Category Archives: engagement

past and pending

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:

  1. We began talking earnestly about getting married in January of 2009. We decided we were ready.
  2. My stomach went all fluttery. I started to obsessively peruse wedding websites.
  3. We went online and looked at rings. I showed him the ones I liked. Oh my god. This was really going to happen!!!!!
  4. February passed. So did March.
  5. In April we took a trip to Austin, TX. I was sure this was the golden ticket. Engagement, here we come!!!
  6. 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.
  7. I angrily unsubscribed from my Weddingbee RSS feed.
  8. What’s wrong? There’s something wrong, right? What’s happening here? Is he ever going to ask?
  9. OMFG.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. Oh, shit, it finally happened. We’re finally engaged.
  14. 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.

Here’s how.

The Proposal

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.

But.

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.

The Ring

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?

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* 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.

a year ago today

The beau thought we should go wine-tasting. I had no problem with that. We packed up some provisions and got in the car.

So we drove over the mountains and into the winery-laden Santa Ynez Valley. We had no real plans; we just roamed. We picked up some sandwiches in Los Olivos. We took a detour to Solvang and procured some rocky road fudge. We stopped off at a few wineries along the way, but kept striking out on good picnic spots. So we just kept going.

We ended up way north in the valley, far outside the normal winery circuit. We finally found a place named Rancho Sisquoc with a number of picnic tables in the sun, and proceeded to spend a lazy couple of hours tasting wine and snacking on sandwiches and fudge. On our way back out to the road we found an old American Gothic church with an overgrown cemetery. Seriously. Check this shit out:

That’s some serious business.

At this point in the afternoon it was getting kind of late, so we pointed the car towards home. We were passing Lake Cachuma on the 154 when the beau suggested we try to find a scenic area and have some drinks.* He took a turn for a lookout point over Bradbury Dam.

As far as dams go, this wasn’t a particularly, um, scenic one. Consisting of almost all parking lot, the place was surrounded by trees that blocked all views of the lake save for a small clearing directly overlooking the dam, which was guarded by a rusty rail. The only place to sit down was a lone picnic table under a scraggly tree. Not promising. Not to mention I was feeling sleepy and allergic. But the beau had already mixed up some vodka drinks in plastic hypercolor cups, so I rallied and we ambled over towards the “view.”

On the way there, however, we spotted a small trail down a hill. We set off down the trail eagerly for several yards only to have our hopes for adventure dashed by a barbed wire fence. There was, however, a hole at the bottom of the fence that looked just big enough to fit a person. We looked at each other and shrugged. He held my drink while I ducked and shimmied underneath, then passed the cups to me through the fence before he scrambled through.

I was wearing highly inappropriate footwear for this spontaneous and illegal hike—cheap flats with absolutely no tread. We passed copious amounts of poison oak as tiny rocks gathered in my shoes. Just as I was starting to second-guess our decision the trail once again came to a dead end, this time on the shore of the lake. There we encountered a gorgeous, sweeping vista. The water stretched out to either side of us. Big white puffy clouds sped by overhead, chasing their shadows over the mountains. We stood there for several moments amidst the sun-bleached branches of dead wood and the deer tracks, sipping our vodkas.

Suddenly, a fish jumped out of the water to my left. “Hey, did you see that fish?” I asked the beau, but he was too distracted to answer because he was really digging into his pocket. I pretended not to notice and kept looking off to the left where I’d last seen the fish jump, like it was the most sincerely interesting section of water I’d ever seen. Then the beau said, “I love you.” So I turned around to look at him and he asked, “Will you marry me?”

He was holding out a ring. “Yeah!” I said. I took the ring from him and for some bizarre reason told him, “Thank you!” Then for one long moment we stared at each other like deer in headlights, and then he suddenly began to sink like he was going to drop to one knee. I grabbed his elbow and murmured, “No, no, no!” He stood up again, uncertainly. I slipped the ring on my finger and exclaimed, “Wow!”

We were engaged.**

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* Yes, we had brought a cooler full of booze to accompany our wine tasting trip. Stop looking at me like that.

** Entirely unintentionally, we got engaged exactly 50 months to the day after we met. Strange thing, that. My friend thought it was silly, but I liked it. It feels auspicious when the numbers line up and click into place, you know?