A good friend of mine recently announced her engagement, and while I can’t get over the fact that she is younger than me and getting married, I guess I have to accept the fact that she is prettier than me and this, among other things (like free drinks and the freedom to wear sun dresses in hot weather without being made fun of) is one of the benefits of being a pretty girl.
Besides that, though, I was thoroughly impressed with the way in which her fiancée proposed to her. You see movies and TV shows all the time with people dropping rings in glasses of champagne or hiding it in the dessert, only to have the unsuspecting woman swallow the diamond and then everyone involved go on a wild series of slapstick events to get the ring back (I watch TBS), but often it’s the normal stories that are more heartfelt, because, well, they are more plausible than training an elephant to kneel down and present the ring to a woman using his trunk.1
How he proposed was this: They were spending a normal Sunday together and all day she had been saying how she wanted iced cream, and he continually balked at the idea, saying he wasn’t in the mood for iced cream.2 Then, later in the evening, he finally said, “OK, do you want to go down to the beach and get some iced cream and sit on the bench and watch the sun set?” She excitedly said yes, and as they finished their iced cream and sat there looking out over the water he leaned over and said, “Would you be my wife?”
Can you say “brilliant”? It’s cute, and tender, and memorable in its simplicity, but what I like most of all is the set-up: all day long brushing off the idea of getting iced cream until finally, late in the day, suggesting yourself that you get iced cream, putting her in the best mood possible immediately before popping the question. The simplicity of the initial request (iced cream) pales in comparison to the complexity of the impending request (to be his wife), but the happiness fostered by the acquiescence to the first request is so enormous (who doesn’t love iced cream?) that its resulting euphoria is more than enough to put her in the right frame of mind to say yes to the following question! It’s the old bait and switch! (Ed. Note: No, it’s not.) Plus she loved him, which, according to the magazines I read, is the best reason to get married, iced cream high aside.
But the whole thing got me thinking about how I will propose to my future wife someday. What “tactic” would I use? Would we be drunk? On instant messenger?3 Or will I have no plan at all and get caught up in a moment of whimsy at our local bagel shop and pop the question forgetting that I have neither a ring nor the money to buy a ring, nor the money to purchase the bagel, leaving me with a lingering second question, “ . . . and can I borrow $2.25?”
Yes, I fully expect it to be an awkward moment for everyone involved, from the potential bride straight down through to the guy in a wheelchair I topple as I suddenly kneel down on a crowded sidewalk in midtown. Because if you know anything about me, you know two things: that I climb things when I get drunk, and that I am awful at talking to girls I like when I am unsure if they like me.
You see, normally, I am the kind of guy who doesn’t ask questions he doesn’t already know the answer to. It prevents surprises, let downs, basically all those things in life that people say make them “grow” and “learn” and “feel.” And being that I can easily see any marriage proposal I make going either way, I’m bound to be a little bit nervous when the time comes. And nervousness makes me, as the French say, retarded.
Consider the last time I really went out on a limb and asked a girl out (or tried to) who I wasn’t sure would say yes. This happened:
Scene: We are amongst a group of people, drunk at a bar. (Romantic!) I spy her move away from the pack and towards the bar. I follow, probably appearing to any sober third party as if ready to put a bag over her head and make off with her.
Her: (seeing me approach) “Hey.”
Her: (making the normal pleasant conversation that normal pleasant girls make, but I hear . . .) “Hmmm alalaba, boopboop neeeeee naww–“
Me: (interrupting mid-sentence) “So I like you.”
Silence, and sweating.
More silence. Overwhelming regret.
I become desperate for something, anything, to say as it is clear that she will never speak again.
Me: (spying the menu on a chalkboard above the bar) “Hey, I never knew mayonnaise had two n’s in it.”
I then place my drink down on the bar, gather up my coat and leave.
Hence, the plan to have the elephant there – because if I am going to slink away in grand embarrassment, I am at least going to do so atop a majestic elephant.
1. No one steal this idea, as it is my back-up.
2. This is where, if he had been proposing to The Girlfriend, the plan would have fallen apart because The Girlfriend would have said, “I wasn’t asking you if you wanted iced cream,” and then gone by herself to get it.