Of course, most of you probably already knew that. It’s just taken me a while to sit down and write this because every time I do, I start crying, going off on a tangent, or some combination of the two. (I’m also in the middle of one of the busiest months of my life, but let’s save that for another blog post.)
I wanted to sit down and write this not just for everyone I haven’t been able to see yet, but for myself. I want to be able look back and remember how my ex-boyfriend/current fiancé/future husband got me real damn good.
I love you, James. I’m so excited to spend the rest of my life with you, you clever boy.
As someone who is constantly planning things and is convinced that she knows everything (as evidenced by the URL of my blog, all my social media handles, and the name of my events consultancy), I only wanted one thing: to be surprised.
Well, actually two. I also wanted him to tell my parents first. Not ask for permission, because I am not a piece of chattel to be traded for a few cows or a pasture. But I knew they would want to give their blessing, and I am old school enough that I find value in that.
Wherein my boyfriend outsmarts me. Repeatedly.
Now, this desire to be surprised conflicts with my need to know what is going on at all times so that I can be the
best control freak most organized person that I can be. Jim knows and loves this about me, and so he was prepared for (almost) every way that I could ruin his surprise.
It’s 2019 and there’s nowhere to hide, especially if you can track your significant other with your phone. Jim and I have been using this feature for a few years now to avoid sending those “Where are you?” and “Are you on your way?” texts, so turning it off would have turned on my suspicions.
Instead, he’d tell me he was headed to his sister’s place on an errand (a very normal thing), switch phones with her, and then go to the jewelry store.
Tampering with timelines
I was given just enough information to let me think I knew what was going on. I knew Jim took a casual trip to the jewelry store when I was in Portland. I knew about how long his brother’s engagement ring took to be made.
But I was also fed conflicting information, probably on accident. A casual comment from his mom made it sound like he wouldn’t have a ring until March. Looking at how quickly my calendar was filling up, I cut off any new tournament clients to give him time to propose.
Instead, it arrived just after Christmas. We went off to my friend’s wedding, where we had our first dance together, with me none the wiser that this was my first and last dance with my boyfriend.
How I almost screwed it up
While the surprise half of things was going well, Jim still hadn’t figured out how to talk to my parents without me catching on. Luckily, my mom solved the problem for him.
My parents’ home has a little house in the backyard that used to be where my siblings and I would play games, but now it houses my mom’s sewing and crafting supplies. It’s Mama Barcelos’s she-shed, in other words.
My mom recently got into embroidering, something she and Jim have bonded over. He’s a crafty boy and he loves gadgets, so when she invited him to the she-shed one January evening when we both came to visit, he got a golden opportunity and I was happy to stay obliviously inside the house with my nieces.
They were back there for a long time. Long enough for me to notice. Not to suspect anything, mind you — it was just the longest time they’d ever been together without me around. An hour passed and I kept wondering what they could be talking about, though my brother thought I was being ridiculous.
Here’s the thing: they really were talking about her new machine for most of that time! Eventually, she started talking about how much my family loves him, he told her about how his family loves me, and then he finally got the courage to say, “I have a ring.”
And then I started knocking on the door of the she-shed.
In the very brief time it took me to get the door open (the she-shed’s lock is finicky), they got the tears out of their eyes and composed themselves. All I saw was the new machine, the project my mom was working on, and two people I love nerding out over it. I told them how happy I was that they got along so well and allowed them to shoo me back into the house.
Liz gets incepted
Inception might be almost a decade old, but here I am still making jokes about it. The week before Jim proposed to me, his sister asked if a beer we liked was on tap at Original Gravity, my favorite downtown San Jose beer bar.
OG is one of my favorite places for a lot of reasons. The rotating taps always have something I want to try, food is solid, and it’s where Jim and I went on our first date. It’s the reason that date even happened — I nearly bailed about 15 minutes before, because it was my first Tinder date and who meets randoms from the internet?! However, I sucked it up and went because hey, at least I’d get a really good beer out of it?
It’s a place that special but also not. Special because that first date went so well, but not because it’s a few blocks from our apartment and we go there all the time. So when I poked Jim and his siblings about going there that Saturday, it felt like my idea. It was an idea I had had before.
How it happened
Okay, enough backstory. Here’s how the day actually went down.
I spent the morning at a USA vs Costa Rica USMNT friendly at Avaya Stadium, Jim picked my brother and I up so we wouldn’t get rained on. I spent the afternoon napping and then taking a hot bath. As far as I was concerned, this weekend was all about just trying to relax before I started a four-weekend streak of travel.
As we made the short walk over to Original Gravity, with me being completely oblivious that my life was about to change, I swear that God put words into my head. I told Jim about how, in spite of being a relatively extroverted person used to spending time around big groups of people, I have a tendency to feel lonely. I don’t feel like I’m very well understood sometimes, and that’s an isolating feeling. “But you understand me, so even when you’re not around, I don’t feel like I’m alone.”
That’s got to be a pretty comforting thing to hear from the person you’re about to propose to.
I open at the close
We got to the bar and it was pretty busy. I grabbed some seats at a communal table, but Jim seemed uneasy about it. Luckily, a group cleared out a smaller table in the back and we nabbed it for us and his siblings. He headed over to the bar to order for us while I texted my friend Gina about Drag Race and held down the fort until his siblings arrived.
They arrived not long after Jim brought me my beer (I Cannot Live I Cannot Die by Track 7 Brewing, a name I will never forget and an excellent chocolate hazelnut stout to boot). They set their stuff down to save their spots, but then Chelsey set down her cute cat print tote bag next to Jim instead of her chair.
I thought that was odd, but maybe she wanted it to be closer to someone so she wouldn’t get robbed? Anyway, I was still talking Gina about Taco Bell, so I didn’t think too much about it.
My distraction gave Jim just enough time to dig through Chelsey’s purse and pull out a snitch the size of my fist and get my attention.
“You know what you were saying when we were walking over here about never feeling lonely when you were with me? Well, I never want you to feel alone again,” he said. Then he put the snitch on the table. “I want you to have this.”
I didn’t have to open it to know what was inside. But I snatched it off the table and opened it anyway.
And that’s the story of how I got got
I had no idea that his sister was behind us to grab photos of my reaction, but I’m so glad she did. I was laughing and crying and speechless all at once. Crying and speechless because I was overwhelmed with emotion… and laughing because my belief that I know all the things all the time had been so excellently used against me.
We finished dinner, though I don’t remember eating much. I called some of our family and two of my best friends. I kept crying and laughing. Then, after we got home, I gave Jim the chance to actually say, “Elizabeth, will you marry me?” and then posted about it for the rest of our friends and family to see.
What comes next
Because I was so perfectly surprised, I’ve had no real time to make any real plans. Other than a fall 2020 target for our wedding, I’m fine not having any other plans than enjoying being engaged to my wonderful fiancé for the time being.
Thanks for reading, everyone.