Whenever two people decide to get engaged, there are always three questions which immediately follow everyone’s initial reactions of surprise, joy, congratulatory hugs/kisses/handshakes, and all around merriment. In order, these question are:
- "Can I see the ring?"
- "Have you guys set a date yet?"
- "So how did he do it? TELL MEEEEEEEeeeee!!!"
Clearly, people love to live vicariously through others, as it’s typically question #3 which has the most gravity. People just love hearing and telling their proposal stories. I can’t really blame them though, it’s a very significant moment, and everything we’re shown and taught in media/western culture is that it’s got to be memorable!
So in an effort to not have to necessarily tell this story a hundred times to a hundred different people, and to immortalize my particular joy/pain/stress/elation, I shall endeavor to spin my tale to you now. Grab your loved one, a nice drink, a couple tissues, and proceed below… It’s a long one.
So I guess a little back story is required to understand the rationale behind my devious plan. We’ve been talking for a little while about the whole prospect of getting married; some of it jokingly, some of it rather seriously. One of the things we both agreed upon was that we’d like to have an autumn wedding (not cold yet, but not so hot you’d be sweating in your fine delicates). Going on the pretty reasonably assumption that you’d need about a year to plan a wedding, that put me pretty much up against the clock if it were going to happen sooner than later. She was aware that time was running out.
As one of our more serious (and also joking) wedding things to do, we had gone ring shopping in the summer to a couple of boutique jewelers who specialized in bridal jewelry. She had her heart set on a specific designer (which I was fine with, they are world renowned for a good reason), but I was hell bent on being the one to ultimately pick the ring (divorce rates for couples where the woman picks her own ring are ridiculously high). For me, this was more of a chance to assess her particular style and taste when it came to this particularly momentous accessory. The last thing any guy or girl wants, is to give/get a ring that they aren’t going to like. How do you exchange an engagement ring? Sounds like an awkward conversation. Note this single gents… That is lesson #1.
Unbeknownst to anyone, I’d actually gone out and purchased the ring around my birthday. It was a little late in arriving from California, but it was in my hands just over a month later. This of course brought up my first major dilemma: where the heck do you hide one of these things? I didn’t want to be toting it back and forth between the condo downtown and my parents’ up in the suburbs, and I didn’t have a solid enough plan to not have it readily available should the stars begin to align. I decided to hide it in her very condo. Right under her nose. If she found it, shame on her for looking! But I could trust her… I hoped.
Then, the alignment of the stars began. While I was running short on time to make it into my self-imposed fall time frame, three fortuitous events happened/would soon occur that made it all fall into place. Marie had sprained her ankle pretty good one Sunday during a step class (ok, that wasn’t so fortuitous for her; she’s still on the mend!), and was going to physio once per week after work. Marie and I were also going to be spending the weekend largely apart as she likes to do every now and then. Finally, there was Halloween. The stage was now set…
October 31st has always been a bit of a special day for us; not for any tacky, costumed reason, just one of those special days. If there were any day coming up where I could set her up, this would be the day. Very uncharacteristically, I decided to ask her out on a date for that evening. We’d go eat at Salad King (another lovely thing near and dear to the heart). This was just too obvious. I hoped she buy it, regardless of how tacky it would be under such an obvious scenario.
And it was all a rouse. What fun is it if you know it’s coming? 😉 So with Marie thinking she wasn’t going to see me until our "special date" on Halloween, and knowing that she would be home late on Monday because of her physio appointment, I thought I would surprise her at home with a wonderful home cooked meal, and a loving soon-to-be-husband. My idea was to recreate a couple of the important meals we’ve had together over the nine years that we’ve known each other.
My trap was perfectly set.
Or so I thought…
The one outstanding variable that I had yet to check off of my list was unfortunately the biggest: talking to Marie’s parents. Yes, it’s an old tradition, but I think it’s rather respectful and really helps try to prove your worth to the future in-laws. Nothing like a face-to-face, no safety net conversation with the parents! I had begun trying to call Marie’s parents the week before to no avail. I’d call, and no one would answer, and I wouldn’t leave a message (not having a clue really what to say). This was inevitably, my near downfall.
On Sunday night as I was carrying on a light-hearted text message conversation with Marie, her mother called her asking her if she knew why I’d called. Apparently, Mrs. C decided to look through their caller ID since there were missed calls but no messages on the answering machine. I really didn’t remember that cell phones now show up properly on call display stating the name of the account holder (i.e. me). SHIT.
