A few years back, when my boyfriend and I were two years into dating seriously and on the verge of moving in together, I decided that it was time for him to propose. Until that point, I hadn’t mentioned the prospect of marriage because I figured the subject would terrify him. After all, my man had already failed in the marital sphere once before, so I knew he was destined to associate nuptials with the painful process of divorce and the reality of having an ex-wife forever more.
My marriage silence ended around the time a lot of my close friends started getting engaged, and weddings, invitations, bachelorette parties, and floral arrangements inevitably dominated our conversations. Suddenly, I wanted the same things they wanted. And since my boyfriend and I regularly discussed our plans to spend the rest of our lives together, it didn’t seem like such a big leap from there to the altar anyway.
My hunch that official vows were within reach was confirmed through tête-a-têtes with friends, who quietly (or, rather, drunkenly) admitted to issuing ultimatums that earned them fancy finger jewelry and transformed their boyfriends into fiancés. Gradually, I learned that many engagement stories are a lot less romantic than the agreed upon narrative recited at family gatherings. The unspoken but well understood philosophy amongst the betrothed people I knew seemed to be: If you want him to put a ring on it, you have to take matters into your own hands.
Although I never warmed up to the idea of trapping my boyfriend between choices, I set my mind to convincing him that marriage was a good idea in my own way. To start, I dropped frequent not-so-subtle hints. For instance, I might say, “Wouldn’t it be awesome if we were married?” Or, “You should probably think about proposing soon.” My boyfriend never said “no,” which seemed encouraging. So I took my marry-me plot to the next level. How? With a visual aid, obviously! I spent a solid two hours perfecting a PowerPoint presentation entitled, The Top 10 Reasons You Should Marry Me, featuring an assortment of potential motivating factors. Standout points included: “It won’t cost too much because I don’t believe in expensive diamond engagement rings or big weddings,” “If you don’t marry me, our hypothetical kids will wonder why I don’t share their last name,” “I could use the incentive not to sell my U.S. citizenship,” and “If you decide not to ask, I’ll perform oral sex on your sister.” (Arguably, the latter could be interpreted as a threat, but I thought of it as a way to make him puke his way into getting down on one knee.)
One night, feeling particularly emboldened by several glasses of red wine and a few hours spent reading popular feminist blogs, I realized that it was ridiculous to wait around for someone to ask a question that I could very well ask myself. Why strong-arm your mate into lifelong commitment when you can pioneer the Sadie Hawkins proposal?
When my boyfriend returned home from work that night, I greeted him at the door in my classic at-home outfit of knee high socks, comfy shorts, and a long sleeved t-shirt. I made a show of helping him put away his coat before ushering him into the living area of our apartment.
Then I said, “Will you marry me?” and threw my arms into the air in a tada! sort of fashion.
Standing there, it hit me that the man before me had been showering me with love, affection, compassion, and understanding all along. What more could I want?
Blinded by my mission to check the marriage milestone off my To Do list, it hadn’t occurred to me that my obsessive behavior was downright annoying, or that making marriage happen isn’t a wonderful goal in the first place. “Why not make it official?” isn’t a solid foundation for a partnership. Neither is ambition rooted in the desire to partake in conversations about weddings. Intoxified by the promise of things important to others, I had let myself become a wannabe version of a bridezilla, which seemed far more pathetic than the real thing.
Before my boyfriend could open his mouth to reply, I begged him not to say a word.
“I feel like such a shithead,” I said. “I don’t even want to get married, necessarily.”
The truth is, until a tsunami of friends’ weddings swept over my late twenties, I never thought much about marriage. As much as I like the idea of a fun party with an open bar attended by my best friends and relatives, I didn’t grow up dreaming about a white dress or a walk down the aisle. I don’t think this makes me superior to others. If anything, my ride on top of the marital bandwagon proves that I’m part lemming. At heart, however, I’m neither religious nor traditional enough to yearn for the typical modern day marriage. It took proposing to my boyfriend to come to terms with that—and to realize that it’s okay not to share the same life goals as your friends.
Today I am back to matrimonial indifference. I might very well marry my boyfriend one day, but I might not. Either way, I feel secure in my relationship. I’m also totally unopposed to giving birth to a few bastards.