On the afternoon of February 22, 1997, I frantically cleaned my apartment and prepped it for the evening. I sweated details I usually didn’t pay any attention to because I had big plans for the evening. I kept checking on the ring I bought four months before, partially to make sure it was still there and mostly to remind myself why I worked so hard that day. When I finished cleaning, I started to truly prepare.
I have a (somewhat deserved) reputation for winging things, but this was one night I planned in meticulous detail. The plan for the evening even took on capital letters to become The Plan.
I didn’t plan an extravagant dinner or anything else that was out of the ordinary for our Saturday date night. As far as she knew, she was just coming over to spend time together, nothing special. I wanted that moment, that question to stand out against everything else that evening.
I went over The Plan in my mind. Before Chrisie came over I was going to hide the ring in its box beneath the left (if you were sitting on it) end cushion on the couch. I picked that spot because Chrisie always sat in the middle of the couch and I always sat on the left end. I went ahead and rearranged the cushion slightly to provide easier access to the ring that I would later hide beneath it. I sat in my usual place and practiced slipped the box from under the cushion. I spent an hour perfecting the move until I could flawlessly pluck the ring from under me in one deft fluid motion easily concealed and simply moving my hand. I even brought a mirror into the room to make sure it wouldn’t be obvious later.
Once I was confident about that phase of The Plan, I rehearsed how I would actually ask the question. I planned to ask her what her favorite date of ours was. I knew she would pick the night we went to see Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera in Nashville even though it took place long before we actually started dating (there wasn’t even a goodnight kiss). Then I planned to ask her her favorite song from that musical, which I knew was All I Ask of You. It’s a song that just begs to be used in a proposal and I fully planned to give in to the cliché.
The Plan called for me to recite a few choice lines from the song during which I would employ the move I already practiced to get the ring, slip down to one knee and change just the right few words as I opened the box to present the ring. I practiced this bit as well because I wanted it to go as well as possible (I had long given up on things going perfectly).
When Chrisie called to let me know she was about to leave, I had gone over and practiced The Plan several times. I knew I had half an hour, so I finished preparations, moved the mirror out of the living room and set everything just so. The Plan was in motion.
I was so nervous that I have no recollection of if we went out for dinner or stayed in. I can’t remember if the television was even on. But I clearly, in minute detail, remember following Chrisie into the living room and watching her sit down on the couch. She sat in my spot, directly over the ring.
“What’s wrong?” she asked.
“Because you went pale. Are you okay?”
“Uh, yeah. Yeah, of course I am. Why wouldn’t I be?” Shut up, moron, I thought to myself.
I wanted to complain that she was in my spot and that she should move. I’m particular about where I sit and she shouldn’t have taken my spot. I knew she knew it because she always made fun of my OCD. The fact that she did it on the night of The Plan only compounded the issue.
I sat down next to her, in her spot, and leaned against her. How was I going to do this now? For obvious reasons, I hadn’t divulged The Plan to her, which is probably why she sat down completely wrong. It wasn’t just that she sat in my spot, it was that she sat differently than I planned to and the small space I created for access to the ring was pressed shut.
I racked my brain for a solution. I anxiously drummed my fingers on my leg when I wasn’t wiping my palm on it.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked.
“Yeah, why?” Stop inviting further observation!
“You’re all fidgety and shaking.”
“Uh, it’s cold. Aren’t you cold? Perhaps you’d like to get a blanket or something.” Or, you know, anything that will make you get up so I can take my place.
She never got up and I eventually realized that The Plan was altered and I was going to have to improvise the one thing I didn’t want to. I lay awkwardly across her lap and hoped she didn’t notice my hand furiously trying to get beneath the cushion to the ring.
“What’s your favorite date of ours?”
“Probably the night we went to see Phantom in Nashville.”
“You mean the night you wouldn’t hold my hand?” What are you doing?
“You mean like you won’t hold my hand in public now?”
“You really want to start a fight with me tonight of all nights?”
“Uh, nothing. So Phantom was your favorite date?” I could just feel the edge of the ring box.
“What’s your favorite song from it?”
“All I Ask of You.”
“I thought you’d say that.”
I still couldn’t grasp the box, but I went ahead with The Plan anyway. I looked into her eyes as I stretched my fingers and said, “Chrisie?”
“Say you’ll share with me one love, one lifetime,” I inched the box closer and prayed she couldn’t feel it, “Say the word and I will follow you.”
“Are you going to quote the whole song?”
“Maybe,” I said as I slipped down and just jammed my hand under the cushion to get at the ring. I yanked it out before she could realize what was happening and kind of hugged her legs behind her knees.
“Share each day with me, each night, each morning,” I continued. Then I took a deep breath, held the now open box before her and finished, “Marry me. That’s all I ask of you.”
“Yes!” Her eyes glittered.
“Will you marry me?”
“You did say, ‘yes,’ right?”
“Of course I said yes. Do I get to actually wear that or are you going to keep asking me all night?”
I slipped the ring on her finger. The Plan had not gone according to, uh, plan, but it certainly was memorable.
The worst part? She suspected something was up the entire time. Not because of how I acted, or because the apartment was cleaner than usual. She knew something was up because I didn’t get mad when she sat in my spot.
I’d say you just can win, except I did win. The Bigger Plan was to love her the rest of my life and that one’s working out pretty well.