If At First She Doesn’t Swoon…. (An Engagement Story in Two Acts)

The happy couple.

You know in your bones that a man loves you when you tell him that you need for him to propose to you a second time, after having already accepted the first proposal, and he insists that you’re not crazy, but merely complex.

He really did plan the first one perfectly. (Perfectly!) He took all my completely transparent hints about nature and privacy, and he took into consideration our history and traditions as a couple. He researched, he asked around for advice, and he made a plan that was meaningful, intimate, and simple enough to be successfully executed.

He took me hiking up a mountain! In the snow! To climb a tower! What could possibly go wrong?

Well, a few things perhaps.

There were the small things.

We went hiking on the heels of the Snowtober nor’easter, and we were hiking in Connecticut, which had received 20 inches. Traffic lights out everywhere because of downed power lines, mile-long lines at gas stations – everything was a mess. Disrupted traffic patterns added probably an hour to our travel time, made many drivers cranky and unpredictable, and set B’s driving frustration meter to Slow Burn. (Well, he did sort of have a lot riding on successfully arriving where we were trying to go πŸ˜‰ )

Then, when we got to the trail we wanted, we weren’t entirely surprised to find that a full-sized tree had fallen over the drive entrance.

But this wasn’t all bad. There was another park across the street whose entrance wasn’t blocked, and they had parking. We crossed back, climbed through the leafy gate, and discovered the tremendous upside to hiking after a snowy nor’easter:

We had the mountain entirely to ourselves.


No footprints, no voices, just us and trees and sunlight and birds.

We tromped merrily up the mountain. B had sneakers on instead of boots, so he suffered from wet feet the whole time, but maintained a cheerful resolve about it, insisting that it was totally fine and he didn’t notice the damp at all. (Liar πŸ˜‰ )

About halfway up the trail, we discovered to our delight that most of the trees blocking the path, which we had thought were probably damaged, were merely weighed down under the heavy snow. Wind and growing snow burdens had bent them nearly double, and then once their still-leafy crowns were bowed low enough, more snow accumulated on top of them, so that they were left crouched and cramped, looking like they were bending over to touch their toes. Like so:

I'm not holding the tree down - the snow is pinning it down.

It turned out that when we pulled the upper branches free of the snow, the whole sapling would whip back into upright position with a very satisfying SPROING. Like so:

I'm in exactly the same spot. B backed up so you could see the tree sprung upright.

From that point forward, we named ourselves the Tree Liberators and busied ourselves freeing the saplings from their wintry shackles.

You need to try this sometime. It’s good for the soul.

Playful! Joyful! Fun! What could be more romantic?

Of course, when we got to the top of the mountain (this is Connecticut we’re talking about here; I use the term “mountain” very loosely), it turned out that the tower was locked up and closed for inclement weather. Not exactly a shocker.

I’m not such a huge fan of towers anyway. I really didn’t care.

I tried to suggest that we go sit in the cute pavilion (my feet were tired!). B, on the other hand, went hunting all around the tower to see if he could find a way in.

And this was where things really started to go wrong for me.

See, it wasn’t really a surprise. It was sort of a surprise, but I had dropped way too many hints about exactly what I wanted, and I had been waiting way too long for The Moment to arrive, so my vigilance levels were at record-breaking highs.

When he suggested we go hiking on Halloween, I immediately noted that I’m usually the one who suggests hiking trips, and my proposal radar wentΒ  into overdrive.

I had relaxed somewhat while we were liberating trees, but at this moment, on top of the mountain, it occurred to me that he was unusually determined to get into the tower, and my radar snapped back into high alert.

And really, what is so bad about a proposal being only half a surprise?! Nothing!

Except that it gave me far too much lead-time to worry about it.

I can be bristlier than a porcupine when something makes me nervous, and by the time I found B disappointedly rounding the corner of the tower to tell me there was no way in, I was already mentally barricaded, pacing around in my thoughts behind a full shielding of protective walls and barbs.

“What if I’m wrong? What if he doesn’t propose? Don’t freak out. What if he does propose but he botches the speech? What if he doesn’t even have a speech? What if I don’t like his speech? Why must there be a chain link fence ruining the vista? Stay calm. Don’t freak out….”

Not the most conducive mental atmosphere for receiving a Big Moment with warmth and affection.

I barely heard him ask, “Are you sure you’re ok with not climbing the tower?”

I waved it off as fine, but B was nervous too, and now he wasn’t sure what to do with the fact that I had sat down on the one dry step available (my feet were tired!), which would make a one-knee delivery slightly less dramatic.

