How Did He Do It?

I’ve been engaged for a month, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told the story of how Will proposed. Thank goodness it’s a great story, and I don’t mind telling it AT ALL. I actually love it. The other day, I thanked a co-worker for letting me tell it. She was crying from the sweetness and thanked me for telling it. That’s what we call a win-win.

For a little bit of back-story, you should know two things:

  1. Making each other CDs has been a big part of our relationship (see previous post).
  2. For a couple of weeks before he proposed, we picked on each other about it a LOT. Every time he said anything remotely related to weddings or marriage or long-term planning, I asked, “Is that a proposal?” And to that, he would respond saying he hadn’t even decided whether to ask me or not, and he hadn’t even bought a ring. Or if he did talk about a ring, he’d say it was nickel-plated ceramic with a 3-carat pink quartz he’d found in the parking lot of his office. Oh, in a hot glue setting. So romantic.

So our 6th monthiversary (Is that a word?) was coming up on March 28, but since he had to work late that night, we decided to celebrate the day before so we could have more time together. I knew a proposal was coming, and that right soon. I knew he had bought a ring, and I knew he had talked to my dad about it. It could happen any day, any moment really. And the night before we were planning to celebrate 6 months, I got a very strong feeling that that’s when it would happen.

Normally, plan-making goes like this:

Me: What do you want to do?
Him: I dunno. What do you want to do?
Me: (Shrug) Do you want to come over to my place, or do you want me to go to yours?
Him: I don’t care. What do you want?
Me: Doesn’t matter to me. Do you want to eat?
Him: Sure. What do you want to eat?
Me: I don’t care. What do you want?

But the night before our 6 month celebration, the conversation went like this:

Him: Tomorrow, I’m going to come over and pick you up, and we’re going to go for a walk around the lake, and then I’m going to take you out to dinner.
Me: Yes sir.

So all day, I was a basket-case. I let my afternoon class out like 20 minutes early because I just couldn’t concentrate any longer. At some point, I texted Whitney and told her I was really nervous (she knew about the plan for the day and also thought he was going to propose). She reminded me that I would be fine when I was with him, and that turned out to be true, but the whole day leading up to it was completely nerve-racking.

I came home from work. He came over not long thereafter and, bless his heart, was so nervous. Right when he came in, he went to the kitchen and downed an entire glass of water. I just thought he was thirsty. I had some things I needed to prep for class the next day, and while I was doing that, Whitney came home to a slightly tense/awkward scene in which we all knew what was about to happen, but no one was talking about it.

We went out for our walk and reminisced about the first time we’d held hands 6 months earlier, walking that same path. We came to a bench, and he suggested we sit down. I knew this was it, but I had no idea how he was going to do it. When we sat down, he said he’d made me a new CD. Ok, I thought, the CD is involved. But how? On the cover was a picture of Kermit and Miss Piggy getting married (in The Muppets Take Manhattan, one of my favorites), and it was titled The Hidden Message Mix, an homage to the second mix I made for him – the one with all the mushy love songs, not the one with all the break-up songs.

I opened it up and looked at the play list. At the top, it said, “Read the song titles.” So I read them all and just thought, Man, this is the most random mix ever. It had some really good songs on it, and it had a bunch of songs I didn’t know, but the overall message of the titles didn’t seem to be “I want to spend the rest of my life with you.” It seemed to be more like “I love you, and hey look! Rocket Man!”

“Do you see the hidden message yet?” he asked. And that’s when I realized I wasn’t supposed to interpret the message. I was supposed to literally see it. With my eyes. I’ll highlight it for y’all so it won’t take you as long as it took me.

  1. M&Ms – Pickin’ On Series
  2. All You Need Is Love – The Beatles
  3. Ring of Fire – Johnny Cash
  4. Red Sweater! – The Aquabats
  5. You Really Got Me Now – The Kinks
  6. Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard – Paul Simon
  7. Every Breath You Take – UB40
  8. Boss DJ – Reel Big Fish
  9. Elenore – The Turtles
  10. Two of Us – The Beatles
  11. He’ll Make Me Happy – The Muppets
  12. Play the Game – Queen
  13. As Long as the Grass Shall Grow – Johnny Cash
  14. Rocket Man – Pickin’ On Series
  15. Everything I Do, I Do It for You – A New Found Glory
  16. Never Met a Girl Like You Before – Flogging Molly
  17. The Luckiest – Ben Folds

Do you see what he did there? Clever, right?

