MY TWO UNROMANTIC PROPOSALS – BY ELLIN CURLEY

I’ve been married twice so you’d think I had two wonderful, romantic proposal stories. You’d be wrong. I don’t even have one. I could argue that I never really got a proper proposal at all. And to top it off, I’ve never even gotten an engagement ring.

I was in law school dating my first husband, Larry and we moved in together in January of 1974. Larry had said several times that we should get married. He may have even asked me to marry him, technically a proposal, I guess. I said I wasn’t sure and needed more time since we had only been dating for a few months. In response, in true lawyer form, Larry said that his offer of marriage had an expiration date, January 31, 1974.

Larry, shortly before our wedding

Sometime in February, I decided that I was ready to accept his proposal. I asked Larry to take out the garbage. He said if we were married he would gladly take out the garbage so I said okay, then let’s get married. In our law school classes, we learned that in contract law, once an offer for a contract has expired, any belated ‘acceptance’ is deemed a ‘counter-offer’. These semantic distinctions have legal significance but they are too abstruse to explain here.

Of course, Larry cited this legal principle. He said that since his ‘offer’ of marriage had lapsed, my ‘acceptance’ was now a ‘counter-offer’ of marriage and he accepted my counter offer. For the next 25 years of our marriage, Larry told everyone that I had proposed to him!

Skip ahead half a lifetime. Now it’s 2002. I was divorced from Larry and living in Connecticut with my two kids.

I had been dating Tom for over three years and Tom and I had discussed marriage several times. But Tom was not ready.

I told him that my alimony ended on December 31, 2003, and that when that happened, I would no longer be able to afford to live in my house unless we were married and I had Tom’s income to supplement mine. So that meant that by Jan. 1, 2003, we either had to be married or I needed to have sold my house and moved to a smaller, less expensive place in another, cheaper and distant county.

Tom and I at our wedding

I reiterated this situation to Tom in May of 2002. He said that he wanted things to stay the way they were but I patiently explained, again, that that was no longer possible. When faced with having to commute to see me (we lived ten minutes apart at the time), or marry me, he said something like, “Okay, I guess we can get married.”

Once we were married, Tom apologized for his reticence about getting married and he admitted that he had no idea why he was so gun-shy about remarrying. In his defense, he had been married to a crazy woman for 22 years. On top of that, he had the most horrific experience moving from Long Island to Connecticut and dreaded the thought of ever having to move again. Nevertheless, I ended up with less than a heartwarming, romantic proposal – a second time.

Apparently, unsentimental proposals run in my family. My mother also had to settle for an iconic proposal from my father.

My father had told my mother that he never wanted to get married. He was in his late 50’s and had never even lived with one of his girlfriends. So my mother took him at his word.

My Mom and Dad before they were married

After dating him for close to three years, Mom told Dad that she wanted to get married again and so she was going to stop dating him and start dating other men in a few months. My Dad did not take this news well. He stormed out of her apartment and didn’t call her for days, which was very unusual. He reappeared, disheveled and unshaven and announced that they would get married in June. He then told her that he had decided that “living without you is worse than living with you!”

Mom insists that he then got very romantic and told her how much he loved her and that he couldn’t live without her. But I still categorize this as a classic, unromantic proposal.

As for an engagement ring, Larry and I decided to use our wedding gift of cash from my parents on a three-week honeymoon in Europe rather than on buying an engagement ring. Interesting aside – Larry and I were still in law school and wanted to get married over our summer vacation at my mother’s summer house in Connecticut.

My mother insisted that we get married in her New York City apartment, to which she would return in September when we were back in school. So we had to take a pre-wedding honeymoon in June, three months before the September wedding.

Larry and me – our pre-wedding honeymoon

Four years after my first wedding, in December of 1979, my father went to their vault at the bank and came home with a small box. Luckily I was at their apartment that day. Dad said, “Look what I found!” and opened the box to reveal this gorgeous, emerald cut diamond ring. My mother’s first husband had died suddenly from a massive coronary at the age of 42. After his death, my mother had put her engagement ring in a safe deposit box and refused to even look at it.

Mom and her first husband

So, when my father showed her old engagement ring, my mother recoiled, like a vampire on seeing garlic.

“Take it away!” she said.

“Over here, Daddy!”, I said.

I had the ring sized the next day so my mother couldn’t change her mind about it! I’ve been wearing that ring for almost 40 years! I’ve had to have the setting redone twice in that time. But I always kept the inscription, with the bride and groom’s initials and the date, June 1936. I have promised it to my daughter when she gets engaged since this ring was never a real engagement ring for me.

