As soon as I got engaged, something started happening…
Everyone wanted to know “the story.”
The Engagement Story™ is a particular breed of tale. It could involve anything from a Jumbotron to a flash mob to strategically arranged rose petals. Sometimes there is an element of surprise, where friends or family might play roles. Other times, it is a quieter affair, something between two people in a place that is meaningful to them.
Engagement has long been a milestone laden with pressure. In the past, I’ve written about how I felt when seemingly everyone was pledging this club but me. These days, there is the added expectation to spin it into a PR story, neatly packaged for social media. You share your engagement story not only verbally, but via smartphones, often with a beaming photo (or five).
Whenever someone asks for the story, I am never quite certain what to tell them. I’m a writer; no one appreciates a story more than I do. But our engagement tale doesn’t fit into a neat box. What will do it justice? Where does it begin?
For one thing, I was not surprised.
Marriage was something we discussed for some time. As one friend wrote in a card, “We’ve been waiting for this news for a while.” Per another friend, “What the f*** took so long?” We came to the table with baggage, and it took a minute to unpack. Though we never questioned our relationship, we had a lot to discuss when it came to expectations for the future, issues with the institution of marriage itself, and a bevy of queries that were impossible to answer without a crystal ball.
Last summer, we cleared the final hurdle, finally overcoming any lingering trepidations. One day, while sitting on the couch, my boyfriend turned to me, and said, “I’m ready.” Like an oven that had just reached 450 degrees.
“Ready for what?” I said.
“To get married! I think we should do it.”
“Okay!” I replied.
We were, I guess, sort of engaged.
It felt good to be taking this big step together. Over the coming weeks, we started to share the news. We were excited! So, naturally, we expected other people would be, too. But as soon as I told anyone about our plans, their eyes immediately made a beeline to my left hand.
“Where’s the ring?” asked the not-so-subtle.
“What’s the date?”
“Isn’t he supposed to, like, ask you?”
To me, our conversations felt like a commitment. (We’re low-key folks — a flash mob might send us back into our home, never to emerge again.) But people continued asking.
Then one night, we were walking to dinner when I noticed my boyfriend doing something weird. He was carrying a sweater directly in front of him, like a bridesmaid holding a bouquet made of laundry.
“It was more tucked in my arm,” he later protested, when I shared this part of the story.
This is not so.
“Well, I guess I moved it around!” he says. “I almost dropped it at one point.”
After dinner, we sat on a bench near the water, the two stars visible from NYC glistening overhead. Then, he grew quiet. Like, very quiet. (“I was nervous!” he remembers.) He rummaged around in the sweater and pulled out…an enamel frog. (A Frog Prince box procured by my boyfriend’s mother as a not-so-subtle hint the prior year. I had seen it arrive in the mail, but had no idea what it was for. And now, here it was! Reemerging in all its glory.) Inside the frog, there was a ring. The ring now lives on my finger.
“You’re engaged!” said everyone.
For years, I bemoaned something I called “two-headed jewelry monster” — like a lovable muppet with two heads, ring(s) prominently displayed. Literally everyone I know has taken some version of this photo when announcing their engagement. (Hell, now I’ve done it.) I have been happy for all of them. But I also remember how it felt to be a single person, glimpsing only this small slice of the picture. For that reason, I have been reticent to share it on the traditional platforms. Some things are not easily summed up in a caption. And there is often more to the story.
Whatever shape our nuptials wind up taking, we’re excited to figure it out together. We love the idea of the dog in a tiny formal dress — I’m lucky to have found someone who is equally on board with this — and gathering friends and family in one way or another. No matter what we do, I know it will feel like us.
Our engagement experience has confirmed what I always believed, which is that when it comes to personal milestones, everyone should do whatever is best for them. It’s your story to write as you choose.