Sunday, April 17, 2011

If You Like It, Then There's Only One Thing You Should Do.

So last Saturday morning, James and I decided to go for a run around Prospect Park, as we often do on weekends. We got dressed in our running clothes, and I noticed he was wearing a jacket over his long-sleeved shirt and exercise pants. "Aren't you going to be hot in that?" I asked, since it was sunny and the temperature was in the fifties.

"I can just tie it around my waist," he said.

I shrugged, and we locked up the apartment and set out for the park. We stretched on the plaza just behind the farmers' market, then ran along the north side of the park with our respective iPods. (That day I was listening to the greatest hits of Bruce Springsteen: "Badlands," "Thunder Road," "Hungry Heart.") I was still transitioning back to running outside after the winter's treadmills, so I was determined to complete a whole loop without stopping to walk.

One of my very favorite places on Earth

As we ran down the west side hill, James said, "You know, I think we should take this cross-country route my brother showed me." I said sure, and we turned left on the road that cut east through the park above the lake. As we approached the first bend, he said, "Let's go up this hill."

I said, "No, I want to do the whole loop."

He said, "You really should see the view from the top."

I said, "No, I've seen it before, come on."

He said, "It's a shortcut, just trust me on this." (Which I didn't, because I've been running around the park for at least as long as he has, and I knew that running up Lookout Hill was no shortcut.)

But we went up the hill, with me grumbling at climbing the stairs. ("It's good for our glutes!" James said.) The path switchbacked to the west, and I said, "You do realize that we're going backwards now, right? Not the direction we want to be going?" He just nodded and encouraged me to keep running. We went over a terrace and ended up at the circle on top of Lookout Hill, the highest point in the park. I figured we'd go round the circle and run back down to continue the loop.

But as we started around to the left, a man in Victorian dress and spectacles hailed me: "Hello, fair lady!" Cheerful greetings from people in eccentric costumes are not that unusual in New York, so I figured he was some kind of actor doing street theatre in the park, and stopped to hear what he had to say. James slowed down alongside me. The man in costume pulled out a scroll and read from it: "It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of . . . more fortune!" And he went on to deliver a speech liberally laced with Jane Austen quotes, all demonstrating his avarice. He ended by suggesting that we speak to his friend a little farther on, "Though I warn you--the stupidity with which he was favored by nature guards his courtship from any charms."

I felt both delighted and deeply confused by this turn of events, so I looked at James and said, "Do you know anything about this?" It was his turn to shrug. The next man, in similar costume and with a similar scroll, offered a similar speech, including "In vain I have struggled. It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love -- myself."

About midway through this fine peroration on his own charms, my brain started thinking, This has to be what I think it is. Is it? Oh my, is it really? This gentleman concluded by looking around for an additional list of his good qualities. James held up a scroll of his own and said, "Is this it?" The man examined it and said, "No, I think you should read this one."

And James did, quite nervously and sweetly. I won't share everything he said, but he got down on one knee (as mandated by my favorite movie), and he also invoked one of my favorite descriptions of marriage of all time, from John Stuart Mill's On the Subjection of Women, in saying that he hoped it's what we might have as well:
On the contrary, when each of the two persons, instead of being a nothing, is a something; when they are attached to one another, and are not too much unlike to begin with; the constant partaking in the same things, assisted by their sympathy, draws out the latent capacities of each for being interested in the things which were at first interesting only to the other; and works a gradual assimilation of the tastes and characters to one another, partly by the insensible modification of each, but more by a real enriching of the two natures, each acquiring the tastes and capacities of the other in addition to its own . . . When the two persons both care for great objects, and are a help and encouragement to each other in whatever regards these, the minor matters on which their tastes may differ are not all-important to them; and there is a foundation for solid friendship, of an enduring character, more likely than anything else to make it, through the whole of life, a greater pleasure to each to give pleasure to the other, than to receive it. . . . What marriage may be in the case of two persons of cultivated faculties, identical in opinions and purposes, between whom there exists that best kind of equality, similarity of powers and capacities with reciprocal superiority in them -- so that each can enjoy the luxury of looking up to the other, and can have alternately the pleasure of leading and being led in the path of development -- I will not attempt to describe.
And with such a prospect before me, dear reader, I said yes!

