Alright, friends, I have alluded to this little story before, but only now have I the energy to sit down and actually write it. This long-time-coming tale is one of almost-engagement, non-engagement, and pre-engagement. This is an anecdote of detail and “what is an engagement, really?” And onto it:
Turtle totally did not want to marry me.
Okay, I’m way exaggerating. I think she made it quite clear that a part of her did want to marry me. But another, larger part of her was clinging desperately to her single-dom, her independence, and the sense of self that she had spent several years fostering. I think that sometimes a relationship can threaten a sense of self – if it’s a good relationship, you can get past that and hopefully both people help foster each other’s sense of self, but in a less-than-awesome relationship, you can really lose yourself. Which, on a side note, is something I am very familiar with.
I think it was about five weeks into our relationship that I started thinking about marriage. I remember, actually, the first time it crossed my mind, because it crossed my mind totally uninvited and I actually startled a little bit. I was like, “Hey, marriage-thought, how the hell did you get here? Make yourself comfortable.” We were walking near Harvard Square, and we were holding hands, and we probably weren’t talking because I remember thinking about us and our age difference (we’re 11 years apart – surprise?) and whether that would affect our relationship. And that’s when the thought crossed my mind: “It’ll probably only come up when we get married.”
- What the f kind of thought is that, to randomly cross one’s mind?
- We had been dating – have I said this already? – for approximately a month. A month! Enough said.
- Really, the logic is flawed. How would an age difference really affect our wedding? It didn’t occur to me that it would affect our relationship or our marriage – just our wedding. Where does that come from?
I spent the next few months discussing with my roller derby carpool buddy whether I was crazy (answer: no) and whether to actually say anything (answer: hell no). We talked about really, really loving someone and how sometimes you can’t say more than “I love you,” but that “Will you marry me?” is like saying, “No, I really really love you,” and that sometimes you should wait until you’ve been together at least 6 months and try to find other ways to express that in the meantime. In retrospect, this is not the case for everyone… but I think it’s pretty good advice. Thanks, Estrogeena Davis.
Fast forward a few months: it’s December, we are at Turtle’s friend’s house for dinner, and we have both had a bit too much wine (another side note: that means approximately one glass each. We are very small people.). We go to wait in line for the bathroom, and we are all lovey and sweet and happy together. At this point, we have been together about 8 months. That’s a reasonable amount of time. And I, in my drunken lack-of-inhibition-ness, say, “If I asked you to marry me, would you say no?”
She looks at me and says, “No.” And then she goes into the bathroom.
So I am all fluttery and twittering and don’t remember much else until that night, when I say, “If I asked you to marry me, would you say yes?” And she says something like, “I think so,” or “probably,” or maybe she even said “yes,” but if she did she said it evasively.
What do you do with that, people? Does that mean yes? Are we talking about marriage here? Are we way, way ahead of schedule?
Well, what I did with that was I bought her a ring. I bought her a ring that I knew she liked and that I could afford and here it is:
A funny note: I was so nervous when I bought it. I had been eyeing it on Etsy for a month and my hands were shaking as I clicked through to order it – and then as soon as it was done, I felt calm. I felt like this was the right thing – of course it was the right thing.
And then I carried it around with me everywhere. And I started acting funny. We started bickering and picking at each other, just a little; it was like we were both testing out whether this was something we really wanted to do. And I don’t remember when I told her I had a ring, but she knew, and every time it came up in any way at all, she freaked out a little and wouldn’t even agree to look at it. So finally we agreed to stop talking about it, and I just hid the ring away and tried to stop thinking about it.
In the next few months, we moved in together, got a kitten, I quit my job, I got a new job, I started medication for depression, I quit the new job and started a newer job, she got a new job, I had a hard time at work, and one of our closest friends prepared for her move from Boston to the stupid west coast. In other words, we went through a lot together. One day, we were supposed to go away for the weekend and her workday was totally kicking her butt. I decided to pick her up at the train station and when she came up the stairs, she was crying. She’s cried, like, three times in our entire relationship, so you know it’s a big deal when it happens. And she got into the car and cried and I told her that everything was going to be alright. I sat there, hugging her and rubbing her back, and when she stopped crying she sat up and looked at me and said, “I would like to marry you.”
This was not our proposal. There was no ring here, there was no huge thing, and to be perfectly honest I was afraid to say anything about it in case she took it back or got scared or jumped out of the car and ran away. I was pretty much like, “I can never change my clothes or bathe again because I can’t change anything.” Don’t worry, I totally bathed and changed within a reasonable time frame.
Anyway, we went away for the weekend, and we got back home, and at this point it was clear that we had agreed to marry each other. So I asked if she wanted to see the ring, and she said no. She said she didn’t want to see it until it was real, until this was it. And I said that I needed her to see the ring, I needed her to make sure she liked it, I needed to know if it was the right thing. She agreed, and I dug it out of my pants drawer (underwear or sock drawer is way too obvious, you guys) and I gave it to her. And I could tell right away that it was not what she wanted from an engagement ring.
And you know what? That was totally, completely okay. Because this ring, this pretty little chocolate diamond ring, was about so many things that were not about our agreement to marry each other. It was about my realizing I wanted to be with her in this big important way. It was about my willingness to wait until she was ready, and about her willingness and ability to know herself and recognize where she was in her process. It was about the eight months in between my buying it and our decision together. It was about our knowing where we ourselves were in this process and knowing where the other one of us was.
I asked her to take it and to wear it for all of the things it meant to us. We agreed that it would be our “pre-engagement ring” even as we laughed about how dorky and ridiculous it is to be pre-engaged. And you know what? It was the absolute perfect pre-engagement ring. She wore it on her right hand, and still does now.
Which side were/are you on in your relationship? How many engagement rings is too many? Why do you think an 11 year age difference would affect our wedding? Do you think I am completely crazy? At least the dog didn’t eat the ring, right?