but it was a question asked during a very intimate moment about 9 months before we were ready to tell anyone else and is frankly something I want to keep just for the two of us. (Re: backstory: I wanted for us to be done with college; he wanted some time in the working world to save up and buy me a ring; and we both wanted several months of living together and not being long distance without the added pressure of planning a wedding). That moment solidified wanting to get married in the relatively near future for the both of us, and we decided to get engaged, aka I get a ring and we tell everyone, on Christmas day of last year, our 8th anniversary.

    So, I sent along several pictures of the styles of rings I like while he got very secretive about the contents of his email and we tried, somewhat unsuccessfully, to hide our plans from friends asking why we weren’t married yet and when we would be getting married. We’d been calling each other “partners” for years and were apparently so clearly life-committed that several people in my grad program were surprised to hear we got engaged because they thought we were already married.

    Christmas rolled around, and we spent our first Christmas morning alone together opening stockings, with plans to pick up my mom and brother from their nearby hotel by late morning. At the end of the stockings, he pulled my (beautiful, perfect, everything I ever dreamed of) ring and very simply asked me to marry him. I cried, which I did not expect, and then I cried even harder when we finally got to tell my mom, who I’d been having a hard time keeping this from for the first days of her visit with us.

    As for what we tell people, I’m not comfortable with the gender imbalance of traditional proposals, so it’s often something along the lines of “well, we just decided together we were ready to get married, and then told everyone on Christmas.” I generally felt ok about that until getting a bit caught up in the wedding blogosphere “OMG LOOK AT THIS AMAZING PROPOSAL, AND NOW THIS ONE, AND NOW THIS ONE,” but then I remember how much I get reminders of our love everyday and I’m mostly ok.

    It’s nice to hear people with mixed opinions on rings. I’m an anthropologist by trade, and it’s been very interesting to see how people immediately look at my hand/comment on my ring, especially those who seem a bit disappointed at the size, even though I specifically said I’d be mad about anything bigger than a half-carat and think the size is perfect. We’ve both worn commitment rings since early on in our relationship, when I had mixed feelings about marriage and thought all I would ever want was a partnership, but they were rarely noticed. An engagement ring made sense for us, but we’re both getting two sets of wedding rings, one gold and one wooden as we both work in Africa and aren’t comfortable wearing terribly expensive jewelry there.

  • Haley

    Ah yes, the “lack of a good story” problem. My now-husband and I dated for around abouts 8 years before we got engaged. Of course we were planning to get married. We had talked about marriage after probably year 3 or 4, and decided at what age / stage in our lives we thought it would be best. So when that time rolled around, we went to the jewelry shop one day to get me something sparkly. Yep, that’s it.

    In order to satisfy inquisitive friends, I made an album on facebook with increasingly ostentatious fake proposals with our names / faces photoshopped in (sky writer, billboard, TV show, etc.). I think some people were confused (which I found hilarious), but those that know us well understood that we didn’t need a “proposal” in order to be engaged.

    • Ha, that’s awesome! My fiance was a little uncomfortable with people asking about “the story”- because it was mostly about what he said and not how he did it – and now I wish we’d just picked a crazy, fake story to get them to leave us alone. Skywriting. Genius.

  • We have, what many people would consider a “perfect” engagement story. He had two of our good friends learn a beautiful song about a proposal. When I got home from work they were in the living room and they started playing it. He got down on one knee and then tons of friends came piling out of the kitchen and the bedroom where they had been hiding, and we had a party the rest of the night.
    I feel the need to tell someone though, so why not APW, that I knew. I have told all of our friends I was surprised I have told him I was surprised, but I wasn’t. He kept asking me about my plans for that Friday night, he was acting really strangely all week…I spent the whole drive home from work trying to convince myself he wasn’t going to propose so that I could at least pretend to be surprised when he did. He still doesn’t know, he loves surprises so much, I can’t take this one away from him.

  • Allie

    I don’t have a proposal story and it makes me sad sometimes. I decided that I wanted to get married one week and the next I asked Tom if he wanted to and he said yes and then the next day we went to the cute antique shop down the road and picked a pretty pretty ring.

    I guess I could have waited and had a ‘proper’ proposal, or done something more fancy myself but I’m so damn inpatient I couldn’t wait! But I do get a little sad sometimes that I don’t have a great story to tell. I don’t think my friends get it so I usually just say… Umm we just decided really and feel super almost-embarressed by the whole thing, Anyone else feel like this?

