I had surreptitiously slipped it in at the end of another post, but just to reiterate it more formally and proudly: I am now engaged to be married. My fiancée and I have been living together for some time, and we could have continued to live together for some time hence without the formal commitment of betrothal. But I came to an internal realization vis-a-vis formal and informal commitments: I had already demonstrated to myself that I was deeply committed to my relationship. Whatever my superficial doubts, fleeting emotional resistance, and mental ruminations might be, I want to support and love my beloved as fully as I am capable. I have lived with her in the mountains and pine forests of the Sierra Nevadas, journeyed with her through the jungles and mountains of Colombia, been bored to tears with her in San Diego at the home of my parents, driven across the American South in a truck with my Amazon parrot to live with her and her family in a dense city on the other side of the nation, and am now enslaved in a long commute and demanding work in order to make it in said city. Why would I do all this if I was not deeply committed? So why not ask her to marry me, and cast away both of our doubts and fears? To formalize this commitment is to turn away from the past, turn away from doubt about the present, and face fully the future.
It’s a demonstration of just how much I have changed from the Monk of yore, the fact that I would even consider getting hitched. I have bloviated in the past against the institution of marriage, and swore that I was never to be married. I was an anarchist, a free spirit, a subversive and enlightened alien whose journey was determined by the happenstance wind. However, my resistance to the institution was challenged when both of my sisters, whom I love very much, became engaged, and I became involved in assisting them with their wedding planning. Because I admire and love my sisters, I had to come to a grudging embrace of their decisions to become married, and finally even came to recognize the reason why individuals would deliberately choose to formalize their temporal relationships. This was around the same time that I was becoming aware of how the personal is political, of how our personal development is integrally attached to our professional development, of the necessity for planning, diplomacy, and collective agreement in our lives.
So when the decision now came before me, it actually wasn’t a hard one to make. My life had already made it for me, and it was really just a matter of coming to terms with my reality. It didn’t feel weird to set about finding and purchasing a ring. It felt just about right.
As to the story of how I proposed, I’m afraid it was about as unromantic and informal a procedure as could be. Everyone loves hearing “the story,” as I’ve quickly come to realize once I made the announcement at my workplace, and so I might as well relate it here.
I had ordered the ring online from a reputable retailer, where you can design the ring yourself. I then left for New Jersey for a two day management training session, knowing that the box would arrive while I was gone. I was hoping that I could just put the box aside without opening it. But as soon as I got home, she kept asking me about what the box was and insisting that I open it. The box had no markings on it that would betray what was in it. I told her that I thought it was an Obama T-shirt that I was getting for having donated to his campaign, which is in fact being delivered to me shortly. I thought that she wouldn’t be that interested in seeing a T-shirt, and that I could then re-direct the conversation to something else. But she was not to be deterred: she wanted me to open the box. I tried several times to redirect the conversation, and had even hidden the box from sight while she was in the other room, but she continued to implore me to open the box, or to give her the box to open it herself. At that point, I decided that I might as well get it over with anyway, and so I said, sure, go ahead and open the box. It’s for you anyway.
She opened it up, and then got still when out of this big box was discovered a little tiny ring box. She said quietly, “What is this?” Even though she must have known quite well what it was. I said, “Open it up.” And then I asked her to marry me, while she was sprawled out in bed, and we were both in our pajamas.
I had had a whole proposal speech typed up and printed out, and I had meant to wait until my days off, so that we could take a walk together in the park and I could make it more dramatic. But instead, I just handed her the speech I had written and we read it together. In a way, this was more fitting for us as a couple in any case. We are pretty low key. For us to have one of those dramatic, publicly announced proposals, where the guy gets up on a table or loudspeaker at a stadium or something, would just have been too weird.
I think we both felt a little tripped out by the “adultness” of the situation. But it feels good to be able to make the announcement. We aren’t planning on a ceremony anytime soon, as we would both like to be more secure in our careers first. But at least now we can start thinking about plans together without feeling scared or weird about making them. Before, when we talked about future long-term plans, there was always this element of “maybe we won’t still be together at that time.” Now that doubt can be erased, and we can move forward in our relationship and individually in our lives.