First off, I just want to say; proposing is a very daunting task. Some guys may have it figured out and it may not be a big deal to them, but i imagine most guys are like me and feel a bit of terror when they think about proposing.
I knew I didn’t want to date anyone other than Anna. So I deduced this would eventually lead to a proposal. But I had no idea how I was going to do it.
All guys everywhere know the proposal is key and how you do it is a big fat hairy deal. All you have to do is witness one girl telling a group of girls that she is recently engaged to understand the gravity of the task to be undertaken.
I knew I wanted to give Anna a story she would love and that others would appreciate, and to be honest, if possible, I wanted to score mad points with all her friends. Because again, as all guys everywhere know, it’s all about the points.
A social commentary aside: it’s kind of sad that proposals are such a people-pleasing activity. Because when you think about the whole pre-marriage process, that’s the one moment you have that is just the two of you. And for us guys, that’s the one moment we have, if we so choose, that is wholly determined by us. For now, it’s a society thing and I will choose to believe there has to be a good reason for us guys to go through all the sweat and angst to try and have the perfect proposal.
So here I am, terrified of failure, sitting in a perceived cauldron of boiling unspoken friends and family expectation, trying to figure out how I am going to know without a doubt that Anna is the one i want to spend the rest of my life with, and then how I am going to execute on this eventual decision.
Disclaimer: I would not sanely recommend to anyone else the path that i took, but because of God, it worked for me.
Here is my story.
I found myself dating this girl that I really liked. So far, it had been the best relationship I had ever had. In fact, our relationship was so good that before dating her, I didn’t imagine relationships that were this good could exist, or that I and all of my foibles could participate in a relationship like this one. I believed so strongly that I was right that I spent the first 5 months of knowing Anna, going out of my way at every chance I had, to declare to her that i would never date her. With this declaration, I would often pontificate on the reasons why a relationship between the two of us would never work. If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans. Or in my case, a beautiful woman who loves you, that you will never date her. God has a sense of humor with me, for sure.
So let it be known, in this public declaration, that I was a fool. And in this, Anna saw God’s plan far, far sooner and more clearly than I did, and had the humility to let the fool go before his folly.
Admittedly, I’d screwed up once. I couldn’t do that again. So figuring out that Anna was the girl for me for the rest of my life held extra import. As I thought and prayed for months, I continued to procrastinate this task, while to everyone around me, I’m sure it became more and more obvious. I knew my time was running out; I knew I needed to figure this out. So in November, I did what made sense in my head at the time: arranged a secret meeting with her parents to ask how I was to decide if their daughter was the girl I wanted to spend the rest of my life with.
Most intelligent human beings reading these words can quickly see that this was probably not a good idea. But i promise you, in my head, it seemed like it would go wonderfully. I mean, really. Who asks a girl’s parents how to figure out if their daughter is the person you want to spend the rest of your life with? Work prevented this beautiful disaster until the end of January, when I finally snuck down to Kansas from Minnesota to have this star crossed conversation with Anna’s parents.
On the long drive from Minnesota to Kansas I was not nervous. I wasn’t even nervous at dinner with my then girlfriend’s parents Thursday night. My heart finally started racing when Karl interjected in one of my long rambling thoughts, “Don’t you think this is awkward?” It was then that the reality of what I was actually doing came crashing down on me. I realized here I was sitting in the family room of a kind and tender hearted family asking the parents of a daughter whom I was dating, who they knew was completely in love with me and had been for some time, how I was going to figure out if I wanted to pledge my heart to her the same way she had already hoped to pledge hers to mine.
It was then that I realized I might be screwing this up and in that moment fear set in. Karl had just called me out; he had stripped away what up until this point my own mind had managed to hide from myself. At that moment out of respect I attempted to continue to listen to Karl and fought being swept in to the whirlpool of my own thoughts that is the discovery that the wizard behind the curtain is not only dismally lacking in wonder and splendor but also just landed me in a whole pile of trouble.
Well the man that revealed the trap door also extended the pole to save my quickly drowning life from the quicksand I found myself in. I managed to at least hear the words he was speaking and latch on to them. “Do you know you want to spend the rest of your life without her?” I focused on those words with clarity and focus that only a man about to expire in his self-created death trap can on the one beacon that has a chance of saving his life. No! I did not want to spend the rest of my life without this woman. I couldn’t imagine how I was going to enjoy and smile at the brutality of life without her. The epiphany dawned, the heavens parted and I was shown the light. It all seemed so simple now. Of course I wanted to marry Anna. I couldn’t bring myself to not marry Anna.
I, like a grinning school boy who has caught a toad and hidden it in his pocket with grand plans to secretly release it and send all the girls in school running, muddled through the rest of the encounter. I wore that smile and vaguely remember the mundane yet important technicalities of, had I actually asked, was it for a blessing or permission, how was the secret going to be kept, who could be told and who couldn’t, don’t speed on the way home, where does Anna actually think you are, and have some cookies for the drive.”