    • CP

      Yes! I feel like my story is a cross between yours and Evie’s. Only I was crying on the couch face down, exhausted from an emotional week, he came over to hug me and then I proposed. And then he proposed back (makes no sense, I know) and voila! That was it. It was perfect and un-planned and ringless (until his mom offered his great-grandma’s ring – which is sweet and simple – a few weeks later).

  • Class of 1980

    “Oh god…I’ve been so awful today.” And he laughed through his happy-tears and said, “Yes, very awful.”

    Most romantic exchange ever. Really. It’s what everyone wants … to be accepted.

  • Awesome! My real proposal story involved two bottles of wine and the promise to pretend like it never happened the next morning if he changed his mind.

  • I tell most people we got engaged while on vacation in Hawaii, because that sounds romantic, but the actual details are not super exciting. I spent the first day of our trip feeling hopeful that he was going to pop the question, the following 3 days sad and a bit resentful because it wasn’t happening (and everyone we know was expecting us to come home engaged), and finally on the very last night when I had somehow forgotten all about it and decided to just enjoy myself, he proposed.

    It was the only night of the trip I managed to stay awake the whole drive back to our condo, but we were both a little drunk. I was about to crash in bed and he kept questioning my sobriety. He finally knelt down next to the bed and started by saying “I really hope you remember this tomorrow…” and pulled the ring box out of his cargo shorts pocket where he had been keeping it most of the trip. Suddenly I was wide awake and I had no problem remembering every detail the next morning, though I did keep checking my finger when I woke up to make sure it had really happened and wasn’t all some mai-tai-induced dream.

    I found out later he had originally planned to do it the previous night while we were on a sunset cruise (with a group of strangers), but I got sea sick and refused to go up to the top deck of the boat with him, preferring to stay huddled in a corner where I couldn’t see the waves. He was so frustrated, and then I got upset that he didn’t care that I felt sick. After I found out what his intentions were, I kicked myself for ruining his plans (probably on more than one occasion), but in hindsight I am so glad we did not get engaged on a boat with a bunch of random people we don’t know. His private, spontaneous proposal that managed to surprise me on a trip where I was 99% sure we would get engaged, was perfectly us, even if I don’t have a big elaborate story to tell.

    • What do you mean you don’t have a big elaborate story to tell? You just told one and it was great!

  • Shannon

    Oh, this is so very awesome! I have to (briefly) describe my proposal story with its flaws… I proposed to my future husband with pretty much nothing but huge sentiments of love and a treasure hunt. I really wanted rings for both of us at the end of the treasure hunt, but ultimately couldn’t afford anything close to what I wanted, and also really wanted to design something special with the other person in this engagement equation. So… no rings, and apparently I felt insecure about that. I was OBSESSED with making these little cards for the treasure hunt. I had been planning this for months. I took pictures of some roses my sweetie bought for me in September, specifically thinking that I would use those photos for my Christmas day proposal (he doesn’t really buy me flowers, like ever, so I felt I should take the opportunity while I could). On Christmas Eve I digitally made the rose photo small and arranged all the tiny rose photos on one piece of paper to be printed out on our laserjet printer. The printer is in my sweetie’s office, so I’m nervous about him seeing the roses. Then I can’t get the printer to work for some reason, and that means I have to actually TELL him that I’m trying to print something out so that he can help me fix the problem. But I don’t exactly tell him about it so much as I completely FREAK OUT about it, saying some things about how if this doesn’t print out it’s going to RUIN CHRISTMAS for me… Seriously, I was even doing my “I’m freaking out” dance (does anyone else have a dance like this??).

    Of course, the printer was soon fixed, and my sweetie meekly retreated while I snatched the roses out of the printer and proceeded to hide in my office making tiny cards with roses on the front and the sweetest sentiments of love inside (and also a clue for the treasure hunt). After my future husband went to bed, I dashed about the house hiding all of my clues for the treasure hunt, and as I was doing that I was thinking “oh my god, this is it. I can’t go back now. I’m asking this man to marry me…” It was weird and exhilarating, and so so scary. The next day I could barely contain myself, and yet somehow I managed to make that treasure hunt envelope the very last thing we opened from under the Christmas tree. I followed my sweetie around while he found his clues and read the sweet sentiments inside. There was no treasure at the end of the hunt, just a question… His answer was to “take me in a manly fashion” right there on the couch while I was still wiping some tears from my eyes. It was beautiful, and romantic, and passionate. Not a story we tell very often, though I’m sure someday we will!

  • This is SO BEAUTIFUL.