He bounced in place for a few seconds, and then turned and said “Stand up and kiss me,” with a flirtatious little smile. It was quite clever, really, and I would have found it charming except for the clamor of alarm bells in my head which had crescendo’d to full volume.

He placed a kiss very lightly on my lips, and then laboriously lowered himself to one knee (he has very bad knees, and this cost him some pain, which made the gesture even sweeter), and pulled a box out of his back pocket.

ga-THUMP. ga-THUMP. ga-THUMP went my heart.

My brain overloaded and my thoughts flatlined. I floated in empty space, connected to nothing, as the box was held before me and opened, and I saw the ring for the first time.

Then my thoughts started back up again. With a vengeance.

It had NEVER occurred to me that we needed to talk about the ring.

B knows me, knows my style, has bought numerous accessories for me which were all perfectly suited to me. I was wide open, I thought, on ring styles – I didn’t care what stone, what cut, what metal, what setting, as long as “bohemian” was the ruling aesthetic.

And my first thought, when I saw the ring was:

Upper. East. Side.


“What is he doing with this giant flashing diamond?! Is it a conflict diamond?! What if my first thought whenever I look at this ring is dead Africans instead of true love?! I can’t be responsible for something this expensive!! How can I show my face at Occupy Wall Street if he’s given me a one percenter’s ring?! WTF?!

The noise in my head was so deafening that I barely noticed that B was talking.

“……….princess……….fairy tale…………Will you marry me?”

My eyes went wide and my heart paused, and it took me a moment to realize that this was The Moment. It took a long enough moment for me to gather my wits that Ben laughed and made a nervous comment about hesitation, and I realized that I needed to relieve him of his own anxiety, and I said, “Of course I’ll marry you.”

And I smiled.

And panicked all over again.


I was engaged, and I didn’t feel engaged at all! I had MISSED it!! Where was the the swelling joy, the happy tear, the feeling of utter connection and bliss?

I tried my damnedest to look happy for B’s sake. The man had worked hard on this, and I knew it. We were on a lovely mountain, in the snow, liberating trees, being romantic. A good day! I had a ring, like I’d been wanting for a long time. So it wasn’t quite the ring I’d pictured – still! What a ring! A good day!

About ten minutes after getting engaged, one lone guy in an orange work vest came trudging up along the trail behind us, and we got him to take a few pictures for us. He was the only other person we saw on the mountain the whole day. (Isn’t that ridiculously perfect? Why didn’t I feel engaged yet?!)

We walked down the mountain, had a short-lived snowball fight (no gloves), and got back to the car, where B surprised me with the most lovely fall-colored roses. That was a surprise, and I was genuinely grateful – I love flowers, and B is not a flowers kind of guy, so it was a heartfelt gesture.

I called my mom, he called his brother, we gave a guy a jump to start his truck, and we headed to to the German Beer Garden B had picked out for our celebration dinner (which had some personal symbolism from a previous experience we’d shared – it was thoughtfully chosen).

And it was closed on Mondays. Figures.

We headed back to Astoria instead to try a French place we’d never been to. The gas light went on halfway back, but B found a gas station in time and that disaster was averted.

I called siblings, grandparents, texted people who needed to be texted. My sister screaming on the other end of the phone, and probably also jumping up and down, made the event a little more real for me, and I relaxed a bit and did some of my own screaming, and started to have a better time. I told toll-booth men and waitresses and hostesses and busboys that we’d just gotten engaged, which was exciting. B was also texting more people, and we drank a whole bottle of wine between us and gorged ourselves on oysters, mussels, and various starches. The waitress took our picture. We walked to our usual haunt (Red Mango) for dessert, and then headed home.

My mom ooohed and aaaahed over the ring, we changed our facebook status together and basked in the online love for a while. Then I kissed B good night and went to bed.

I woke up crying the next morning.

I wasn’t having any mixed feelings about being engaged or getting married. Astonishingly enough, I was feeling just fine and dandy about being official.

I had just needed the proposal to be perfect.

Please understand – unlike most little girls, I did not grow up dreaming of marriage. Due to some vivid early experiences, I feel about marriage the way most people would feel about the idea of being dragged naked by a rope behind a runaway train. In fact, as recently as three and a half years ago, I was telling G-d that I was ready to consider lifetime celibacy as a serious option. It didn’t even seem like a sacrifice – I loved being single.