James gave me his late mother's engagement/wedding ring, which was just my size; and the last week has been a flurry of informing friends and family, accepting congratulations, and starting conversations about dates and locations for the grand party we hope to throw for those same friends and family. (I'm from the Midwest, he's from the Bay Area, and we live in New York, so we have the entire United States open to us.) The two gentlemen in costume were friends of James's, unknown to me; James wrote the scripts with all the Jane Austen references to please me, featuring characters with defects (greed and vanity) that would highlight his own suit in turn--"classic literary foils," he says. He rented the costumes for them from a shop in Midtown.

Mr. Avarice and Mr. Vanity

And James had to wear the jacket because it carried both his proposal and the ring! (I've forgiven him for making me run up the hill.)

My Weasley and me

Thank you for your good wishes, all!

75 comments:

  1. That. Is. Awesome. Congratulations!!

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  2. ~~and that is how another beautiful story begins!

    Much love, luck and happiness!

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  3. Congratulations to you both!

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  4. CONGRATULATIONS!
    normally I'm not one to go all gushy over this kind of thing, but who can resist an Austen-sprinkled, be-costumed men and JS Mill referencing proposal??

    As this proposal story illustrates, you've obviously got an amazing partner - all the best to you both, during the wedding-planning stages and then in the happily ever after!

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  6. Aw, this was adorable! Congrats!

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  7. Oh my goodness, I do not even know you but am touched by your story and his clever approach. He did make you work a bit with all the running up and down. However, the joy on your faces show it was worth the effort. Congratulations!

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  8. Best wishes, Cheryl! What a romantic proposal!

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  9. Congratulations! What a wonderful way to propose! Thank you so much for sharing this beautiful story with us. I'm so happy for you and I wish you both a fabulous life!!!

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  10. Congratulations! That's the most adorable. :)

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  11. Congratulations on your impeding marriage to your Mr. Darcy!!! (I love the way James proposed to you -- please tell him that he done good!)

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  12. Okay, I totally got all weepy. Congrats to you both. Wishing you a lifetime of love and happiness.

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  13. This made me cry too! Congratulations to you both and I wish you every conceivable (and inconceivable) happiness.

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  14. I love it! - our family is definitely an extra lucky party in this arrangement. So - thrilled to call you a future sister-in-law!!

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  15. awww, congratulations to you both!
    Namaste,
    Lee

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  16. Here's to the wings of love,
    may they never molt a feather...

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  17. Congratulations and best wishes!!! =D

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  18. Sweet romantic tale. Congratulations!!!
    Mona

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  19. Wow! Congratulations to you both!

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  20. What a fabulous and romantic story you'll have to tell your descendants. And what a guy! Congratulations!

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  21. How beautiful! Congratulations. Now he needs to write a book on beautiful proposals.

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  22. What a lovely story! Congratulations to you both!

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  23. !!!!! Best proposal ever!

    --Lizzylyn

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  24. Best wishes! What a wonderful start to a marriage!

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  25. That has to be one of the best proposal stories I've ever read.

    Congratulations to you both!

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  26. Just wonderful Cheryl ... good luck to you both :-)

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  27. Wow, that's some proposal. Congratulations to you both!

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  28. He's a keeper, I'd say! Congratulations and much love and happiness ahead of you.

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  29. As I realized what he was doing (from the point he insisted on wearing the jacket!) I had tears in my eyes. What a beautiful way to propose. It's very obvious you two are meant for each other. Best wishes and congratulations!

    Ena J

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  30. Congratulations! I am so excited for you.

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  31. What a beautiful proposal. Congratulations to you both!!!

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  32. I love that you knowingly ran in what felt like the wrong direction (and uphill, no less), just because of your faith in him. That is as apt a metaphor for marriage--and for life--as any.

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  33. Wonderful story! Congratulations!

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  34. I think that's the best proposal story I've ever heard! Congratulations!

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  35. What a beautiful story. Thank you for sharing. Congratulations and best wishes!