Of course Marie rebuffed her mom telling her she has no idea why I’d called, and that she should call me. Which she did. And I didn’t answer after Marie had text messaged me to tell me that her mother wanted to know why I called. D’oh! I decided that the best course of action here was to avoid and deflect. The less I have to lie to Marie the better, and just hope she doesn’t put two and two together. So I stopped texting and ducked her phone call. Sorry baby, I’ll make it up to you tomorrow. 😉
A long day…
D-day! And boy is it a busy one. It had slipped my mind to book this day off, so at the last minute I’d let my boss know my plan and called in a work from home day, even though there was a lot to be done. Sorry Fatima. 😦 So I did my best to stay on top of office stuff, particularly in the morning. I did answer Marie’s telephone call in the morning though. Can’t duck her forever, and have to make all seem like it is status quo. Nothing about today was to appear out of the ordinary. I skated around her questions about calling her mother. I did call Mr. & Mrs. C back though, and asked if I could stop by to talk to them today. I had hoped to go over there early in the afternoon to give me the rest of the day to cook and prepare myself for the biggest night of my life to date. Of course, that was also not to be as they had their own appointments to get to, so we’d settled on 5 PM. Gosh this is going to be cutting it close.
My itinerary for the day was now shaping up like this:
- 9 AM – 12 PM: Work from home, conceiving my speech
- 12 PM – 2 PM: Grocery shop, drive downtown
- 2 PM – 4:30 PM: Cook everything that could be made ahead of time, work from the condo, composing the speech
- 4:30 PM – 5 PM: Last minute shopping for decor (need more candles), walk to her parents’ condo
- 5 PM – 6 PM: Asking her parents for permission, and all of the rest of what that entails
- 6 PM – 7 PM: Last last minute shopping (dessert), rushing home, readying the final cooking, setting up the ambiance, getting changed, finishing my speech, trying not to panic, wait for Marie
- 7 PM – 7:30 PM: The proposal
- 7:30 PM – ???: Dinner and the rest of our lives.
‘Twas a busy and ambitious day to say the least.
Shopping went as planned. The menu for the evening was a recreation of the first meal I’d ever cooked for Marie a few years ago after she moved into her condo; my Maple-Ginger Glazed Salmon with mashed potatoes. Since Marie is not a fan of asparagus which I had cooked unknowingly the first time, I switched it out for snap peas, a vegetable I know she does love (and those are few and far between… carnivore!). Quick runs to the Chinese grocery for the produce and some sticky rice buns (might as well get the groceries I know she’d want anyway), Costco for the fish and other ingredients/decor/groceries, and I was in the condo and starting to cook right on schedule.
The time seemed to disappear as it always does when you wish you had all the time in the world. That is to say that before I knew it, I needed to be on my way to her parents’ condo. <gulp!> This is one of those moments that you really wouldn’t wish upon your enemies. It’s not necessarily difficult so much as it is just incredibly uncomfortable. What if they said no? I won’t get into the gory details, but of course it was a totally civil and actually rather pleasant conversation, and the entire time, I don’t think I could pull the bottle of water her father gave me away from my face other than when I could stammer out what I needed to say. The really is no easy segue here boys. Just come out and say it as respectfully as possible, listen to everything they need to say, ask questions about their own marriage and any advice they can give you. With any luck, these are going to be your new parents too.
With the help of her dad and the clockwork efficiency that is the GO Train schedule (or more succinctly, the belief that I’m taking the GO Train home that night), I managed to leave their condo with their blessings and more or less on time. Last stop before home: Ben & Jerry’s. Trying to save more time of course, I attempted to navigate some back streets and inevitably went well passed it and had to double back just wasting more time. I did retrieve my goal item though, so now I just needed to rush my butt home.
6:30 PM. Time is running out, and between Marie’s parents and my hike to and fro, I had sweated up a storm. But aaahhhh, the joys of technology. Marie sends me a text to tell me that her physiotherapist is running late. Of course she still thinks I’m at home uptown now, so we carry on a text conversation about our days while she stretches out her bum ankle on a wobble board and I frantically put the finishing touches on everything. Sauce had cooled, salmon cut, snap peas washed and trimmed, my mise en place was ready, candles laid out/lit, got dressed, brushed my teeth, set the table. What am I forgetting… Oh right, MY SPEECH. This will prove to be a recurring theme.
… Turns into a longer night
Cha-chunk! The tumbler lock retracts the deadbolt from its mooring in the door frame, and I now know that the moment is upon us. Marie’s home. If you’ve ever been to the condo, the front door opens into a short hallway that turns left down a long gallery hallway and the rest of the condo. Marie has a large 7′ mirror at the corner so you can see down the hall (or can see the door if you’re inside already). All down the gallery hallway, I’ve lined candles along the floor. At first she’s taken aback, wondering perhaps if she left something on and the condo is burning down. Then she glances up and sees me at the other end of the candle-lit corridor, and smiles.
