Every Valentines Day the masses get all sappy and romantic and wax all poetical and stuff. Normally I would jump on that bandwagon faster than Usain Bolt. I love romance and love and all things red and pink. But this year I will instead tell you the story of how Brett proposed to me almost 15 years ago. Why? Because it’s hilarious. Do I need another reason? No.
We were VERY young. 20 years old. No money. Small jobs. No idea what the heck we were doing in life or even how to pay for the next tank of gas. Just babies out of high school. I’ve noticed a trend nowadays with everybody trying to one-up each other on the epic grandeur of their proposal story. Mine beats all of them, simply by virtue of comedy. Brett was in college, but he spent the summer with me in the town I was living in. He hopped a bus with nothing but a gym bag full of his clothes and a ring in his pocket and came halfway across the country to my hometown. My father was away on vacation, so Brett found himself in a pickle. He’d only met my dad once, and he couldn’t exactly interrupt his vacation to ask for his daughter’s hand in marriage. So he did the only thing a sane young guy could do… he asked permission from my 11 year old sister. HAA!!! My sister, who was not much for words at the time was like, “Uhh… sure. Whatever. If she wants to. Cool.”
So he took me out to dinner at a restaurant in town determined to propose. Unfortunately that restaurant had obscenely oversized tables in their booths, and we could barely hear each other from across the distance. How can you propose to someone sitting in the next county over? Well you can’t. So he panicked. This was NOT a romantic place, and he wasn’t about to ruin the perfect proposal simply because we were sitting in a booth designed for Paul Bunyan. I was oblivious to all this and just kept chatting on about how stinkin’ awesome my open faced roast beef sandwich was and other various things my 20 year old self felt were hugely important (15 years later I can barely remember what I ate for breakfast and whether I signed the kids homework sheets, nevermind what I prattled on about at 20). The point is, I happily carried on 45 minutes of conversation never noticing that Brett looked slightly pale and panic stricken.
We left the restaurant, and Brett, who had only lived in this town for 2.5 weeks and knew very little about the area, drove to a park he remembered seeing. We played on the swings and slid down the slides and stood together up in the playground fort balcony overlooking the sunset across the field. That would have been a delightful place to propose… we had the whole park to ourselves. Or so we thought. As soon as Brett tried to steer the conversation towards love and foreverness, a biblical-sized plague of mosquitoes descended on the playground and began to feast on our unsuspecting selves. The conversation went something like this…
Brett: “Katie, I know we haven’t been together that long, but I uhh.. I really…”
Me: “Ow! Ow! They’re ripping my flesh off!”
Brett: “Well I need to tell you something though…”
Me: “QUICK! RUN!! GET TO THE CAR!!”
We ran to the car wildly flailing and swatting at the air with a black cloud of whirring noise flying close behind in hot pursuit. I slammed the door shut and couldn’t stop laughing. I had no idea why Brett looked so frustrated. I mentioned that we should probably go back to the house and check on my sister. Brett would not even hear of going home and sat in the car frantically trying to think of another romantic place to go. By then the sun had set and it was dark out. He remembered a little river in town that had some nice benches beside a waterfall. Perfect. He drove there.
We got out of the car and sat on the bench while the car headlights carved through the dim summer evening. Just before Brett could hit one knee, I noticed another car parked there as well. The guy and girl inside were TOTALLY making out in their car (GAG!!), and I wigged out. Brett tried so hard to convince me to ignore them and stay on the bench with him, but I was hyperventilating at this point, ran back to the car, and began hissing from the passenger seat for him to, “Drive away quick before they see us!! Drive! DRIIIVE!!!” Poor Brett. If I’d only known what was in his pocket, I would have marched up to that car, knocked on the window and told those 2 love birds to go park somewhere else, because my boyfriend needed this square footage to propose to me. Alas, I was still clueless.
Now Brett was running out of options and nearing his wits end. He drove around aimlessly while I begged him to just drive me home. We found ourselves driving into the center of town where there was a cute little gazebo surrounded by a tiny park with benches, trees, flowers, and statues. He had no other options. This was it. GO TIME! We walked to the gazebo…. AAAANNNND it was roped off for renovations. HAA!! He almost lost the will to live. Refusing to give up, he walked me over to a park bench and sat me down. We talked long into the night, and then sometime around midnight he got down on his knee and said he had nothing to offer me except love, and although the future might be really unknown, and although we might be so very young, he asked if I would marry him and face all of life by his side. I said yes
Best decision I ever made.
And the sudden realization of what had really been going on all night suddenly struck me! Poor Brett! If only I’d known!
He was still on his knee when a car full of teenage boys drove by with their heads sticking out the window shouting “SHE SAID YES!!!!” Before we could get up and walk back to the car, another car drove by and a guy shouted out the window, “GET A ROOM!!!!” How romantic. I love people… they’re so classy.
In the days that followed we were happily engaged and making plans and in love and all that wonderfulness!! But a tiny detail remained. My dad was coming home… (cue intimidating and foreboding soundtrack)
We went to his house when he got back, but we were both way too chicken to tell him. So we huddled upstairs in my sister’s bedroom for nearly 2 hours practicing what to say and going over our response to every possible reaction he could have. Nearly 15 times we decided to just DO IT, and then freaked out before we could open the door. We were the epitome of cool. My sister just sat there snickering at us until finally the melodrama was far too much for her. She snorted, “When I get engaged, I’m just gonna leave a message on Dad’s voice mail to tell him.”
(I’m happy to report that she got married a few years ago, and poor Dad did not have to find out by voicemail. All the dads in the world may now breath a sigh of relief).
We armed ourselves with as much courage as a couple of 20 year old’s could muster and went downstairs to introduce Dad to my boyfriend he’d barely met once and to say, “Oh by the way, we’re getting married! SURPRRRIIISE!”
(I’m also happy to report that my dad handled himself with grace, which is why my husband is still alive and did not die on that day. They went on to build a great relationship of father and son-in-law, which I thank God for all the time.)
Why am I telling this story? Because a man fought for me and wouldn’t quit, not just on that day, but every day after that for the past 15 years. He had nothing at all to offer me except his character, his integrity, his love, his work ethic, his loyalty, and his hilarious personality. And I fell in love with all of it. He’s proven himself to me over and over again since that day, and we have overcome insurmountable odds and giant mountains together. If I were to tell you our whole story, you would find it to be in sharp contrast and at complete odds with the idea of romance and love that Hollywood incessantly promotes. Guess what? Hollywood is a liar. And I wouldn’t trade the humor, happiness, and foreverness that Brett and I have for even the most thrilling story Hollywood could ever concoct. They fall woefully short with every new movie release. I hope all my single girlfriends will WAIT for someone with character and integrity who will fight for you, and I hope all my married friends will realize that their love stories are worth fighting for and are far better than Hollywood’s hollow definition of real love.
And to all those people who brag about their grandiose proposals in hot air balloons or on baseball fields or “Pinterest Proposals” or on cruise ships… I say to them, “BOOOOOORRRRRRRIINNNNNNNNGGGGGG….!!”
They’ve got nothing on our “Series-of-unfortunate-yet-hilarious-events” Proposal
This is the bench where he FINALLY proposed. These are our 2 children. We took them back to my home town a few years ago to show them “our bench.” They were too young to understand, but someday they will! And I hope they will both meet men who will never give up fighting for them.