This time last year HWSNBN and I were pre-engaged. Technically I suppose you could argue that we’d been pre-engaged from the first moment we kissed seven years ago. However it took me some time before I could admit to myself how much I wanted to marry him. And even longer before I plucked up the courage to talk to HWSNBN about it. Luckily he felt the same.
Pre-engagement is when you’ve discussed marriage, you know that you both want to marry, but you aren’t actually engaged. Or that awful stage when every time you go away or pass an anniversary you steel yourself : is this going to be when he proposes? Is this it? (Generally this manifested as me brushing my hair more frequently than usual. My mum would be so proud.) I became convinced over the summer that he was going to propose on our holiday to Scotland. But nothing happened and now it was autumn and I was still waiting. And I, little miss impatient, have never been good at waiting.
A year ago today I was pre-engaged and I hated it. It didn’t help that one of my best friends was about to marry, while the other had just got engaged. All around me friends were planning their weddings. I was so happy for them, but consumed with such envy. We’d been together longer. When would it be our turn? I could not bear to be honest with anybody about how frustrated and in limbo I felt. Firstly I did not want to take away from their happiness. But mostly I did not want pity or to be seen through the shameful (to me) prism as just another girl waiting for a ring.
The questions kept on coming from his parents and mine, from both sets of friends. When were we going to marry? I knew it came from a place of love but it became harder and harder for me to hold the party line. We didn’t have the money. It wasn’t the right time. We’d been together so long how much did marriage really mean anyway? Blah, blah, blah. I must have been convincing because after we were engaged, a friend was so shocked she told me ‘I didn’t think you wanted to get married at all.’
Part of my smoke screen was to protect HWSNBN. I’d seen men propose resentfully, their hand forced when their girlfriends gave them an ultimatum. I didn’t want him to be pressurised into doing something he wasn’t happy with. But as much as I tried to resist it I couldn’t help but apply my own pressure: the proposal had to be romantic (thus taking time to plan). But we had to be engaged within the year. To my shame I’d become one of those girls: waiting for a proposal. The more I tried to resist it the more the feelings intensified and I began to feel out of control of my own life.
I was a feminist so why didn’t I just ask HWSNBN myself? Why does the onus always have to be on the man? But despite myself I wanted him to ask me. Somewhere inside of me I needed to know that he was doing this because he wanted to, not because I forced him into it. That he wanted me just as much as I wanted him.
We went to Fletching fireworks and when we walked back from the bonfire HWSNBN strolled ahead with a friend. His friends asked me the same question that everybody was asking me: when were we going to make it official? I almost snapped at them. They were just being kind and I almost shouted in their faces: why are you asking me? Later HWSNBN and I fought and I said some ugly things I regretted. In less than two months we were engaged
So why write about this at all? Because it’s important to be real. Life isn’t perfect and we should stop pretending to each other and ourselves that it is. I can still feel how uneasy and unhappy I choose to be a year ago. Because it was my choice to react to what was going on around me like that. But it taught me a lot about myself and HWSNBN. I never ask friends when they’ll get engaged because I remember how that question, however well meaning, connected like a blow. Looking back I was glad I curbed my impatience, because that proposal was worth the wait. So when I watch the fireworks over Fletching tonight I’ll think how in a year so much can change. How much I have changed.