    That is all.

  • ka

    Evelyn, you are a fantabulous writer.

    And it is very true, the more I tell the truth about our very imperfect proposal story, the more I hear from others the true stories of their own proposals.

  • marbella

    LOVE! Favourite bit: “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.”

  • Stephasaurus

    Our proposal wasn’t “perfect” either…I didn’t cry at all, but my fiance did. It was 4am, we’d been awake all night, and I was too exhausted to cry. But I love to tell people that he cried and I didn’t, because it’s funny! Most girls cry when they get proposed to, I certainly thought I would!

    I also love this, and I’m saving it: “Some of those points are bright and others dim, but when you pull away from it, it’s always a line.

  • emily rose

    My now-husband planned a simple but difficult proposal, and despite doing is very best to keep it a secret, adorably failed. I played along for a few weeks and was haunted by the guilt of hiding my knowledge of (most of) his plans. I didn’t confess until weeks after the proposal, teary and embarrassed. He just shrugged it off: “The surprise wasn’t the important thing. The we’re-getting-married part was really the main point.” I was shocked at his nonchalant response and felt a huge burden lifted. All these stories help erase the shame, too. And now the memories of the little details that I hadn’t figured out (he memorized my favorite e.e.cummings poem, for example) are extra special.

    • I think this is what all proposals should be:
      “The surprise wasn’t the important thing. The we’re-getting-married part was really the main point.”

      They’re about the “we’re-getting-married” stuff not how many people can be involved or how much this or that cost or if it goes viral on youtube. It’s about the wedding, and ultimately the marriage, that the proposal starts the ball rolling towards.

  • Kerry

    I wasn’t wearing pants for my proposal either. And it was amazing.

    Yay for no-pants proposals!

  • jarymane

    I love this post! I don’t like my our “proposal story” (I acted like a total dick, and then he did, and then we had an awful fight). But you know, we did the best we could with what skills we had at our disposal at the time, and since then we’ve added new tools to our belts together. Our life is not Martha Stewart Magazine-made, but my partner and I are totally a team.

    Still, it makes me feel that I’m in good company when I hear that other proposals that didn’t go as planned led to healthy, happy partnerships. Thanks Evelyn and APW :)

  • Leigh Ann

    Yay! I love this! I was not the hero in my proposal story, either. I put pressure on him, I was unhappy about not being engaged sooner, all the things you’re not supposed to do and be as a good girlfriend waiting to be proposed to.

    Also? I love this post because when people ask me about how our relationship is going, I often say “Great, awesome,” and then “I mean, it’s hard, don’t get me wrong, we argue a lot, we’re not perfect,” and then I think “Why did I say that? That person probably thinks my relationship is terrible.” LOL. But my relationship IS hard. And it’s also great, awesome. I guess I just really want people to know that we choose every day to be partners, that we’re not one of those couples that’s like “Oh, we love all the same things and we never fight.” And that’s OK. It’s better than OK.

    • I feel exactly the same way! My boyfriend and I have been having a really difficult, well, year. We’ve been in counseling for the last six months, and when people ask me how our relationship has been going, I usually tell them. I mean, I don’t give the details but I do mention we’re in counseling. I think it’s so important to be honest about how relationships are not just rainbows and kittens all the time, you know?
      I’ll forever be grateful to a (then new) friend who told me about moving in with her now-husband. She said that sometimes, she would think, “Why did I want to move in with him? I hate it!” Just having more realistic expectations got me through some bad days, for sure.
      My relationship is hard, too. And we do, actively, choose each other every day. And when I say it aloud, it not only contributes to more honest conversations about love, but it also reminds me about the choosing.

      • Leigh Ann

        I’m really grateful for going through some VERY difficult times before marriage (we’re doing the deed in November after being together 5 years). It makes me feel like we can come through anything together down the line. Good luck with your boyfriend!

  • charm city vixen

    My fiancee and I got engaged on Thursday (YAY!!!!), and so I’ve been very happy with our official proposal all weekend.

    However, whenever I tell the story, everyone is like “ehh?” and they don’t realize how perfect it is. A) We’ve talked about getting married since our fifth or sixth date and we are over-the-moon crazy about eachother, B) he told me after a major surgery while on lots of pretty drugs that if he had a ring, he would ask me right then in the hospital — and this is back in February, and C) I knew he had purchased a ring, and because he wanted me to look at it before he spent money on something like that, I even knew what it looked like.

