So now that you have the nitty-gritty of how the proposal went down (short version: I asked, he said yes), I wrote a little something for RoleReboot about the fact that lots of people have been calling me a badass lately. Click the image below to read more!
A few weeks ago, in his favorite place in the world, I proposed to my boyfriend and he said yes.
For a long time, I wanted to be the one who was proposed to. The proposee. I wanted to have that big, surprise romantic moment and the butterflies in the stomach. Have I been taken in by the media? Absolutely. But I still wanted it. The way I see it, the proposal might be the last time you get those romantic butterflies. Sure, once you’re married there can be a million other great romantic moments. But there are no more nervous will-they-won’t-they moments after the proposal, and I didn’t want to lose my last one.
But with all my waiting for that moment, I started to feel like I had lost control of my life. I’m a planner, and if there was a wedding in my future, it was hard for me to plan the other big events I wanted: buying a house, flying to Europe, bringing my sister’s family out to visit us. I hated feeling like there was this giant life-changing event in my future, and I had no control over when it would happen. It’s my life! I should get a say in how it goes!
Then one day it hit me: I could still have a romantic moment. I could have the butterflies, it’s just that I’d be the one to put them there.
So in the middle of October, we flew from San Francisco to Joe’s home state of Michigan to experience fall (something we don’t really get in SF) and to see Joe’s family and friends. Our first full day there, we went to Franklin Cider Mill to eat fresh, warm cider donuts, drink cider, and feed the ducks while sitting next to a brook. This is where I asked him to be my husband.
I told a lot of people about my plan. Mostly because I was excited and because it seemed like too big of a deal to keep it a secret, but also because I didn’t want to spend my first few days of engagement calling everyone to explain myself. And trust me, it takes a lot of explanations. Not because it’s an intricate plan, but because people have questions. So if you are thinking of proposing to your boyfriend, here are a few questions I can pretty much guarantee you will field beforehand.
1. Have you guys talked about marriage?
I still haven’t figured out why people ask me this one, but they do without fail. My guess is that the subcontext is, “If you’d talked about wanting to be married, shouldn’t he have proposed by now? Maybe he hasn’t asked because he doesn’t know you want to.” Or maybe it’s, “If you’re being forced to ask, it must be because he doesn’t want to be married—maybe you should talk about it.” Or maybe there’s a much more innocent reason everyone asks me this question…I just haven’t figured out what it is.
Yes, of course we’ve talked about marriage—we’ve been dating for four and a half years. Our conversations changed from “if” to “when” a long time ago. In fact, we had a multi-day discussion about the merits of adopting this year, so yes, we have also discussed marriage.
2. Did you get a ring?
I did get a ring. I wanted the proposal to feel official, not like a suggestion. I wanted there to be a big moment of reveal. Some people laughed when I said I got a ring, I assume because they could only picture a women’s engagement ring. But I got him a simple, silver men’s ring.
Fun fact: there is no such thing as a “men’s engagement ring,” at least not on the internet. Only men’s wedding rings. (2015 edit! This is no longer true! Check out Buzzfeed’s “21 Badass Engagement Rings for Men” for starters. And a quick Google search for “mangagement ring” actually turns up some interesting things. I find this extremely awesome.) That’s okay, I’m pretty sure they look exactly the same. So I found a jewelry maker that I love, Turtle Love Co., and a ring I liked. I didn’t know his ring size, and Google is no help on figuring this one out. For one thing, I only found ideas for finding women’s ring sizes (“Ask her friends—maybe she’s already told them.” I can see it now: “Hey, Johnny, what’s Joe’s ring size?”). I emailed Turtle Love and asked about ring sizes. Since Joe is a light sleeper (no sneaking strings around his finger while he sleeps) and he doesn’t wear other rings for comparison, I was at a loss. Turtle Love answered my question right away, saying to choose a ring that could be resized, and try ordering a ring in an average size, which for men is size 9 or 10. Joe is a big enough guy, so I opted for a 10, figuring it would be better to be too big than too small.
I decided to make wearing the ring optional. I wasn’t giving him a choice in being proposed to, but I wanted him to have the choice to wear the ring throughout the engagement. The wedding ring is another story, but the engagement ring is really more about the symbol of my commitment and my seriousness in the proposal. Turns out, Joe loves the ring and the symbolism of wearing it, and as soon as it comes back from being resized, he plans to wear it.
