A couple weeks ago, Bill emailed me to share details on the Big Sur hotel booking he’d made for us. Someone had just cancelled their two-night stay at Deetjen’s, so he snatched the opportunity to make a reservation for sleeping and eating. Perfect. With JumpCam’s launch (BTW, I work at JumpCam and after a year in stealth mode, we finally went public for iOS and Android.), the last couple of months have been hectic with my mind running a mile a minute. I could really use 36-hour days right now, and the start of our Big Sur holiday was no exception.
“The weekend is not going to be like this.”
Friday was bananas. Bunches and bunches of ominous bananas. As soon as Bill booked our Big Sur excursion, I planned to work from home for the first half of the day so that we could make good time on the road. Our old (soon-to-be-replaced) wireless router had other ideas, like: Your GMail should take an indefinite amount of time to allow you to type a message, or queue up a contact, or try to send something, period. Ol’ Router threw a wrench into the one press release I had to write, the two Google Hangouts I had organized, and the queue of video clips awaiting moderation that I wanted to keep to zero.
On top of all that, the day before, Google Play changed JumpCam’s to-be-featured day from two Fridays out to that Friday, AKA: Day 1 of our Big Sur bonanza. I immediately IMed Bill when I got the news, to which he replied “GREAT TIMING.” Our first big app store feature and I was destined for three days in the land of no signal/Wi-Fi? Fantastic.
Shit wasn’t flying off the fan enough to cancel the trip, though. My body needed it (I booked us massages at Esalen, and I was not about to give those up!), and I knew Bill would be furious that I had opted, once again, to choose work over life.
Though our departure was delayed, he finally got me out the door – not without first whipping up an impromptu curry chicken salad for me to eat in the car since I was bangin’ out text when we should have been noshing in Monterey – and we were off. Getting through the MacArthur maze, conversations naturally started with a frenetic tone: Work this, work that. But as we advanced beyond Bay Area civilization swapping warehouses for stretches of coast, our discussions were released from detailed stressors and into more high-level stuff, silly stuff, and sometimes just no stuff. Sometimes we were just silent, punctuating our speechlessness with expressions of “God, the coast is so beautiful.”
I didn’t know Highway 1 was beautiful until Bill said it last year (and I saw a coastline in Maine – they do not compare). Now I can’t unsee it, and I also can’t picture it without being moved by how beautiful it is.
As the waves rolled, a nagging thought in my head continued to scratch at my brain to make me feel unfulfilled, discontent, and unhappy. About a week before our actual vacation date, I gave in to this little gremlin of thought, texting Meg these exact words:
Can I just…? This Big Sur
weekend: I can’t help
thinking how nice and
romantic it will be, and
kinda-sorta wondering if
there will be a ring
involved. But honestly I’m
pretty sure that won’t
Bill and I have been dating for over six years, in love for over six years, and openly discussing marriage for something like four years –possibly even five. It wasn’t until the last year or so that I started feeling pangs for wanting to be officially married. I was relieved when he himself brought up talk about engagement rings, trying to pinpoint my arguably nuanced and unpredictable style. He even told me to start adding more wedding things to my Pinterest.
But for all that talk, months went on and on where we didn’t book time to get my ring size, didn’t actually go ring shopping, and didn’t make proactive moves to make real progress in the engagement process. We were sitting outside of a jeweler once, me sipping a tea and him sketching lazy Sunday shoppers, when conveniently that jeweler opened for the day’s business. We went in unprepared, got my ring size, and then the lady showed me a bunch of rings that are totally not my style. I tried on two that were 70% interesting to me (and frankly, 0% interesting to her because they were probably the least-styled/adorned pieces). Largely I felt uninspired and continued to look for prospectives to add to my Pinterest, but I quickly got tired of the available options. Bill’s late startup was still bootstrapping and I was easily swept back into thoughts about work. To-do lists are actionable things. Romantically infused milestones are not.
So here came our Big Fat Big Sur Weekend, and the water was so blue, and the sense of accomplishment for escaping cell towers was so strong. Here I was with the man I fell in love with at first sight, and we were off to run away from the things I let bear down on me so easily. We were in store for picturesque everything: a room with a rustic fireplace, a pair of cliffside massages, dinner at a cozy restaurant. Hikes with huge trees, air that smells spiced, general Fall weather.
As the mileage to Big Sur decreased, I pictured going through the motions of this weekend, storing so many postcard moments in memory, and heading home without having gone that extra mile. I heard a persnickety version of myself in my head yelling at Bill, I can’t believe you didn’t engage me!
“I need to stretch my legs.”
