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The Scene: I'm at a bed and breakfast in Mystic, Connecticut. A roaring fire warms the oak-paneled floors. White-eyelet curtains flutter at the windows as a winter breeze comes blustering in. A four-poster bed stands grandly in the middle of the room with a deep, down comforter and luxurious down pillows. A dozen red and white roses are on one side of the bed. A vase of lilies, their perfume wafting through the room, is on the other. I'm sitting in a white wicker chair with a bottle of champagne and a tray of white-chocolate-dipped strawberries on a small wicker table in front of me. Brian is on one knee. He's professing his love, talking about our future, and slipping the most unbelievably beautiful diamond onto my finger. I look into his eyes, and for a split second I think:
How in the world did this happen?
Insert your own engagement scene above, and I'm sure the question occurred to you, too. But the question isn't all that easy to answer, is it?
I mean, as a child you always knew life and marriage and all that stuff would be easy. In the words of one young thinker: "Once I'm done with kindergarten, I'm going to find myself a husband." When you get older the subject still seems pretty easy: You aren't going to get married at all. You are going to climb the corporate ladder, or become an artist, or a writer. You are going to live alone with your cats (or your dog, or bird, hey, maybe even an iguana), go out to lunch with your girlfriends, and live a perfectly happy, self-sufficient life without the misery, heartache, and yuckiness that men always seem to bring along with them.
And then, something happens. Somethingdifficult to explain to the child in you, and something even more difficult to explain to the adult in you. Something not so easy. You meet someone. At the grocery store, or a restaurant, or a dance. (Anika, for instance, found her future husband at the copy machine, which just goes to show that you never can tell about these kinds of things.) And with a shock you realize he's funnier than you expected. Nicer, too. He listens, and actually discovers parts of you that you didn't even know existed. And for some off-the-wall reason he doesn't think your habit of staring at walls (or craving broccoli at 2 A.M., or singing old nursery rhymes when you're nervous) is really all that weird.
But now that you're completely happy -- happier than you ever imagined -- you're also a bit confused. If you're not weird (and you are, too, you insist), be must be. How can he possibly think I'm normal, desirable, or interesting? you ask. How can he possibly want to date me? And however in the world can he say he loves me? He must be the weird one. After all, he has that funny habit of picking at his feet. He likes to eat his toast burnt. He leaves gum in little dried-up wads all over the apartment. The list grows. And if you're like me, you come to the only conclusion one can under such circumstances: You have to break up with him. Or, you play a ridiculous game of chicken, sending out unbearably mixed signals until he is forced to break up with you.
Then something a little more difficult happens. You miss him. You miss his feet and his burnt toast. Part of you even misses his chewing gum. After all, he's nice. He's funny. And all of a sudden you feel horrible, because all of a sudden you realize what you never, ever thought you could, or would: You love him. And now, you need him back. You get him, too, because for all of the stories that men are emotionally insecure, fearful of commitment, and shy of the word "love," there are just as many stories where the women turn out to be timid, weak, and even a little bit stupid. In these stories it's the men who wait for the women. Brian did. He listened as I tearfully explained all the things I had never been able to say before about commitment and broccoli and gum and those rhymes and, well, about how I loved him. And after a few tears of his own, we were, sigh, together again, and together, we started to think about the future, until one blustery Friday I was being whisked away from work through the New England countryside to a quaint little bed and breakfast in Mystic.
Oh, I think, so that's how I got here. And looking into his big, brown eyes, with reflections of me and only me, I say yes. Yes, yes, yes.
What happens next? Who cares? You eat, you drink, you walk around together. You smile a lot. Kiss a lot. Hold hands a lot. You're engaged. Nothing else matters.The Best Friend's Guide to Planning a Wedding. Copyright © by Lara Webb Carrigan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.
About the Author:
Having survived her own wedding extravaganza, Lara Webb Carrigan was eager to share her wisdom with other women, A freelance writer and former book editor, she lives in New York City.