Now how to break the news of my epiphany to the beautiful woman I loved? If this bumbling ox could be taught to tap dance, this event was the show. The bad news, oxen do not become ballerinas overnight. The beginning of the next week I sent an email to Anna’s immediate family, my immediate family, and three of our closest friends each. I told them that I knew I wanted propose but I had no idea how I was going to do it. I solicited ideas and then said I would probably try several faux proposals to throw her off the trail. Her sister quickly responded and suggested I quit messing about with almost or mock proposals and just concentrate on the real thing. No matter what I did Anna would love it because she loved me. A short aside – women if you are unbetrothed and would like a wonderful engagement story, listen up. If there is one thing that can bring the inner tap dancer out of an ox, it is the unwavering knowledge that no matter what a guy does his girl will absolutely love and cherish the proposal scenario that he comes up with.
To cut through a lot of procrastination, befuddlement, confusion, and general angst, I didn’t know how to propose so I convinced Anna to send me one proposal idea that she would like every day for a month. I also knew that during the moment, proposals happen quickly and memories get fuzzy. I knew Anna liked written things and to have tangible things she could hold on to and remember. So I decided to write her a book. I included submissions from our closest friends and family and I then used all of the proposal ideas that she had given me as opportunities to explain to her each of the ways and reasons I love her. Her good friend Jackie offered to help me put it all together in a pretty format. I had visions of printing this masterpiece but plain ran out of time.
I also knew that I wanted to get her a custom designed ring, but about fell over when I figured out how much it was going to cost. Thank you De Beers for your monopoly, thank you United States government for printing so much money, thank you society for determining that gold and diamonds are the only way to say I truly love you. I promptly initiated the “Are you sure you want this,” conversation with Anna. She was wonderful and we discussed a wide range of options, including an iPad instead of a diamond engagement ring. She made it clear that she did not need two months of my salary to know that I loved her and that she did not want me to go in debt or make payments on a ring; the cash I had would be enough. I then sent her to talk to the designer and she essentially designed her own ring, with a few inputs directly to the designer from me.
The next major task was how to ensure the proposal, ring and story would be one she wanted but also a complete surprise. The best place to hide a tap dancer is in an ox. Even if you find the ox wearing a tutu no one really believes the ox will ever tap dance. I continued to discuss with Anna my uncertainty about how I was going to make sure that I knew she was the one. I made known my fear that an engagement would become all about wedding planning and that our relationship would suffer. And I threatened to propose only hours before a wedding that I had already planned out and only give her choice of dress. The results were some tear filled evenings and an unsure Anna, this was probably the hardest part, in order to keep the surprise. I told her not to read any of my emails, and to only use my phone if I gave her permission. A few weeks after I actually asked her parents we went to visit her parents for her mom’s birthday. Anna and her mom went shopping leaving me and Karl alone; to this day I do not understand why she didn’t think I asked her father then if I could marry her, but she didn’t. I guess the tears paid off.
The other thing that helps an ox hide his inner tap dancing star is time; I wore that tutu for months, dashing everyone’s hope that I would actually tap dance, friends and family included. Anna’s parents and sister, who do not like and self admittedly are not good at keeping secrets, had to keep this one for almost four months. I think even my family had given up on me. The ring and the book just took a while, and I’ll admit I was fine with that.
A phone call from Anna’s sister Sarah finally spurred action. She called to ask if there would be a mandatory trip to the Midwest yet this year because she and Josh needed to decide what to do about Grandma and Grandpa’s 80th birthday. I ensured her that I was working on it and that yes most likely there would be a mandatory trip yet this year. She ended the conversation with, “Well, you should ask for real and make it official.” I knew my time was up.
If an ox is to become a tap dancing star make sure it is only for a short period of time. The next day I woke up and decided that I would try to propose that day if I could. I called Jackie and offered to babysit her kids so she could finish up the design work and the final edits and additions I had made. She didn’t get back to me until right before lunch. I left work at noon and drove to Lincoln, where I spent the afternoon with Jackie and her kids, Cade (almost 3), and Ellie (9 months). Earlier in the morning I had also tried to track down Anna’s roommate but could only find her email address, so I emailed Sabina asking for her help. Late afternoon rolls around and I have the finished book, but I have not heard from Sabina and I have nothing to actually display this digital creation. I had been editing it on an iPad and it looked pretty good so I decided for times sake, rather than print it, I would give Anna an iPad as well.
My spur of the moment decision to try and propose that Tuesday had the benefit of forcing me to cut out all of my other visions of grandeur that would have detracted from the actual event and never worked. As I was driving back from Lincoln trying to rush to the Apple store not knowing if they would even have any iPads in stock, I was praying to God that if He did not want me to do this He needed to make it painfully clear because I was already head first into this endeavor.
