By Heather Wyatt
I never thought I’d marry my ex-boyfriend. I only have one real ex-boyfriend. You know, the one that guts you, changes you, teaches you. That one. He taught me a lot about the things I wanted and didn’t want out of a relationship.
But I never really considered marrying him. I knew deep down that he wasn’t “the one,” but I was too low in self-esteem to do anything about it. Five years later, I’d finally cut ties with him.
Even though I never imagined us walking down the aisle, I told him about a video I once saw in which a man asked his girlfriend to marry him by making a movie trailer about their love and playing it on screen at the movies. As the trailer ends, the question “Will You Marry Me?” pops up on the screen. The camera pans to her tearful expression, and then to add another layer of shock, her family members start revealing themselves in the theatre and it was basically a makeshift engagement party on the spot.
“That’s so cool,” I said.
That was when I thought I wanted a grand gesture.
Less than a year later, my ex was engaged. I’ll give you one guess as to how he proposed.
That’s right. In a fucking movie theatre, with a video of their stupid love in front of all of her friends and family.
It was then that I decided I didn’t care whether or not I ever had a grand gesture engagement.
Of course, at that time, it was irrelevant. I didn’t have a date, let alone a prospective husband.
Years later though, I would wear down the love of my life slowly and the time would finally come for him to propose.
I knew it was coming. We’d been talking about rings. A planned engagement was something I didn’t think I’d ever do either. I always thought I wanted to be in complete shock that I was getting a ring. But then we had been together for five years and I was thirty-four years old, so it seemed more practical to make such a financial decision together. Romantic, right?
Marriage is something I deeply wanted with Ian (and still do), but it’s something I find awkward. Love is awkward. I’m not a mushy person, so gooey professions of love are kind of torturous for me, especially in person. I never thought about marriage as a kid. I never imagined what my wedding would look like. When I started to build my wedding in my head with Ian, I knew that meant I really wanted to marry him.
I knew his budget when we went to try on rings. I found the sparkliest one I could in his price range and then he told me to go look around the mall. Yes, it was a jewelry store in the mall because if you can’t get an Auntie Anne’s pretzel and a diamond ring in one building then what the hell is America even for? When I made the loop and came back to the store he had a very forced sad look on his face and told me he couldn’t buy the ring that day. I knew he was lying because he is a terrible liar, which is a trait I’ve always admired.
The night he proposed was on a Sunday. Every week, my mother cooks an extensive meal for “Sunday dinner.” It’s a tradition she’s fiercely proud of and it’s sort of an ingrained tradition. When we go, I normally dress like I’m ready for bed. I wear sweatpants and a t-shirt and I never wear a bra. Bras are for public outings, not for Sundays.
I went to get dressed that night and I thought to myself, “What if Ian proposed tonight?” I shook off the notion but put on a sports bra under my jammies, just in case.
It was December and we were going to decorate the tree that night. We all hang the ornaments together and my parents tell the same stories about each ornament every year.
Ian was on the ground, handing out ornaments from the box. I turned around to get a hook and when I turned back around, Ian was on one knee, holding my sparkly ring in a box in his hand.
I immediately put my hands over my face. I could see my brother filming with his phone and for a brief moment, all I could think about was my sweatpants, my barely brushed hair and the terrible angle from which my brother was shooting this momentous occasion.
On top of that, I started crying. Gross. My hands stayed over my face and Ian goes, “Uh, hey.” I was like “What?” Still, my hands stayed over my face.
I finally got brave enough to move my hands enough for my eyes to show when he said, “I love you. Will you marry me?”
I was like “Yeahhh, of course.”
I hate that damn video so much. I hate my voice and my elbows and my pants and the way everyone is staring at me because I only like to be the center of attention if I’m in control of the situation. But how cute is that? He hid it in the ornament box. He proposed in front of my parents because he knew how much they would appreciate being a part of the whole event. He did it because he loves the shit out of me and so, no, it wasn’t a stupid movie theatre, but it was perfect.
It wouldn’t be perfect again until I was walking down the aisle because planning a wedding is about as fun getting your teeth picked out by that horrible metal hook torture device thingy, but that night, I was ready to start the next chapter.
Heather Wyatt is an English instructor at the University of Alabama by day and a food TV junkie by night. She’s obsessed with her two dogs and likes orange flavored drinks. Her first book, My Life Without Ranch, a non-fiction combo of self-help and memoir, is out now from 50/50 Press. Her poetry chapbook Call My Name is available now from The Poetry Box, but prior to that, her poetry has been featured in numerous journals since 2006. Most recently, her poems have appeared in places like: Jokes Review, Number One: A Literary Journal, and A Walk with Nature: Poetic Encounters that Nourish the Soul. Her short story “A Penny Saved” was published in Perspectives Magazine in 2018. Her essay “Self-Defense” is in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review September 2018 and her essay, “Hot AF” is in the magazine Robot Butt (2018). Her essay, “Her?!” is in The Doctor T.J. Eckleburg Review Summer 2019. Her essay “I didn’t kill my boyfriend last night” is forthcoming in The Syndrome Mag in 2019. She received her Bachelor’s degree in American Studies from the University of Alabama and her MFA in Poetry from Spalding University in Louisville, KY.