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I Think I Have Proposal Envy

Does a proposal count if there isn't a grand romantic gesture?

I felt the first twinge of proposal envy when talking to a classmate a few days after my own engagement. “Josh, you’re engaged, right?” I asked casually as we walked to class together.

“Oh, no!” He exclaimed. “I’m getting engaged on October 19th!” Josh, it turned out, had a plan. He was going to ask his girlfriend to marry him on their three-year anniversary, with a ring he’d had made with her grandmother’s diamonds. It was going to be the perfect not-surprise, with photographs of her teary reaction and gorgeous ring-clad hand. It was… so not my proposal.

My proposal happened after a Regina Spektor concert, in a muddy parking lot next to my 2003 Toyota Highlander. We put our bags in the car and I dropped to one knee before he had even closed the door, asking, “Will you marry me for real?”

forging happiness

When I asked my now-fiancé to marry me, I had spent the better part of a month convinced that he was going to propose at the concert. We’d talked about marriage before, we’d agreed that we wanted to get married “someday,” and that concert by our mutual favorite artist seemed like the perfect opportunity. What could be more romantic?

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Over the course of the day spent at the music festival where Regina performed, my hopes for a proposal grew dimmer and dimmer. Earlier in the day, filled with nervous excitement, I actually made some joke about how he needed to start saving money to buy me a ring, and he laughed and said, “Maybe in three years!” In the evening as we stood in the crowd waiting for her set to start, he turned to me and said, “Wow. This would have been a really good time to propose to you!” I said something like, “No shit!” and we laughed, and I realized that my hopes of a forthcoming proposal were almost certainly in vain.

But after we left that amazing concert and started walking to the parking lot, I thought about how happy I’d been the past month while I dreamed about a proposal. I thought about how much I loved him and how much better my life had been since he moved in with me the year before. I thought about all the conversations we’d had about building our lives together, about kids and where we want to live and what we want to do with our lives. And then I thought…why does he get to dictate my happiness? Why can’t I make myself happy right now? By the time we got to the car, I knew that I was going to propose.

Facing the green-eyed monster

My proposal story didn’t come with a ring. There are no photographs of me or him giggling or crying or dancing with joy. When I called my sister on the drive home to tell her the news, I spent almost ten minutes talking about Regina Spektor before I even mentioned the proposal. The whole thing didn’t seem real yet. After all—where were the fireworks? Where was the pomp and circumstance?

I still have occasional moments of proposal envy. When my classmate posted pictures of his girlfriend saying yes to his big, planned proposal, I felt it. When a different classmate was proposed to on the podium in the middle of conducting the pep band during a football game, I felt it. And when I tell people I’m engaged and they immediately look at my bare left hand, I definitely feel it.

But the truth? The truth is that I wouldn’t change my impromptu, casual engagement story for the world. It was both surprising and expected in the best possible way, and it was a better reflection of us as a couple than any pre-planned proposal could have been.

finding my focus

My fiancé and I are saving up a few hundred dollars to buy the ring I have fallen in love with: a simple solitaire setting of a green sapphire in platinum. And, judging by our finances at the moment, it might be a while until I get to see that ring on my finger. But whenever it happens, it will be worth the wait.

Proposal envy may be real, but in the end, it doesn’t really matter. Soon enough, I will be married to the man of my dreams. Maybe he’s the one who got to say yes first, but on our wedding day, we’ll get to say yes together. I can’t think of a better end—and start—to our love story.

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