Terms of Engagement

For me to have taken this long to write this specific post is quite ironic. Because this was not only a moment that I felt I had quite literally spent my life waiting for (well, okay, maybe not my life but the better part of my dating life – especially the last few years), but the cherry on the sundae for readers, the Confession of all confessions. Good Will Green Eyes popped the question and I said yes. This blog has now turned the proverbial corner, and quite frankly, so have I. All of the past stories, triumphs, mistakes, tears, heart aches, joy and celebration had come down to one December evening, with just two people on a side street saying yes to each other. And it was that simple. And that quick.

I can go into the whole proposal story and how it all went down with the details and play by play as if this was a Pat’s game during the Superbowl. But, truly the important things you need to know are the following, 1) the ring is amazing 2) he got down on one knee 3) the proposal took place at a special, sentimental spot for both of us that also happens to be a sidestreet that can look creepy at night 4) the ring is amazing and 5) I was nervous as all get out.  As soon as he said to me after we finished dinner, “let’s go for a walk”, I knew what was about to happen. And all of a sudden finishing my glass of wine became the most important thing in the world rather than listening to what this man was about to ask me. I literally said, “Can I finish my wine first”? Which he responded, “Leah, that’s already paid for. You don’t need to finish it…let’s go.” And so I gulped down the last swill and left the restaurant, out the door, and began the walk down the final gangplank of single-hood.

Please don’t mistake me. I’m ecstatic,thrilled, psyched and overjoyed to marry Good Will Green Eyes. He is everything that I had always wanted my other boyfriends to be – I just hadn’t known it yet until I met him. Not only does he make me laugh, but he listens, he understands, he communicates, he loves, he is all what someone meant for me should be like.  But to be faced with this question that would literally turn my single identity onto it’s very thick head, was a bit scary. I was excited, but somehow walking out of that restaurant and into the possibilities of new beginnings all of a sudden made my mouth dry, my palms sweat and the last sip of wine rush speedily to my head.

I was confused by my reaction. Because, I had already said yes to Good Will Green Eyes so many months ago. I said yes to him when he stuck up for me in the bar and some stranger slapped my butt, I said yes to him when he said “All I want is a shot at the title”, I said yes to him when he traveled to see my family – in all it’s big family glory! – hours away to spend the weekend sleeping in a tent rather than a Holiday Inn, I said yes to him when we first went to mass together and he held my hand, I said yes to him when he wiped my tears after we watched Love Actually, I said yes to him when I threw up the dinner he bought me in a restaurant stall and he still asked me out afterwards, and I said yes to him whenever he put me first in front of his own needs. So why was I so nervous to say yes to him when it mattered most? Oh, don’t get me wrong. That night I said yes loud and clear – and in fact, put the ring on my own finger (what? he was on his knees and needed assistance), but saying yes that time was a finality. It was a declaration, an expression of love and – in it’s own little way –  a goodbye.

For so many years, my “single” identity – whether I was attached to someone or not – defined me. It was a way of how I made jokes, conversation, connected with friends, made excuses for “just staying out one hour longer” when most everyone had already gone home, and, most importantly, shaped my story-telling. So to now be the engaged or betrothed “one” was all of a sudden weird and foreign to me. The ring on my finger defined me now ” as one of those” to all the other single women who glance at ring fingers on buses and trains just to do a quick count in their heads of how many single women really are left in this city. (I only say this because I have done this seemingly petty but very necessary calculation in my head more than once – only to size up competition!). People started taking what I had to say a little bit more seriously – instead of saying, “Oh, well what does she know, I mean, she has no idea what it means to be married/have a family or have a “real” life” — because, apparently now that I was getting married, suddenly there was this concept that the old Leah had been replaced by someone a bit more polished, mature and so above Saturday nights out with girlfriends engaged in frivolous (but fun!) behavior fueled by vodka tonics and smooth-talking bartenders. That gave me pause. Was I more polished? Wise, always, because we only grow and learn through our mistakes and our past relationships – but polished? Mature? Above vodka tonics and batting my eyes at 27-year old men holding my bar tab? That I wasn’t so sure about. Was being engaged to the love of my life cause for me to suddenly change the course of that life? Or was it much more simple than that? The truth was somewhere in between. What did these terms of engagement mean for me and for the identity that I had always hung my hat on when it came to trying to explain myself to others? Hell, when it came to trying to explain myself to me. How would I now define those terms? When I looked in the mirror, was it still the same person? Or when the diamond is slipped over the knuckle, does it all magically turn into a Knottie, a Bridezilla, a registry shopping hound who suddenly has become an expert on all things from floral arrangements to cake tastings to shows to watch on TLC?

Well, the answer, of course, is no. I’m still me. I still crack the same jokes, and wink at the same guys and laugh too loudly with friends and drink a little more wine than I should. I didn’t sign up for the Knot, and I still can’t really tell you the difference between a Mermaid and Fit and Flare cut. When the day is done and finished, and the make-up has been removed and the teeth flossed and the cats fed, I’m still the same person that Good Will Green Eyes fell in love with in the first place. When he asked me to marry him, he did not want to marry someone on the other side of that engagement coin. He wanted to marry me, who always stayed true to me ever since our first date. So why would I change? My friends and family have always loved me for me…why would they want to have someone in my life that wanted me any differently? I won’t ever be perfectly graceful, polished or mature. But what I can be is an amazing partner and friend to this man that I will wear a white gown next to. And that will only take the Leah I started with 36 years ago; and what will only strengthen our relationship was the single life that shaped me. That’s all I can carry forward down that aisle – and that is something that you can’t see in the mirror, you can’t wear on your finger or you can’t register for. My best gift to Good Will Green Eyes will be me  – in all its imperfections and funny jokes and wide smiles and trips up the stairs.

So, I might say goodbye to singlehood…but I promise this. I won’t ever forget what singlehood had to do with getting me here – to that December evening where the question took one minute to ask and what seemed like forever to build up to. It only has to happen once. Let that once happen to the person that you want to be – because the person on their knee or standing above you – will only want just that. And those terms can be just that simple, and just that hard to keep.

If given the choice, I would run down that aisle and hurl myself headlong into Good Will Green Eyes like he’s Mickey Mouse on Christmas. But the truth is, I will most likely only need a shot of Jameson and my dad on my arm. The rest, assuredly, will fall into place.

Copyright 2013, Leah A. Flynn

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