The story about how I changed my mind would take too long to include in this post πŸ™‚ It’s a good story, though – you should ask me about it sometime πŸ™‚

Anyway, fantasies of a proposal and then wedding and then marriage are all very new to me, and richly imbued with the fervor of the newly awakened. So, with the zealotry of the recently converted, the deeply idealistic, and the chronically insecure, I had needed the proposal to be perfect.

And it was pretty perfect, and I had missed it.

I needed that memory. As much as it was going to hurt to figure out how to say something, it was going to be worse if, when I finally saw all my friends again, I cringed every time someone asked me how it happened, and then burst into tears when they exclaimed over the ring. I’m terrible at hiding my true feelings.

I texted B – “I love you and cherish you and we need to talk – in person.”

Naturally, he gave me a worried call a little later – “Everything okay?”

I insisted that we had to talk in person, but I had a pretty full schedule that day, so we had to wait for Wednesday.

Which gave B a day to sort of brace himself (what could I possibly want to talk about except the proposal? Something must have gone wrong…..), and it gave me an extra day to think about exactly how I wanted to approach this.

Please understand – I absolutely trust B, and one of the things I trust him with is staying cool when I’m in full-on crazy mode. I knew that it was absurd (absurd!) and potentially volatile and hurtful to ask for a proposal do-over, and I knew that I was going to ask for it anyway, and I trusted him to at least hear me out, but I was still terrified of hurting his feelings and probably damaging the relationship.

I mean really, WHO DOES THIS?!

I was certain I was wearing my top-volume, batshit crazy hat.

The extra day to think was helpful. The more I thought about it, the more I was sure that there must be a reasonable explanation for why he chose this ring, and that I should just ask him for his perspective.

He wouldn’t have picked a big shiny ring just because he thought I’d like big and shiny. He knows me better than that. He’s more thoughtful than that. I just needed to find out what his process was so that I could appreciate the ring as he saw it, rather than as my first impression painted it for me.

And then there was the full proposal do-over. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that really all I needed was to hear the speech again. Didn’t need to go hiking again, didn’t need a big show, I just really needed that end-of-the-movie monologue where the man is open and vulnerable and laying it all out there for the woman he loves, and she starts to cry.

And I was suddenly inspired (I’m convinced this was G-d’s suggestion) – if I wanted a no-holds-barred love-speech from him (a second one!), then I should be willing to offer the same.

I wrote out a page-long speech about all the reasons I love him and am sure I want to be with him, and I finished it with “Please, please, B -even though I’m crazy, will you still marry me?” I also wanted a token to give him, so I decided to cut off a lock of hair and wrap it in some of the rose petals and ribbon from the flowers he’d given me.

He arrived that morning looking understandably a little nervous, but he kissed my hand and sat down on the couch with me in good faith. I decided to get the ring business out of the way first, so I asked him my questions, and learned the following things:

The diamond itself is actually vintage, and had been set aside by the family years and years ago for the express purpose of being made into an engagement ring whenever B’s lady arrived. So the diamond now represented family acceptance instead of mining wars. Check.

The setting B had ordered specially because he wanted the ring to stand out and be different enough so that when you look at it, it will clearly be M’s ring. “Different” is close enough to “bohemian.” Check.

YAAAAAAAYYYYYY! I could finally start to own the ring instead of constantly thinking it belonged on someone else’s finger!

Ahem. Does this angle make my stone look fat? πŸ˜‰

And I have to say, it does have very lovely Celtic scroll work down the side, and a vine motif along the tops that makes me think of the vine and the branches, and the flowering of love. And it FLASHES in the sunlight! (Did I mention it’s big and shiny?!)Β Β  πŸ™‚

Now for the second request. I started explaining to B about being distracted on the mountain because of being nervous about the proposal, and then confused about the ring, and B interrupted me very pleasantly –

“Would you like me to say the speech again?”

“Erm, yes, that’s sort of exactly what I was hoping for. And I’m sorry, I know I’m crazy…”

“You’re not crazy,” he said,”You’re just complex.”

I nearly cried right there. Then he started to shift, and I said,

“But first, I thought it would be easier and better if I wrote you one too!”

And I pulled out my paper and got down on one knee. I explained about the lock of hair, which B was very pleased with, and he asked me if I wanted him to stand, and I said it didn’t matter, so he just sat forward on the couch. I read him my letter and asked him to please still marry me, and he said of course he would marry me, and gave me a very nice kiss. Then he suggested that maybe he could re-write his speech before giving it to me again, and I said, fine, I’ll go make brunch for us while you do that.

