I was the worst kind of stereotype when it comes to trying to get my partner to propose.

In fairness, I use to imbibe large quantities of alcohol and it can get a little sticky modulating your feelings through a haze of test tube shots. Pro alcoholic tip: If you want to be the most popular person at the party, bring a case of “Tooters.” Drunk feelings are sort of like period feelings in that they feel extremely, righteously appropriate in the moment, and no they obviously cannot wait until morning!

So there was wailing. And screaming of questions through great hiccupping sobs, like “Wh-wh-why haven’t you ask-ed m-m-me to marry you yet?” Cue stumbling, possible puking.

Ah, the ancient art of seduction.

Here’s how my father proposed to my mother: One day he said, petulantly: “Well, I want to get married, but you won’t even talk about it.”

So you can see where I got my romance gene.

I was being terrible and I knew I was being terrible, but I couldn’t stop. I was on a runaway train of terrible like when you go batshit crazy after a breakup and can’t stop calling/guilt-tripping/checking that email account you still have the password to even as you feel your dignity evacuating your body.

I stopped verbally vomiting my personal insecurities in that dramatic fashion once I quit el binge drinking, but inside I was still a bubbling cauldron of fear and insecurity ever time the subject was broached. Intellectually I knew it wasn’t true, but my dumb-ass emotions just kept on feeling like there was something wrong with me, that he didn’t love meenough if he didn’t pop the question.

All this pressure built up inside my head, until I did something I never imagined I would be the kind of girl to do: I ultimated him.

Around 7 years of dating, I decided that 8 was about all I had in me. I didn’t see it as telling him what to do so much as informing him of my limits so he could make his decision accordingly. But yeah, I basically told him to propose or I was out. I also told him that it’s not classy to wait until midnight on the last day.

I justified all this by saying that marriage was just very important to me: that despite our total commitment to one another, evidenced by our living together and at that time going through the process to foster children together, I needed the public and permanent commitment of a legal marriage.

So we got engaged, and two weeks later a baby came to live with us, which I would not recommend to those of you looking to revel in engagement attention. My own mother barely looked at the ring.

But that’s still more than you’re likely to get once you’re boring old married. Which based on my complete disinterest in actually scheduling my nuptials, maybe isn’t as important to me as I insisted. Because in all those fantasies about our future, I never got this far. The camera panned out on the tears glistening in my eyes as he rose from one knee.

Which makes it painfully clear to me that I wasn’t obsessing over getting married. I was obsessing over getting engaged.

I felt that being proposed to would bestow some sort of legitimacy on our relationship, or, let’s be honest, me. To a former ugly girl, a social pariah who has spent my life flabbergasted every time someone is attracted to me, a proposal would be undeniable proof that I am desirable, and lovable. I wanted to be the kind of girl that someone proposes to; that is, I wanted a man to make me OK, which I know is not very feminist and more importantly didn’t work because I’ve got this fucking ring on now and I’m not fixed or anything.

Don’t get me wrong; I still want to get married. I just don’t care as much about it as I thought I did. What I cared about was the show of great commitment inherent in actually purchasing the ring and getting down on one knee. Now that that’s done, I’m straight chilling. The marriage was less important to me than what the proposal represented.

And I definitely could not care less about the details of my wedding day, beyond wanting to look really really hot and eat lots of donuts. My mom keeps emailing me to let me know she wants to be involved in the wedding plans, of which there are none. Hi Mom! I’m not cutting you out, I’m just lazy and apathetic! (Also, stop reading these articles; I write about some really messed-up stuff I don’t want you to know about.)

And of course, being engaged didn’t deliver what I thought it would. It’s dope, but not much has really changed. Which as a smart savvy feminist I probably should have already known, but I refuse to be ashamed for having soaked up some of the messages women are bombarded with from birth. I feel fat sometime and I thought there was something amazing on the other side of the proposal, OK? Sorry. I’m fucking susceptible.

So when I got to the top of Marriage Mountain and saw it was just the same old trees and shit on the other side, I had the same feeling I had after having S-E-X for the first time — the familiar “Is that all there is?” of being a woman.

I’m engaged, but I’m still insecure as shit, kind of fat, a bad housekeeper, and covered in mystery bruises half the time. I still forget to shave my ankles. I still lazily wipe up spills with my dress. I worry about being a good-enough fiance like I worried about being a good-enough girlfriend and surely will worry about being a good-enough wife.

I still do something up a few times a week that makes me think, “Really? Somebody wants to marry me?” Not because marriage is a prize for women, but because it’s a real accomplishment for anybody for whom it took a years-long collaboration between therapy and recovery to become someone you’d want to spend your life with. And maybe that’s the real reason I got so hung up on the symbolism of getting engaged; I do see it, along with other milestones, as a marker of how much progress I’ve made.

Anyway, I’ve learned my lesson. Marriage probably won’t make me any better or happier than getting engaged did.  But I’m glad I get to find out. Sometime. When I feel like thinking about it.



This post originally appeared on XOJane. Republished with permission. Click here for more Emily on XOJane! 

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  • breakthecycle

    Wow. I really appreciate the openness of this piece. Thank you for this! As a “formerly ugly” girl, I can relate to just about everything you reference from the binge drinking to needing validation of desirability.

  • DBG

    Oi. This reeks of confusion.

  • The Comment

    It is discussions like this that offer an alternative to just getting married cause ‘I can’t really articulate what I’m feeling…and I don’t have a word or image to correlate between what I’m feeling and what I want.”

    I used to scream and yell that black women are not a monolithic group of beings. I then realized that everyone is put in a box and given certain characteristics they didn’t ask for. To that spectrum of stereotyping, women are fed a constant stream of bull chit of what they are to expect out of life. Most people who follow this edict, or ignore their core values eventually snap at some point; divorce, turning tricks, drugs, work-a-holics…..excessive this or that.

    Which is why I love my new found self confidence and I admire you for finding your freedom in this ‘engagement’ story. To stand up for yourself and say “hey….I only want to go so far.” I say Right On girlfriend.

  • blackgirlmd

    7 yrs… living together…. and bringing foster children into the situation…. and you feel guilty abt pressuring this guy to marry you?

    LOL if not then…. WHEN?

  • Goldilox

    I enjoyed this piece and can fully relate to it. As someone who has been married before and now in a happy relationhip where we’ve lived together for two years, I’m now at a point where I am open to possibly getting engaged – getting married? not so sure.

    I don’t however believe in pressuring someone or setting deadlines, that steal the element of beauty in it coz daily you’re looking at the calender thinking “this dude has 29 more days”. I think that may be the reason it didn’t feel any different for you – both of yáll played a role in that.

    I love that we have options and can live however we all deem fit. I might be engaged for the rest of my relationship – and I would be super happy doing that :)