So here's a treat
I was going through old teenage photos to use for stuff for the upcoming UK Cringe book launch, and stumbled across this classic bershon specimen. Twelve year old me, forced to endure the unspeakable atrocities of a family beach vacation. No I will not smile for your photo, DAD. GOD!
How do you like that swimsuit? I thought I was pretty hot shit in that get up, because it had a little spaghetti strap that went around the neck that you could attach or not, and my mom told me I could leave it off if I wanted. Probably due to the fact that I had just started having periods and being a very mature, even-tempered woman, one with a monkey face and furiously back-combed bangs.
How cute is my little brother here, all ready to assist you with any gosh darn thing you might need? Golly! The annoying part of being nearly seven years apart was that while I was in the full throes of teenage agony and unattractiveness, both inside and out, he was all missing front teeth and saying cute as fuck things like, “I’m thorry, Thithter!” One time I was really giving my all to a knock down, drag out fight with my parents, screaming, slamming doors, packing a bag, the whole nine yards, and my brother came in all sniffly and worried and gave me his teddy bear to take with me. Now it makes me want to hug him, but at the time I could have knocked his adorable block off for upstaging my rage so deftly.
This trip was an unexpected treat for our family. My grandmother had been very sick and living with us for the past year, which had been a horrible, horrible year for so many reasons, as well as my first (miserable) year of middle school, and then she died that June. We were all sad and drained and completely wiped out, and her best friend and her husband very generously sent all four of us for a week in Hilton Head Island, South Carolina. We swam with dolphins and ate junk food and spent all day on the beach and one rainy day, when I’d read both Baby-Sitters Club Super Specials I brought with me, my parents dropped us off at a movie theater and let us go see Batman. I was torn between being excited that I was being allowed to see my first PG-13 movie in a theater, on my own, and being outraged that my five year old brother was getting to see his at the same time.
I also spent the majority of this vacation walking twenty feet behind or in front of my family at all times, just in case any cool people were out and saw us and thought I was with them. I’m sure my parents were very relieved and thankful for this gesture.
This all came full circle seven years later, after I’d just finished my freshman year of college, and we took a vacation to Disney World. (I’m not sure why you’d take a 13 year old and a 19 year old to Disney World, but we actually had a really good time.) I distinctly remember walking down a street in fake Paris in EPCOT with my mom, calling behind us for Stephen to hurry up, and suddenly she said, “Oh god, it’s started.” And I said, What, what’s started? And she said, “The minute you finally left adolescence and started being a decent, normal human being again, he’s begun.”
Of course I wasn’t yet too much of a decent, normal human being to get in a Nelson-esque “Ha ha!”
Six fun-filled days
We are in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I can’t think of it as just Cape Cod; it always has to be Cape Cod, Massachusetts. This is because I cannot hear anyone say “Cape Cod” without in my head hearing Tom Hanks in Splash get into the cab in Manhattan and direct the driver, “Cape Cod, Massachusetts.” As a six year old in Oklahoma, I didn’t really get why that was funny, but as a 32 year old in Brooklyn, I wonder what that cab fare would have been then and in present day dollars. I still don’t believe the guy took him.
This sort of thing happens inside my head at least once a day. I wonder if other people do this. In addition to the songs permanently stuck in my head, I have a constant rotation of movie quotes. I spend most of the time repressing the urge to say them out loud, because while singing a catchy song just annoys other people, randomly spouting off, “Oh, I’m afraid the deflector shield will be quite operational when your friends arrive,” just makes everyone think you have Tourette’s.
Aside from “Cape Cod, Massachusetts,” I’ve also retained:
- “The FLOWERS are still standing!” from Ghostbusters
- “Ricky Nelson? You mean you never hearda him?” from the original Parent Trap
- “Ooohhhh, Boston,” also from the original Parent Trap
- “I’m going to be seven on Tuesday, and I’d like a pink parasol,” (with lisp) from The Sound of Music (Bonus when answered with, “Pink is my favorite color too.”)
- “Hello my baby, hello my honey, hello my ragtime gal! Send me your kiss by wire, baby my heart’s on fire! If you refuse me honey you’ll lose me, then you’ll be left alone, so baby, telephone and tell me I’m your own!” from Spaceballs
Basically any movie we had on Betamax in 1985, all of its dialogue lives in my brain, all of the time. Sometimes I just get Jabba the Hutt’s laugh on loop in my head.
Do other people do this? This is a thing, right? Tell me it’s a thing.
The day I got engaged I was wearing a skort
I mean, not a real skort, like the kind people wore in 1998. It’s really this skirt I bought at NY & Co. in 2006 that looks like a regular miniskirt but has secret short-shorts built in underneath. Which is great during the dog-ass days of New York summers, when just going outside coats you in sweat, and if you’re walking around the city all day, your upper thighs chafe. But not with this skirt! No sweaty chafing in this baby! Doesn’t that sound sexy? Nick agrees with you. Every time things are getting hot and heavy and he realizes I’m wearing the skirt with a secret, he yells, “Goddammit, are there shorts under here?!” You’d think he’d remember by now. It might not help that I own this garment in both black and army green.
