It was February 14, 2007. I'd already told Lindsay I had something secret I wanted to show her, so she should be prepared to spend the afternoon and evening with me.
It might seem obvious what was about to go down, but I'd punked Lindsay before. She'd gone on a trip earlier in January and had been eagerly anticipating the "surprise" I kept telling her about on the phone. It was a planter. I made a planter out of scraps of wood to hold a row of bamboo plants, and I was very proud of it. Lindsay's enthusiasm, however, was underwhelming. Actually, I think she was pretty ticked. I believe her exact words were, "That better be an engagement planter." And I was like, "huh?"
But on Valentine's Day I had a whole day of activities planned. This was going to be the day. Unfortunately, at our first stop, in which we were going to wander around some beautiful gardens, she said,
Lindsay: It's really cold. Are you cold?
Me: It's like sixty-five degrees. And you're wearing a jacket.
Lindsay: Wow, I feel cold. I'm shivering.
Me: Weird. Your teeth are chattering.
Lindsay: I need to sit down.After a bit resting on the bench, we got up and Lindsay gamely limped around for a minute, clinging to me for support. This wasn't going quite as I'd hoped. We gave up on the gardens and headed back to the car. I debated saving the proposal up for another, more auspicious day, but decided to just go through with it, sick girlfriend or not. If I punked her again she might say no the next time.
I ended up giving her a long letter to read, and popped the question in the car as we sat in the parking lot. She said, "Yes." We both cried. She said she might throw up. Exactly the reaction I was looking for.
But she didn't actually want to go back home right away. Her shakes and nausea notwithstanding, my very non-traditionalist girl suddenly wanted to go look at rings. "Because people are going to ask to see one," she said. We'd already hypothetically agreed that expensive rings didn't make any sense, so I didn't even think about it. But she wanted to go look, so we tried to think of a jewelry store, and ended up heading to the mall.
At the mall, a polite young clerk asked us how she could help.
Clerk: What can I help you with today?
Me: Um, we're looking for rings.
Clerk: What kind?
Lindsay: Like, an engagement ring? We just got engaged.
Clerk: Yeah, an engagement ring would make sense. Here are some options . . . do you know what kind of stone or cut you want? A diamond?
Lindsay: I don't know. How much is this one?
Clerk: Let's see. $1100.
Lindsay: Wow. Um, what about this one?
Clerk: Oh, lots of people like this one.
Me: Uh oh.
Clerk: This one's $2,400.
Me: Do you have anything for, like, under $100?
Clerk: Engagement rings?
Lindsay: Just a sec. I'm feeling sick. I need to go sit down.
Me (just before going to check on Lindsay): So, what's the return policy like on these?"I wonder what the clerk thought. What a bunch of cheapskates. Also: maybe this girl was having second thoughts about the whole thing, and too upset to go through with ring shopping. Or maybe I'd knocked her up, and we needed a quick wedding before the morning sickness started giving her away.
But the main problem was that I have a sicky for a wife. She's got a lot of things going for her, but her immune system is not one of them. And the other problem is that Lindsay handles shopping about as well as Indiana Jones in a pit full of snakes. Honestly, she's got a real phobia. This girl gets upset when I buy an unnecessary box of pop-tarts, much less a $2,000 ring.
We left the clerk hanging, and I brought Lindsay home. I put her in bed, made her soup, stroked her hair, held her. A week or two later, we went out together and bought her a $15 ring at Shopko. For anyone who knows Lindsay or me very well, it was a real splurge. But, you know. Only the best for my bride.