I got engaged a little over a month ago – February 1st, to be exact. It was Maggie’s birthday.
We specifically didn’t mention it online for a while. It’s nice to think that something can be real without the Internet validating it — and without having to turn it into a story for instant mass consumption.
But still, I wanted to share this with you guys. It’s actually really hard to write about. Every time I try to write down what it means the words look so small and dumb, and there’s so much wonderful stuff that gets left out. That’s because there’s so much wonderful stuff here, in this experience, and in this particular woman, that I don’t think I could write it all down if I tried every day for the rest of my life.
The ring is one that my dad bought for my mom in Hong Kong back in the early ’70s, more or less. It’s jade. Maggie speaks fluent Mandarin, and jade means a lot more to her than some dumb diamond that she’s been trained to want by decades of subliminal pressure.
My lady thinks for her DAMN self. Also, her name in Mandarin is pronounced (sort of) “mei-chi” which means “beautiful jade.”
I surprised her on her birthday at the wine bar where we had our first date. We had our first drinks together there, then over to this awesome Japanese restaurant in Williamsburg for dinner. Every booth in the restaurant is its own sort of private room, with a bamboo curtain that the waitstaff pulls up when they deliver each course. I was going to drop this thing over dessert.
And I couldn’t take it.
We’re having wine and cheese, and seated right next to this pair of girls who are having that same “woe is me” dating conversation you always hear that type of girl having in New York. It’s delivered in a nasal uptalky sing-song, and they always say “No, we’re just like, hanging out, I don’t want it to like, be all serious or something. But like, he hasn’t texted me in like six hours after I sent him this one, so like, what do you think that means?”
Maggie’s snickering and cheerfully chirping, happy at the surprise and loving the wine and generally sweeping the room with her massive smile. That’s her default setting: a smile like a beanbag cannon shooting wads of sunshine.
She’s always smiling at me that way, at least.
The girls next to us are just crapping on in that tired cliched vocal pattern, all uptalks and feigned detachment, and my Adam’s apple is thrashing around like there’s an Anthrax show in my esophagus and I am trying so, so hard not to just drink all my wine in one gulp. I’ve got this rhythm going where I smile, nod, sip wine, taste one cheese, then sip wine, then another cheese in an extremely regulated fashion so it goes
and I’m doing pretty good, not spilling the beans or anything, and she says “Are you okay? You’re awful quiet and you’re just tearing through that cheese.”
To which I replied “oh, FUCK THIS, do you want your birthday present? OK, shut your eyes and hold out your hands.”
It just kind of flew out that way.
So I get up and squeeze my enormous frame between the tables and get down on one knee, drop the ring in her hand and say “Oh God, will you please marry me?” when she opens her eyes.
She squeals and opens the ring up and then looks up and says “Yes, yes, of course, yes! I was planning on spending the rest of my life with you whether or not we ever did this part!”
So then we kiss and I sit back down, and the waitress brings over two glasses of champagne, on the house, and she’s only just a little bit less excited than Maggie is.
And when she moves out of the way, we can see that the two girls at the table next to us have the tightest little polite smiles I’ve ever seen. Imagine a cat’s rectum forcing a grin and you’ll about have it.
There’s a sort of person that sees relationships as competitive sport, like when you land one you’ve broken the tape and it’s just victory laps for the rest of your life, I suppose. These are people who get mad at other people’s happiness and then dangle their happiness in front of other people like it’s an objective truth rather than one of an infinite number of ways of being.
So yeah, it’s pretty fun to think that one of the coolest moment in our shared life together also made a few jerks pretty mad.
There’s so much more to say, but I can’t think of an original way to say it. So I’ll say this and then bow out of the public sphere on this topic for awhile:
Maggie’s a morning person and I am decidedly not. I’m out testing stories at open mics or going to shows, trying to get my stuff in front of pretty much whoever will sit still long enough to listen to me. I’m trying to get back into winning Moth story slams, too, which is kind of an arduous process. I’m usually home by 12, in bed by 12:30 or 1. And there’s always a soft, warm little hourglass-shaped lump under the covers when I get in. I always smooth her hair away from her face and give her a kiss, and she smiles in her sleep. And the other night, after I came in from a Moth Slam, she says to me from deep beneath a dark sleepy ocean, in a small sleep-drunk voice,
“Did you win?”
“No,” I said.
“That’s okay,” she replies. “Did you kill?”
Last night we went to a milonga, otherwise known as a dance session for her tango classmates. I don’t dance, myself, but I was thrilled to just sit there and watch. She danced so effortlessly around the floor with these older guys, her feet stepping and kicking so perfectly. And every time they turned to where she could see me, she just beamed and beamed. Her teacher is a tiny Turkish man, very dignified, but just a pit bull when he wants to be. He said to her, in her ear as they were dancing,
“Your fiancee, he is watching your feet and your face with a great intensity.”
I was. I was thinking to myself as I watched her heels kick the hem of her dress, making it swirl in patterns around her knees,
“My God, holy crap. I don’t know how exactly it happened, but this gorgeous, curious, brilliant woman wants to spend her life with me as much as I want to be with her. We’re neck and neck on this thing, so different from each other and so happy. This can happen every day or every week if we want. Every minute together is such a gift, and we just get to unwrap them for as long as we want.”
Then the song ended. Maggie’s official partner (not her teacher) is a total flake and didn’t bother to show up, and it wasn’t the kind of thing where I could just get out there and learn on the spot. She came up to me and said “That guy flaked, and I didn’t want to dance with him anyhow. You look hungry and I’m tired. Let’s get in a cab and go get into bed.”
And we did, and we will, for as long as we want and at our own pace. And I couldn’t be happier about it.