Sammy Nickalls
January 22, 2016 12:45 pm

I had approximately 30 engagement rings pinned to my “Future Wedding” board on Pinterest. I also had several “dream proposals” —some involving dogs with rings attached to their collars (because is there anything cuter than proposing with a pup?), others involving writing “Because you’re my best friend” inside the ring’s box.

There were gorgeous wedding dresses pinned on that board, too, with lace spiraling up the sleeves, bejeweled trains trailing behind the model bride who’s standing wistfully by a sun-soaked window. But when I was sitting on my computer, pinning away while I was procrastinating assignments in college, I knew what I was doing wasn’t really about the wedding, and certainly not the marriage. Popping the question is what that board was really all about.

I don’t know if it’s because I watched an excessive amount of romantic comedies as a pre-teen, but when I thought about marriage, I thought about the perfect proposal. Before I had even hit puberty, I was daydreaming about my hubby-to-be dramatically dropping onto one knee at the place we first met (or perhaps a beach, because that’s always romantic), poetically gushing about all the reasons he loves me as he opens a box with a gorgeous ring glistening with promises and happy endings.

Throughout my teens, I had this idea in my mind that, when I was in my early 20s, that movie-style proposal would happen to me, too. I didn’t think about marriage, because I couldn’t picture what marriage really was. It was like a pristinely wrapped gift—I didn’t know what was inside, but it had to be good, because the bow on top was so pretty.

But even when I hit my early 20s and knew that I wasn’t ready for anything like that just yet—even when I grasped the concept that marriage is much, much more than a pretty bow—I still daydreamed about that proposal. I cried happy tears over that viral video where the boyfriend proposes to his love with a dancing flash mob set to the tune of “Marry You” by Bruno Mars. And I started pinning away, gabbing with my roommate about the perfect ring (mine was cushion cut; she preferred the more unconventional raw cut). We even made a pact that, when the time came, we’d coach each others’ soon-to-be fiancé about how to propose in our preferred way.

I remember my college boyfriend of three years discovering that I had a “Future Wedding” board and watching his face blanch a bit. He tried to laugh off his nervousness, then said, “What do you pin on there?” I explained to him that I pin wedding tips, dresses, and especially rings. “Just for fun,” I added.

But as I said those three words, I realized I was lying. I wasn’t doing it “just for fun.” I mean, sure, it was fun to look at pretty rings, to imagine myself in those gorgeous dresses, to think about what my bouquet would look like as I radiantly walked down the aisle (because with the amount of planning I was already doing for my future wedding, you bet your ass I’d look radiant).

But it wasn’t only for fun. I had been imagining my perfect proposal, building that one moment up for practically my entire life, since the first romantic comedy I ever watched as a pre-teen. I knew he had seen me watching those adorable flash-mob videos, heard me talking to my roommate about our dream rings. I knew he wasn’t blanching because of some commitment issue, or because he was being a stereotypical guy afraid of marriage. Who wouldn’t feel afraid when there’s that much pressure surrounding a two-minute moment — when that moment is made to seem like the most important in a lifetime? Who wouldn’t blanch at the thought that maybe, just maybe, their partner thinks a proposal defines a marriage?

Fast forward years later. Although my relationship with that guy didn’t work out, I’ve since deleted that Pinterest board.

Yes, I’d love a moment of magic, filled with love and hope as my partner spills out his soul to me. Yes, I’d love to get married to the love of my life one day. But I’ve let go of that dream proposal for a better dream: Not just minutes of magic, but an entire lifetime of it.

(Image via Warner Bros Television.)

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