My now-husband had the perfect plan: It was spring break, we were headed to Annapolis for dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, and after that he would ask me to take a walk along the edge of the docks, where, next to the sailboats illuminated by the streetlights, he would drop to one knee on the bricks and ask for my hand in marriage. Perhaps a few passersby would see us, even take a picture or two, maybe clap. Certainly there would be a small flurry of congratulations thrown our way, as well-meaning strangers would ask me to show them my new diamond ring. We'd be the focus of some water cooler stories the next morning, even.
Except, instead of being the momentary envy of passersby, I ignored my then-boyfriend's request to keep our dinner for just the two of us and invited my whole family along. By the time they all took off, I told him I was tired and could we just drive home. He tucked the ring back in his jacket pocket and indulged me, deciding he would go with an alternate plan the following week.
During that week since I wasn’t working, I called my best friend and met her for coffee to discuss the state of my relationship. Since the man and I had been dating for nearly three years and showed no sign of any progress, I wondered if it wasn’t time to cut my losses. In spite of this having been my longest and healthiest relationship, I remained pragmatic: I was 27 years old and should consider that our time together had run its course. Sure, I would have a rough go of it, but it was time to break up with him if something didn’t happen soon. Yet again, I assumed, I was responsible for making the plan, since no one else was going to do it for me.
The following Monday night, my love drove us to a lovely dinner where he ordered wine and dessert. When we got back to his house, he invited me to take a walk around the lake nearby. It was a beautiful, clear night, the stars were shining, and I'm assuming the moonlight was reflecting majestically off the water.
I'm assuming it was, because I was too lazy to get off the couch. He tried to convince me, he gave it his best shot, but I sat there like an amorphous lump of clay, perhaps having consumed one too many bites of flourless chocolate cake at our romantic dinner.
He is not a planner, so the fact that he has attempted to propose to me in a planned and romantic fashion not once, but twice, and still remained unengaged, meant he would no longer be attempting any sort of plan.
Which is when it happened.
There, in the basement, with the low-hanging ceilings and the ugly navy blue couch, in front of the cheap particle board coffee table, my darling man picked up the remote, turned off the episode of Jeopardy I was yelling the answers to, got down on one knee and inquired, "Will you marry me?"
As the small, velvet box creaked open, so did my realization of all he had been attempting earlier in the evening. Which is why instead of immediately saying yes, I batted the ring out of his hand like I was swatting a bee out the front door.
As we both scrambled around on the floor for the ring, I launched into an endless loop of "Yes" and "I'm so sorry, I had no idea." Of course I would marry him, I loved him and wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. But I couldn't believe I'd gone and bungled the entire operation.
Of course, at that moment, I had no idea about the first attempt, but when that story eventually spilled out, not only was I kicking myself for my laziness which ruined the lake proposal, but I had to add in my uncanny ability to overtake his plans. My unwillingness to let him have his way just that once had robbed me of what would have been a beautiful proposal. I had no one to blame but myself.
This extremely memorable incident sparked a change in me. It taught me that not only was it OK to trust my husband-to-be, but that it might even prove beneficial to do so. If I loved him enough to marry him, certainly I should throw a little trust his way.
My proposal was messy. It was disappointing. Cringeworthy, even. But what has followed in the 13 years since has been the coming together of two imperfect people, joining in marriage, who have forged a very real life together. We have moved forward together, created four children together and continue to raise them in the best way we know how. Sometimes it is messy. Oftentimes disappointing. And yes, there are cringeworthy moments. But as we grow, the good continues to outweigh the dreck. The start may have been near-disastrous, but what has grown from that comedy of errors on an old couch in a sad basement is more beautiful than any viral video-worthy proposal in existence.
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