I’m definitely aware that, in regards to getting engaged, I’m not a special snowflake. There are lots of 23-year-olds who are engaged and getting married. There is nothing really magical about my story or my engagement or my life. I’m just a chick who likes to write and happened to find a dude who likes to write. And we ended up dating and getting engaged.
I guess what makes my story different to most people was that I never planned on getting married. In fact, before I dated my fiance, I had never had an official boyfriend before. I had had little flings — imagine me telling someone, “Me and that guy had about half-a-thing,” which basically sums up my love life until the age of 22. I was non-committal and mostly uninterested. Whenever I went on dates, I secretly wished I was at home watching Disney movies and eating cookies instead.
I hated the process of dating, the amount of money spent, the tension over the check, the sitting in a dark movie theater trying not to fall asleep because I got up at 5am to work out. And, more than that, I hated the idea that I was supposed to be dependent on someone. Maybe it was my rebellious nature, but I really rejected the notion that unless I had a boyfriend, I appeared abnormal. I knew I was intelligent, attractive and generally pretty fun (I do a really great Zooey Deschanel impression). I didn’t need a dude to tell me this. I was The Girl Who Didn’t Need Reassurance.
And I guess, ultimately, that’s how it happened. My fiance is someone who I knew all four years of college. We were friends, fellow Creative Writing majors, and helped put together the school’s literary magazine. He liked me because I was independent and intimidatingly motivated.
We had our final creative writing seminar together and, two weeks before we got together, I distinctly remember saying something to the effect of, “My mother always taught me it was more important to be a good human being – successful and courageous and motivated – than someone whose only motivation was to find a good boyfriend. She felt a lot of pressure to get married young and didn’t want me to feel that way.”
That feeling you have is intense irony at my own statement.
We became official in April. There were no dates, no debating over who had to pay what. I was basically living in his house by mid-May and grinding my teeth over the fact that we were graduating, I was moving back to Oregon for grad school, and he was staying in Idaho.
He ended up proposing on a visit to Oregon in July. Part of me had expected it, but part of me still hadn’t accepted that I was in a relationship with a man who actually wanted to get married. And his proposal was like our entire relationship: plain, simple, and to the point. It was done out of love, not out of any kind of courtship ritual. He had asked me, two days before if I had a dream of how I would be proposed to. I laughed and said, “Honey, it doesn’t really matter.” We watched Harry Potter and he asked me to marry him. That was it.
The thing about being engaged at my age, with my past, is that people tend to think we’re kidding. Or that it’s not serious. It has recently become a trend for people to “get engaged” on Facebook – with no ring, nothing to show for it – and then break up. One of my friends has been “engaged” to every single one of her boyfriends. I’m not kidding. There is a tendency for some people of college age to think that every person they date is their “true love.” I guess the realist in me is what kept me from dating much before my fiance. I knew it wasn’t that easy.
Contending with that trend is one of the difficult parts of being engaged. As I plan my wedding, send out engagement announcements and try to pick a color (seriously, guys, it’s so hard), I feel like I’m constantly dealing with people giving me a “Really?” face that is rife with sarcasm.
Mostly, though, I struggle to accept that being engaged has changed a lot of my life plans. Before, I had planned to finish grad school and then move where ever I got a job. I had had my sights set on New York City or Chicago. Now, that doesn’t seem as possible. I have two careers to think about now, two passions. I need a place to live that’s big enough for two people. My previous attitude had meant that I’d always planned for one. It’s a nice change, but a change I still have to get used to.