Elena and Brad
How We Met: Brad and I met at the University of Michigan in 2007. I came to a party to see a few old friends and Brad happened to be there as well. Because of our mutual connection, we kept running into each other on campus. My freshman year roommate knew some of Brad’s high school friends and my old friends from a U of M summer camp had lived with Brad in Markley Hall their freshman year. Michigan football and fall Saturday weddings is what actually brought us together. After a night of Frank Sinatra impromptu dancing, feeding each other Ramen noodles out of a cup, and introducing me to all of his friends, Brad finally won me over by offering one of his football tickets to me. He did not plan to go to the Penn State game that year because he was a guest at a wedding, therefore he offered the ticket to me. In order for me to receive the ticket, I had to go to dinner with Brad, we called it our “business meeting” dinner. September 21, 2007 was our first date. There is no better way to a Michigan girl’s heart than Wolverine football and a walk around Ann Arbor and through the Arb. Unless, that girl also loves classical music. On our third date, Brad and I met each other for a casual sushi dinner. As we walked around campus after dinner, we reached Hill Auditorium where all the lights were lit, illuminating all of North University street. Since I was still new to campus, this was a grand scene for me, “I wonder what is going on tonight at the Hill!”. In that moment, Brad pulls out two tickets to that evening’s event, an Italian philharmonic. After such a romantic gesture, we were inseparable, and will forever stay that way.
How He Asked: Proposal. The word conjures theatrical images of flower gardens, cute children holding crayon signs, brass bands jamming out Sinatra tunes, heart-shaped fireworks, friends and family gathered in crowded anticipation just around the nearest corner. A man pulls a ring box from his pocket, or orders dessert complete with ring-floating-in-champagne, and confidently kneels to dramatically recite an off-the-cuff pronouncement of his love and affection. The moment is spectacular, the lucky girl’s reaction genuine shock, and the answer, “Yes! YesYesYes!” brings tears to the eyes of all onlookers.
All men, regardless of whether they will admit it or not, believe that the girl to which they will propose 100% expects and requires this event to be strategically planned, in a genre equal parts Vegas magic show and original Shakespeare, with a precise touch of individuality resembling all that is unique in their relationship.
Some preliminary advice to single male readers: 1) No matter how hard you try, this guy wins. 2) Forget about theatrics and scripts. You are the supporting role in this play, not the lead. You have one line, and your only job is not to flub it (more on that later…)
Our story: After months (years?) of web browsers left innocently open to jeweler websites, magazines discarded on the floor precisely at the Tiffany’s ad, and more obvious questions like “when are you going to proppooossee??”, I finally took the hint last spring and suggested Elena and I pop into a few of DC’s jewelry shops to “see the options.” Not knowing what to expect and slightly terrified by many of the potential outcomes, I was pleasantly surprised by the first (and ultimately only) shop we visited.
After downing a mimosa (thank you) and meeting our salesperson, I was feeling so comfortable that I actually took the lead in pointing out a few rings to try on. When Elena dismissed all my suggestions and asked to move on to the more “traditional” styles, I had the sales lady bring along my favorite option anyway. And, surprise, after trying on exactly what she thought she always wanted, Elena put my option back on and instantly started bawling her eyes out. We sent her to the window to “see the ring in better light” so I could secretly made arrangements with the sales lady, and left the ring at the store as “a possible option.” Fast forward to the ring returning from sizing, and me trying to find a hiding place in our apartment. Sock drawer? No, I’ll forget which sock. It joined the box with my other valuables on our bookshelf, with me proud of my hidden-in-plain-site tactic.
My plan was to keep it hidden until a special occasion, like our anniversary or a birthday, to plan one of the spectacular moments described above. Yeah, right. I was warned by others that once you have the ring, it’s impossible to keep it in the box for long. I disregarded this as others’ weakness, but with any significant date months away, suddenly every single moment became THE perfect moment to propose (men note, every moment is the perfect moment, “awww”).
Two weeks after hiding the ring away, sitting in our backyard enjoying breakfast on a summer Sunday morning, I decided that this perfect time was the time, and moments later Elena provided the perfect set-up: The coffee is gone and I would like more. Except when I make our coffee it is barely drinkable, whereas when Elena uses the same beans, same grinder, and same machine, it’s magical. So she agrees to make coffee, on three conditions: 1) Footrub 2) Something romantic 3) Something small, gold, and shiny. Bingo, I’m adequately prepared to do all three of these things, and rejoice internally at how clever I am for being able to accomplish #3, while she thinks she’s calling my bluff. I ask discreetly if she could grab something else for me on her way back with coffee, “you know, that little box where I keep all my stuff.” Coffee on the table, I use the foot massage as an excuse to drop to one knee (so clever, yes I am). I make a few comments about our weekend and how nice it was etc etc to sound romantic (if you know me, that’s pretty much as romantic as it gets).
And finally, so smoothly, “Oh, what was the last thing you wanted? Could you hand me that box?” Instantly my confidence vanishes, and my entire body is shaking as if an earthquake just struck directly below me. I’m sweating from pores that previously did not exist. In slow motion I pull out the ring box and watch as her eyes drop down to my hands… …and my mind goes blank. Not blank as in, “What was I just about to say?”, but blank as in “I’ve been studying for this exam for 5 years, I only get one chance to pass it, and I can’t even remember the question.”
Before I can stop myself, my mouth and tongue achieve in unison what my brain cannot, but without my brain involved it goes horribly wrong: What my ears hear: “Wanna get married?” What my brain thinks: “You are the biggest.idiot.ever.” Thankfully, Elena’s expression does not change for better or worse. She stares at me blankly, I suck in my breath, the earthquake ends, and my brain re-connects to my body. “What I meant to say was, ‘Will you marry me?’” Sometimes simple is best.