Sorry boys, I’m off the market!
I guess I’ll actually tell the story of how we got engaged, instead of talk more about my skort (which, much later that night, I knocked a beer all over, soaking it completely, and then I yelled, “It’s my special day and I’m a princess!”), but I’m telling you, it’s cute, and no one knows its secret, except all of you now.
So! On Tuesday night, I commented to Nick that I’d reached a stopping point in all the things I’d been working on, and that I actually didn’t have one single thing to do on Wednesday. He said, “Let’s have a free day then. We can go to the park.” Super casual, like he hadn’t already planned on this. I didn’t suspect a thing. It had been really hot recently, and every time I’d suggested we do something outside, Nick had said, “But it’s too hot.” England’s rose, you know; he wilts. So the next morning, I said, half-afraid to even mention it, “It’s pretty hot out, do you still want to go to the park?” to which he shrugged and said sure. SO CASUAL. (Later I asked, “What if I had said it was too hot to go to the park?” and he said, “I would have told you I was going without you.”)
So he makes some amazing BLTs and sends me out to buy pop. (Look, here’s the thing about that: I grew up calling it pop, but when I moved to New York, that was the first thing I had to change, because people laughed in my face and didn’t always know what I was talking about. So for six years now, I’ve been saying “soda,” and then Nick comes along and he calls it “fizzy pop.” So it’s pop again. Back to my roots.) I said, “Can’t we just pick some up on the way?” and he said, “You should go buy it [in bulk at the wholesale beer and pop shop] around the corner like we always do; it’s cheaper that way.” Which is true, and we’re trying to save every penny, but still, I thought that was a bit silly. Little did I know.
So I go buy pop and we pack our picnic basket and head off to the park. When we get there, he says, “Shall we sit under our tree?” When he visited in January, we had a picnic in the snow under a tree in Prospect Park and it was one of the happiest days of my life, but every time we’ve gone to the park since, we argue about which tree it was. It’s harder to tell now that the snow is gone. So I said, “Should we sit under the tree I think is our tree, or the tree you think is our tree?” and he said, “I’ll show you that it’s our tree,” because little did I know he’d gone to the park the morning before and scouted out the tree to make sure it was the right one. And it was, I totally admit this.
(I just realized this is going to be a longer post than I thought. You should go get a pop or something.)
So we sit under our tree and eat our BLTs (seriously, he makes better sandwiches than my mom, and that's saying a lot) and have a lazy chat, and then he says he has to go to the bathroom so he’s going to walk over to the other side of the park where the public restrooms are. I say okay and go back to my crossword puzzle. What I do not realize is that all morning long, Nick has been trying to call my father at work to get his blessing before proposing. So not only has Nick had to do this on the sly, while I was in the shower, and while I was sent out to buy pop, but my father has been in meetings all day, so Nick can’t reach him. He first left a message to tell him Nick called, but then panicked when he realized my dad would just call my cell phone to reply, so he called back and said, “Let him know Nick called, but tell him not to call.” So my dad gets these messages and thinks something is wrong, or that I’m sick. (His assistant, however, had it all figured out from the first call and when my dad told her I was engaged, she was like, “Oh yeah, I know.”)
So Nick, under the ruse of going to the bathroom, walks to the other side of the park, finds a complete stranger, and says, “Excuse me, can I trouble you for a moment? This may sound a bit strange, but I was wondering if I could borrow your phone… my girlfriend’s over there and I’m about to propose to her but I need to call her dad and ask his blessing before I do.” The guy hands him his phone, but not before asking, “It is a call within this country, right?” So now Nick is in the awkward situation of wanting to have a private conversation with my dad, but not wanting this guy to think he’s trying to walk off with his phone, so he half turns away, but still stands right next to him for the entire call.
Okay, this is the point when we tell the story to friends that Nick tells it, so he’s going to type for a bit. OMG DON’T YOU WANT TO PUKE YET. Go get another pop.
[Nick’s side of the story]
So I call Dale and he says, Awright geezer wos goin’ on (just kidding Dale doesn’t speak like that). He actually said, “Hello Nick, is everything alright?” I said, “Yes Dale everything’s fine, I just wanted to call to tell you that I love Sarah very much, and I’d like to spend the rest of my life trying to make her happy, and that with your blessing I’m going to propose to her this afternoon.” Dale says that he would like Pam to hear this, and I say no, no, no. You see, I know Sarah wants to tell Pam herself, so I ask Dale to hold his breath for half an hour until I’ve done the deed. OK. At this point Dale starts telling me how it’s about the good times and the bad, and how it’s all about COMPROMISE. Then he catches himself and apologizes, “I’m sure you just want an answer and not a lecture.” I say, “Yes, thanks Dale, that would be great.” (I may have mentioned at this point that I was using the phone of some random guy in the park, but I’m not sure due to having no short term memory.)
