[In case you don't remember, I don't have a cute proposal story, and I'm soo over that. But that being said? The proposal that Bridal Hootenanny member Ben thought up is EPIC and worth praise, admiration, and guest posts. Which is really no surprise because Ben is smart and clever and has a heart the size of a Cadillac. So here's the story of how Ben proposed to Lauren, complete with video (!!!) and life lessons learned.]
So I wanted to propose to my girlfriend 1. because I love her more than all get out; 2. because we had been together for three years and it was TIME; and 3. because I was getting tired of the look of despair she got every time one of her married high school friends got pregnant.
I was faced with several dilemmas. I went into this knowing (and please realize when I say “knowing”, I mean my nerve-addled brain “knew”) that there were multiple “truths” concerning engagements. Truth Number One: The ring is important! Truth Number Two: If you’ve never been romantic in your life and may never be romantic again, it is still no excuse not to be romantic for an engagement. Truth Number Three: Almost as much as getting engaged to the person they love, people like to be able to have a good story to share with family and friends concerning the betrothal. Truth Number Four: Holy crap, I know nothing about rings or romance, and it is going to be awfully difficult to surprise my live-in, nosy and intensely private intended, Lauren, with a memorable and romantic proposal.
I was scared. Nothing about this process was going to be easy or natural for me. But if there is one thing I have learned in my life, it is that if when a friend or family member asks you for help or advice, and you consistently give them whatever they need, then you, when faced with big problems, are able to employ the “Tom Sawyer Effect”. Stay with me here. It has been a long time since I have read The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, but I remember the scene where good ol’ Tom is faced with the task of white-washing a giant picket fence. He really does not want to do this. Using the powers of psychology inherent in all eleven-year-olds, Tom makes an abhorrent task look like a great deal of fun, and soon has all of his friends fighting for some fence-painting time. I am not the master of psychology Tom was, but I WAS raised by a Jewish mother, so instead of making my tasks look like fun, I employed the power of guilt. You can also get help from friends if you can remind them of all of the heavy lifting, physically and emotionally, you have done for them. So I was going to Tom Sawyer the SHIT out of my friends and family in getting this proposal done.
Truth Number One: The ring is important.
I have to say here that the Tom Sawyer Effect was used to the fullest in handling this Truth. When I say I know nothing about rings, I am serious, guys! I have worn exactly one piece of jewelery in my life, not counting watches. (Side note—I feel badly for the watch industry. Cell phones are sucking the life out of that. Wear watches, people! They look cool.) This was a gold chain that my aunt bought me for my Bar Mitzvah when I was 13. When I was 16, I got a charm for said chain in the shape of a lacrosse stick because I wanted every young woman who ever saw me to KNOW that I played lacrosse, because lord knows chicks dig lacrosse players and especially lacrosse players with cheesy gold charms from Things Remembered in Monroeville Mall. Let’s just say that my jewelery knowledge and “game” are severely lacking.
Here is where I am totally lucky, though. Lauren’s step mom freaking owns a jewelery store! Oh, I was going to USE that. Here is the problem, though: I have never been too thrilled with the concept of asking your intended’s father for permission to propose. It seems kind of gross to me. I mean, he doesn’t own her. There was, however, no way to ask for help regarding the ring without telling the man married to the jewelery store owner why you were buying it. I went with the “getting his blessing” angle. Here’s the thing, though: It made him super happy. I could write a whole other post about the evils of the patriarchy and the implied ownership of daughters and how it all makes me throw up in my mouth, but you know what? I made my future father-in-law really happy, I got free ring advice, and ended up getting an engagement ring at cost. I still feel a bit personally weird about the whole “blessing” thing, but judge me if you must. I bet good ol’ Tom felt a few pangs of guilt as he watched his friends paint that fence while he sipped lemonade.
But here is where I went wrong: I got really good ring advice from Lauren (my intended’s) step mom. I used her advice to pick what I thought was a great ring that Lauren would like. I should have stopped there. I, however, being completely neurotic about this whole thing, emailed pictures of the ring I chose along with other possible options to every woman I knew, including my best female friends, my mother, and my sister. This was a mistake. I got very strong opinion from everyone, and they were all different. [Ed. note: I voted for the ring he picked! I am using this as evidence I have good taste.] All it made me do was doubt myself. In the end, after much consternation, I ended up going with my original choice. I learned there is only one person who’s opinion about the ring matters: that of the woman or man to whom you are presenting it. If you are asking him or her to marry you, you have to trust that you probably know him or her better than most people. Trust your instincts, and if you have to seek the advice of someone, ask one person who really knows a bunch about jewelery and won’t just give you personal preferences. Oh, and if you can, ask someone to marry you who has a step mom that owns a jewelery store. That TOTALLY helps.
Truth Number Two: I am seriously not romantic, but damnit, I was going to try.
I went to pick up the ring while Lauren was at a conference in Switzerland. [If you live with a person and you want to do a surprise proposal, it also TOTALLY helps if that person goes away to conferences.] Now I was faced with an even bigger problem: I had to ask her to marry me. I was wracking my brain, sweating, staying up nights. Have I mentioned that I am neurotic and non-romantic? The other problem is that I am a showman by nature. I host a weekly improvisational comedy show, and have been doing improv for 20 years. I had convinced myself that everyone, including Lauren, would expect me to do some big thing that would be funny, romantic, charming, awesome and perfect. That is a ton of pressure to put on yourself—especially when the two best ideas I could think of were tying the ring around the neck of one of our pet chinchillas or arranging a “flash mob” in the place where we had our first date.