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  36. Awesome! My fiance also proposed after a run, by which point I was getting similarly testy with him for not being willing to stop and take a picture (just east of the Golden Gate Bridge, along the coast). And similarly, all was forgiven. Great story and congratulations!

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  37. Congratulations!!!

    My very best,
    Colleen Cook

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  38. I must admit - all this internet love is making me grin.

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  39. Some added story bits: The night before, I became a bit anxious when C said, "Don't be surprised if I'm not here when you wake up in the morning." Gulp. Huh? Oh no. (My aristocrats expected an 11am arrival.) Well, what C meant was that she had planned an early breakfast with a local friend. Lucky for me, she got back in time for our run. Phew. But then, right before we went out, she said "The botanical gardens are free today. Let's go there instead of the park!" Oh boy... Me: "Um...How 'bout we go there *after* the run?" Well, obviously, the fates allowed me to steer things in the desired direction. But there were no shortages of inner butterflies that day, I tellya.

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  40. What a wonderful proposal! Congratulations to you both!

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  41. Congratulations to you both!

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  42. Nicely done! Congratulations!!

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  43. Just lovely! My eyes are teary. Congrats to you both!

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  44. Terry Lim DiefenbachApril 18, 2011 4:14 PM

    Here I thought people only WRITE about romance! Great story, great beginnings. All the best for a happily ever after.

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  45. That is SO sweet! Wishing you many more wonderful surprises in your relationship, days filled with love, and a lifetime of building special shared memories. Congratulations!

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  46. OMG! You're engaged! I remember when you were in college! I love that story so much. It's beautiful and OMG, you're engaged!

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  47. Congratulations!!! What a wonderful proposal :) Best wishes to both of you!!!

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  48. Congratulations!! What a great story! :)

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  49. Congratulations!! That was an amazing proposal!

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  50. Awesome proposal story. Bodes well for a very entertaining future life! Congratulations!

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  51. Congratulations to you both! What a beautiful proposal, thank you so much for sharing it. I'm another teary reader! Here's to a lifetime of happiness.

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  52. It was so wonderful to read about the unique and perfect proposal from James. We are so happy for you and look foward to reading about all the plans and preparations for the big event! Best wishes to a wonderful girl!
    Mary Dobson

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  53. Oh, congratulations! Or "felicitations," as (in Jane Austen's day) one was really supposed to say to the woman. One congratulates the man, on his supposed conguest; one "felicitates" the woman (I don't know if that really is a verb) on her coming happiness. Wishing you lots and lots!

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  54. How beautiful! And so very romantic. Huge Congrats Cheryl, that's so exciting. Wishing you both a lifetime of blessed happiness!

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  55. Best Engagement Story EVER!!!

    Congratulations!

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  56. Congratulations and much happiness to you both!

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  57. I got chills reading that. Beautiful story! Congratulations!

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  58. That is fabulous! And it's also yet another reason I should never take a blog-reading vacation :-)

    Congrats!

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  59. Congrats! That is such awesome news. And how romantic the way James proposed. I'm so happy for you. What a great year you're having.

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  60. Awww....when I saw the news from the Kidlit Drinks email, I hoped you would have blogged about it here, and was not mistaken. Best wishes and a happy marriage to you both!

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  61. What a lovely, personalised proposal. What a lovely, thoughtful husband to be.

    Char

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  62. Great happiness to you! I will not say 'you both' because oneness is already evident...

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  63. Congratulations!!!! Best wishes for many, many years filled with fun and love and good surprises.

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  64. YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Congratulations to BOTH of you! I can't believe how much I'm grinning/how pleased I am! Good luck!

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  65. CONGRATULATIONS!!!

    Ooo, a sneaky, romantic, classics guy. Wonderful!!

    Mazel tov! :-)

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  66. Since I'm so horribly behind in my blog reading, I just found this today.

    Congrats! It is a wonderful story.

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  67. I'm also catching up on my Google Reader. Congratulations!!

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  68. Holy cow!! That is awesomeness to the nth degree! Awesomeness I tell you! And if you think I use a lot of exclamation points, you should have seen how many exclamation points zinged out of my head when I read this. Good job.

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