I also got a special ring box, which I found on Etsy by searching for ring boxes with added words like “rustic” and “wood”. If you try to wade through all the ring boxes, you will find a lot of kitch and frills, as well as a lot of boxes that I would have loved for myself but which were just too girly for Joe. But the rustic and wooden boxes showed me lots of great unisex styles.
3. Did you get down on one knee?
No, I stayed sitting. For some reason, getting down on one knee felt wrong. I’m not sure if it’s the role reversal that I’m not comfortable with, or the fact that getting on one knee feels a little too close to begging for my comfort, but I knew I didn’t want to do it. Besides, the place we were sitting was rocky and next to a brook, and I’m clumsy. You can imagine that outcome.
I think people get so caught up in the way a proposal and wedding are “supposed” to go that they forget almost all of it is optional. You don’t have to get down on one knee in order for the proposal to be official. Technically, you don’t even need a proposal at all.
4. What if he proposes before you do?
I decided in January to propose in October. That left a long time for Joe to make a move, and in that time I got this question from people a lot. At first I was glad I was giving him so much time, and my answer to this question was “Then great! And if he doesn’t? Screw it, I’m proposing to him.” Once it got closer to my October deadline and I got more and more excited about what I was going to do, my answer changed to, “I hope he doesn’t, I have a whole thing planned!”
5. What if he proposes at the same time?
As the day got closer, people stopped asking if Joe would propose before me, and considered that he might propose at the same time. Especially once I described the romantic setting where it would take place.
I have to be honest with you: I wouldn’t have minded if he’d proposed, too. Sure, I was proud of my feminist choice to propose. But if he proposed, too, there’d be no question that I’m strong-arming him into something he’s not ready for. I imagined the scenarios where Joe would propose at the same time: that he’d propose and my response would be to pull out my own ring, or vice versa.
It didn’t happen that way. But after some happy tears and a pretty serious public make-out session, Joe did tell me that he had been looking at rings and thinking about what he would say when he proposed, so I still got to hear that speech. When I tell people this, I can see the relief on their faces. It gives a little of the traditional proposal back, and it ensures them that I haven’t forced Joe into something.
I’m not upset that this comforts people, because it comforts me, too. Stepping outside something that is so gendered is hard, and it’s scary. And having this safe place to lurk back to feels comforting. Analyze that how you will, but I’ve decided to be okay with it.
6. Do/Did you have a speech all planned out?
Yep. And you don’t get to hear it. I told lots of people about the proposal (and now I’ve laid it all out here), but the little things I said? Well, some things get to stay private between Joe and me.
For more info and ideas about women proposing to men, I highly recommend A Practical Wedding. Start with this one, and go forth!
This week a friend sent me this amazing collection of photos by Queenie Liao, placing her baby in a series of imaginative scenes like this one:
While I scrolled through the photos, each more creative, colorful, and delightful than the next, I was surprised to realize how quickly my thoughts turned vitriolic:
“Aren’t you supposed to nap when the baby naps?”
“How many of these were ruined with the baby waking up?”
“Well I’m glad you have all kinds of free time and colorful cloth but some of us have jobs.”
“If I had a professional camera I could do that, too. Except I don’t have a baby but…you know. I could use a teddy bear or a sleeping cat.”
These thoughts are rude and assuming. The strangest thing is, as I was thinking all these things, the photos were making me chuckle. I was smiling at the sheer brilliance of it, but inwardly thinking, “How dare you be so creative? How dare you do something I technically could have done?”
Therein lies the problem. I’m not bothered by someone’s success when they do something that I know I can’t or don’t want to do (like climb Mount Everest, paint the Mona Lisa, what have you). But when it’s something I technically could have done—I technically could have thought of that cool idea, I technically could have put those sheets in that position—I get jealous. And that jealousy spits out of me, lashing at the creative person who has done nothing wrong.