    We spent all day at home, cleaning and waiting for UPS to deliver the ring. I looked at it, put it on my finger, and gave it back to him (he had planned an elaborate EVENT for our proposal to SURPRISE me). He refused to take it back, and I told him to stop it. He got down on one knee. I told him to stop it again. I may have told him to stop 10 or 15 times. He told me I was his world and he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I asked if he was sure.. I knew he had some elaborate plan. And I said “of course.”

    Turns out, he DID surprise me — and himself. As for his elaborate plan? We’re both pretty sure I wouldn’t have been surprised by it anyway (“But babe, why are we going to an improv group? We don’t like improv that much! And why do we have to? And why are they re-enacting our first date on stage???”).

  • Sarah

    My fiance never actually proposed. It was awesome in that we went to see the giant Christmas tree at Rockefeller center a couple days before Christmas. It was very sweet that he got down on one knee in front of all the tourists. But he kind of just pulled out the ring and showed it to me, and then got nervous/emotional and never actually said the words “Will you marry me?”

    I said “yes!” anyway, but I still nag him all the time that he never actually proposed! :-)

    • Stephasaurus

      This is so us. My dude never actually said “Will you marry me?” either! He was singing a country song to me when he pulled out the ring, I still said “YES!” and I STILL tease him about how he never technically asked me to marry him! :)

  • Rachel T.

    Yep – that’s perfect. In my opinion, more perfect than the planned out types. Fiance and I just decided to get married one day. I too was confused about the ring issue, and my fiance was the one who set me “straight”. He told me he wanted to propose formally and he wanted to buy a ring. It was important to me. Who am I to argue with that? But we decided in June to get married. We started planning a wedding. We booked all of our vendors and our place, set a date, etc. We were not yet formally engaged; there had been no formal proposal. In fact, I even had a friend who confessed that since he hadn’t yet proposed, that I must be dreaming it up in my head and she was worried that I was spending all of this money when he wasn’t going to ask. (Totally offended by that btw when that came out… how crazy do I seem to you?! was my response to her) But then one cold December day, he decided to propose and I came home late. I refused to go to our pond with him because I was cold and tired, and I ruined his plan. Haha. Then, the next day, when I had a half day at work and our friend was coming over in an hour, he forced me down to the pond. I talked his ear off the whole walk about school and the stress of teaching and blah blah blah. We walked around our beautiful pond in the middle of December when it was freezing cold and the pond was all iced over. He was about to propose and I walked away from him onto the frozen pond to see just how frozen it was. So from the bank of the frozen pond, he had to yell “will you marry me” and sort of half-kneeled because the ground was too cold. And instead of crying or whatever I was supposed to do, I patronizingly went “AWWWWWW” the way you do when someone does something kind of stupid but cute. Of course I said yes and have a completely non-traditional engagement ring that everyone goes “that’s interesting” to, but the most important part was that we were both happy. We did it our way, in all of our awkward glory, and I try really hard to maintain that awkward glory when I retell it. I agree with you – there’s something about the truth of the proposal story that lets people feel more comfortable with their own truth. It’s not always storybook. Sometimes it’s just perfect for us, and that’s all that matters anyway. <3

  • I love this last paragraph:
    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.

    Proposals should not be a surprise. It is not a decision made by the proposer who then dumps it on the proposee. It is a decision made together and you probably can’t even pinpoint when the decision started and it’s one you make ever day.

    Our proposal story did not involve choreography. It did not involve other people. It did not involve the danger of ingesting jewelry or having expensive purchases accidentally float away with a helium balloon or fall into a river (although all of those stories make my husband laugh a LOT). It was perfectly us.

  • Written so well. A pleasure to read.

    My husband said to me one night while we were engaged, “sometimes, loving you is like loving a wolverine.” I replied with “are you telling me I am fat?”

    Enjoy this time. The wedding planning will be over one day.

  • Anna

    Thank you, thank you, thank you! When my fiance proposed, it was very sweet but low key (just us, on the sidewalk next to our car, after a nice dinner). At times, I have secretly felt a little embarrassed when telling people the story, as if there should be something more to it. This post has helped remind me that those thoughts are ridiculous, and purely reflective of social pressure to have a “grand” proposal. The reality is, we love each other and we’re getting married, and that’s all that matters to me. I don’t need to justify our story to myself or anyone else because it doesn’t fit what I’ve been told about “romantic proposals” :)

