This is entirely a gut reaction to Meg’s post at a Practical Wedding about engagements and proposals; it hit a trigger for me, and I wanted to share my experience, because it didn’t pan out quite as expected.
The Propsoal. Or, as I like to call it, My Great Shame.
So, we were engaged last July, quietly in the apartment we share. The story goes that Mr. Bear (names changed to protect the innocent) had asked my father a few weeks earlier “for my hand” in marriage; we’ve been dating since high school, and we’re both fairly traditional, so we felt it was a sweet thing to do. We both had wanted to get engaged for a while, but Bear wanted to wait until he finished his undergraduate degree before getting engaged, until life had settled down a bit.
Mr. Bear had begun planning a big night to pop the question, going all out, as he usually does (he’s a showy kind of guy, part of what I love about him). Then, a few days after he picked up the ring, he said it just “felt right.” It was a random Tuesday, a completely, utterly, average day. I was watching baseball and checking my email on my laptop, when he came over and got down on one knee. He asked The Big Question and I just stared at him. “You’re kidding, right?” He went and got the ring, asked again, and I was absolutely speechless. I said yes, and that was that.
That’s what we tell people. And, if I’m honest, it’s close to what happened. But it’s certainly not the whole truth.
As Meg said in her post, it’s the woman’s job as the proposee (as opposed to the proposer) to sit there and wait patiently for this big show with the big rock. Unfortunately, patience has never been my strong suit. He picked up the ring on Friday. By Sunday I was a wreck. I knew he had it, I knew he was proposing, but I didn’t know when. And since I knew he’s the type to do a big show of affection, I felt like I was waiting for a bomb to go off. Every time I opened our apartment door, I expected dozens of roses scattered everywhere; every time he suggested we do something, I was waiting for a scavenger hunt or a surprise dinner… and I seriously, honestly, could not handle the stress. Bear and I fought for two days straight about it, about my obsession with control, about my inability to let this go, about how he needed the moment to feel “right” (all totally valid). And finally, somewhere on Tuesday night, after sobbing for hours, I let go. It was extremely, painfully emotional. I finally consigned myself to let him do it his way. I even slipped a bracelet on my wrist that I usually never wear; I showed it to him proudly: “It’s my reminder to be patient!” I needed to give myself a visual, arresting, daily reminder that I need to patient and let him do it on his terms.
And then, the rest of the story unfolds: I sat down on the couch, fiddling with the bracelet, a weight lifted and trying to let go of the stress, and he came over and asked me to marry him. I did ask, him if he was joking because it was just downright mean to ask at a moment like that. He said after everything we’d been arguing about, and how I’d finally calmed my control-freak self down, he said it just felt right. So he asked me, and I said yes.
He’s still disappointed he didn’t get to do the Big Show for the proposal, and frankly, I regret not letting him. We’ve talked about it a little, and he’s expressed interest in re-proposing, so we’ll see if he does it. Since we’re over halfway through planning the wedding, I don’t know if it will still have the same crazy feeling as it would if it had played out naturally, but I want to give him that, at least. And I want to give it to myself, a do-over, allow that moment of surprise and excitement and happiness and LOVE. And, yeah, I might be shallow, but I want it for other people– because every time I tell about our proposal, it’s a lie, and something inside me whispers, “Liar. Liar. Liar.”
The post at Practical Wedding touches on about knowing who you are, and part of who I am is that anxious, stressed out control freak. And he knows that. It kept us from having the proposal we both deserve (not that everyone “needs” that big proposal, but we’re showy people, it’s who we are), but that control freak is still part of who I am. He did propose because it felt right; he absolutely wouldn’t just to placate me, so I know it was still “right”– it’s just a little… off.
So my patience and understanding of his timing was, needless to say, atrocious. However, in the broader view of our relationship, we’ve both been very deliberate and very patient. We’ve been dating for nine years, and we were starting to think about getting married, but we both wanted the timing to be right—I was ready to be engaged probably right after I graduated from college, but he wanted to be financially and personally more stable before we took that next step, so we waited.
I have family and friends who were chomping at the bit, people who were wondering just when we’d make this official, and I calmly brushed them off, told them it was more important to us to do this on our own time and our own terms. We’d been dating since HIGH SCHOOL, so waiting was just part of the game (waiting to get a driver’s license, waiting to turn 18, to turn 21, to move in together…). Just because we’d dated “long enough” didn’t mean it was the right time. We were both extremely patient with one another about this; it was an organic, measured process. I think we both got less patient in the last year or so, but that’s part of becoming ready, right? So we waited, and now it’s absolutely the right time for us, and where we are in our lives. I might have ruined a big fancy proposal, but the engagement feels very, very right.