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August 23

An un-decent proposal

Filed under: Advice — posted by Breakup Girl @ 9:24 am

Where’s the romance on November 2, 1998

Dear Breakup Girl,

So here’s a really odd dilemma. My boyfriend of about a year just asked me to marry him. Great, right? Well, yeah, except there were no bells and whistles, no ring, no special moment, just–we had lunch, we did the dishes, he asked me to marry him–you get the picture. And believe me, I am nothing if not direct with this man–as soon as the subject of marriage came up, I told him I wanted the full shebang, including an engagement ring. (We are both in our 40’s and have been married before, so it’s not so obvious that I would want a traditional engagement.) When we talked about it afterward, he asked if I were disappointed that he didn’t go the traditional route. I didn’t say, uhhh, yeah, but I did tell him I thought there was a reason people set special moments aside in their lives–to say “this is a very important moment and I want to make sure this lasts in my memory.”

To present his side of the story: he said he was happy to do something special when he presents me with the ring, but he was feeling that if he put off asking just because he hadn’t found the right ring, or had to save up to buy it, or wait for the right moment to propose, that it would become an empty ritual. He also said that his proposal was un-premeditated and he just went with the impulse.

I said yes to his proposal, but I can’t seem to shake the feeling that, if he ignored my request about something this important to me–what’s he going to do when other important issues come along? I hate to say this, but I feel a little like a special moment and memory has been stolen from me.

I’m not an overly demanding person and I generally don’t stand on ceremony. In fact, I used to be a lot like my boyfriend in that I ignored the way ceremony can enrich our lives. I’ve learned that people need to mark passages in their lives and that memories are what form the story of our lives. My boyfriend is a great guy, very open and supportive, smart, trustworthy, willing to learn and change–all in all, a wonderful person. And, most important, a wonderful person who I love deeply. So how do you suggest I get the point across without taking away from his feeling so happy about us? Thanks for listening.

— Could be Happier

Dear CBH,

Congratulations! Great! (Right!)

Don’t get me wrong: I totally understand your disappointment. You want the bended-knee ring-in-the-champagne Jumbotron moment, you want the bended-knee ring-in-the-champagne Jumbotron moment. And you didn’t get it. That is pouty yucky foot-stompy bad.

But here’s the thing: someone else could just as easily have written and said, “Oh, Breakup Girl, it was soooo romantic: we had lunch, did the dishes, and all of a sudden he just put the sponge down and asked me to marry him. Just like that. No bells, no whistles, no nothing. I loved the surprise, I loved the simplicity. It was like … he had this impulse he just couldn’t control. It was like … our love is way to big and powerful to be contained in some contrived little ceremony. It was a very important moment that I will remember forever.”

You see? He did not do anything that was inherently, objectively lame or a-romantic. And more important, I don’t think he ignored your request. His “side” sounds completely legit to me. He may have had every intention of honoring your request, wanting to please you, knowing that it meant something to you. But instead, he had a sudden dashing (if dishwashing) romantic urge, he went with it.

So never mind him — I want to know what you’re gonna do when other important issues come along. I’d suggest you be as open and supportive and “willing to learn and change” as you describe your fiance to be. You will and can have plenty of enriching ceremony; it just might not always be as “traditional” as you may envision. I mean, how many couples can celebrate, like, a mini anniversary every time they do the dishes?

Breakup Girl


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