My mother’s engagement ring, now mine

So, no rings, no romantic proposal stories to tell. But I got two wonderful kids from my first marriage and I have a terrific, happy second marriage. So all’s well that ends well!

14 thoughts on “MY TWO UNROMANTIC PROPOSALS – BY ELLIN CURLEY”

  1. That was such fun to read 🙂
    My 2nd (and last, I swear!) husband also never ‘officially’ proposed to me – we are still, 21yrs after our marriage, squabbling over the details, or rather the missing details. See, I tried for years to ‘marry him off’, as I was a good friend to him already for some 13yrs before we tied the knot, and I he> he was not really interested in all the offers he had but chased women who only were interested in him ‘skin deep’ and who lost interest once they saw what a complex and complicated character he was!
    I, on the other hand, somehow never thought that I might ending up getting married to him…. after my divorce, getting remarried wasn’t high on my list of priorities! And we truly were coming from different worlds. It might have been the fact that I did NOT ever hold back with my views and never showed a further interest in him, apart from showing him kindness, friendship, sharing our hobbies, of being totally ‘natural’ – it became apparent that we did indeed share some of the most important things and beliefs in our lives, our faith, music, singing, asking questions and getting understandings, high expectations and wide open minds!
    Therefore, I often wondered if I just got too tired of trying to convince women that, with all his qualities and issues, he was worth the risk or if he felt that he had finally found the ONE who was willing and able to just deal with him…. (I could do this as a comedy show! 😉), here, we are, legally and morally joined together for such a long time, mostly regretting nothing (non, je ne regrette rien – Edith Piaf) and quite happily discussing IF a proposal was made and in what form. I suspect still that his ‘coming out to me’ was that ominous sentence he uttered, when he visited me once: Your furniture and mine would make a happy marriage….
    You see just HOW special this guy is? We don’t just declare our love like anybody, we involve our bed, armoires, and curtains…. THESE are the ingredients for a happy marriage! 😉

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    1. What a wonderful story, Kiki! How great to be such good friends for so long and then fall in love and get married! It sounds like my favorite movie, When Harry Met Sally. If you haven’t seen it, you must watch it – it’s your life story. At one point, Sally tries to set Harry up with her best friend. ANd they are friends for 11 years before they realized that they were right for each other.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh it‘s one of my faves too!!! After having seen it a few times at the cinema, I bought the DVD too….. 😉
        Our story is all the more ‚special‘ as I KNEW from day one that HH IS a piece of work because I complained frequently to my mother (you know this one friend…. he is SO infuriating, SO annoying, SO blxxxy difficult!!!) and she (mum) said when we finally ‚came together‘: Don‘t tell me that THIS is the man you‘ve been complaining so often about…. !!! But then she also admitted that I had added: BUT there is something about him that‘s fascinating too 🙂

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  2. Garry said he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me. I thought that was a proposal so the next day I asked him if it was okay to tell people.

    “Tell people what?” he asked.

    “That you proposed,” I said.

    “I did? he asked.

    “You said you wanted to spend the rest of your life with me.”

    “Well, I do … but is that a proposal?

    “What do YOU think? Should we go ring shopping?”

    “Rings?” he squeaked.

    “And we probably should pick a date.”

    “Date?” he gurgled.

    Ultimately, he fell into step. We got a ring. We coordinated with his brother about The Right Music. I figured Mendelsohn and someone would sing, probably his brother. Anton, Garry’s youngest brother is the choral director and Professor at St. Olaf’s College. He runs the choir (among many other things(. He’s amazing (bossy but amazing), and he is also ALWAYS on tour.

    If you want Anton to sing at your wedding, you will wed on HIS schedule.

    Which turned out to be September. Which was fine, as it turned out because I had to organize the wedding. In New York, when we lived in Boston. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t have the wedding in Boston and let the Mayor perform it. He was a friend and he’d have GLADLY done it. BUT Garry wanted it in his home church (West Hempstead, New York) and his old minister (retired, but we drug him OUT of retirement to do the homily). Having given his marching orders for the wedding, Garry went back to doing what he did (reporting for Channel 7) and I finished my free-lance contract while organizing a wedding 250 miles away. I didn’t get to taste the food or meet the DJ, but at least I bought the dress locally. On sale. I didn’t know I was going to need a corset to keep myself from falling OUT of it but it was the only one with flattering lines). I had never worn a strapless anything before and that dress explained WHY not.