Bill had been driving for a couple of hours (we breezed through Monterey and Carmel) when we finally got into what is officially considered to be “Big Sur.” It looked rocky and awesome outside, and his long-distance driving butt needed a break. We pulled over to a shoulder with trails down the cliff, and just breathed and looked to the sea. We walked through some lightly treaded trails, with Bill snapping photos from his DSLR. I was stoked to have no cell signal and filmed the crashing waves for myself. Though the paths were narrow, the trails went onward, so I walked ahead to see how far we could get, and where exactly those bare paths led. Bill kept yelling at me, “Where are you going?”
“I don’t know!” I cried, as one path required super light climbing maneuvers around some large rocks. It became a game. I just tried to find the end of this thing the fastest, with Bill trailing behind. Finally I perched at the end of the line, staring at swirling water below, rolling water beyond, and the calm horizon farther off.
Bill caught up and sat next to me. We just sat there. Took some photos. Took some video. Sat and were grateful. Sat and were lovey-dovey. I sat and I realized how much I needed this. I sat and almost cried at how lucky we are.
I sat and wondered what the weekend would bring. I heard her, the Persnickety Me, yelling, I can’t believe you didn’t engage me! But then I abolished her and her attitude. I have so much to be grateful for, I reminded myself. Light smacks of coastal mist and gleaming sun on a perfectly clear day will bring you back to what you should focus on. I was feeling fulfilled, content, and happy, when Bill started shuffling around on his rock.
“This is a long time coming,” I heard him say. And I wondered, You think going to Big Sur was a long time coming? (Bill had been talking about going to Big Sur for months.) You should have booked it earlier!
And then Bill kept talking, and he rotated away from me. I don’t know what else he said after that because there was a box. And there was a ring. And Bill and I were no longer eye-to-eye, he was crouching in front of me. And for all my no-nonsense-ness, I could not keep it together.
The Blubbering Cliché
At one point, he said “Will you marry me?” but neither of us is clear if he actually said “Will you marry me,” or its flustered, giddy cousin, “Viww ooh mawfwry beeh?” I said “Yes,” but he says I was just mumbling and crying and covering my mouth with my hands. All I could manage was a string of “Oh!s,” the kind that you reserve for adorable babies. Were it not for my oversized no-paparazzi cat eye sunglasses, my projectile tearing would have sputtered Mayka Mist across the ring and all over my former boyfriend.
At this point all I could see was flashes of his smile, this blinding ring before me, and streaks of the blue ocean beyond. He put the ring box in my hands and I just held it. I was about to put the ring on my own finger then I shoved it back at him, “No, you do it!”
Bill placed the ring on my ring finger
and we were done.
Bill asked, “So, was that a yes?” and we were done.
I have this ring now, on my ring finger. I can’t stop looking at it. It’s so bright. The shape is so simple. It twinkles in candlelight. I am now a magpie for myself. (And yes, conflict-free certificate is gotten.)
I’m not posting it here because, News Flash: No one’s pictures of their engagement rings on their fingers looks good, but I love it. It’s gorgeous. I think my mom wants it but she cannot have it.
The First Person We Told
We had just checked in to Deetjen’s, and I must have been glowing. I had to restrain myself from spontaneously erupting at the receptionist: “I’M ENGAGED! WE’RE ENGAGED!” We kept our shit together enough to settle into our room and make it to dinner.
As we were being seated, the receptionist (who doubled as the restaurant host) told me, “Cute dress!” and I almost bursted “I’M ENGAGED! WE’RE ENGAGED!” again.
We sat down to dinner looking over the menus when our server came over to take our orders. She came around to my side of the table, said hello, and then said, “Beautiful ring!”
To which I quickly responded, “Wejustgotengaged! Liketwohoursago!”
She cooed and awwed and asked to see it up close. She said, “It looks beautiful on your hand,” which I know you’re supposed to say when you’re the sophisticated caliber of server who knows the right conversation topics to pick up on when you see ’em, but still made me feel like a million bucks.
“Did you tell her?” I asked Bill in a stage whisper as she left the table. “No!” he said.
That’s some good service. Hone in on the blingy conversation topic. Make your client feel like a million bucks. Here, have this hearty tip, my friend.
AND! THERE WERE DOLPHINS.
While soaking in Esalen’s hot springs before our massages, we watched a pair of dolphins leaping in and out of the water, traveling tightly side by side. Nobody else in the hot springs cared or even looked. Clearly these were dolphins sent to wish us congratulations in Dolphin Language.
What Should We Call He
The steps toward making a wedding. The adoption of in-laws. The referring to the man I’m going to marry. These are concepts I haven’t grasped yet. At any given moment, I will introduce Bill as my Boyoncé or my Fancee (pronounced “Fancy”). These are workaround stopgaps until I get comfortable saying “fiancé,” if that even ever happens.
P.S. This is from my own perspective. You’ll have to ask Bill for his. We both had an I-can’t-remember blackout moment during the proposal itself, but perhaps you can piece it all together based on our accounts.
P.P.S. To all you once-engaged creatures with your bright-eyed bushy tailed excitement: I get it now. I totally get it.