On July 25, 2008 at approximately 1:57 in the afternoon, I got engaged. I remember that at the exact moment he got down on one knee, my heart started pounding in my ears. This made it rather difficult to hear what he was saying, and while I was thankful my ticker was enthusiastically pumping away, I wished it would quiet down a bit. That’s the thing about hearts; they rarely do what you tell them to. But when you least expect it, they can lead you somewhere unexpectedly wonderful.
I’m an associate producer for a national crime television show, and two years ago, my boss asked me to help train the New Guy. I walked over to the newly assembled cubicle and cleared my throat to get his attention. When he turned around, my heart caught in my throat. Turned out that New Guy had really, really beautiful eyes.
New Guy’s name turned out to be Ben, and our friendship grew over the next six months, eventually blooming into love. Ben later accepted another job, conveniently eliminating the office romance stress, and our year anniversary arrived soon after. A month later, I was on a week-long shoot in Arkansas, filming a segment for the show. After spending several 16 hour days filming in a prison, traveling up and down the state of doing interviews, and eventually getting up at 4 a.m. to catch a plane home, I was pretty out of it. I was bummed when Ben texted to say he wouldn’t be able to pick me up from the airport because of back-to-back meetings, and even more bummed when my parents picked me up and told me they couldn’t stop for lunch. Normally this wouldn’t have been a big deal, but I hadn’t eaten since the crack of dawn and I was so friggin’ hungry that even my right arm was starting to look appealing.
Back at home, I took Gilly (my rescued pit bull) out for a walk, and then started making lunch. But before I could take a bite, I got another text from Ben telling me to go downstairs. Glancing longingly at my sandwich, I went downstairs and found a small bouquet of lavender and a treasure map on my bed. That’s odd. I started trying to think of things Ben could hide outside that wouldn’t get stolen. Did he bury something? Did I need a shovel?
I followed the map and ran outside, flip-flops flapping on the pavement. When I turned the corner leading to the gazebo and duck pond near my townhouse, I stopped short. Ben was standing there with champagne, flutes, and an ice bucket! He reached underneath a nearby bench and picked up a long box. Grinning, he handed it to me. It was full of chocolate covered strawberries… and lots of ants. The smile on his face was replaced with a look of horror, and he frantically tried to shoo the little critters off the berries. I quickly assured him it was no big deal, and took an enthusiastic bite out of one of the berries to prove it (what’s a little extra protein?).
At this point, you’d think I had some idea of what was going on, but my jet-lagged brain just thought he was giving me a welcome home surprise. Plus, after a couple glasses of champagne and still not much to eat, the bubbles were starting to go to my head. I was feeling nice, very nice! Smiling, Ben casually commented that I was wearing a necklace and bracelet he’d given me… then asked if I wanted to add a ring to my collection. He got down on one knee. My mouth dropped in what must have been a most unflattering fashion, and I froze holding a half-eaten strawberry next to my head. Honestly, I don’t remember everything he said. I remember crying (and not the pretty kind), then taking the ring out of the box and putting it on my own finger only to sheepishly take it off and hand it back to him so he could do it himself.
I looked from the ring to his expectant face. After a couple minutes, he began to look a little concerned and clued me in that I still hadn’t given him an answer. Oh, right. I tried to think of the perfect thing to say-- words from the heart. In my head, I told him that I loved him. I said I was so indescribably happy that my heart had led me to him, and that I eagerly looked forward to our life together. But what came out was a slightly overwhelmed “uh-huh!”
While I’d always pictured myself accepting a proposal more gracefully, I wouldn’t have changed a thing. Not even the ants.
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