The Day I Was Romantic

by Brandon James Anderson

This past Christmas, I got my wonderful girlfriend, Alli, a tablet. For weeks I threw out various gift ideas, subtly gauging her interest, and every time I even slightly referred to the idea of an iPad or Amazon Fire tablet, she informed me in no uncertain terms she had no interest in owning such an item. I thought she was simply being coy with me and really did want a tablet so she could check email and Pinterest while I sat next to her playing Candy Crush during Scandal.

In addition to the tablet, I also got Alli some suitcases because, well, they were on sale and we both could have used some new luggage. Thinking I was clever, I decided to use the suitcases as a kind of wrapping paper for the tablet. A Russian nesting doll made of luggage, if you will.

I presented Alli with a large blue suitcase that was “wrapped” with a torn Meijer paper bag. Her initial response, “What is this?,” was definitely warranted as the wrapping job, the presentation, and the gifts themselves left a lot to be desired.

So, yeah, I have trouble being romantic sometimes.

The good thing is I’m well aware of my occasional shortcomings. Thus, long ago, when I knew I wanted to marry my lovely, amazing, and patient significant other, I knew I had to step up my game when it came to the proposal.

What didn’t help was that I had a thousand different ideas on how to pop the question, and the ideas and options became overwhelming. Luckily, back in February an episode of the Fox sitcom New Girl centered around Nick surprising Jess with a video of all her friends explaining why they love her as the trailer to a movie which was similar enough to one of my ideas that I was able to easily ax it from the list.

Another idea would have seen me popping the question at a theatre in downtown Columbus during an Aziz Ansari stand-up performance. However, we saw the Blue Man Group in Chicago last fall and actually were party to a couple getting engaged at the start of the show. I remembered that I looked back at the couple several times and thought about how dumb the dude was since his girl now had to sit in her seat for two plus hours without being able to tell anyone.

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It took months of brainstorming, but with a little planning and some added help, I was able to pull off the most romantic thing I’ve ever done. (Photo credit: Brent Mata)

Eventually, I began to form an image of what the proposal Alli would want looked like and from there I set about putting it all together. I wanted it to be a surprise and in a beautiful location, so doing it during a previously planned trip to San Diego became the best option.

The plan was to meet Alli’s sister for dinner the evening we got into town, only for her sister to text that she had to work late, leaving the two of us to have to go out on our own. This would have led to a romantic dinner, but a three-hour delay on the runway in Atlanta ruined that possibility (stay classy, Southwest airlines…), making the romantic dinner a quick drink in San Diego’s Gaslamp district before heading to Sunset Cliffs just in time to watch the sun go down over the Pacific Ocean.

In the weeks, days, hours, and minutes leading up to us watching the sun set, I had been texting with a friend of mine who does film and camerawork and was gracious enough to come down to San Diego from LA to capture the moment while incognito.

My heart raced as I knew the moment was coming. I tried to fight back the onset of sweating I usually get anytime I’m anxious or in anticipation and decided to just go for it. I told Alli I wrote her a poem but I needed her to read it out loud. This allowed my future bride a chance to unwittingly play a role in her own proposal and it also saved me from nervously shaking as I recited my words.

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Photo credit: Brent Mata

Two stanzas in, she began to cry and I felt relieved that the moment was coming together. As she finished the poem, I took a half step back. When she was done reading, she turned, and I was on one knee, box in hand.

During the course of the weeks since that moment, I’ve been pondering whether I should, as many friends have suggested, write about it. It feels fantastic being engaged, but it also feels weird writing about such a personal moment.

While some may say that the hard part is over for me, I disagree. I proved I can be romantic by proposing, now I have as much as 15 months to prove I can do it again by planning my wedding. Never mind the fact my fiancé has experience and great success coordinating and executing large-scale events, I want to be the one taking the reins when it comes to planning my big day.

Thus, over the months between now and the fall of 2015, I’ll be documenting my engagement and the wedding preparation on Michiganders Post with a series we’ll call “The Groomzilla Files.”

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