    I had also just lost a lot of weight (when you are getting married, losing weight is a “thing”) and even when I stopped dieting, I kept losing weight which annoyed the dressmaker. “You’re thinner,” she’d say accusingly. And take up another few inches.

    Meanwhile, Garry INTO the wedding, regarding as a production. He didn’t care about the reception. He was much more interested in The Show. After he realized all he had to do was issue marching orders (mostly to me)and show up in a tux, it was like being executive producer for his own movie. Romantic, eh?

    I believe Jeff’s proposal went something “We should get married. You think?” He asked his mother if she knew anyone who could marry us and she said she was pretty sure the minister who had buried his mother’s aunt or great aunt or someone could probably do it, but no one came to the wedding — just my childhood old friend who dropped in from out of town — and I think I never saw again after that — and Bob & Sonja Hensler (who were Jeff and my best friends at the time) came to the wedding — but my mother insisted on a reception. Because she said, people would think ‘something was wrong.” They’d think I was pregnant, was what they’d think but I wasn’t.

    Next up, Tony said “Let’s get married in London” which is where we were going — so we did. Registry office with his parents, both sisters, and his two little kids (the first wife had recently died in Jerusalem of cancer). Dinner with the folks and a movie with the two kids. Then we did it again in Isreal. Rabbi who spoke at least a LITTLE English.

    I didn’t have a “proper” wedding until Garry, actually. Good thing I never cared about properness.

    I’m not sure I know anyone who got one of those “romantic on his knees with a rose in his teeth” proposals. I think that’s just in movies or Romance novels.

    The divorces from the first two were far more entertaining than the weddings anyhow.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wonderful stories, Marilyn! You had very different wedding experiences but the proposals were similar – nothing romantic, just an acknowledgement that you should get married and spend your lives together. Glad you got the full wedding with Garry, including the wedding dress – the most important element for a woman.

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  3. Great stories, I met my husband at Shoprite supermarket! I was a cashier there while going to school, he had an interesting name, John Henry Williams, very classy I think. I liked him, he tried to fix me up with his friend who recently got divorced. Nope, didn’t like him, and told John so. The rest is history. I said one day, well we’ve been dating for 4 years, I guess we like each other, maybe we should get married? He was married once before, bad breakup. He said, well, if you do all the work arranging it, I will just show up. So we did that, small wedding and no big honeymoon, we slept at home that evening, after he drove one of his friends home from our reception, he left me with the best man while he took Victor home. We went to Cape May the next day for 3-4 days with a crazy looking flames blazing across sides, “racing” car rental. Fun times, we had breakfast in bed in B&B’s each day and it was awesome. I think we need to go there again, its been years, rekindle the passion, we sure do need that, love is different after 36+ years. I’d marry him again, hasn’t always been easy, but he is the better part of me. Thanks for the memories.

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    1. Small weddings are better than huge affairs where you don’t even know most of the people! It’s a meaningful event shared with people you care about, that’s what’s important. At my first wedding, the fancy photographer didn’t take care of his camera and none of the color photos came out. I was devastated! I have a few random grainy black and white photos from a beautiful night. We spent our wedding night in my childhood bed in my parent’s home and left to return to law school the next day. Our honeymoon had been 3 months earlier during the summer break from law school. Totally backwards.

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      1. Aaawh, that rings true to my 1st wedding. It was a modest affair and husband‘s brother was the official photographer. BAD idea. He and his then still future wife actually wanted a double wedding, together with us but I refused…. So what did he?! He took about 3 films of HIS girl and about 2 photos of US 😉 And MY DAD hadn‘t shut the back of his camera properly, so none of the photos were anything to keep….. kind of a sign of our marriage too – too much light and shadows – all along! 😉

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  4. Ellin those romantic proposals aren’t all they’re cracked up to be. You lucked out and you both are happy – that’s what counts.
    Leslie

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    1. Some men ask for a father’s permission first, get a ring on their own (which I think is crazy – I want to pick something I’m going to wear for the rest of my life, hopefully) and plan a big proposal. I’ve never met one of those kinds of men. Neither have any of my friends. It doesn’t seem to affect the quality of a marriage though so I guess it’s just depends on the character and style of the future husband.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Our son made a romantic proposal to his wife on Valentines Day many years ago. The ring was in the champagne flute. After 15 years of marriage it is over. Perhaps if he played harder to get she wouldn’t have taken him for granted.

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