  • gibsongirl519

    Thank you so much for posting this because I sometimes feel so insecure about our proposal “story.” It happened on a night after we had been fighting ALL DAY, we were at a party with all of our friends who KNEW we were fighting (and thought I was going to kill him when we got home!), so I was so self-conscious about what everyone would think when we told them the next day! I didn’t want anyone to think he did it just because I was MAD at him! Similar to the poster above and her in-laws, we were screaming at each other when we got home, and all of a sudden, he just said “STOP! Come with me!” and dragged me upstairs. He had the ring hidden under the bed in the guest room . He took out the box and I saw it and just started saying “No, don’t do it! You don’t have to do this right now!” But he just told me, “No I can’t wait anymore!” And he got down on his knees and said all these lovely things and we both started crying and of course I melted and said yes. I was totally surprised because I had actually been expecting him to do it the NEXT weekend, since he had planned my birthday party for the place where we had our first date. :o) But he said he’d had the ring for 3 weeks already and he just couldn’t wait! Looking back, I think it is very “us” because he is totally not the type to plan big, over the top, typical romantic things. I was worried what people would think, but everyone that I’ve told has laughed hysterically, and I think that is way better than “awwwww!” A friend of mine said to me afterwards that she actually got really teary when I told her because despite the fighting and yelling and being at our “worst,” we decided that we want to be together anyway. And I think that is way more romantic. :o)

  • Marina

    Neither of us proposed… we were just lying around one sunny Sunday morning, fantasizing about how we were going to move across the country in nine months, and get a cute little apartment, and then we could get married a year later, and then our friends would all move next door, and we’d have 2.5 adorable children… and then one of us said, “Wait a sec, did we just decide to get married?” And we realized that huh, yes, we had.

    I usually gloss over most of the details, partially because there wasn’t really any proposal, and partially because neither of us were wearing pants. Or anything else. Um.

    But it was perfect for us and I have no regrets at all.

    • Kaitlyn

      We also had a “mutual decision” moment, rather than a proposal. Except… ours occurred over Gchat while we were 4000 miles apart :) Honestly, I love that we made the decision together, even though it meant forgoing the entire proposal thing. No, it’s not the story that most people are expecting to hear, but thinking about it reminds me how well we communicate and work together, and how much respect we have for one another. And how much we want to spend our lives together, independent of any other considerations. That makes me just as happy as any number of surprises or clapping strangers ever could.

  • I have a pretty wonderful proposal story (in Barcelona), but my favorite details of it are the unexpected ones. For example, my now-husband thinking he lost his debit card (in Barcelona) and having a tug-of-war with his bag over the table at a restaurant. I was going to dig through his bag and look for his card, but the ring was in there, so he wouldn’t let me. Also, our misadventure trying to find the Olympic Village, and my introduction to transvestite prostitutes. We were headed in the opposite direction, but we figured it out, got engaged by the beach (too dark to see anything, meh), and then went back to the hostel, where we found the debit card. Whew!

    When I have time to tell the whole story, I most enjoy telling the parts about the debit card almost-disaster, and heading the wrong way into prostitute-land.

  • Caroline

    Am I the only one who finds the word “proposal” weird in the context of my relationship? I guess the proposal of marriage (you know, from the root propose. Suggust.) happened about 5 years ago, when i said something along the lines of wanting to marry him someday, and he agreed. But a “proposal” now or in a few years (as much as we’d like it to, we really don’t feel we can get married right now for family reasons) sounds absurd to me.
    “hey, we’ve been discussing venues and ceremonies and menus and officiants for years, planning our married lives together for over a half a decade, you wear my grandmother’s engagement ring in private and in front of friends as an engagement ring, but I would like to suggust the idea of marriage.”

    it really bugs me. I’d like to just announce to out loved ones together “we’re gettin married on x month, y day, three months from now!!! See you there!” but I think wic has gotten to my man in the “need” for a proposal.

  • Love it!

    Ours was rather disastrous, from the beginning of the process to the end and it was mostly my fault. I had decided that only women cared about big fancy engagements, therefore if I decided that I didn’t want that, he would be relieved.

    Um, no. Having a special engagement moment/story to share was important to him. It took us forever to figure out how to handle it when one person wants it and the other doesn’t. We didn’t do a very good job, but we did get engaged, so I guess we succeeded!

  • Moz

    Fantastic post.

  • Awesome post. Huzzah! I will now stalk your blog. :)

    And I TOTALLY want an engagement puppy.

