Starting With Almost Engaged

When beginnings get messy

I am pre-engaged, maybe, I think. I’m in a place where we have agreed, numerous times, that we want to marry each other—someday. But there was no proposal. Just a late morning in bed cuddling and then him whispering into my hair, “I want to marry you someday.” I don’t even know if I was supposed to hear it. But I responded the way any reasonable, giddy-in-love twenty-two-year-old would. I giggled and kissed him. It wasn’t until his “OMG-what-did-I-just-do” panic face made an appearance that I realized my reaction wasn’t as reassuring as I thought. So I shared as well. “I wanna marry you someday, too.”

And then I went to work and spent the rest of the day in a rose-colored cloud. I felt engaged. I felt like one of those girls who was surprised at a fancy dinner with a huge rock. Even though we’d just talked about the future knowing we were together for the long haul. It felt different, like it was official. Like the morning I got to stay in bed late would be our adorable engagement story. I felt like I needed to call my mom and share the news. But I didn’t. Partly because I was working and partly because all day the women I worked with were determined to puncture my rose-colored happiness with reality bites like: “Where’s your ring?” “If he really meant it he’d have asked in a sweeter/more expensive/real proposal way.” “If you don’t have a diamond it doesn’t count.” By the time my shift was up I was a bundle of insecurity and confusion. What felt so wonderful and secure nine hours previously was now a mess of other people’s expectations.

And apparently they were right. Beginnings are messy and full of miscommunications. We talked more when I got home, and he didn’t mean he wanted to be engaged.

I was crushed. A mess of disappointment and anger.

He explained that the timing was bad. He was still in school. We were barely-able-to-buy-food broke. He wasn’t ready to get married. He couldn’t afford to buy a diamond ring right now.

In that moment I wished a slow and painful death to every person who ever worked in the diamond marketing industry.

All I could say in response to his heartfelt attempt to console me was probably more of a curse to the heavens that a statement, “I hate diamonds!” (In my defense, I had spent nine hours with women shoving their diamond rings in my face saying, “This is how you know it’s a real engagement,” and telling me I had to have one.)

The end of our almost-engagement debacle was a rational conversation. He wasn’t ready, I probably wasn’t either. We both agreed we wanted to wait at least a few years before getting married anyway. He needs to finish school. I need to figure out some kind of career. We need to decide where we want to live. We want financial security first. A wedding is last on our list of building-a-life-together activities. But even after that, I still wanted to be able to tell the world we are officially together for forever. I wanted to be able to call him my fiancé instead of my boyfriend.

But I was willing to wait. And six months later, I decided I could propose. I still wanted our commitment to have the official “I can call my mom” feeling. So I was planning to propose on Christmas, with a personalized, leather wallet.

But even the best-laid plans are prone to ruin. Two weeks before Christmas we found out that a lump in my thyroid was growing, and probably cancerous. Between the stresses of doctor visits, waiting for test results, Christmas, and figuring out how we’re going to pay for my treatment, I realized that getting engaged “officially” wasn’t that important. I knew we were going to get married. His parents knew it. My parents knew it. Everyone was already assuming we were eventually headed towards wedding bells.

So my beginning is an in-progress mess. We’re kind of engaged; we’re kind of not. And we both know, regardless of my bare left hand, we’re together and no amount of richer, poorer, sickness, or health is going to change that.

Photo by Gabriel Harber Photography

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