The LOML and I got back from South Africa to a freezing cold winter in New York. I was happy that he’d liked the country and met my family. I’d also had time in South Africa to think about my goals for 2015 ahead of the usual Jan 1st New Year’s resolution frenzy and had settled on: 1. get engaged and 2. tone up my flabby tummy. Our talk about living together was my first proactive step towards resolution no. 1 and the ball was now in his court to come up with a way to make the experience feel special. For resolution no. 2 I signed up for Class Pass with the intention of doing lots of barre and tummy intensive things.
Two weeks before Christmas the LOML asked me if I was free for a full day surprise sometime that w end. I hadn’t made any plans yet (I love plans) so I told him I’d stay free (I also love surprises). As usual I asked for hints and the hint he gave was: “There is a risk of failure”. For my girl brain, that statement could obviously be interpreted as he was going to propose – the risk part being that I might say no. But I also knew that his clues are never decipherable and told myself to quiet my girl brain.
That Friday he picked me up from work so that we could drive to see our friends’ new baby. When I asked what present he’d picked up for the babba he looked sheepish, and I almost snapped that if he’d forgotten he should’ve told me so that I could’ve got one. But then he revealed that we weren’t going to visit the baby after all. Aha – my suspicion that babies sleep at night was confirmed but where were we going? We were going on our surprise, he said as he started to look a bit stressed and pretend he wasn’t making wrong turns. As we headed towards Brooklyn, a long line of questioning caused him to reveal that we were flying somewhere! But what about my clothes and passport? He had snuck into my apartment and stolen them (quick mental check – state of apartment thankfully ok that week). The surprise getaway, he said, was in honor of my upcoming birthday, which, being so close to Christmas and New Year, often doesn’t get the attention I would like. I was impressed that he was being so proactive, especially since at our one year review in August, birthday performance was highlighted as a development opportunity. At this point he revealed that Puerto Rico was our destination as we were apparently running late and I had to call Jet Blue to get us on a later flight. Now this was at a time when I was in Greencard purgatory and unable to leave the country so he had apparently called about 8 immigration attorneys to check whether Puerto Rico is considered US soil and in typical lawyer fashion, they’d said they thought so (hence the risk of failure).
We arrived in San Juan in the middle of the night and were whisked away in a taxi heading North after some secret dialogue between the LOML and the car dispatchers. T-40 mins to secret destinantion. As we got closer I thought I’d have another go at clues. This time his response was: “It requires lots of trust” On the one hand I thought ‘Oh crap, I hope its not some extreme couples-rain-forest-zip-lining thing’ and on the other hand I thought, ‘What requires more trust than committing to a lifetime together?’ Calm down girl brain! He’s only just met your parents and didn’t have any time alone with them to ask if he could marry you plus you’ve only been together just over a year and thats how long it took him to ask you out, so there’s no way its happening this w end.
My internal dialogue was shut down as we pulled into an immaculate lush rain forest garden and the Ritz Carlton, Dorado Beach emerged from a haze of splendor. We had arrived at an ex Rockerfeller playground and Beyonce’s hideaway when on tour in Latin America. I love birthdays!!
Piet from Belgium sped up in a golf cart to welcome us – he had arrived on vacation 8 years prior and never left. He asked if we were celebrating anything special. Nah, just a w end getaway the LOML said (he’s obviously not that into free gifts). Piet showed us to our ocean-facing suite, including gigantic bathing suite with outdoor shower and a bath tub so big even a tall person could enjoy it. For a couple whose preferred accommodations up to this point had been tents, friend’s sofas and Airbnb, this was setting the hotel bar very high indeed. We washed off the airport grime amongst the Birds of Paradise and by the time our sleepy heads hit the pillow we didn’t even mind the deafening sound of the crashing waves (nature – so noisy!).
The next morning, I was brusquely awoken by the LOMLs face in mine. Wake up he said, its time for an adventure. I was given permission to use the bathroom before setting off in our robes outside. Outside, as in, where there were people. Maybe he didn’t realize I didn’t have clothes on underneath but it looked like he was walking toward bicycles. He led me passed the bicycles. Phew. Down a garden path towards the beach. He wasn’t saying much so I made chit chat about the birds. On the one hand this was all so weird that my girl brain thought he might propose, on the other hand, he was acting very normal and he is very good at surprises, so this was probably just a romantic pre breakfast walk, all part of my 5 star birthday treat. Calm down Sylvia.
Then we got to a pagoda facing the Caribbean and I thought, ‘Ok, he’s definitely not going to propose – this location is waaay too perfect’. So we stood in the pagoda in silence watching the sea, in nothing but our bathrobes. “Oh look, surfers”. More silence (he doesn’t always feel the need to comment when I say something self evident). I love a bit of nature in the morning but this was getting painful, so I sat down on the ledge.
“You know how I said I like going on adventures with you?”, he asked.
“Well I want to go on a really big adventure with you”
Girl brain: Ok this really sounds like the preamble to a proposal
“When we were in South Africa I asked your father for permission to marry you…and he said yes. Now I want to ask you”
Girl brain: Oh shit, this is it!
More speech saying nice things I wish I remembered but I was just waiting for the part where he gets down on one knee and actually asks the question (and to see the ring of course).Then he did. He got down on two knees and said:
“Will you marry me?”
Just like that, will you marry me? I looked at him after a long stunned silence with very wide eyes and said:
He was holding a ring box but he hadn’t popped it open yet. He may have said “Don’t you want to open it?” and I may have said “Aren’t you supposed to?” And he did. I looked at it and thought ‘that’s not my Gran’s ring – where did he get it?’ But I think (I hope) I said “It’s beautiful”. As it turns out the ring I was looking at was his Granny’s. A very strong and special New Yorker I’d heard lots of great things about. It was perfect.
We returned to our luxury oceanside terrace and ordered breakfast and felt like we were in possession of the world’s best kept secret. He had mentioned the night before that nobody knew where we were. Something about that made me refrain from whatsapping my sister to brag about the retreat and we decided to bask in our top secret for another day before telling anyone. This was probably the best decision we made that w end. Having 24hrs to ourselves to digest how we felt and feel the essence of our relationship change was probably the most intimate experience I’ve ever shared with someone. And our relationship had changed. There was no more ambiguity about how we felt about each other. No doubt that this was what the other person wanted. We could say things now that were better left unsaid before. We had formed a unit. Just like that.
And just like that, what feels like the best period of my life began. Immediately after it happened I felt ecstatically happy. I had received exactly the thing I most wanted and precisely when I wanted it – the ultimate synergy of satisfaction. I just couldn’t understand why the tears hadn’t come as he was proposing or immediately after but I guess emotion takes time to process. At breakfast the next day while he went to get a croissant I watched a family sit down together near us and the tears began to flow. I was crying at the thought of us being together, forever, multiplying or not multiplying, getting old, but always together. It felt like all the big moments that were yet to come had been concentrated into that very moment. It was time share the significant news with our families.
He had said he’d find a way to make moving in together special, and he did. It just far surpassed my wildest expectations.