Maybe this sounds crazy or maybe you can relate, but when I get that jealous feeling, suddenly I feel like this person has done the last creative thing and has left nothing for me. There is no space for this person’s awesome creative idea and MY future awesome creative ideas. They hogged it all and now I am left with nothing. It’s not a rational thought, of course. But my irrational jealous brain is terrified that I’ll never do something as cool as what I’m looking at right then. This is why I lash out: if I can take down this person’s creativity, if I can make it seem less great, maybe there is still space for me and my own work.
I imagine some parents looking at these photos feel less worried about their own creativity than their own abilities as parents (my sister recently shared an article about this exact thing, so I will defer to that). As for me, I’m sticking with the creative jealousy track in this post.
If I know internet commenters (and I think I’ve watched enough YouTube videos to say that I do), I was pretty confident that I’d see more than a few trolling comments to Queenie’s photos. I hoped I was wrong and everyone would say only nice things…but I was right. In fact the very first comment is, “mom obviously had nothing else to do LOL” (Don’t you just love passive-aggressive LOLs?) followed by a number of people saying the baby looks dead. Which…what? Have you ever seen a sleeping human being before?
Thankfully, most of the comments about these photos are positive and encouraging. And that is what Queenie deserves. But for perhaps the first time, I think I understand the trolls. I know why they said those things.
I should only be thinking how amazing these photos are and how great they will be to look back on when the baby is older. But instead I can’t help but think, “Well well, Ms. Moneybags. Looks like someone must have stayed up pretty late to make sure these photos looked perfect.” Not only is it mean-spirited, even if it’s in my own head, but it doesn’t help anything. It doesn’t make me more creative. And it also doesn’t give my own creativity any credit, because it’s totally fear-based. Other people can be creative and I can still make something awesome. There is room enough for all of us on this big creative earth.
I often miss opportunities for one simple reason: I’m convinced someone else would do a better job.
For our high school Homecoming senior year, there was a t-shirt design contest. Inspiration hit me, and I drew something I really liked. Before I describe it, I’ll have to provide a little explanation: Our school was called York High School, so our mascot was the Duke. Get it? York Dukes? Duke of York? I never realized it was that weird until I graduated and got looks of disbelief. It’s true; our rich, white, suburban school’s mascot was an embodiment of the bourgeoisie: a man with a mustache, monocle, and top hat. He was the Planters peanut, if the Planters peanut had wished to become a real live boy.
I never thought the Duke was a strange mascot, but I still mocked him simply because when you’re that age, everything having to do with high school is worth mocking. “God, our mascot is so dumb. Ugh, our parking lot is the worst. What are these? Brick walls? Pssh, lame.”
Except during Homecoming. During Homecoming, the Duke is a revered gentleman who demands respect—nay, fear. Our battle cry became “Fear The Monocle.” And we meant it.
That year, our football team played the Trojans for Homecoming. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha….condoms. That was basically our retort against our opponent and our reasoning for why we’d destroy them. Because, you know. Condoms.
But when they announced a t-shirt design contest, I had a bolt-of-lighting inspiration moment. I drew the Duke (awesome mustache blowing in the wind) riding a Trojan horse to victory. In place of his usual top hat, I drew a football helmet. Then I added the top hat anyway, sexily perched atop the helmet.
I’m going to be honest with you: Michelangelo’s David would bow to this sketch, it was just that good. But my confidence level was low—again, for no other reason but that it was high school, and that’s just the way it was. So I drew this thing, this masterful thing, having no idea that it may or may not have been the next Mona Lisa (it was, trust me), and assuming that someone else had drawn something better.
As a teen, I never felt I was the best at anything, and had proof to back it up: other people got 1st place at the art fair, got better grades on the test, got the starring role in the school play. I was runner up. B+. Townsperson #2.
Now as an adult, I look back at this time in my life and say, “I liked drawing, I got good grades, and I had a blast acting in my spare time. And I was good at all of it! Why didn’t I just let myself enjoy these things?” But in high school, you are acutely aware of the people who are better than you. Maybe because adults tell you so often exactly who is better. They give out trophies and announce top grades. It’s all meant to encourage everyone, I suppose, to reach for the trophies and the top grades. But for me, it was just a way to say, “Here’s another thing you’re not the best at, Emily. Maybe try rugby.”
So my Duke picture stayed in a folder, never submitted. There are a lot of great artists at our school, I thought. I’ve met them. And they’ve already created something better. By the time I submit mine, the school will have framed something else and sent it to the Louvre.
