How to Get Engaged: Keep it Simple
Getting engaged is nothing more than a resolution between two people to get married. You can’t very well show up at the church one day without agreeing with your partner on a date and time, right? So that’s what an engagement is – you agree that marriage is something you both want to do, and you set a date and time to get it done. It’s in everybody’s best interest, at the time of engagement, to be as clear as possible. Don’t obfuscate the point with trivialities like getting down on one knee or nonsense like hiding the ring in a piece of cake (where it’s likely to get eaten) or paying the San Diego Chicken to goofy give the ring to your girlfriend on the jumbo-tron during a 7th inning stretch. I was reading my friend, PJ’s, blog yesterday and he’s celebrating his anniversary. He wrote about his engagement and how he went about asking his now father in-law for permission (something I thought was quaint yet sorta cool). PJ’s story is pretty basic as far as I can tell, and that’s why I like it. Having a big fancy engagement is a matter of personal preference, but when viewed in retrospect it’ll probably seem like overkill. Life has a way of making seemingly relevant events inconsequential after the fact.
Mely and I got engaged 3 weeks after meeting each other. She didn’t speak English well, and I didn’t speak Spanish at all. For clarity’s sake, then, we had two engagements. The first one happened in the middle of the night at the apartment she shared with her three sisters and mother. I had gone to Mexico in the first place for a month long Spanish immersion program, and I met Mely when she was assigned to me as an acompañante (She showed me around the city and tried to teach me Spanish at the same time). It was really her boyfriend who was first assigned to me, but when he flaked out one day and she took his place – well, his loss (another story). At midnight the day before I went back to Boston I hired a taxi from my hotel and went to Mely’s apartment. I sat on her couch trying to talk for a few minutes before I said something like “Listen, I don’t understand you. I’m going back to Boston tomorrow, but I’ll be back and we’re getting married.” She said “Okay”. Then I left.
The second engagement happened after I got back to Mexico a month after having left the first time. I didn’t have any plan other than to show up, seal the deal, and live happily ever after. She and her family let me live with them (because I had no money and nowhere else to go and they felt sorry for me). One day Mely and I went to a movie. On the way home we stopped at a little park. We sat on a bench and I said “We’re getting married, right?” And she said, “That’s the idea.” Then we walked the rest of the way home and told her mother and sisters. That’s when it became a family affair and all I needed to do was – nothing apart from show up when they told me to show up. And that’s what I did, and now it’s 2010. I didn’t even get her a ring until 4 months later when I presented it to her over dinner at The Wayside Inn in Sudbury MA (That was a 3rd engagement).
It Won’t Matter After the Fact
Time gets measured from the day you get married, not from your engagement date. I don’t remember what day I got engaged. Heck, I don’t even remember the date of our civil wedding (the judge married us a few months before the priest did). The point is this: if you want to care about a bunch of dates then go right ahead, but it’s a waste of time to remember an engagement when the date will hold no intrinsic value after it get’s usurped by marriage. It’s important only between the day you get engaged and the day you get married. Then it becomes useless trivia. But, when you’re young you’ll do things and try to remember things that you believe hold great meaning simply because, at the time, you have nothing to measure them against. But, as time marches on, transitory events like that quickly become dusty files in your memory.
The Act Matters, Not the Details
The act of getting engaged matters, not the actual date or any of the details. A fancy engagement would not have been any more memorable to me than the ones I actually had. My engagement was simple – a moment on a bench, a couch, and at a dinner table that I’ll always remember as clearly as if I had jumped out of a banner dragging airplane into the middle of a stadium. My engagement is for the benefit of my own mind; I don’t need object lessons to remember an emotion. My emotions are as valid without pretention as they would be with it. Personal neurosis aside, if Mely was a person who needed fancy display of affection then I’d be worried I made a marriage mistake.
Blinded by Glitz
Don’t let pomp fool you; the person you’re going to marry is right in front of you, and his thoughts matter a lot more than whatever weirdness he’s cooked up to impress you with. If he proposes while juggling fire, singing about his undying love, back up a little because that’s not safe. Then find out what he really thinks by having a real conversation. His juggling is meant to impress on you how much he loves you. It should worry you, though, that he’s not secure enough to simply say it. And if his juggling fire makes you feel more important, what will you expect of him the next time? By your 5th anniversary he’ll be juggling chainsaws on a high wire over a volcano. You can either enter a love arms race, or you can state your intentions and believe each other. Keep it simple because being old and still married speaks volumes more than dangerous displays of devotion.