An Engaging Experience

April 6, 2013 changed my life. Well, honestly the week before did, but we start with the sixth. I had recently ended a long-term relationship that had no joy and, in retrospect, far too many negatives. But I had a friend who helped me through it and someone who began to show me that I really did matter.

When he asked me out on a date, I had to accept. He made me smile. And over four years later, many miles driven and a Rottweiler, he still makes me smile.

So, for his birthday, I finally proposed. I say finally because we have envisioned a wedding for a very long time. But those words are hard for me to type.

A Musical Revue

I didn’t really date. I didn’t really have much interest in it. At one point, I gave it a shot but really I was just hurting someone that I really cared about. I didn’t treat her very well and with that I figured I shouldn’t fall in love.

I related a lot to Julie Jordan from the musical Carousel. I’d end up being a “girl who just don’t get married.” But at the same time, sentimentality ran through my veins.

I wanted to meet that person that I would love. Love seemed so interesting and so powerful. But it didn’t seem right for me.

So for about seven years, I didn’t even try to date. I focused on school, comic books, and depression. Nothing really makes you smile like depression. But then my sister got engaged and my brother met the woman who would eventually become his wife. And I began to dream. Should I try? Why can’t I?

And most importantly, I discovered the musical Company. Coming out of the amazing mind of Stephen Sondheim, Company centers around perpetual bachelor Bobby and his group of married friends. The friends are all pushing him into relationships that would lead to marriage (I know that feeling). But he didn’t really think he wanted that (I know that feeling). Until eventually, he realized that feeling that type of love seemed central to being alive.

I wanted someone to force me to care – to force me to survive. Because life was becoming less interesting and so much harder to endure. So I began to date. And I came out. In that order.

First dates suck. Second dates can be hard to come by. But bad relationships don’t end easily. In fact, I felt like I had returned to Julie Jordan. I went from one relationship where I felt abused to another where I felt used. But I didn’t think anyone else could love me – or that they could even tolerate me.

I felt like I could not leave. Until I had to leave. And I did.

I had met Brian a few months earlier. We both had a love of comic books. And most importantly, he treated me nicely. So, I finally made the right call. I started dating a good guy.

Four years later, it all still works. It’s not to say every day is perfect, but who needs perfect? If someone will watch stupid TV with me and put up with my weirdness, it’s all good. And I never thought it would happen.

And now…I’m getting married.

How I Did It

I have known that I would propose for over two years. When Brian left to work in Boston, we had to suffer through long-distance dating. And though we missed each other a lot, we learned that we enjoyed having the other around. So, on the road trip back to Chicago, we began discussions. We would talk about getting married one day. I knew this was the one. If nothing else, I never felt uncomfortable, which is a rarity for me.

On the day before we left for Lexington, I headed to my comic book shop. I had been there with Brian a few days earlier but I wanted to stop in and say goodbye to some of the employees I missed the day before. And I decided to buy our engagement ring.

Most people go to jewelry shops and spend three months salary. I spent  a dollar. Because it mattered more as a symbol than a piece of jewelry.

I told my friend at the shop that this was going to be my engagement ring and she got a bit sappy. She made it seem like a reasonable gesture. Hal Jordan’s Green Lantern ring would stand in. Defeating fear forever!

But I did not want to propose at the time. For many reasons, we decided that 2017 was not going to be the right year and the ring sat in an Altoids tin. And it sat. And it sat.

Earlier this year, however, we decided that 2018 would be our wedding year. We began to discuss places and settings and months. The ring needed to emerge. Brian’s birthday seemed like the best day.

Last year, Brian told me he didn’t want anything for his birthday. And although I watch a lot of sitcoms, I fell for the trick. He did want something. I got him nothing. So, I had a nice way to throw him off the trail. All week, I pretended like I had not bought him anything for his birthday. Then on Friday afternoon, I emerged from my home office and told him that we would celebrate his birthday on Tuesday (his birthday was Sunday). Anytime his birthday came up, I said Tuesday – until he got quite upset at me.

I also made up a whole story how Tuesday and other things I said were riddles that he had to solve to find his presents. People love riddles, right? The answer to that riddle: no.

But I had planned to take him out for dinner for his birthday too. On Sunday evening, we headed to dinner early – because I like to. He made fun of us because the elderly couples came in after us. But I wanted to get home early for a particular reason. And he grilled me about what was supposed to arrive on Tuesday. I tried to pivot and lie, but I cannot lie well. I told him that the presents were waiting at home. And that the riddles were all nonsense.

When we got home, I went to the basement where I hid his presents. He really enjoyed the cold brew coffee maker I bought. And we celebrated the coffee maker by taking the dog outside to play Frisbee.

We came back into the house and wandered around a little. When he walked into the living room, I told him I had one last gift. I got down on one knee with the Green Lantern ring in my fist, opened my hand, and proposed. His reaction: “Are you serious? Don’t be a schmuck.” And then he repeated it about ten times. I kept saying that I was serious. Then the joy really set in.

I never thought I would experience seeing someone smile like that – and for that reason. Thanks, Justice Kennedy. Now, please don’t quit the Court.





  1. ElaineMcdonald

    Dan, you are a good writer. Susan shared this blog on FB so I read it. I was a writer and editor for 33 years so take the compliment. So glad you found a nice guy, we think he’s a special guy too at UUCL.

    1. Post
  2. Joyce Baxendale

    Dan, we immensely enjoyed this blog. Your writing allowed us to share your remarkable journey with you. You will always have our friendship, support and best wishes.

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