Friday, February 23, 2007

Flashback Friday: A Decent Proposal

Gah! It's been SO LONG since I've written a Flashback Friday post. In case you've forgotten, the Flashback Friday: Feminist Edition will feature a story that has something to do with being or becoming a woman or feminist. This series will continue until I run out of stories. Thanks to Sunshine Scribe for the Flashback Friday idea.

Pretty much as soon as we met, Sugar Daddy and I embarked on a heady spend-every-minute-together relationship. Marriage, in a way, came up fairly early, but not for the reasons you might think. My sister got married when we'd only been dating for about three weeks (if you can call spending every minute together dating). Sugar Daddy gamely let me cart him off to my parents' place for the weekend, and I totally left him to fend for himself among my family while I acted as Maid of Honour.

(Knowing him now, I can't believe I put him through this. But at the time I still thought he was a happy go lucky surfer type dude who just chose not to talk to other people very much. Now I know he's actually quite shy, and it must have really been a big deal for him. Regardless he made it through no problem. My aunt got drunk and started going on about how Stella got her groove back and that she'd like to get her groove back -- winking at SD all the while -- and my brother approved of my choice in date, citing three reasons: Sugar Daddy went back for seconds at the buffet, he looked uncomfortable in a room full of people he didn't know, and he smiled easily.)

So it was a beautiful wedding, and while people in most early relationships try to avoid the m-word, it was pretty unavoidable in our case. I remember Sugar Daddy said that he thought dating for about a year was a good timeframe to starting thinking about getting engaged. I thought this was a little soon, but didn't say it. (A few years later he had absolutely no recollection of ever voicing such a thought.) On our first anniversary, we went out for dinner at a fancy restaurant downtown, and I wondered if he would pop the question. I didn't feel ready, and ended up spending the meal going back and forth to the toilet. In retrospect, I think it was my first panic attack (the first of many to come). I think Sugar Daddy enjoyed the wine and both our meals without me.

A year later I was feeling ready to move forward in our relationship. We'd been living together for over a year, and we seemed to be going along tickety-boo. Our second anniversary came and went, and I can't actually remember what we did to mark the occasion. I think he gave me the silver bracelet with the Greek key pattern that still adorns my wrist today.

Patience has never been a virtue of mine, and I was starting to get impatient. Before I met Sugar Daddy, I never understood those relationships where one partner wants to get married or have some other form of commitment and the other one totally balks. Well, I can understand that part, but I never understood how uptight the commitment-philic one can get, and how it often eventually deteriorates to an ultimatum. I mean, if you love living with someone enough to commit for life, why is that not enough? Why would you want to consider starting over with someone else?

But all of a sudden I found myself in that very situation, in that very frame of mind. I had never really been keen on marriage itself before, never really had the dreams of the big white dress and the fancy cake when I was growing up. Actually, my teenage fantasies always involved reclusive behavior with either a bottle (or several) and a typewriter, or various large animals, for companions. I had decided that I wanted some kind of life partner eventually, but I never felt that marriage was a necessary part of that.

But once Sugar Daddy started putting the brakes on the commitment train, I started really reving the engines. I got really focused on marriage. By our fourth anniversary, we were living in our house, and having frequent heated discussions. Besides the marriage thing, there was the kids thing. I knew I wanted kids, he didn't know what he wanted. I don't know how to explain it. I really wanted to share my life permanently with Sugar Daddy (as permanently as anything can be), and I wanted him to be the father of my children, but if that wasn't going to make him happy, then I'd better hurry up and start looking for someone else. I worried that he could spend his whole life trying to figure out what he wanted and not figure it out until it was too late.

By Christmas, I was getting pretty heated up about all this. I sort of figured that if he didn't propose on Christmas or my birthday, that that would be it. I really wanted to be with him, but I'd already invested 4 1/2 years of my life with him, and felt that eventually one of us had to shit or get off the pot. We went for the usual Christmas at my parents' place, and we opened our gifts Christmas morning. No ring. No down on one knee thing.

I caught sight of tomorrow's birthday present for me under the tree early in the day, and it was obviously not a ring, since it was a shoe-box sized gift. This really upset me. I spent the whole day alternately ranting and weeping to my family about how we were going to have to break up, and why didn't Sugar Daddy want to marry me? I mean, I was smart, I was kind (mostly), I had red hair, AND I belly danced... what kind of man wouldn't want to marry me?!?