The ox begins to tap. I arrived at the Apple store and they did in fact have the iPad I wanted. After I downloaded the pdf file onto the iPad I jumped back in the car and started driving. It was now after 5:30 and I knew I was running out of time. Sabina finally called me back and said she would leave the back door unlocked so could sneak into their house. It was then that I actually knew this was going to happen. I asked if she had any sticky notes and she just happened to have pink heart shaped ones in her bedroom.
I arrived at their house went in the back door; I opened the iPad box and affixed the sticky note. I wrote, ”Open me” on the note and put the iPad back in the box. I know the logic doesn’t quite work out; the note that says open me is inside the box, but when you are a tap dancing ox God has grace and it ends up working out for the best. I put the iPad in the box on the foot of her bed and left her bedroom door wide open. I then need to figure out how to get Anna to come to her house after work rather than mine which she normally does. Also it is now six o’clock and I have no idea where she is; she could be at my house already. I call her. Still at work, what a relief. I ask if she had her gym clothes hoping she did not and would have to come home to get them. Fail. The ever prepared Anna had her gym bag packed and with her.
Can an ox get a curtain? I dash back to the car and hurry back to my house so I can put on my suit. I knew I was running out of time and that she would be leaving work to come to my house any minute. I call Sabina back and try to brainstorm a way to get Anna to her house. Sabina is not good at lying so many schemes were hatched and thrown away. Finally her mother who was listening in suggested she call Anna from another phone and tell her that she forgot her phone at their house and ask if Anna would bring it to her. Great, we have a plausible plan.
I run into my house and start putting on my suit. Anna texts me and says she has ordered pizza and is leaving work soon to pick it up. Shoot, another fly in the ointment. Sabina then calls to say that the call went well and that she was able to pull off the lie, but that Anna flat refused to do it and told her she did not have enough time to get Sabina’s phone for her. Of all the times for Anna to be assertive about requests for help, tonight had to be that night, another fly in the ointment.
Any more mileage on an ox wearing a tutu? I am in my suit and in my car driving to Anna’s house and Sabina asks me, “So what are you going to do?” I respond with, “Tell the truth.” I text Anna and tell her to cancel the pizza and meet me at her house. I figured this was the dead giveaway. She had to know what was going on. I drive the roundabout way to her house so I don’t run into her, and end up messing that up and driving right down her street. I look and Anna’s car is not in front of her house, so I am safe for now. I park around the corner so she cannot see my car, expecting her to pull up any minute. I walk around the corner back to her house expecting to see her driving up the street and fully ruin the surprise. God provides a large SUV waiting in her neighbor’s driveway shielding my arrival. James Bond style, I am crouch-walking around in my suit as not to be seen by an approaching Anna. I round the SUV and make a beeline for the back door.
Lights, camera, tap dance. I enter through the back door and run up stairs. The plan was to hide in Anna’s closet and watch her read her book. Well Anna’s closet is completely full of shoes; there is not even room for a mouse, let alone a suit-wearing ox. Fail. I rush into Sabina’s room and through the windows see Anna pulling into the driveway. I drop to my belly so she can’t see me through the windows and army crawl to Sabina’s closet. Once in the closet I try to still my heart and my breathing so as to not give away the mouth breathing, suit wearing, ox in the roommates closet. I had plenty of time because she ended up talking to the neighbors.
I hear her come upstairs go into the bathroom and then quickly go back downstairs. I now realize the wheels may be coming off my plan – did she see the iPad, did she grab it? I don’t know because I am trapped in the roommate’s closet. Sigh. She comes back upstairs and I can hear her on the phone with Sabina, she is walking around telling Sabina she can’t find her phone, and then she enters Sabina’s room. The closet door is wide open and I am only inches from discovery when she retreats back downstairs.
More waiting, more realizing how well my plan was not thought out. Finally after not hearing anything for many minutes I text Anna and ask where she is. On the front porch. She still thinks I am running late. Why, at this point I am not really sure. I tell her to go to her bedroom, she informs me she has already been there and she has the iPad. Whew, okay this might work out. I tell her to open it. I then come out of the closet and sneak downstairs. She is indeed sitting on the front porch and she has shut and locked the front door. Finally, this is perfect. I can see her through the glass front door and she doesn’t have a clue I am there. She is reading through her iBook and is laughing and crying. I get down on one knee and hold the ring out on the off chance she turns around and sees me.
God, you can make an ox tap dance. In the twenty minutes or so it takes her to read the book, as I am on my knee with ring extended, I realize that my hasty plan may still come unhinged. In the middle of the book I tell her that this is the proposal moment. Crap, how am I going to know when she gets to that part of the book? I cannot read it from where I am, and if the timing is messed up, if I reveal myself too early or too late it will really seem moronic. Back to the prayer. So I pray and God tells me there will be some crying, then some laughter, and then some more crying, finally she will look up. True to His word that is exactly what happened and when she looked up from the book I tapped on the glass and she saw me for the very first time, in my suit, down on my knee, with ring in hand. Ox the Tutu Wearing Tap Dancer faded away and it was just Anna and me, one of the most memorable moments of my life. Thanks, God, for letting me have a front row seat.