The chinchilla idea was dumb because our chinchillas have two defense mechanisms when they feel threatened: they either run away or they pee. I didn’t want to lose the ring forever to a spooked chinchilla, or have that same chinchilla pee on the ring or on Lauren. The flash mob thing was also bad because it had been done to death and also because as I mentioned above, Lauren is pretty private, so a public proposal among a large group of strangers was out.
Then, like a bolt out of the blue, it came to me. I was struck by romance. I am not sure that I have a romantic bone in my body, but in my hour of need, it kind of punched me in the face. The only good thing out of my original two ideas was that I liked the idea of revisiting the place where we had our first date. I decided I wanted to sort of recreate our first date. I loved our first date except for one thing—the kiss at the end. It was AWKWARD. I have no game at all, and, no joke, I sort of tripped while trying to kiss her and my lips kind of missed her mouth. I felt like I could successfully recreate our first date without her getting suspicious and then do the proposal in the same place where I AWKWARDLY kissed her to sort of reclaim that place as special, thus pulling victory from the jaws of defeat. Totally romantic, right? Humor me. It doesn’t happen very often. Here is the only thing I learned about romance from this: It is TOTALLY romantic to relive the past of your relationship. It brings back all of the butterflies you hopefully felt when you first felt like you could love someone. Guess what dudes? It does the same thing for her! A healthy dose of nostalgia is my recipe for romance.
Truth Number Three: It has to be a good story.
So whether I am right or wrong, I have convinced myself that people love a good proposal story. I have been lucky enough to witness a lot of my friends announce that they are getting married. Invariably, the first thing that happens after the ceremonial showing of the ring is The Question. “How did he/she do it???” It’s like, “Ok we are really happy with the fact that you are getting married, but we want the deets!” Add to that my natural showmanship, neuroses, and the fact that I had convinced myself that EVERYONE was going to expect something big and good out of me, and I was kind of screwed. My only real idea was the mere germ of recreating our first date to be followed with a proposal at the spot where I had previously embarrassed myself. How was I going to bring this up a notch? How was this going to be a good story? Most people would say that just proposing at the spot where you had your first kiss after successfully recreating your first date was good enough. I am not most people. I wanted this to be original and epic. People were EXPECTING this. (They totally weren’t, but like I said, I am crazy.) Then I saw something. I was driving down the street listening to Radiohead and wallowing in my misery when off to the side of the road, I saw a Pennsylvania historical marker. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen one of these, but they are blue and yellow signs that are placed in locations where something historical happened. They look like this:
I seriously pulled my car over Dukes of Hazard style and began to stare at the sign. It was calling to me. I have heard many song writers say that the idea for their big hits just kind of pops into their head and they are able to write the entire song in one sitting in about a half hour. Well folks, this was my #1 hit song moment. I was going to make one of those freaking signs, I was going to place it in the spot where Lauren and I had our first kiss, and I was going to use it as a proposal prop. The brilliance of this idea didn’t hit me all at once, but as I thought about it, I realized that it was just the most perfect thing ever. It was original. It was romantic. It was thoughtful. It was a big thing. Most importantly, it was a STORY. I had no earthly idea how I was going to make this sign. All I knew was that I was going to make it, and it was going to look real.
So how was I going to pull this off? When I say that I am not able to fabricate things, I want you to realize that the prospect of putting together Ikea furniture has kept me up crying at night. I am not exaggerating. Then my old buddy Tom Sawyer tapped me on the shoulder and reminded my that while I am inept, I had friends and friends of friends that were not. Didn’t my best friend Louis Stein work in a theater department at one of the most respected universities for theater in the country? Don’t theater departments have scene and prop shops where people dedicate their lives to making things that aren’t real but sure as hell will fool the untrained eye? Isn’t Louis really good at taking crazy ideas and actually making them real and isn’t he also good at nearly Machiavellian coercion of his co-workers? Haven’t I helped Louis move really heavy furniture every time he has changed apartments in his adult life? I gave Louis a call. Turns out because Louis not only works at a highly-respected theater department but also that theater department is contained within a university equally famous for engineering and technological advancement, that theater department has a machine. Oh this is not your run-of-the-mill machine. It is a machine that basically works like a computer printer, except that instead of training its lasers on a mere piece of paper, it trains them on pretty much any material you feed into it and fabricates that material into any shape you tell the computer to fabricate. The end result was this:
Now all I had to do was put the entire plan in motion. I had to convince my insanely busy girlfriend to join me for brunch on a Sunday morning at the same place where we had our first date, park my car on the same street where we had our first awkward kiss to facilitate walking past the sign on our way back to the car, have accomplices in place to place the sign while Lauren and I ate our brunch, walk her back past the sign, have her notice it, get down on one knee while she read it, present the ring, and hopefully get a “yes”. Easy Peesy, right?!?!? Well, it turns out that when I told this plan to several more friends who wouldn’t be in their current apartments without my amazing lifting skills, they were all too eager to help. They even made a video of their preparations to help me and the actual event:
[Video by Abby Fudor!]
Truth Number Four: Holy crap, I know
nothing something about rings and romance.
Guys, she said yes. I am not saying that what I did was right. I am not saying that you should do it too. I am not saying that I am not pretty much completely insane. What I am saying is that you too can be romantic. You just need some talented friends, some luck, and a little bit of help from ol’ Tom Sawyer. Ain’t love grand?