I chopped a bunch of potatoes and had them frying in the wok when I decided to bring B some ice water. He was so absorbed in typing into his little iPhone screen with a secret smile on his face that he didn’t even notice me come in and put the water down.

A little while later, he said he was ready, so I turned the burners to low and joined him in the living room.

Seeing as how we’d each had a turn on one knee already, we just sat on the floor across from each other. I handed the ring back so he could give it to me again.

And B read me the most awesome, most thoughtful, most heartfelt, most romantic, most vulnerable, most loving, most perfect proposal speech in the history of proposal speeches. I’m tearing up just remembering it.

I had more than one tear on my cheek when he was through, and I was so full of love and joy that I actually shrieked “YES!!!!” when he asked me, for the second time this week, if I would marry him.

Happy sigh. Now I feel engaged. πŸ™‚

Engagement brunch - our 2nd celebratory meal! πŸ™‚


Just because it's the second time around doesn't mean you can't add a little romance...



Filed under personal, Uncategorized

17 responses to “If At First She Doesn’t Swoon…. (An Engagement Story in Two Acts)

  1. Aww, shucks Fairybear, hats off to you on the proposals a duo! The scenery, the jitters, the bling, the fear, the discussion, and the do-over…what a gorgeous way to go into the white! And now I am hungry, the food presentation at the end is the perfect beginning. I’m glad you found a gentleman who recognizes your complexity and is willing to respect your sense of self, your respect for the eco-system, and would willingly ask you twice over to be his wife. Lucky, reasonable pair, the two of you. Congratulations!
    C.K. Garner

  2. splendid and delightful! so excited for you guys…

  3. aabsofsteel

    You two love each other so well. Enjoy engagement. Congratulations! : )

  4. Oh I love it! Congrats and Best wishes soon πŸ™‚

  5. Rebecca

    was laughing out loud at your “complexity”…but really laughing out loud at mine too. πŸ˜‰ loved your rawness and honesty. you two are so dang good together. thanks for sharing your story. yay for do-overs! God is all about them. πŸ™‚

  6. Patricia Cisneros

    Thanks M for sharing your engagement story, … are you a writer? … you make me love ‘LOVE’ more than ever … i did enjoy the reading … xoxox to you and B.

  7. This was an epic proposal post of the best kind! Thanks for sharing the story in such detail. I love how it so reflects you and B. Congrats, again, you two! πŸ™‚

  8. Joe

    M! This was too awesome! Could you write this out all over again for me????? πŸ˜‰ I absolutely loved the play-by-play and what was going on in your mind–so refreshing to hear honest truth in this day and age! You and B are just a wonderful couple and pray that you continue to discover amazing things about each other and yourselves on this journey together…

  9. Priscilla

    Although we’ve not had the honored of meeting you… We know you are definitely a keeper… You sound so wonderful and definitely Perfectly made as Ben’s betther half. God is amazing how He brings people together. Congrats to the both of you… Honesty is the best and so happy that now you will have memories for a life time…. Thank you for sharing… Yes the ring is beautiful!!!

  10. Avi

    Wow, M., I had no idea you were so fabulously neurotic (oops, I mean complex)! How’ve you managed to keep this so well hidden from us all this time?
    Seriously though, congrats to you both. I’m so happy for you.
    But I do find it somewhat troubling that two of the nicest people I know (without a doubt from the 1% of nicest people out there) are selfishly reserving their goodness for each other instead of spreading the wealth to the other 99% who aren’t as fortunate.
    Occupy M&B’s Happiness!!!!

  11. Leah

    It’s so funny that I have sort-of known you for so long and yet never known how much of a kindred spirit you are πŸ™‚ I had a similar freak-out about my ring, except I had it before the actual proposal, and I had to make it explicitly clear to my now-fiance that I would not accept a conflict diamond and didn’t want to spend my whole life looking at my ring and wondering if someone had died for it. So, since my fiance is awesome and a good listener, I got Moissanite – it was cheaper and it’s a mineral that is originally from meteorites, so that’s pretty cool, and I love it. It’s big and beautiful and shiny too πŸ˜‰ I actually missed part of his engagement speech because I was shoving out my hand with the voice inside saying “put it on me!!!”. I also had to explain that later and ask for a bit or a re-cap from him as well…so don’t feel too crazy because you are not alone!
    Thank heaven we found such wonderful guys πŸ™‚

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