Sunday, March 16, 2014

On Proposing

Tonight my fiancée and I drove out to meet with a wedding photographer. We finally have our reception venue selected (hooray!), and now we are working on the details.

On the way there, my fiancée was chatting about the photography style that we should select. That it should be classy and modern, bright, colorful, and candid – also, it should be “airy,” an adjective that I could point out in a picture, but not describe in words. (Maybe ephemeral? Ethereal? Maybe not…)

I, being a typical man, however, did not pick up on the fact that this was what we should have been talking about exclusively.

Cue ill-timed ponderings on favorite films: When, I wondered aloud, will we be graced with Kung-Fu Panda 3? I mean, for crying out loud, Po’s panda family is alive! And, naturally, I want to know more about the recently announced Space Jam 2. Today’s generation of children has little appreciation for – has never even heard of – Jock Jams. Without them, though, it would be like making the sequel without a single Loony Toons character – it just would not be the same.

To which my fiancée frustratingly replied, “Well, why don’t you just educate them on it?”

Crap. I am a doop.

Instead, as these topics have already been proven to be timewasters, I believe I will share my experience on proposals. (And, bear in mind, I’ve only done this once, so I’m no expert, but I did get the response I was hoping for.) This could be one of the few things I've gotten just right. Lastly, please remember as you read, I'm not saying any of this from the top of an ivory tower; these three pieces of advice are coming from the guy who's worried about whether or not Jock Jams will be a part of Space Jam 2.

One. Make it someplace that’s already special. If your fiancée has no ties to the indoor sky diving place across town, it might not be the best location. Plus, you could drop the ring.

Instead, find a place that the two of you have a shared connection with. It could be the restaurant of your first date, someplace you visited together and both felt those tuggings of the heart, or somewhere with a romantic view of the place you met.

The point is, make it a part of your shared story. For my proposal, I chose the beaches of Southern Maine, a location that my fiancée and I have visited together every year for almost a decade. It is a quiet area where we have always been able to disconnect from whatever else was going on. We dated through college and into our mid-twenties, so this location was a respite from college finals, graduation, job searches, first jobs, apartment hunts, etc.

Two. Make it repeatable. Look, if I could have shot the moon, I would have – literally – shot the moon. Propose in the crater of the old man’s left eye? Sounds like a page-one news story and the inspiration for a romantic comedy set in the future. But we would never be able to get back there to revisit the memory of the proposal. Let’s even consider this a bit more realistically (like, grounded on this planet): I’m a travel fiend and my fiancée has an unrequited love affair with the city of Paris. Given that we have never been, imagine a romantic getaway to Paris. Breakfast at a local boulangerie, a day at the Louvre and an evening atop the Tour Eiffel, and, finally, a quiet proposal in the shadow of Notre Dame. Smooth.

But how often will we get to Paris in our lives? How many times would we retell this story, ending it with a sigh and a wish to visit it again? (Of course, if this was your proposal, I am not-so-secretly super jealous. And my fiancée is, too.)

Instead, I took my fiancee to Ogunquit, Maine. It’s a pretty little area with good food and fun scenery. It gave us that ability to stroll, grab some croissants for breakfast, and be surrounded by the beautiful scenery that we love. Best of all, we will always be able to get on 95 and find ourselves there in 90 minutes or so.

Three. Make It about Your Story: If you’re planning to spend the rest of your life with this person, then let’s face it, you probably know them as well as you know yourself. I know that I am not the only one to imagine my life as a film playing out in front of me, so let me put it to you this way: If your life was a romantic comedy, your proposal would be either (a) the climax of a script that tells the story of your dating or (b) the opening shot of a script about your marriage. Therefore, it is an essential part of your story. So make it about the best parts of your life together so far.

An essential part of this is giving your proposal room to breathe – don’t overburden it with a rigid schedule. All I wanted to do on our getaway weekend was walk on the Marginal Way in Ogunquit, where I planned to propose. This allowed for all sorts of impromptu fun: go for a run in the morning, walk to the local bakery Bread and Roses for a pastry breakfast, etc. If it is overly scheduled, the proposal could become a bit more about time management and a bit less about the two of you and what makes your story so special.

And that’s that! No guaranteed results, of course, but I wish you my wholehearted best if this is in your future, near or far (wherever your are).

Now, some of my favorite memories. 

Before grabbing breakfast on the Morning-Of, my then-girlfriend asked me if she should wear water-proof mascara… you know, “because it’s near the ocean. There could be sea spray.” And then, along the Marginal Way: “It’s such a beautiful day, and it’s only 11. Who knows what could happen!” Clearly, she knew.

On our way through the Marginal Way (I, of course, chose to propose at the end of the walk), we were thronged by tourists. I mean, we couldn’t even pass through them. And when we did, one of the group – camera in hand – would rush ahead of us again, get the perfect shot of the scenery, and turn to face his group, waving them to walk faster. Faster towards us. We would outwalk the group only to be consumed by it again. Frustration.

Finally, we broke out of the pack, walking too quickly for a stroll through such beautiful scenery. Slowing down as we arrived at The Bench, I was a bit shocked to find that there was a woman sitting where I was planning to propose. I couldn’t just tell her what I was up to… it might be overheard and spoil the surprise. Sooo…. So I sat next to her on the bench and just chatted until she left. Sorry! Ignoring the unspoken societal rule that one does not invade the contemplative space of someone looking out at the ocean, I secured The Bench.

And then she said yes!

Til next time!

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