First, there was Gabrielle Hamilton’s beautiful memoir, Blood, Bones, and Butter. Her father taught her that money, specifically a lack of money, is a stupid reason not to do something.
That phrase haunted me for a time.
Then over vodka at Fox’s Lounge, two wise friends offered counsel.
Finally, a line from Darin Strauss’ Half a Life jumped from the page (and the subject matter), telling me:
"That's the meter you come up with, as you approach forty. If your relationship fills you with a sense of luck, you've chosen well."
Of course you could argue these aren’t signs in and of themselves, but merely one big sign that I’m ready. I don’t feel like arguing.
We had a couple of friends over for dinner, trying to get through beer left over from hosting Becky’s sister’s 30th birthday party. Becky and I also removed Dylan’s first splinter. Our friends ran interference by way of entertainment while I used a needle to break the skin on the sole of his foot. It had grown over, looking nasty and red. Once I exposed the splinter, Becky performed the extraction.
After five minutes of freaking out, crying, squirming, and refusing uncover his foot, Dylan chose to be brave. You could see it happen. Still crying, he stood up straight, moved to his mother’s lap, took out his Nintendo DS, and pretended his foot belonged to someone else. Becky and I worked together seamlessly, as we often do.
Dinner was filled with laughter.
Sitting on our stoop after our guests had gone, I couldn’t imagine life getting any better. Like the first time I told Becky I loved her, I simply couldn’t hold it inside any longer. With just the right amount of beer in my system (enough to lubricate the tongue without the origin of the emotion being suspect), I told Becky I needed to ask her a question. I told her to be honest, and I would believe her.
I asked her if she needed a ring.
She said no.
So I asked her to marry me, and she agreed.
It wasn’t how I imagined it at all. Later that night, she dug a princess-cut pink “diamond” surrounded by smaller white “diamonds” from her jewelry box (this is an actual cardboard box, by the way). She’d gotten the ring from lost and found when she worked at Barnes & Noble and had never worn it. I took the ring from her, then got down on one knee and described how I had wanted my proposal to go.
My description was muddied because I’d imagined it so many different ways. I’d get Papa Q’s permission, and Dylan’s. I’d get a credit card and max it out to buy the perfect ring, princess cut in a platinum setting. It would be a birthday or holiday to disguise the intent, either a really fancy dinner at a new place or a familiar dinner at one of our places. Afterward there’d be a movie, or coffee and dessert somewhere else just for the decadence. I’d pull her close when we got home, then accidentally-on-purpose drop my keys. I wasn’t sure if I’d do the “hold this” a la Adrian in Sex in the City or just grab her hand and launch into my speech, happiest man alive, try to make you happy for as long as we live, share our lives, etc, etc.
I don’t know how much of this I managed to get across. The night I proposed is a blur of emotions, difficult to see beneath the relief that I didn’t need to wait, and that she said yes.
Darin Strauss, my friends, and Gabrielle Hamilton’s father were all right. I feel lucky, Becky didn’t need a ring, and lack of money is a stupid reason not to do something.
Even marry the woman of your dreams.