About a year ago, I sat down with the publisher of Metrosource and told him I was thinking of using my editor’s letter to propose to my boyfriend Justin.
By Paul Hagen
Though we’d only been dating a year when same-sex marriage was legalized in NY, since then, we’d spent a fair amount of time wrapping our heads around the fact that legal gay marriage had gone from barely imaginable to reality.
Three years (and many important conversations) later, I felt like we were finally ready to get engaged. But I couldn’t decide who should do the asking or how. Ultimately, I did not choose to propose via this page: Though it definitely felt like a grand gesture, it also felt too public and impersonal. However, in the course of making that decision, I got so worked up that one night — fueled by emotion, adrenaline and gin — I informed Justin that if we were to get married, I would need him to do the proposing.
Thus began a period I think of as: waiting for it. I waited for him to propose in the lovely, quiet hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (He did not.) I waited for him to pop the question on New Year’s Eve. (No such luck.) I waited for him to ask when we were in Salzburg visiting the actual gazebo where Captain von Trapp proposed to Fraülein Maria in The Sound of Music. (Nope.) After a while, I started to feel a little silly: Why couldn’t I stop focusing on what our relationship might be next and enjoy what it already was? So I tried to stop waiting so very hard. Then came August.
We were preparing to spend a week at the beach with a group of close friends, and I started having premonitions of him proposing there. I confided this in my friend Jen, saying: “I’m only telling you this so that I can get it out of my head because I’ve thought he was going to do it a million times and have been wrong every single time so far.” She offered to see if she could figure out if he had any secret plans; so, I decided that, if there were plans, she was probably in on them and therefore was not a reliable source of information.
The night before we were to leave was my birthday; I’d assumed we wouldn’t make it a big deal and celebrate at the beach instead. But Justin announced that he’d made reservations. When we arrived at the restaurant, we were led down a set of stairs to a private dining room. Red roses were on the table and music was playing; Justin informed me it was a mix he had made of great love songs from the 1930s and ‘40s. About halfway through the meal, Justin produced another surprise: a photo book he had created full of beautiful pictures of us and a list of reasons he loved me. When I looked up from it (with tears in my eyes), he was on one knee holding a ring. He asked me to be his husband, and I told him: “Yes!” and “I love you!” and “You did such a good job!”
My friend Sarah later commented that, “You did such a good job!” sounds more like something a coach says to a player. But to me, it felt right. A good relationship is often like being on a team, and Justin had scored: in surprising me, in creating a fantastic memory we’d treasure, in turning when and how to propose from a problem to a complete delight.
After waiting so long to be engaged, I was surprisingly unprepared for the questions that followed: When’s the wedding? Where will you have it? What will you wear? I realized very quickly that I hadn’t wanted to be engaged for the wedding. What I’d wanted was for Justin and I to be able to show how much we cared about each other — enough to promise to love for the rest of our lives. As we try to plan a wedding that will hopefully be a fitting celebration of that love, I’ll be smiling about the fact that the making of that promise has already started. And “good job” barely begins to describe how well it’s begun.
Last modified: April 17, 2018