  • Blake

    My partner and I were together for a pretty long time (6 years) before we “officially” got engaged. There was a kind of awkward, non-proposal-proposal about 1.5 years into the relationship (that basically went like this: Him: I think we should get married. Let’s get married. Me: I think we should wait AT LEAST 4 years before we make any kind of decision like that.). Ultimately, we decided to get engaged last summer, and the most proposal-y thing we did was to ask our parents for their blessing. Oddly, in our 6 years together, our parents had never met (we lived in California, his parents in midwest, my parents on east coast, we spent a couple years abroad… it just never happened). We finally made a plan for them to meet the day after his brother’s wedding, which also happened to be the day after his parents had partied harder than they had in more than 20 years (we had partied pretty hard, too). Still, we all drove to my parents’ house for dinner. Everyone got along just fine, but we were all pretty exhausted, and the conversation was not super lively. After we’d eaten dessert, his mom got up and said, “Well, I think we’d better head back to the hotel.” We still hadn’t had the chance to pop the blessing question. I was willing to accept that the moment had passed, and that we’d have to do it separately, but my partner blurted out, “We have something to ask you guys. We’re planning to get married, and we’d like to have your support!” Everyone literally jumped up and started screaming and crying and hugging. My mom yelled something like “I’ve been waiting for this day for years!” and everyone was hysterical. It was a pretty great moment.

  • Hahah, on my proposal day (sort of? since we’d decided together it was time to be engaged, and picked out the ring and purchased it together, I already considered us engaged), I was so hungover I didn’t get out bed until he forced me to at 5 pm to eat delivered pizza (and even then, there was much complaining).

    I think these “real” (and funny!) stories are so much better.

    Also, you live in Cbus? (I followed the link to your blog.) I live in Cbus (er, suburbs, anyway)! It IS a pretty good place to live. :)

  • Anicka

    Such a sweetly imperfect story!

    My proposal was kind of post-hoc. One winter evening on a walk outside, it just occurred to me that a wooden engagement ring would me nice. I told my guy, and he’s all “yeah, I’m already working on it”. That’s when we started the wedding planning. The question came later, when he finished the ring.

  • Jana

    I absolutely loved LOVED this post! Our proposal story also consists of me being a huge b*tch all night before he “popped the question”. Like you, I have found that people don’t like hearing this part of the story very much, which is unfortunate because my fiance and I always laugh thinking about how horrible I was that night. My fiance says he will never forget how my tone suddenly changed when it dawned on me what was going on, and I asked, “Is this really happening? Seriously? Are you sure?” In the end it was a perfect proposal for him, since he had been working so hard trying to keep it a secret from me and everyone else!

  • I love this proposal story! I was confused by the title because if there’s a proposal, there has to be a story! This story is just as good as anything super planned. Those are fun to read about, though. I don’t want anything fancy…any kind of proposal would be good for me because we’d be engaged! I do hope it will be private and somewhat romantic, though.we’re already talking about getting married in a few years, so I feel like the decisions been made together. But I would still like to be asked officially. Is that silly?

  • Amanda

    I loved reading this! My fiance and I bought a ring together the day after he got ridiculously drunk at dinner and vomited in the rhododendron outside the back door of our hotel at 4 o’clock in the morning. This is NOT the proposal story that we tell the Grandmothers (or anyone else, for that matter).

    And yet somehow, it’s perfect…

  • Luann

    What a great post and thread! I like to tell people that I got engaged in Lake Tahoe – since that’s when the ring was presented. It really began a week or so earlier. My man and I were at the kitchen table and I was attempting to tell him that the reason that I couldn’t move in with him was not because his crazy roommate had not yet moved out (but that WAS a pre-requisite!) is was because I needed to know that it was a step in building our future together. He apparently thought that meant I was less invested in our relationship than he thought because he started asking questions like… “Do you think I don’t want to marry you?” He told me that he has talked about it with his friends and was really thinking about asking me. So I said, “when?” He just smiled and said that we would need a ring first. We went looking at settings and all that a couple days later. We had a planned trip to Lake Tahoe last winter to visit his friend. We arrived at his friend’s house before his friend was home. We were going to take a drive alone, but my man got a call from his buddy and found out he was about to get home. My guy went digging through his bag and had a small box in his hand and said, “I guess we gotta do this now, cause Howie will be here in a minute.” How romantic!! Maybe not, but it was really sweet and Howie joined us on our drive and took some sweet engagement pictures of us. Memorable for sure!!!

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  • This is so refreshing and I am so, so glad to hear someone else was proposed to pants-less!

  • Erin

    “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.”

    This made me laugh out loud, mostly because it’s funny but also because it could easily happen to me.

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