It appears as though we’ve come to the part in our tale where I have to tell you about what a fucking nutjob I was all summer.
(That’s Dave you hear cheering in the background, happy that you’ll all finally get to bear witness to the horrors he endured during what is supposed to be the most carefree season of the year.)
But first, actually, we’ll have to back up a bit – I didn’t call this a backwards love story for nothing – to the spring, when I was still functioning at my typical, par-for-the-course level of crazy. More specifically, let’s pause at the last Tuesday night in March, when Dave came home from the gym, gingerly removed his headphones from his ears, and told me he thought we should get engaged, sooner rather than later.
The whole notion that we were going to be spending the rest of our lives side by side was never really in question -we’d resolved that years earlier, as a couple, and, um, even more creepily prematurely, for me. But the timing of said marriage had evolved into a slight point of contention. Like any good type-A control freak, I’d had my step-by-step relationship flow chart drafted for a while now, which naturally culminated with a June 2011 wedding, right after his medical school graduation, and right before we would have to move for residency. Dave, on the other hand, was intent on pushing off that whole husband-wife deal until he met such important markers as “employed,” “not living off of debt” and “over the age of 25.”
Note: these terms were not discussed in my flow chart.
I had made my position known, how I felt ready to be done with this whole boyfriend-girlfriend thing and wanted our relationship status to reflect how much commitment we already felt to one another and also, um, really like jewelry. He knew all this. And still, he stuck to his “still a student” story line, insisting the earliest we could get possibly engaged would be the winter of 2010.
Until the last Tuesday of March, when, by some grace of God (my Jewish grandparents smiling down on me for picking a bar-mitzvahed doctor-to-be?), a few miles on the treadmill totally convinced him I was the one and that we should seal the deal asap.
I suggested that perhaps he should go to the gym more often?
And so it was that in late April, the very same weekend my life-long distaste for Green Day was turned on its head, Dave and I went ring shopping.
The trip very quickly morphed into a sort of holy pilgramage for me, destination: the Manhattan diamond district, surely my true motherland. And rest assured, I wasn’t about to waltz in to meet my destiny unprepared. Oh no. There were websites to scan, jewelry philosophies to form, so many c’s (four! to be exact) to learn about. I debated pear shaped versus round cut until my head hurt. I was…into it.
Toward the tail end of my preparations, around the time I was starting to fashion an excel spreadsheet dedicated to the finer points of clarity and color and carat, I found my way to a different kind of website, an indie wedding blog that fast became my favorite. And somewhere in between all the talk about LGBTQ ceremonies and self-catering your reception, I realized something that I probably knew all along but that had maybe gotten just the tiniest bit obscured by my brief foray into the world of Martha Stewart Weddings (engagement ring slideshow!) and Instyle Weddings (celebrity engagement ring slideshow!). Which is, of course, that I really love Dave. And that this really wasn’t even the teensiest bit about platinum versus white gold or crossing the heralded one-carat mark. This was something different. This was something real. I like actually want to be legally and morally and religously bound to this kid. Forever.
That’s when I started getting a bit emotional. And doing all kinds of crazy, feministy things that don’t really jive with the whole-prince-charming-on-bended-knee engagement script so popular with, um, almost everyone.
I offered to pay for the ring. I suggested we look into a non-diamond design. I hinted that perhaps it would be better if I just proposed myself, to him! (Take that, gender stereotypes.) I mentioned that maybe we didn’t need a formal proposal at all. I decided we might not even need a ring to make it official, that perhaps a twisty tie or loop of dental floss might suffice.
And then I momentarily remembered who I am. (Answer: the girl who was discovered sitting in a jewelry store, trying on pretty things after she went missing in the mall at age four.) And we went to Kwiat.
The experience of which wasn’t at all like what I expected. Armed with a notebook scrawled with questions and comments and preferences, I instantly found myself a tad overwhelmed by all the fancy, all around me. It was a lot to swallow, even (especially?) for the girl who was so looking forward to this little field trip to Madison Avenue. They sit you down and they’re like, here, try on this three-carat diamond solitaire, and don’t worry, we can totally size the center stone to fit your budget! And the words, “but what if my budget is ‘med student?'” somehow get lodged in your throat, and you’re left alternatively admiring this massive rock on your left hand — ooh, look how it sparkles! — and freaking the fuck out about how three months of his “salary” starts with a minus sign and you definitely can’t afford this and how are you ever going to be legitimately engaged if you can’t afford a three-carat, princess cut declaration of your intentions? How will anyone ever take you seriously?
And then, for the kicker, the ever-so-helpful salesperson slips a wedding band on your finger too, just to see how that fits.
At which point you turn to your fiance-to-be and take a moment to stare at each other, jaws slack, like, oh right. This means we have to get married.
