A little over seven years ago, I began dating (my now husband) Tom. I had been married and divorced because practice makes perfect. Not really, but I did learn a lot about myself—what I wanted and what I didn’t want.
In The Interim Times, as I came to describe the years before I met Tom, I went through a lot. Getting promoted to the hardest job I’ve ever had. Earning my MFA. Celebrating Christmas on my own with my dog while I worked on my master’s thesis. A two-year long relationship, becoming de facto step mom to three amazing children who I think about with love to this day. Dating a guy who I’m convinced was a spy (I lived in the Washington DC area at the time and he had no internet fingerprints back then so odds were good that this was true.) Dating men who paid for everything on the date and men who asked to split the check. Dating men who lied about their divorce being final. A couple of men had survived horrible accidents. One man looked just like my dad, not in a good way, and lived alone with his four bitches (aka dogs). One man called our date a pre-date and insisted on knowing in detail about my sexual proclivities before he would “book a date” (lol kthxbai is all he got). Men who seemed to test me by taking me to fine dining places and cheap dining placesand seeing how I reacted. (I only cared whether the company and the food was good.) One man had an extremely perfect face and a very flawed character. One man nearly died from alcohol poisoning and, if he’s still living, it’s because I was unreasonably persistent and refused to let him die alone and drunk in a hotel while his kids wondered what happened to him. He went to rehab and we said goodbye.
Having gone through all of that fire, I was made of steel by the end. I knew who I was and I knew the kind of man I deserved. For the first time in my life, I knew what it would take for a man to be worth my while.
And then it happened. Just like in the books of fiction. When I finally knew, just before I gave up, there was the ‘ping’ in my inbox at lunch one day. “THOMAS” and a photo. What a photo. A big smile. Handsome. I dismissed my terrible experience with perfect face/flawed character guy and read THOMAS’ profile. Funny. Thoughtful. A retired Marine. More handsome photos. I looked at his location. 60 miles away. I said to myself, “Oh hell, Thomas, that’s my deal breaker.”
You see, in the metro Washington DC area, more than 25 miles away from any one spot means a drive of 1-2 hours each way. 60 miles was almost to another country. But that smile. That face. That funny, thoughtful profile. What the fork, I thought, and sent him a smile.
Days later we talked. Days after that we met. Weeks later we were exclusive. Months later we lived together. And then the question—when do we get engaged?
It happened on a trip to London. We traveled there to see the band CAKE in concert. We were both big fans and had both *almost* gone to their concert in DC, but had each skipped for reasons. I had friends in London so we decided to be a little nutty and travel to London to follow a band. We had a delightful time. He tried (and despised) Marmite (but I still liked him). We traveled around the city. He met my family. It was November but dry and sunny. The holiday crowds were all about. We stayed up late talking with my friends about music, art, food, and life. We shopped. I took him to a cafeteria at a BHS department store which I thought was magical and he thought was strange. We went to art and history museums. We walked and talked. We held hands. We took goofy pictures. The night of the concert we wandered around the concert hall neighborhood trying to find a place to eat. He found an amazing pub—Prince Albert, I think. We walked to the show. It blew our minds. CAKE gave away a tree. The music thumped and hummed. We moved and cheered and sang with it. We took the bus back to my friends’ house where we were staying. It was near midnight. It was dark. The air was heavy with clouds, after a rain. He stopped and had me stand on a curb so we could see eye to eye (he’s really tall and I am short). He started saying nice things. I realized this could be The Moment. He asked. I said yes and cried. We hugged. We kissed. It was seven years ago today.
We were engaged.
It was certain.
Not the moment of our engagement, but the day before.