When they revealed the winning picture, my jaw fell to the floor. That won? That?! They had chosen some art student’s half-hearted doodle (I know it was half-hearted because I was in an art class with the winner and I knew what he was capable of), which didn’t even look like anything, let alone a Duke riding a Trojan horse to victory. I wondered if anyone had submitted a drawing besides this one. And if those other drawings had been rejected, I wondered what they had looked like. Dancing condoms? Likely.
I have other examples from this time in my life when I chose to go for it, when I didn’t let my doubt get in the way of my accomplishments. When I said, “What’s the worst that could happen?” and then I did something amazing. But I still look back on this one time when I assumed I didn’t deserve praise (or certainly that someone else deserved it more) and I wish I could go back and reassure myself. I wish I could be my own cheerleader.
I never showed the picture to anyone. I know this because anyone with a soul would have encouraged me to submit it, and this story would have a different ending. Instead, that picture is lost forever. I think I actually threw it away.
So be your own cheerleader. Put yourself out there. When you hear your doubtful brain saying you aren’t good enough, tell your brain to suck it, and do it anyway. You never know—you might be a lot better than you think you are.
When you’re halfway to an interview and start thinking, “This is silly, I’ll just go home.” Tell your brain to shush. When you’re waiting to audition and look at everyone you think will get the gig instead, tell your brain to zzzzip it. When you’re thinking about buying blue eye shadow just to try it even though every magazine tells you that you’d look better in peach, tell your brain to hush it.
Tell yourself you can do it, and then freaking do it. Don’t wait for someone else to do it better. Do it your way, and kill it.
Joe and I have never owned a car together. We’re used to urban living and have existed off of Zipcar, rental cars, and borrowing cars from friends and family. But we’re finally starting to think about buying a car. So we sat down and discussed what kind of car we want:
- Not too expensive
- Great gas mileage
- Small enough to maneuver a city
- Big enough to fit a few friends
For simplicity’s sake, let’s refer to this car as a Honda Civic.
Eventually (because Joe and I are both planners), we started talking about our second car down the line, and what it meant for the Civic. Joe wondered out loud if the Civic could become MY car, so that he could get his Dream Car: a vintage Volkswagen Beatle.
He said this made sense because, let’s face it, my dream car would probably be a Civic anyway. Wait, what? That can’t be right. I ran down my list of what I would want in a Dream Car:
- Not too expensive
- Great gas mileage
- Small enough to maneuver a city
- Big enough to fit a few friends
This made me feel bristly, but he seemed to be right. I guess a Civic is my Dream Car. But why did this feel like I was getting such a bad deal?
Then it hit me. WAIT A MINUTE. The reason I’m bristling is because Joe’s Dream Car is not practical at all (Airbags? What are those?) while I still couldn’t let go of thinking of my Dream Car as something that was more functional than fun. So I took practicality out the equation and suddenly my Dream Car list looked more like this:
- Expensive as hell
- Two door
- Ability to talk? Negotiable.
Now I wasn’t looking at a Civic at all. I was looking at a Ferrari. Or possibly the Batmobile.
I often get so lost in what’s practical that I forget to just let myself dream. Sometimes these two things get muddled, and I convince myself that the practical solution is what I really want. I miss the chance to jump into the more creative, risky, and romantic choices. And if I don’t stop this madness, I imagine myself kissing Joe goodbye as he drives off in his vintage car to go have an adventure while I stay home, convinced that what I really want is to spend the day dusting (*shudder*).
For me, remembering to dream starts with keeping the dream and the practical separated so I don’t blur the line between the things I really want (pizza, sleeping in, dance parties) and the things that get me there (pizza stones, blackout curtains, stereo). It also means being more clear with Joe when I want to buy or do something because it is practical, not because it’s what I “want.”