That night we sat around playing cards and laughing, and drinking, and I got quite drunk. By the time Sugar Daddy and I went to bed, I finally started ranting at Sugar Daddy instead of my family. He said, "Look. I'm tired. Can we talk about this tomorrow?" I think I tried to keep going, but he just turned his back and went to sleep. I don't think it took me long to pass out, after such an emotional and alcoholic day.

The next morning, I was not particularly enthusiastic about opening my birthday gifts but I went through the motions. I left Sugar Daddy's for last, I think, and eventually got around to that damn shoe box. It really was a shoe box under the wrapping paper, just as I suspected. In the shoe box were some random items: a wooden elephant sculpture, that I felt touched that he would give me because he'd had it a long time, an old glass bottle, and something else I think. Then I found an amber ring with a piece of paper rolled up in it. I put the ring on my left ring finger, and it fit, and my brother said sarcastically, "Yeah right. Wishful thinking."

I unrolled the paper, with its handwritten question written simply, "Will you marry me?"

My heart seriously pounded and I looked at Sugar Daddy disbelievingly, a little out of breath. He sort of nodded, and his eyes looked wet, and I hugged him. I remember my brother saying, "Holy shit!" at some point. My parents laughed ecstatically, and hugs went around like glasses clinking, and finally in a quiet moment, Sugar Daddy looked at me and said, "Well?" I guess I hadn't actually answered him yet (as if he didn't know).

Even though I'd been totally pushing for it, I never questioned the sincerity of Sugar Daddy's proposal. He came to it in his own time, despite my pushing (certainly not because of it -- he's stubborn like a bull), and his wet eyes and tentative, "Well?" gave away how important this was to him.

Getting engaged really changed the tone of our relationship. We became more of a partnership, and really shared in the decision-making, knowing that we were in it for the long haul. After the proposal, when we fought, instead of constantly wondering if it was time to leave, if maybe this was it, we wondered how to get through this, how to resolve it so we could both be happy. Planning the wedding was our first real joint project, and I'd say we did a pretty great job.

I'm awfully glad he proposed. I can't imagine undertaking the crazy job of parenting a new life with anyone else. And he is a truly wonderful person. Sometimes I think he is all the things that I can never be no matter how hard I try: kind and gentle and tolerant. He articulates the things that I can't, and elevates my pragmatism with his dreams and idealism. He is a better father than I could ever have dreamed of, and I think that is what I most enjoy sharing with him: the amazement and wonder at the small life that embodies and expands our love for one another.

Oh crap, now I've got tears pricking at my eyes again.


NotSoSage said...

This post had me laughing, crying and thinking, "Good call, Sugar Daddy! And just in the nick of time!"

I didn't really expect anything to change after getting married. We, like you two, were pretty much inseparable right away and were together 5 1/2 years before we got married, but you've got me thinking, now, about the nature of arguments when the commitment is a little more solid. Interesting.

Suz said...

I love the happy ending to this story after knowing so many folks (myself included) who were in a relationship where someone got bit a little earlier by the marriage bug than someone else and it didn't work out. It's just really nice to know that it did for the two of you.

Beck said...

Awwwwww. That's such a romantic proposal story! I don't have anything of the sort really - no proposal! There was just a presumption of marriage almost right away when we got back together.

Em said...

What a lovely story.

We were married within 6 months of getting together so this issue never arose for us... but I've had plenty of friends in your situation and it didn't always end happily... I'm glad it did for you.

Mad Hatter said...

Great story, Sin. I love the bit at the end about SD being everything you're not: kind, gentle and tolerant. Something tells me you've got your fair share of those virtues.

I was with my guy for 10 years before we got married. I spent the first 5 going on and on about how I never wanted to get married and after that I think we both relaxed into our ongoing commonlaw status. After we bought a house together, I turned to him one night at dinner and said, "wanna get hitched?" He did.

Alpha DogMa said...

I'm with Beck - no marriage proposal story for us either. Did you ever think of doing the proposing to Sugar Daddy?

It's nice that is was a surprise for you. A REAL surprise, not a "we-went-out-ring-shopping-the-week-before-and-I-showed-him-which-ring-to-buy-and-the-next-weekend-he-took-me-out-to-dinner-and-proposed-and-it-was-a-TOTAL-surprise deal. I worked with 3 women who had this kind of story. Drove me up the wall. I kept thinking "Do they not know the meaning of the word surprise?"