Suffice it to say, this jewelry junkie left her ring-shopping expedition even more emotional than before. Perfect preparation for the Summer of Crazy.
During May and June, I generally went about my business as normal, although the truth of the matter was that I was counting down the days until July 1. Why July 1, you ask? In the aftermath of the SoC, Dave asked that question too, generally with a dismayed shaking of the head to accompany it, because, well, the July 1 cutoff was purely of my own invention. Dave had told me that his next round of loan money wasn’t going to be available until mid-July, a fact that I somehow translated as: you will have a ring on your finger July 1. Just get to July 1. Alive.
So that’s what I did. I spent the spring and early summer living for July 1. And when it came, and went, with nary a proposal, I freaked out: at his grandmother’s birthday party, in Rittenhouse Square, wherever. I like to refer to those as the early-stage freak-outs. I freaked out, and he calmed me down, assuring me it would happen soon and he was totally on it and we should just enjoy this time together.
My definition of enjoying this time together? Buying a carton of milk, assuring myself I would obviously be engaged by the time said milk expires, and then crying over the sink a week later as I poured the curdled liquid down the drain with my unadorned hands. I attached every single event of the summer, from food expirations to weekend plans, to that engagement. For example, in my head: When I am sitting with my parents in the Mets stadium, I will be wearing an engagement ring! In reality: When I am sitting with my parents in the Mets stadium, I will still be single – and, bonus! – even more bitter. In my head: When I finally get engaged, here is how I will tell my coworkers. In reality: When my coworker unexpectely becomes engaged, and then married, before Dave even pops the question, I will completely lose it on the regional rail line from Wilmington. And find myself oddly capable of identifying with the victims of abuse discussed in court that day.
Look, I know how nuts this all sounds. I know there are way more important things in life than a ring or an excuse to wear tulle. But when you take something that is semi-important – like marriage – and loop it to something unimportant – but sparkly!- like a ring, shit can get confusing. And once you psych yourself up for anything – involving a pave band or not – for six freaking months, it’s basically impossible not to start acting a little…unhinged.
As August (“when it becomes August, I will get engaged!”) began ticking by, I got progressively crazier. I started employing extensive Lord of The Rings metaphors and referring to my ring-to-be as “my precious.” I would mention to Bridget that things were a little, um, tense, in our apartment and she would be like, “oh no, did you ask him when he’s doing it again?” and I would have to attempt to explain to her that it was SO FAR BEYOND THAT. Like, I’m sitting here, threatening to rip the kid’s ears off if he doesn’t make x arbitrary deadline I’ve just set. So no, I’d say I didn’t “ask him when he’s doing it” again. I’d say we’re a little past that stage.
Halfway through the third week in August, Dave and I went to see a movie in West Philadelphia, and on the way home, something set me off. (A slight drizzle? The fact that it was too late for ice cream? Some sort of evidence of other people’s happiness? At that point, it could have been anything.) By the time we reached 34th street, he had crossed over to the other side of the road, with his hand up to hail a cab.
We made our way back to our apartment separately, but not before some public berating (from me) and moderate foul language (from him.)
I came home to find him sitting in the living room. Keep in mind that for various reasons (which in Crazy Girl Speak means “I hacked into his email,”) I knew that the proposal was actually, finally, just around the corner. But I was far too delusional by that point to have any shot at acting like a normal human being. I went on, raving like a lunatic about how the whole Summer of Unengagement had ruined my life, destroyed my faith in our relationship, something along those lines. Dave, to his credit (or, now that I think about it, questionable judgment) never suggested that perhaps he didn’t want to marry this raving lunatic of a girlfriend with whom he was forced to share an apartment. Instead, he simply packed his bag, and said that maybe it would be best if we stayed apart for the next few days, expressing his hopes that upon the proposal I would finally turn back to my normal, semi-crazy self. Or maybe, just a pumpkin. Anything would be better than this.
He was halfway out the door before I insisted he come back, that I would try to be better.
Which, of course, didn’t really happen. We continued to sleep in the same bed and eat dinner at the same table, but it was pretty tense up until the day he proposed, about a week and a half later.
Three days before the final end of all the waiting and wishing and obsessing, I confronted him, a bit sheepishly, with a plea: maybe he could just do it now, or tomorrow, sometime before I left for DC? I was convinced it was going to be in New York that weekend, where I was heading after my trip down to the office, and I couldn’t handle the stress and pressure anymore, I told him, I hated knowing it was coming and not being in control at all and couldn’t he see, it was driving me crazy? I just wanted something quiet and private in our home, which made perfect sense, because I’m totally a quiet and private kind of girl, right? Please?
I’m so glad he didn’t listen.
chapter 1 (the engagement)
chapter 2 (the chance encounter that started it all)