Well, immediately upon seeing the hidden message, I was crying. And I turned to him and said, “Is that a proposal?” to which he responded, finally, for the first time, “Yeah, it is.”

He got off the bench and on one knee, and he pulled out the ring box and opened it, and I covered my mouth with my hands and tried to see him through the tears. And he said, “Will you marry me?” And I nodded, mouth still covered, and said through my tears of absolute joy, “Absolutely.” Then I had him put the ring on my finger, and we kissed a lot and called or texted everybody with the news.

And then we went out to dinner.

A man has to work up a lot of nerve to ask a girl to marry him, but now that it’s done, and I’ve said yes, Will proposes to me regularly. It’s sort of a carry-over joke from those couple of weeks right before he popped the question. We’ll be hanging out, and he’ll say that he loves me more than anything, and I’ll say that if he loves me so much, he should marry me. He’ll say, “Yeah, I totally should,” and I’ll say, “Is that a proposal?” Then he’ll get a really sweet, serious look on his face, look me in the eyes, put his arms around me and say, “Beth Parent, I love you more than anything in the world. Will you marry me?” And y’all, I cry every time. Every. Stinkin’. Time. Without fail.

We know it’s disgustingly sweet, and we’re ok with that. We hope that we’re always this way, and even though we know that life will get hard and we won’t always like each other, I believe that our disgustingly sweet foundation will remain. That’s just who we are – friends first and always, completely in love.

How Did This Happen?

Well, I opened up my trusty MacBook this morning, logged in to my WordPress account, deleted about 300 spam comments, went to “Posts,” and clicked on “Add New.” And that’s how we got here. Does that answer the question?

Oh, that’s not what you meant? Well let me try again.

Friends, if you haven’t already heard, I’M ENGAGED!!


And this question – How did this happen? – gets asked a lot. I think Will and I both just feel like the whole thing is so surreal. We’ve been asking this question since we started dating, and every time, we answer it as though it had been asked about something totally unrelated, usually wherever we’re sitting. “Well, somebody designed a sofa, and somebody else built it, and then your parents bought it…”

But here’s what really happened:

Will and I met and became friends in the summer of 2006, we think. We’ve always liked each other a lot, just not in that way (well, sometimes I liked him in that way, but other times I didn’t). In November of 2011, The Muppets came out in theaters. We both love the Muppets and decided to go see it together. This was not a date, and it started a looooooooooooooong string of non-dates that would continue for almost a year. We saw every movie released, it seems, and we went to the park and swung in the dark, and we went star-gazing, and we ate dinner in and dinner out, and we talked about life and relationships and men and women, and we played card games, and he dazzled me with magic tricks. And we were not dating.

And all of this was fine because until late March of 2012, I thought I would be living in Europe by the end of the year. And when I knew I would not be moving to Europe, my world felt like had been turned upside-down, but looking back, I can see two things:

  1. What felt like the world being flipped over was really just things falling into place.
  2. Will was there with me through the whole thing, asking me questions, letting me process, not trying to sway my decision one way or another, but really hoping I’d stay because we’d gotten to be very close friends.

On March 24, 2012, I had started to get confused and asked Will if we were just friends. I thought we were, but I needed to make sure because I felt my heart starting to open up to him more, and I needed to know how much of it to give and how much to guard. I told him that I was fine with whatever we were; I just needed to know what that was. He said we were just friends, and then we watched Pirate Radio. And I really was fine with that.

Over the summer, I started seeing someone else a little bit. We had hung out a few times over coffee and gone on one legit date when I told Will about it. It was the 4th of July, and I wanted to hang out with someone, but I didn’t want to go to the fairgrounds and hang out with ALL OF RALEIGH, so I texted Will and asked if he wanted to go to the movies. We saw The Amazing Spider-Man, and afterward, in the parking lot, I told him about the other guy. We were just friends, right? So it was no big deal. But when I told him I was sort of dating someone, he got a little uneasy feeling. I don’t know for sure when he really knew he was interested in me, but I think that moment was a turning point of sorts for him.

