It’s a late afternoon race, different from the typical early morning starts to which I’m accustomed. The runners are gathering around the finish line, waiting to be transported by bus to the starting area. I’m already anxious about the hills of the course, and I’m slightly out of my element given the start time, but none of that compares to the butterflies in my stomach; because I am also carrying a ring in the zipped pocket of my shorts. A few weeks back, I had asked my partner’s parents if I could propose to him with his grandfather’s ring. His father, who had been wearing this ring since the passing of his own father, in an act full of love, sent the ring to me, and that was that… I was going to ask Jon to marry me.
Jon and are great lovers of outdoor adventure, so I envisioned something outside, perhaps on a summit somewhere, maybe with some craft beers. But an adventure proposal required planning and, while I wanted it to be special, I am not one to delay gratification. Far from a novel idea, I thought a finish line proposal could be fitting. Jon has recently fallen in love with running (isn’t it great when one of your passions becomes a shared passion!) and we had spent the whole summer participating in all of the local races. This one, the Mahon 10 Miler (10 Milles de Mao) was going to be our big finale! A long-ish course, up and down some big hills, all around the port of our home city – we couldn’t wait. It seemed perfect to me.
We board the buses.
As the runners gather around the fortress of Isabel II on the peninsula of La Mola (yeah, the setting is as impressive as it sounds), I casually say to Jon, “Hey. Wait for me at the finish line. Ok? Don’t go far?” He casually agrees. Gone are the days when I was the faster runner. His long body was built for this. He’s fast. He’s capable. He leaves me in his dust! I am hoping that he doesn’t wander off to use the facilities or something just as I am crossing the finish line.
We set off.
The course is everything people said it would be. The evening September sun is still strong, but it is casting a lovely light over the harbour, one that (almost) makes me forget about the heat. The hills… oh, these hills! I am loving this route. I cross the 5 Mile starting line and realize I am halfway there. Suddenly, I remember that I am not just running a race, I have a mission. I tap my pocket – Phew! The ring is still there. The zip is still zipped.
Things just got real.
I tell myself, “If he’s not there, that’s ok. We have a few other finish lines coming up that will be just as great.” But I really hope he is there. Mile 6. Mile 7. I find myself taking out the ring at Mile 8 – way to early! I put it back.
The final straightaway.
I fumble around and get the ring out. I put it on my own finger. I will not drop it. I cross the finish line. There he is. Right There. Smiling. I get down on my knee. His smile turns into a face full of concern. He thinks I’m hurt. I look up. I am already crying. He understands. I awkwardly try to put the ring on his finger. He makes a joke. “What, did you find that on the road?” I incoherently get the message across that it is his grandfather’s ring. He doesn’t cry, but his eyes turn red with emotion. He picks me up. He kisses me. We’re engaged.
The finish line photographer is snapping away. Others are running by us, around us. But we are the only two people there for a few moments. We realized later that there is a likelihood he never actually said “yes.” It was messy and sweaty and it went just as I had hoped.
I look back at that day, we both look back, and it is obviously so special to us; and it isn’t until later, after receiving some unrequested feedback, when we realize we are going to be judged harshly by more people than I would have thought.
“You proposed to him? What is the world coming to these days?”
“Oh, that’s sweet. Though, I can’t imagine doing something like that.”
(“Like what?” I wanted to ask. I didn’t)
“You got down on a knee?! How funny!”
“Oh. Yes. Holly proposed to Jon. She was tired of waiting.”
(If you are wondering, this one is the worst. Not only is it not true, but it is very unfair to Jon and to our love for one and other.)
Even Jon received negative feedback. It was as though he had shirked his responsibilities as a man. “Jon, are you okay with this? Will you still propose the normal way?”
The comments were passive-aggressive at times, harsh at others. Most often, they were simply tone-deaf. I was asked when I would get my ring. I was asked if there would be a real proposal. We were even accused of getting engaged because we “needed to get married for our visas.” That it would have been “normal” if we weren’t rushed.
I suppose I am not shocked. But I am disappointed. I would be lying if I said the comments didn’t drive me to fits of rage (I lecture when I’m enraged), and even tears.
But Jon tells me that he will always remember that finish line. That I surprised him and it was amazing. I tend to agree – it was rather special. Together, we look back and we loved that we had that moment. We celebrated with craft beers at our local bar, in our running clothes, salty and sweaty and smiling. If Jon were the kind of man who would be anything but indignant at the responses we’ve received, he wouldn’t be my Jon.
He’s my Jon. And, we’re engaged.
And, though it shouldn’t need to be said, I will say it: It is okay for a female to play an active role in her future. So, ask! Ask the person you love to spend their life with you. Or don’t. The beauty is that you have that choice. Own it. And don’t let anyone make you feel badly for being a capable adult with your own independent ideas.