Down the hallway she comes to give me a big hug and a kiss. We haven’t seen each other in a couple of days, so it’s a happy reacquainting after the nice surprise. One would think though that I’d set up all of the signs to be a little obvious at this point. Not my Marie though! Her next comment: "I have to pee." Oy…
Curveballs. Other than a veteran Major Leaguer tipped off by very good scouting as to a pitcher’s throwing tendencies, we tend to forget to plan for those damn curveballs. And of course, Marie just threw me one. I’m off my game. She’s in the bathroom now, and seemingly oblivious to the purpose of this surprise. Since she’s already settling in, I implore her to not change into her house clothes. I’ve set a nice romantic dinner up, stay dressed! I’m sure she wouldn’t want to remember our proposal story with her wearing her house shorts and a beat up T-shirt. 🙂 Time to roll with it: let’s have dinner first. I’m sure another moment will arrive where I can segue…
Dinner goes flawlessy with us both enjoying a nice tasty meal. We laugh that she was actually wondering what she was going to eat for dinner out of the random leftovers in the fridge as she was on her way home. Do I know my baby or what? 😉 As we plod along through our dinner, I jokingly insist that she save room for dessert. Something that will be nice and light! In retrospect, I realized this would be a cheesy but good moment to broach the true purpose of the evening, but I had placed the ring box nowhere near the fridge! D’oh. I’m sure another moment will arrive where I can segue…
And thus we were on to dessert! This next trip down memory lane was ice cream. Not just any old Ben & Jerry’s ice cream though. This was the ice cream we would buy from Kitchen Table in Atrium on Bay while
either waiting for class back in university, or just hanging out: Ben & Jerry’s CoffeeCoffee
BuzzBuzzBuzz! Why oh why did they stop selling this flavour in grocery
stores?? I hadn’t had any since those days of yore, and I was sure
she’d get a kick out of tasting it again. We savour every bite of the half of the pint we eat. Not much left to do now but clean up a bit. Hmmm… I’m rattled. Why is she acting as if this is just another romantic dinner? Dangit. I’m sure another moment will arrive where I can segue…
After a little tidying up, and of course convincing Marie not to change into house clothes again, I convince her to sit at the table with me just to talk about some new condo stuff (we’d picked finishes over the weekend, and after sleeping on it made some additional changes). In need of some encouragement and closeness, I asked Marie to sit on my lap. I always loved holding her like this even if she was talking about something non-romantic. Is that moment ever going to come? Nope. I think Marie has noticed I was getting a little deflated. She asked me why I looked so down, and I cracked.
"Why did you have to be so normal?", I said. Her "what?" response proving that I’d caught her quite off guard.
"Do you want the ring now?", I quipped in a pouty, defeatist tone.
From here out for the next 30+ minutes, I’ll admit that my recollections get a bit hazy. Bearing in mind that it’s now somewhere around 9-9:30 PM and I’ve been at this for the last God knows how long, but we got into a light, somewhat teary conversation about what was supposed to happen according to my machinations. I was a little flustered, incredibly hot, emotional, teary, and very unsurprisingly, could not for the life of me remember anything I’d written to say to her. Even with the intent of the evening now outed, all of the carefully conceived words were no longer there. What I wouldn’t have paid for a teleprompter…
Let’s call what happens next the engagement equivalent of taking a mulligan. After some cajoling, we decided to replay how the night was supposed to go. Marie was to walk through the door, be overjoyed to see me there, and come awe-struck down the hall (hey, I’m a hopeless romantic… I can dream for some sappy moment if I want to!). She would meet me in the dining room where I would sit her down in one chair, and I would pull another chair in front of her for myself and sit. Finally in my semi-comfort zone of what I had visualized, and looking into the now slightly puffy eyes of the woman I love, I was able to stammer out at least the important half of my speech.
All of the reasons that I loved her.
All of the reasons why she meant the world to me.
All of the reasons I wanted nothing more than to be her’s forever.
And with that, I leaned back to pull out the ring box from it’s temporary hiding place behind a decorative bucket, got down on one knee, and asked her to marry me…
If you’ve read any of this, then I’ll assume you’re smart enough to figure out how she answered. Oh, and as for those first two questions…
- It’s a Tacori ring (you girls should know what those are ;). Some stock pictures of it can be found here. Absolutely GORGEOUS. Worth every penny for my beloved, and all the gawking attention it bestows upon her and her finger. And yes, I picked it. It was a design I had chosen from the jewelry case and asked her to try on. It quickly grew on her to the point I found that she had cut out a full-page ad from a magazine for the very ring. Talk about trying to leave me a big hint…
- Date not certain yet, but most likely sometime in October 2008.
So that’s my story, and we’re pretty happy with it. It wasn’t perfect and didn’t go exactly to plan, but few things in life ever do. And so long as I’m with the love of my life, my future bride Marie, what more could I really ask for?