There’s an image that has been circulating on Pinterest “dream weddings” boards for years. There are many versions, and each of them features a girly font and a background photo of a sparkling engagement ring or a man on one knee.
Don’t be fooled. These are hostage demands. They lay out a supposed list of rules a man must follow when proposing. Some announce there are “only six rules,” but others stretch it out to seven or eight. They include things like “make it a complete surprise” and “have a photographer at the scene” and “make sure my nails are done.” It’s enough to give any guy who doesn’t enjoy this kind of stuff a nervous tic.
When my husband and I were dating, my bar for a dream proposal was much lower. I wanted it to be special and a little romantic, and I hoped for a good story to tell my mom and my friends.
As it turns out, my sights were still set a little high. Ben ultimately proposed to me twice (for reasons I’ve written about elsewhere) and both times were somewhat spontaneous and devoid of the fanfare that sites like Pinterest had taught me to expect. The first time, he popped the question while the two of us were sitting on a freezing park bench in the dark.
During the months that we stepped away from our engagement to work on our relationship, I know he tried hard to devise a proposal that had a little more of the pizzazz that I was hoping for. One night he took me out to a cute Italian restaurant in Washington, D.C.’s Georgetown, having specially arranged for roses on the table and everything. But the restaurant was too loud, and he decided midway through the night that he wasn’t going to propose. Another time, we went for an incredibly romantic walk on the Brooklyn Bridge at dusk and I was oh-so-hopeful for a postcard proposal, with tourists excitedly snapping photos.
I’d later learn that Ben had forgotten to bring the ring with him that day.
Ultimately, he gave me the ring during a post-Christmas exchange of gifts, just the two of us. I didn’t put my hands over my mouth or cry, and nobody jumped out from behind a piece of furniture and took photos of us. My nails looked terrible, just like they do right now.
But it was okay. I had learned that Ben just doesn’t flow on the big-romantic-gesture frequency. I had two choices: marinate in disappointment over the grand proposal I’d never have, or accept my fiancé for the sweet man he was and acknowledge that his strengths lay elsewhere.
It has taken time, but I’m learning to embrace the latter option. I no longer lean hard on Ben to come up with romantic plans for Valentine’s Day, though sometimes he does surprise me. This year for my birthday, I forwarded him a Groupon for a night at the zoo—and that’s exactly what I got.
Sure, there’s something to be said for romance and surprises, but as we’ve been married I’ve come to realize that I don’t even like those things that much. Pinterest, and things like it, had gotten into my head and messed with my expectations too. In all honesty, fancy restaurants make me feel cold and uncomfortable. Perfection, for me, is a casual Mexican dinner, a frozen margarita, and a Red Box movie to top off the night.
And as I learn to free Ben from my unfair expectations, I can better appreciate his little acts of love for me. He’s the guy who gets up to get me a glass of water when I’m already snuggled under the covers. He makes dinner when I’m exhausted or work is running late. He tells me I’m pretty when I least feel that I am.
These are the things, I’ve found, that really matter. So, thanks but no thanks, Pinterest. I’ll enjoy the good man I have, instead of longing for Instagrammable romantic moments and a guy who will make sure my nails are done for the photos.