He didn’t do anything disrespectful, though. He didn’t try to break us up, he didn’t declare his love for me in a grand gesture to sweep me off my feet, he didn’t even act weird. He decided that if I was going to be with this other guy, then he would be friends with the guy because friends make friends with their friends’ significant others. Or maybe he thought that was the best way to get over me. I don’t know.

But things with the other guy didn’t work out. No hard feelings. It just fizzled.

From there, it didn’t take long. Will went away with his family for a week and found while he was gone that he was really looking forward to seeing me when he got back. I found myself looking for more and more ways to get him to come over and hang out. And by this time, I think Whitney was starting to get suspicious. We hadn’t been living together for most of this time, but it only took a couple of months back under the same roof for her to see that something was going on.

Well one night, for no good reason at all, we decided we’d make each other CDs. And the joke the whole time was that these CDs were going to be filled with all kinds of hidden messages. I’d say, “So far, your mix consists of Something to Talk About, I Can’t Fight This Feeling, aaaaaaand Secret Lovers.” Then he’d say he didn’t know any of those songs, and the joke was ruined. But really, I was being VERY careful not to send him any messages I wasn’t absolutely sure I wanted to send. And I wasn’t absolutely sure about anything, so my criteria for the songs I put on his mix were:

  1. really good song
  2. not a love song

Which meant I ended up giving him a CD full of really good break-up songs. He was confused, and a bit dismayed, at my hidden messages.

Meanwhile, he was making me the following mix:

  1. Home – Phillip Phillips
  2. Feel the Tide – Mumford & Sons
  3. Ballad of San Francisco – Caedmon’s Call
  4. All I Want Is You – Barry Louis Polisar
  5. Three is a Magic Number – Blind Melon
  6. Just Like Heaven – The Cure
  7. I Melt With You – MEST
  8. I Want More – Suburban Legends
  9. Eep Opp Ork Ah-Ah (That means I love you) – Violent Femmes
  10. Start Wearing Purple – Gogol Bordello
  11. Talk Dirty to Me – Reel Big Fish
  12. Why Don’t We Do It in the Road – The Beatles
  13. Bicycle Race – Queen
  14. Seaside Rendezvous – Queen
  15. Songs of Love – Ben Folds
  16. Rainbow Connection – Weezer
  17. Man or Muppet – Jason Segel, Amy Adams and the Muppets
  18. Home – Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes

It was a mix that basically said, “I love you, and I don’t ever want you to leave.” He gave it to me on a Saturday, and when Whitney saw the play list, any question or doubt she might have had about what was going on vanished. She had plans that night and left to go out. We left too, to go out to dinner and play putt-putt (still not a date).

When we both got home that night and I told her we’d gone to play putt-putt, she said, “Buddy, are you dating him?” I said no, and she asked if I wanted to. I said I wasn’t sure I was willing to risk the friendship, and she basically said that was hogwash. She explained that if we went out a few times and it didn’t work out, it would be super awkward for awhile, but we could go back to being just friends. But also, if we didn’t date, we’d eventually meet other people, and then we wouldn’t be close anymore anyway. So we could try it and risk awkwardness and the loss of friendship, or we could not try it and almost definitely lose the friendship in time.

That was Saturday night. On Sunday morning, I listened to the CD and tried to fight my hopes back down because I didn’t want to assume that the hidden message was what it seemed to be. If he was interested, he was going to have to tell me. But I REALLY hoped he would tell me.

We didn’t talk much until Tuesday, when I texted him something about one of the songs on the mix. It was a very brief conversation, at the end of which, he said, “You know, I’ve been wanting to text you all day, but I couldn’t think of anything to say.”

Well, friends, sirens went off in my head. I knew what that meant and had felt for a couple of weeks like he’d been working up the nerve to ask me out. This was it. I asked if we needed to have another awkward conversation (like the one back in March), and he said yes. The next chance we would have to see each other wouldn’t be until Friday, so I asked if he could just call me because I knew I wouldn’t sleep for the rest of the week if we didn’t have that conversation immediately.

He called. We were both SUPER nervous. He asked me out. I said yes. He was surprised and relieved (after that break-up mix I’d made him). And we had our first date that Friday, September 28, 2012. When he came to pick me up, I gave him a new CD – one with all the songs I was too careful/scared to put on the first mix, including Something to Talk About and I Can’t Fight This Feeling.

And that’s how it happened. Well, that’s how we got together. I’ll tell you the proposal story next time.