My last post was about the day we got engaged, but the engagement process is so much more than just one day. It had begun many months earlier, as we gradually moved from whimsical musings on “If I ever marry…;” to cautiously-worded statements about “If we ever get married…;” to serious interrogations along the lines of “Oh my god, should we get married? Like, do you want to actually DO that?”
Turns out that, yes, we actually did want to do that.
And here is how we went about it:
- We began talking earnestly about getting married in January of 2009. We decided we were ready.
- My stomach went all fluttery. I started to obsessively peruse wedding websites.
- We went online and looked at rings. I showed him the ones I liked. Oh my god. This was really going to happen!!!!!
- February passed. So did March.
- In April we took a trip to Austin, TX. I was sure this was the golden ticket. Engagement, here we come!!!
- Still nothing. I started dropping not-so-subtle hints into our conversations. Meanwhile, unbeknownst to me, the beau had just picked up the ring from the jeweler and hidden it in his dresser drawer.
- I angrily unsubscribed from my Weddingbee RSS feed.
- What’s wrong? There’s something wrong, right? What’s happening here? Is he ever going to ask?
- The beau decided to put the proposal off some more. We had a lot of stuff going on in our lives, and he wanted to wait for the right time to pop the question.
- I didn’t want to nag. I didn’t want to be a sitcom stereotype. I am not that person. WE ARE NOT THAT COUPLE.
- June arrived. We finally had a weekend at home to ourselves. He suspiciously asked me to go on a suspicious wine-tasting trip. I was… suspicious.
- Oh, shit, it finally happened. We’re finally engaged.
- Um. Yay?
Now, OK. Here’s the deal. Having been through all of that? Having now been engaged for a year? Reading what I’ve read? Knowing what I know? If I could do it all over, I would totally do things differently.
Now, let it be known that the proposal itself — that question asked and answered, in all its unplanned awkwardness — was perfectly imperfect. It was just right for us.
The part leading up to that day? Was just all wrong for us. Because following all that deliberation and deep discussion about our plans for the future, together, we then proceeded to part ways and go off into separate camps: Me into my “waiting and guessing” camp, and the beau into his “researching and plotting” camp. Um, huh?
After we decided we wanted to get married, I kind of threw my hands up and backed away. Far be it from me to appear aggressive or pushy, right? Or needy, for that matter. I dumped my time and energy into cultivating a relaxed and indifferent persona, like I imagined a “cool” girl might do. Except for those unfortunate instances when my defenses were down – yes, usually after I’d been drinking — and those anxieties rushed in and made me ask, tearfully, if he still really wanted to get married, because really I wasn’t trying to make him, honest, cross my heart and hope to die. Promise. And he had to assure me that all was well and that he still loved me very much and that something would indeed be happening at some unknown date. Promise.
And in the meantime I just had to sit on my hands. Really, that’s what it was. This method of marriage proposal enforces unreal expectations, because one person in the partnership is rendered passive. Turns out I don’t know how to be passive. Neither of us do; we’re accustomed to making decisions and taking action jointly. Why was it different leading up to our engagement? How did my partner and I get fooled into copping roles that we don’t typically play in real life? Easy, I guess: When faced with a new and scary situation in which we didn’t quite know how to behave, we defaulted to what we had typically seen others do.
Back then, pre-engagement, there were just too many difficult and rigid gender expectations wrapped up in a proposal for me to throw my weight against. I’m not saying this to kick sand in the face of what I perceive to be big, bad, evil tradition. I’m just saying that sometimes a paradigm shift is necessary. I couldn’t get my head around these issues then. But if I could do it over, I might take the bull by the horns and just propose to my partner, first.
The egalitarian proposal isn’t for everyone. But for who I am now? It totally is.
Can I just come right out and say this? My engagement ring was, uh, not what I had in mind. I was anticipating an antique ring with a smallish stone. I visualized it having a sapphire or two instead of a diamond. I imagined that the band would be engraved with a pretty wheat pattern. What I got was a very new, very large diamond ring with a smooth, shiny platinum band. Worse? I have no idea where the diamonds’ place of origin is, which was one of those squicky ethical things that were originally important to me.*
That said, allow me to be crystal clear: I LOVE my ring. I love it because the beau had it custom made for me. Yes, he went out and researched and looked and researched some more and became dissatisfied with the strength and quality of the antique rings I had shown him online. So he went to a local, independent jeweler, spent a few weeks selecting stones, and had a ring built. It has one round center stone with two pear-shaped stones flanking it. The band tapers up to a delicate point where it meets the side stones. It’s very pretty, to me anyway, and it sparkles a lot. And every time I look at it I think about how he sweated over making it for me, and it’s his sweat and effort and love that in the end made me fall head-over-heels for this ring. And now that I have it, I don’t really want to change anything about it.**
And yet. The truth remains that if I’d been part of the shopping process, I’d be wearing a completely different ring.
All of this is neither bad nor good. It just is. Like everyone else, we’re just two people clumsily trying to wend our way through life’s Big Important Moments. And sometimes it seems like I finally learn what I needed to know long after I needed to know it.
But ain’t that just the way it goes?
* This was a hard thing for me to admit, because I dislike the thought of opening myself up to public attack. But this was just a post that warranted complete honesty. So, there it is. I have a terrible, horrible, no-good, very bad, non-eco-friendly, traditional ring. Do with this information what you will.
** Except to add engraving to the band – I’ve had plans to do that for months but haven’t yet mustered the strength to part with the ring for two weeks.