How To

By Stephanie Ila Silver-Silberstein

It was a near flawless, round cut, 2-carat diamond, set simply and elegantly on a platinum band. This was it, I thought. What I’ve waited for my whole life – since the days of wearing pillowcases on my head – the engagement ring. And the nameless girl, who looked a lot like me, wore it very well, as if she was born with it on her hand.

It wasn’t too long ago that I was in an airport, waiting to hop a flight to the Caribbean and thinking I was about to get engaged. “I’m just going to go ahead through the security gate to make sure my wallet doesn’t sit there unattended,” my boyfriend nervously said. I got aggravated as I struggled to lift my heavy carry-on suitcase onto the conveyer belt, but then I thought better of it. We’ve traveled a lot throughout our 20-month-long relationship, and he’s never said that before. I felt like that woman in the movie Airplane, “That’s funny; Jim never has a second cup at home”. I was excitedly suspicious. Something special was in that wallet.

Every second of the flight ticked endlessly, as my daydreams of what could happen in a matter of hours loomed tirelessly in my head. I felt my stomach flip flop when my boyfriend insisted on having a balcony in our room and when he was adamant about guarding the key to our room’s safety deposit box. My inner monologue nudged and winked at me about a million times that day and each day of our vacation thereafter. But to no avail, my status as girlfriend was to remain status quo. Of course, I was slightly disappointed, not to mention utterly embarrassed about my pathetic hopefulness. I’ll admit it. But those feelings were soon disseminated with a few reassuring words from my boyfriend as well as a few revelations of my own.

You see it was only about a month before the vacation that I realized I even wanted to be engaged. Up until then, I was content playing the role of girlfriend, figuring out how to break my lease so we could move in together and redecorating his bachelor pad. It was only when I felt a surprising pang of disappointment upon receiving a necklace from Tiffany & Co. for my birthday that I realized how much I wanted to be his fiancé. Ever since then, I’ve been surrounded by couples four years younger than me who got engaged after only six months. It seems as though every girl on the subway, who looks like she could be my sorority sister, has a rock the size of Gibraltar on her left hand. I thought of what Harry said to Sally, “When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” That was me. Once I decided I wanted to get engaged, it couldn’t happen soon enough. I tried to guise my blatant impatience by calling it mere excitement, like how a child waiting for a Cabbage Patch Kid on Christmas morning felt in 1985. Still, you can imagine how every moment my boyfriend waited was like an eternity to me – and it was excruciating.

Now it’s late April, I’m still ring-less, and I’ve lived to tell the tale. I’m as madly in love as ever before, perhaps even more so, and I am 99.99% sure my boyfriend is planning to propose any day now (whereas I was only about 10% sure on our trip to the Caribbean). So, how have I handled the last few months, you ask? What have I learned from the experience and what advice, based on my personal experience, can I offer to my fellow wannabe fiancés? Well, without further ado…

1) Enjoy the extra time you have to get to know each other better. My boyfriend and I have been living together for about seven months now. Everyday we learn a little bit more about each other, fall in love a little bit more and respect each other a bit more. Whereas an earlier engagement would’ve made for a wonderfully romantic beachfront proposal story, now I have a better idea of what marriage really means, and the last few months have reinforced my desire to spend the rest of my life with him – for I am absolutely certain he is ‘the one’.

2) Don’t let the lack of a ring be what stops you from moving forward with your life. If you want to change professions, change professions. If you want a dog, get a dog. If you have faith in your relationship and in yourself, a ring is not going to be what makes or breaks the next goal you set for yourself. He’ll be there for you and support your decisions as well as the ones you both make for yourselves as a couple.

3) Realize there are no guarantees in life. Though I hate to state the obvious or sound like a pessimist, it must be said that a ring, while representing a major commitment and offering a great deal of security, can always be returned. Rules are meant to be broken, marriages can end in divorce and engagements can be called off. Of course, I don’t wish that upon anyone, myself included. But, realizing this can take some of the pressure off and help you focus on the present tense and the wonderful relationship you have cultivated.

4) Fulfill your passions and pursue what you enjoy. It won’t be long before you start nagging your loved one about china patterns. Use your free time now to immerse yourself in that hobby you may not have time for once you start planning your wedding; hang out with friends, take a dance class, train for the marathon, or romance your boyfriend. Stop brooding and enjoy that freedom!

5) It’s OK. You can flip through your friend’s issue of Modern Bride. Remember when Rachel, Phoebe and Monica on Friends were sitting on the couch, all dressed in wedding dresses, beer in one hand, popcorn in the other and Rachel says, “You know, I gotta tell ya, this really does make me feel better.” So if you’re just itching to try on engagement rings, design your dream dress, or scope out a band’s website, then go for it! No one’s stopping you. You’ve been doing it since you were 12 anyway, why stop now?! Of course, you may want to keep this sort of behavior quiet in front of your boyfriend!

6) Obviously, you’re smart enough not to deliberately set yourself up for disappointment, but if you are certain you’ve found the guy you want to marry, who also wants to marry you, then picturing your future together can be exciting! Let’s face it, in today’s day and age, aside from the wedding planning, marriage is really not all that different from living with your significant other. Falling in love and committing to each other, regardless of a ring or a marriage license, are what truly make a relationship beautiful.

To sum up: I don’t doubt that my boyfriend will propose, when he’s ready, when we’re both ready, and that it will be one of the happiest moments of my life. In the meantime, I will keep things in perspective. I remember when the snow made getting my driver’s license a near impossibility. I remember when I was the last one to find a prom date. I remember how I couldn’t wait for college. And, I remember the long nights of crying over ex-boyfriends and the days of wondering if every guy I bumped into could be my future husband. The thing is, I eventually got my driver’s license, I went to prom with a fantastic date, and I had four fabulous years of college. And I’ve already met my future husband, and I will get engaged, and I will have a wedding and children and grandchildren. I have time.

Living in New York City I sometimes feel like I’m in a rush all the time. I shove my way onto the subway before the doors close, despite there being another train right behind it; I sigh in annoyance every time the elevator stops on a floor and no one gets in or out; and I risk my life bolting across the street on the last flash of a ‘don’t walk’ sign. The fact is, I’ll probably always rush, shove, sigh and bolt, but for my remaining ring-less days and beyond, I’ll remind myself that for as well as I know my boyfriend, or myself for that matter, there will always be more to learn – there will always be that second cup of coffee to be had.

Originally published May 2005
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