You still with me? Not fallen asleep yet? Well that’s just swell, I’ll continue.
Sooooo, Dale announces that he would be tickled (I shit you not, he said tickled) if I were to ask Sarah to marry me. Yippeee! and Phew! He wishes me luck and mentions that particularly “in today’s climate,” he is very impressed with me that I have bothered to call him and ask for his blessing. I promise that we’ll be calling back soon, and hang up.
Bosh. Job done. Robert’s yer farvas bruvva. I stride back towards where Sarah is reclining with a crossword under our tree with a huge great big grin on my face. I somehow manage to look relatively normal when I sit down as Sarah doesn’t ask what’s up.
[Back to Sarah]
So Nick comes back to me (he’s only been gone ten minutes), lies back down on our blanket, we have another lazy conversation about nothing, and then he says, “Can you do me a favor?” and I say, “Sure, what?” and he starts saying, “Will you stay with me forever…” and I sit up, confused, and say, “Wait, what?” and look down and realize he’s holding a ring and then he smiles and says, “Will you marry me?” and I shout OH MY GOD ARE YOU SERIOUS? But then I said yes.
Then we kissed a whole bunch, and then he said, “Okay, we have to call your mom right now because your poor dad is probably about to burst,” and then I got to hear the story of what had been happening up until that moment. I kept saying, “Wait, but what about this? And this? Who else knew this was happening?” And he said, “Well, your dad, since about twenty minutes ago, and then I guess that guy whose phone I borrowed.”
Crossword, crossword, blah, blah, blah. Will you do me a favour? What? Will you stay with me forever? WTF? Will you marry me? (ring in hand). Are you fucking Serious? Er, Yeah.
Sarah said yes and I have been rather smug ever since. Thank you and goodnight.
[Back to Sarah]
We’ve had a million conversations about getting married in the past, basically since the week we met, and he’d asked me questions about should I ask your dad (you can ask his blessing, not his permission) and what kind of ring would you want (never ever buy me a diamond) so I knew this was coming at some point, but I had no idea it was coming that day, which was completely wonderful and just what I’d always wanted. I have never really envisioned my wedding day or pictured a dress or any of that stuff, but I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be proposed to, and I always knew I wanted it to be a surprise, and private, and simple, and an almost sort of spontaneous feeling. And it was all of that, it was absolutely perfect.
Also, up until I met Nick, I wasn’t sure if I’d even get married; it sounded nice in theory, and for other people, but the idea of it sort of freaked me out. But, at the risk of sounding corny, from the moment I met him, there was this feeling of Ohhhhh, okay, this is how it’s supposed to be. And from the beginning, like the very first week we met, when we started joking around but also not joking around about getting married, somewhere in the back of my head I thought, that wouldn’t be so bad or weird at all, which of course freaked me out, that it didn’t freak me out. Fortunately, I got over that.
While I’m already talking your fucking ear off and being as mushy as possible, here’s another thing: one day last summer I had lunch with Maggie and Melissa, and they were asking about my love life, and they both said, “Have you made your list yet?” and I was like uh what list. And they said, “You should make a list, just for yourself, of the qualities you’d ideally want in a mate, just because putting it down on paper and reading it back makes you realize what’s actually important to you.” And I didn’t think about this again until a few weeks later, when I was back from California and up with a fever in the middle of the night. I pulled out my diary at 4 am (which is a strangely lucid and honest hour) and made that list, which felt sort of silly at first but at the end felt really satisfying. And then I closed my diary and forgot about it completely until one day this spring, when I turned to that page and read the list again and got chills when I realized I’d pretty much described Nick exactly. No, I am not going to share what was on it (it wasn’t even one full page), and I’m not even sure if this course of events has any actual significance. I don’t claim to know any great truth about love or life or anything; I just know how it happened to me. And I think maybe articulating something you want, even if just to yourself, and putting that out there into the universe, maybe that knocks over a book that blows out a candle and eventually brings you to Antonia’s couch on a Sunday morning in October, and then the person you will love more than anyone else comes downstairs and shakes your hand and all you have to do from there on out is allow yourself to enjoy being happy.
Me One Year Ago would scoff at this story. Not that Me One Year Ago was a cold bitch; I was just more than a little wary. When people said things like, “When you know, you know,” I thought, Eh, really? But as someone very wisely pointed out to me recently, you’re a lot more understanding of love once you’re in it.
Okay, this is getting out of hand, so I’m going to wrap it up. I’m not going to talk about BEING ENGAGED in a giant curly font all the time now or anything, but I have to admit, it’s warmed my old black heart in the past when I’ve shared good news with the internet, so here you go. Thanks for being excited with us. And I don’t want to hear a fucking word about my skort.