Happy Monday! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday. Mine was busy, fun, stressful, and exciting wrapped into one. I ate quite a bit, helped chop some firewood, and got engaged!
Ben has always wanted to get married and has never been shy about saying so. I wasn’t convinced it was necessary because we couldn’t receive any federal or state benefits or protections. But as I said at the outset of my blog, the federal government recognizing same-sex marriages inspired me to reconsider my position. And with Illinois following suit a few months later, I figured it was time.
I wanted to make sure the engagement story was something that Ben would remember and cherish for the rest of his life. I thought DePauw, specifically the university library, would provide the most memorable venue since we first met there.
With three weeks to plan, I shopped for a ring, made arrangements with our family and friends, planted the seed with Ben that we should stop through campus on our way back from his parent’s house, and made dinner reservations at the hotel restaurant. After I completed those tasks, I had to anxiously wait for two more weeks to pass.
I haven’t been such a nervous wreck since the bar exam. I checked my hiding spot every day to make sure the ring was still there. I obsessively reminded people that no one should even hint to Ben what was happening. And I compulsively checked with his good friends to see whether he had an inkling about the proposal. My anxiety got so bad, the night before I couldn’t sleep because I had repeated stress dreams about forgetting to ask or him finding out beforehand.
The Big Day
The engagement day started with traveling to DePauw from Ben’s hometown and having lunch with a former professor. Afterwards, we hung out with my track coach and his wife. I had surprisingly not had any slipups or close calls with Ben finding out about the proposal. I just needed to get through this last hang out session, and then I was home free. In what I thought was an abundance of caution, I sent Coach a text on our way to Starbucks to remind him that Ben had no idea about the proposal. (I had informed him by email earlier.)
We meet up and things went well. We caught up a bit and then took a tour of the campus to see all of the amazing changes that had taken place. On our way back from the tour, we stopped at the local campus bar for a drink. It was 5:30, so we still had a half hour until we needed to meet our family and friends for the surprise dinner. The bar was in the same building as the restaurant, but in a different area so I could still shield him from guests coming in.
When we pulled into the parking lot, Coach says “do you want to open your present now?” In a strangely high pitch tone I respond, “present for what?” He explains “for your get together.” That statement was ambiguous enough that I thought I could play it off. However, despite his wife saying “you don’t have to open it now,” the gift sat in the middle of the four of us begging for attention.
I internally implored myself keep calm and opened the present. The gift was a scale that both Ben and I had seen before at other weddings of my runner friends. It has a personalized tag telling me to keep running. Coach and his wife get that for all of his athletes when they get married as a sentimental reminder of our running days and a warning not to get fat and lazy now that we no longer run on a regular basis. Ben says, “oh wow, a scale.” I again think, I can easily explain this away:
Me: “Oh, he gets it for all of his former athletes that are in relationships.”
Coach: “Not just any couples…those couples getting married!”
I quickly say thank you for the gift and try my best to shove the scale back into the wrapping paper. I then throw it in the trunk of our car, hoping that getting rid of it will somehow make its significance disappear. We go into the bar for a drink and continue to converse. After a while Coach’s wife asks, “what time do you guys have to be somewhere?” I remind her 6:00 and realize it’s 6:20. I quickly down the rest of my Manhattan and tell everyone that we need to go. Now. Coach seemed oblivious to what was going on. I later find out he didn’t get my reminder text until after we left the bar.
We hug Coach and his wife, then I grab Ben’s hand, and we start sprinting towards the library. Ben just kept asking, “What’s happening? What’s going on?” Luckily, the library was only a minute away when running. En route, I told him we had dinner reservations at 6:00, and it was almost 6:30. He asked why we had reservations. At that point, we arrived at the front of the library, so I started my spiel.
I hadn’t prepared a speech. Nor was I prepared to be so out of breathe from running to the library. (Coach would disapprove of my lack of running shape.) I let Ben know how special he was to me and how lucky I was to find such a caring individual. The trips to his hometown remind me that it couldn’t have been easy for him growing up in such a conservative, small place and his life could have turned out very differently, very easily. I told him the man he is today shows his strength in character and is a testament to him and his family. I then sunk to one knee and asked him to marry me.
After a couple more, “what’s going on?” and his eyes welling up, he said yes. I quickly gave him a hug and kiss, and we started running again. We got back to the restaurant and walked into our family and friends applauding us. Ben’s jaw flung open, and he bent over as if he were about to collapse. He made a couple of turns to make sure he could believe his eyes and started giving hugs.
I couldn’t have imagined the proposal going any better, especially the wrinkle with Coach. He texted later, worried that he had ruined everything. I assured him he didn’t, and that he made the story that much more memorable.
Ben and I spent the rest of the night eating and celebrating with our friends and family. We’ve also received a deluge of calls, texts, and Facebook posts wishing us well. The moment, the preparation for it, and the outpouring of love remind me how lucky Ben and I are to have such supportive family and friends. We couldn’t have lasted the previous twelve years without them encouraging, loving, and caring for us. For that, we are truly thankful and forever grateful. We can’t wait to see what the future holds.