A Couple Recalls the Night She Proposed and Blew Up Gender Stereotypes

This bride stopped avoiding commitment and took a leap of faith

Updated 10/23/18

Courtesy of the Couple

"When finally—finally—you find yourself one of the two participants in a marriage proposal, you really don’t want to be dressed like a flying bellhop monkey from The Wizard of Oz. The fact that I was should prove I had absolutely no clue I was about to be proposed to.

My girlfriend, Alex, and I were meeting at the Rainbow Room, and I had no idea it was jacket required. The maître d’ gave me one from their picked-over stash of loaners they keep for sartorial idiots. The jacket was a couple sizes too small, with sleeves ending a good three inches short of my wrists. I looked not at all like a New York man about town and very much like one of the Wicked Witch’s hench-monkeys. The only thing missing was the fez.

Then Alex showed up in what appeared to be a dark green velvet dress (years later, she’d say it was neither velvet nor green), and everything about her took my breath away. She always took my breath away—still does—but that night would be different. I just had no clue yet how different.

It was her 26th birthday, and we’d been dating more than two years, much of it long-distance— with me in New York and her in Paris. We had met on a blind date, and I was done the second I saw her, then again during the first minutes we talked. Within months, I had made my feelings pretty damn clear, yet without articulating the obvious endgame. I’d contemplated someday proposing to her, but I wouldn’t do it until I felt she was 100 percent ready. I didn’t want to be rejected, yes, but I also didn’t want her to feel pressured.

When she moved back to New York, she got her own place, even as we continued as a couple. In the meantime, I imagined how I might one day propose. I had the cold-weather possibility of hiring a string quartet to set up in snowy woods: We come upon them while cross-country skiing; I get down on one knee. (I had lots of other ideas; trust me, it’s a shame they never got used.)

Now, as we finished our Rainbow Room strawberries and champagne and toasted to her turning 26, I looked across the table at my stunning, brilliant, kind, interesting, athletic, curious girlfriend, expecting nothing more from the evening. When the check came, I reached for it, but she reached for my hand. 'No way you’re paying,' I said. 'Birthday girl.'

'I have a question I want to ask you,' she said, placing a cheap gold ring on the table. I looked at it, but nothing registered. (Was it an inside joke I’d somehow forgotten?) 'I want to ask you,' she said, 'if you would be my husband.'

Still nothing registered. The sentence was so disarmingly simple, I honestly didn’t know what she meant. I had so completely assumed I’d one day do the proposing—not because I was the guy, but because I’d come to a place of certainty first, and it would be some time before she met me there—that I never considered she might do it. The words that formed her question, and the token ring she had laid on the table, did not add up for me. I was lost. Then, as I looked at her, confused about what was transpiring, I saw tears start to fill her eyes.

And I understood."

—As told to BRIDES by Andy Postman, on how his now-wife, Alex, proposed to him

"I had to buy a ring. It was one convention I wouldn’t flout. The occasion required a symbol to make the pronouncement real, something solid and transactional—even if the chunky brass $20 ring looked a bit like something you’d find hanging from the nose of a bull. I had decided to propose to Andy for a bunch of reasons. Mainly because two years earlier—a few weeks after a blind date that had lasted 10 electrifying, conversation-filled hours walking half the length of Manhattan—I’d moved to Paris to fulfill a fantasy I’d hatched in high school.

While I acted out my expat movie—renting an attic apartment in St. Germain, spending evenings in smoky cafés and weekends reading in the Rodin sculpture garden—Andy patiently waited for me in Brooklyn. When we visited each other, we’d begun to imagine out loud the places where we pictured our adult lives unfolding (a book-lined brownstone in New York City) and the bucket-list trips we wanted to take (a cross-country bike ride). But I’d always somewhat coolly—to manage his expectations, to safeguard my freedom—used the first person I for these scenarios.

Never we.

But then a few months after I moved back to New York and commitment-avoidantly got my own place (even though we virtually always slept in the same bed), it hit me one day like a huge, cartoonish mallet conk on the head that I did want to spend my life with this brilliant, hilarious, adorable, giant-hearted man. And I knew that to convince him that I had finally come around, the proposal had to come from me. Once I realized this, it seemed ludicrous to wait.

As we sat there in the Rainbow Room, me in a (for the record) garnet-colored linen dress, Andy in a borrowed jacket three sizes too small, I thought about how radically I was going to change both of our lives in the next few minutes. I worried that it was a little wicked of me to surprise him so much, but it was buried by my certainty that the proposal needed to go down like this—not just because it was the most persuasive way to show Andy I was dead-serious in love with him, but also because it represented the kind of marriage I wanted: one in which we avoided game playing, didn’t retreat into traditional gender roles in our careers or at home, and could feel safe asking for what we really wanted and being boldly demonstrative without fear of humiliation.

“I have a question for you,” I blurted sort of out of nowhere in a voice that sounded like Kermit. “Will you be my husband?” I watched Andy’s face rearrange itself from confusion to open-mouthed shock. I repeated the question, wishing I had scripted something more flowery and less like an assignment. (Will you open this jar? Will you call Con Ed?) He remained silent. Wait, the ring! I had forgotten it! I pulled it from my change purse and held it up (Will you feed the meter?), and it felt like I was handing him my naked, hammering heart.

“Well, will you?” I asked, more emphatically this time.

I would come to learn that in a good marriage, as I know Andy and I have, the proposal is always sort of present. When our communication feels off, or someone feels hurt, one of us reaches for the question that brings back all that vulnerability and self-exposure, a heart beating outside of a body: Do you (still) want to be married to me? It’s a question that remains completely vital, with an answer that’s regularly affirmed, in the form of a big fat...'Yes.'”

—As told to BRIDES by Alex Postman, on how she proposed to her now-husband, Andy

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