This same concept happened with cooking. Joe thought I cooked every day because I liked it. The truth is, I was cooking every day because it was practical: someone had to do it and he didn’t seem to be (This is also because I plan things out much further in advance, which was keeping Joe from having a chance to plan anything). When I told him, “You know, I don’t actually LIKE cooking every day,” it was news to him. Now he takes charge of meals all the time, and often checks in to make sure I’m comfortable with my share of cooking. And for my part, I’m trying to be more vocal about the things I want or need instead of waiting until I’m already frustrated: “I’ll plan meals for Monday and Thursday, and you can take the rest of the week.” or “I feel like I’ve planned a lot of meals lately, can you take charge of the next few days?” or “I don’t know what to do with this leftover chicken, can you help me think of some ideas?” It’s nice having a partner who can take over the practical stuff for me, because it opens up time to do more things I actually want to do.
I had never mentioned to Joe that the Civic is my practical choice and not my Dream Car, so how should he have known? All I’d ever mentioned were the practical aspects of car buying. If my partner is going to help me toward the things I want, I have to make sure he knows what those things are. Hopefully separating what I want practically from what I want idealistically will help us push each other to do something wild once in a while. Like drive the Batmobile (but maybe just the once).
(EDIT: I can’t figure out a better way to show this, so just FYI, this is the post that was featured on Freshly Pressed!)
Dear Younger Emily,
It’s very possible that you’ve always struggled with Impostor Syndrome. According to the Ada Initiative, “Impostor Syndrome is the (incorrect) feeling that you’re a fraud, that you’re not skilled enough for your role, and that you will be found out and exposed as an impostor eventually.”
You are always bewildered when you get a good part in a play, and nearly every occupation you dream for yourself is eventually disregarded because you can’t imagine yourself being successful at it.
But it’s not until you are laid off twice in your twenties that Impostor Syndrome rears its ugly head.
Apparently many (if not most—dare I say almost all?) women struggle with Impostor Syndrome. Maybe for a man, being laid off twice would just be fodder for their determination to make it big. After all, Einstein got Fs in school, right? But for you, being laid off will become your greatest reason to doubt yourself.
Your first layoff will come in early 2009, when there are so many advertising layoffs, the big advertising rumor blog will create a separate Twitter account just to announce them all.
No one will hire you full-time for a while after that. Because no one hires anyone for a while after that. The world is waiting for the storm to pass. When a new agency hires you, you swallow your pride, let your Impostor Syndrome take the reins and decide it’s the best you can do. You accept the pay cut and the boring client.
Your second layoff will come after this new agency loses the boring client (along with its 800 million dollars). Yes, there are 100 people let go from the agency that day. But it will still sting, because they let you go and they don’t let other people go. And there had to be a reason, you decide. It must be because you’re not good enough, and they finally figured it out.
After the second layoff, a friend tells you that the agency is hiring again. You don’t even ask to be taken back because you’ve decided to move to San Francisco. But your friend says they asked for you already anyway. The agency refused to hire anyone back because they wanted fresh blood. You are only 26.
That very night when you get home, you’ll get this email from a Creative Director in San Francisco:
“I’m honestly looking for much stronger executions for someone who’s been in the business for a few years like yourself…My recommendation is to pair up with a strong AD [Art Director] on the side, and do a few really solid spec campaigns before you venture to the west coast.”
It’s not really the Creative Director’s fault. Maybe he’s never had Impostor Syndrome, so he thinks his strong opinions are helpful. But you will look around at your packed boxes and cry. Loudly. You will question nearly every decision you have ever made. You will still tell yourself that the two layoffs are not your fault, but it won’t do any good. You will question whether you will ever get a job again, and you will question whether you really deserve one anyway.
And then in less than a year, you’ll find yourself in San Francisco, doing a different kind of writing (one you like much better) at The Best Place To Work. Literally. It wins awards.
So maybe you aren’t really a fraud after all. Maybe there really is talent there, despite what that one guy said.
You will still struggle with your Impostor Syndrome in San Francisco. Chicago is a great city, but Chicago also made it fairly clear it didn’t want you there. Your success in San Francisco feels undeserved. It feels lucky. It feels like you’ve tricked people into thinking you could do the work, and one day they’ll figure out that you shouldn’t be there, just like the Advertising agencies figured out that you shouldn’t be there. But so far, San Francisco has wrapped you in its arms and quietly shushed you until those worries have quieted to a purr.
Still, every time you don’t get a lot of work done, every day you feel distracted, every time someone comes up with an idea that you hadn’t thought of, you feel like a fraud, one step closer to being found out.
