In order to really get to know someone, agree to marry him. I had no idea my boyfriend was a "four-tine kind of guy." And I'm certain I never would have gleaned this knowledge had he not become my fiancé and had we not attempted to pick out flatware and other such items together. Who knew he had such a strong sense of color? This is a guy whose Sunday jeans have a bit of reddish-brown paint on them, whose hands are rough from work, and whose idea of dressing up is a button down over his T-shirt.
Last October, Mark suggested we go backpacking. True to the season, we awoke to pellets of snow pinging the tent. The snow continued as we hiked to a pass. The mountain we’d planned to climb disappeared beyond a veil of cloud. Mark found a lovely spot at its base. We plopped down for lunch.
I didn't want to soil my wind and waterproof gloves because I didn’t want to wash them (washing compromises the integrity of these miracle materials). Hence, I removed my glove, bit off a massive hunk of peanut butter and jelly, set down the sandwich, and replaced my glove again. I had just completed this routine when I turned to Mark. He extended a box containing the most beautiful object I had ever seen. Even in the cloud-muted light, the gems shone as if illuminated from within. "If you marry me, we can experience all of life’s peaks and valleys together," he said.
Peanut butter stuck to the roof of my mouth. I suffered that throat pain which accompanies trying not to cry. I fought through the mass cementing my tongue and responded, "That would make me very happy."
"Is that a yes?" he asked, open and hopeful.
I wanted to point out that he hadn’t actually asked a question. He'd made a statement. But in light of the circumstances, that seemed petty. The clouds relented. The sun emerged illuminating the valley below. "That’s a yes." I moved to kiss him.
He pulled back, "You have food in your mouth."
I sat down hard. Didn't this moment call for a kiss? Besides, I'd stifled my protest, why couldn’t he? Did this mean I would always be called to sacrifice while he skated nonchalantly around the tricky orange warning cones of our togetherness? He wanted to marry me, but he didn't want to kiss me. This could not be good.
And then, as the sun's weak warmth pressed down, I realized: This man wants to marry me. I love him and he loves me and I won't always have a huge bite of peanut butter and jelly in my mouth. I have plenty of time to kiss him.
Days after he proposed, I arrived at his home (in my mind showing amazing restraint) with two bridal magazines. He said, "I didn’t think you were like that."
I told him that now that we were engaged, I could reveal my true self. After an hour or two explaining my vision for the ceremony, reception, and dance, he asked — a pained furrow creasing his brow — "Is it going to be like this every night?"
I grinned, "'Til it’s over baby. 'Til it’s over."
Although I was initially kidding, the statement about being more myself now that we were engaged turned out to be true. We've entered a new phase of our relationship. We've discovered not only silverware and color preferences but some emotionally weighty notions about what our wedding and our future will be.
We went to a fabric store to pick out a color scheme for the wedding. Endless bolts lined the walls. I strode purposefully into the fray and unearthed a lovely green. I loved its sheen without shine. I loved its texture — elegant with the smallest hint of roughness. I loved its weight, the way it fell, reminiscent of waves lifting toward shore.
I turned to hand it to Mark. He had disappeared. I was too excited to care. I dove back into the sea of fabric. I lifted bolt after bolt seeking just the right complement. I found one and then another. Finally, I spotted the ideal color — lavender.
All I needed was the lynch pin. I avoided the Holstein prints, Strawberry Shortcake fleeces, the gold knit polyester, but everything else was fair game.
I found it: a flat plum. It provided a bold background, which perfectly offset the green and lavender. I gazed at the colors that fused my hopes and delighted my aesthetic. Mark touched my shoulder.
"I don’t like them."
"You don’t like them?" How could he not like them?
"You know I don’t like purple." But couldn't he see, there was no purple. There was lavender and plum, but no purple. "The green's okay." Okay? The green was beautiful.
"Get what you want."
In the car, I pulled the fabric from the bag. I imagined my wedding awash in these glorious colors. But it wasn't my wedding; it was OUR wedding. I tied the bag closed. Our next stop included a display of paint chips. Mark held up a particular shade, the exact color of the paint stain on his jeans. I tried to imagine my bridesmaids in puce and quickly shook the disturbing visual from my mind. My lavender was his puce.
The world offers an array of colors, surely we can agree on one. I'm betting that just like that perfect complement to my green and lavender, our color is out there.
He's a four-tine guy; I've been planning my wedding since childhood. We love each other. We want to spend the rest of our lives together. That's who we are. Beyond that, it's all just the proverbial icing on the cake.
Opening photograph by Embrace Life Photography