Engaged? Engaged in What?Erik Deckers
Laughing Stalk syndicate
A friend of mine told me today was his 22nd anniversary — five years longer than I've been married. It got me to thinking about when my wife and I got engaged. When we did it, it was a complete surprise.
I'd like to say it was one of those big romantic surprise engagement stories that people tell, like I proposed at a baseball game, or stuck the engagement ring in a bowl of ice cream, or even hired a Haiku skywriter to spell my message out to her.
"To my Beloved/Would you please become my wife?/Burma Shave."
But it wasn't that kind of surprise. We actually surprised everyone else.
We met in graduate school at Ball State University, and had been hanging around "as friends" for a few months. In fact, we were so good at appearing "as friends," that no one knew we had been dating since the middle of August. So good, in fact, that she didn't even realize it until September.
No matter where we went, no matter who saw us, everyone assumed we were just hanging out. Our desks in our office were right next to each other, we were typically seen at the library at 10 pm on a Thursday night, and we walked to every class together. Still, no one ever caught on.
We were engaged after Fall semester had ended, and she was going home for Christmas break. We had sort of been discussing the subject for a couple days. I say sort of, because our conversations were usually of the "if we did get married" type, filled with an unnecessary of disclaimers, qualifiers, and hypothetical situations from both of us.
"You know, if we ever get married — oh, not to each other, you understand. I'm just saying, hypothetically —"
"Oh, no, no, I completely understand. When each of us got married. Separately."
"Yes, separately. But for the sake of this argument, let's just pretend—"
"—pretend that WE were getting married—"
"It wouldn't be so bad though, would it?"
"Well. . . no, probably not."
Pretty soon, these discussions turned more serious, and we dropped all pretense of hypothetical situations, and we finally agreed that I could ask her. (Yes, you read that right.)
The problem was, I didn't have an engagement ring. When the commercials say you should spend two month's salary on a wedding ring, I don't think they actually meant a graduate student's salary.
We were sitting in her apartment, having just completed our discussion about whether to get married (we had agreed that "no, it wouldn't be that bad"), and I reminded her that I didn't have a ring to offer her.
"We'll pick one up soon," she said. "Just use this one in the meantime." She handed me a ring that had belonged to her grandmother. The ring had been conveniently located on a side table.
I felt a little silly actually asking the question, since there was absolutely no surprise to it whatsoever, and I slid the ring on her finger.
For a brief moment, I wondered why she hadn't just stuck it on her finger herself. You know, cut out the middle man. But then I remembered that sometimes the journey is more important than the destination, and held my tongue.
She said yes (which I was already expecting, after our three-day negotiation), and that was it. Now it was — literally — time to drive up to her parents house in northern Indiana, where I would then have to ask her parents for permission to marry their daughter.
I was so embarrassed to have to ask for her father's blessing without a ring, that it was all I thought about as we drove north. I was so deep in thought as we were talking excitedly about our new life together, I missed the turnoff for the shortcut to her hometown. We ended up taking the long way through Fort Wayne, and I decided that since we had a few extra minutes, we should stop at a jewelry store.
We promised that we were only going to look and get an idea of how much rings cost before we chose a ring together. We ended up walking out with an engagement ring and two wedding bands — all because I missed the exit.
She wore the engagement ring in the car, and then gave it back to me when we got to the restaurant, so I could show it to her dad when I asked for his blessing. I stuck it back on her finger after he said yes, and she's worn it ever since.
I still don't know why she couldn't have just kept it on that night. You know, cut out the middle man.
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