But despite the negative voices, your twenties are full of accomplishments–great stuff that takes work. You land a kickass advertising job right out of undergrad when most people have to go to grad school. You turn an internship into a full-time job when HR says they aren’t hiring. You make things that people love. You write your little writer butt off.
Sure, there is luck involved. You get that first kickass advertising job after you pull the right name from a hat. But you create the life you live. You still move to San Francisco, despite the soul-crushing email. And a lot of people since then will be very happy with the work you do for them. So, while it takes you a long time to learn to just say “thank you” and accept the praise that other people give, you will do it. It will feel uncomfortable to smile and nod instead of shaking your head and protesting that you really didn’t do that much. But you will do it, because you realize it’s important to stick up for the things you do accomplish. It’s you who waded through all the negativity to a place that makes you happy. And the guy who wrote that email is stuck hocking other people’s lame products for a living.
A friend recently posted this article on Facebook and then all their friends piled on the Mumford Hatred Train toward Angrytown.
The gist of the article was: “The music Mumford & Sons makes is very bad…It’s so calculated that there’s absolutely nothing unexpected, organic, or progressive that comes from the music. The sound is so bland and average that it’s offensive.”
All I can really say is: Who cares? Go sit by an open window. Play with a puppy. Do whatever it is you need to do in order to calm down about other people listening to music that you don’t like.
I grew up on the Beatles, Styx, and the soundtrack to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat. I think it’s safe to say that while I was raised to enjoy music, I wasn’t raised with the knowledge of what was supposed to make it objectively “good.”
In elementary school I was encouraged to play a musical instrument, and I chose the trumpet out of rebellion (“The trumpet is for boys, you say? Step aside, please.”) Then I spent five years only enjoying the damn thing when I got a solo. So basically, the Apollo 13 Main Title.
All this to say, I never bothered to learn how to hear intricacies, and I don’t really care if a chord progression is particularly difficult. I don’t share your criteria for what makes music “good.” I only have two criteria for music:
- Can I dance to it?
- Does it make me feel emotions?
If the answer to either of these is yes, I like it. Does that make it “good”? No. But who cares?
Sure, Avril rhymed the word “dead” with “dead.” But I listened to that album nonstop anyway, despite the soul-crushing lyric. Who cares? Who have I hurt? Assuming that I listened to Avril “Let’s talk this over/it’s not like we’re dead” Lavigne on my own time, in my own headphones, purchased with my own babysitting money, what harm is there in the world? Four minutes wasted, at worst. Or maybe one more wealthy person who doesn’t deserve wealth. And if that’s what has your undies in a bundle, your efforts could be better spent on social change elsewhere, my friend.
Music isn’t marriage. There isn’t a finite number of songs you can like. Music is like friendships, and each one is great at certain times. Sure, some are best friends, some are acquaintances. But each friend has a time and place. Do I bring my quiet, bookish friend to a dance club? No, I bring the friend who buys tequila shots without asking.
The problem that maybe ultimately irks you is that I can like “terrible” music and still like Dr. Dre or Vampire Weekend or Metallica or whoever you think qualifies. You can’t stop me from liking both.
Sometimes bad music is fun. Sometimes I need a song that does nothing but tell me to put my hands in the air. You know why? Because I love being in a crowd doing synchronized dance like I’m in a teen movie from 1999. And the easiest synchronized dance move (even easier than Cha Cha Slide) is raising your hands above your head and then keeping them there for an extended period of time. Don’t take that away from me. Don’t take away my Ke$ha just because you need more substance in your music.
Some people like ICP. Some people like Nickelback. Some people like music that doesn’t do anything for you, Mr. Music Snob. Who cares? “Bad” music isn’t going to go away, so go sit in a corner, turn your Led Zeppelin up to 11, and quietly rock back and forth until the pain goes away. Quit putting your negative music vibes out in the world and let people love things you don’t agree with.
If you want to judge me for liking Mumford and Sons, I can’t stop you. I judge people, too. We all do. But I don’t go around screaming my judgments from the mountaintop. I keep them hidden behind eye rolls and passive aggressive sighing, like the WASP I was raised to be. The WASP who was raised on Rolling Stones and Raffi, and doesn’t care who knows it.