As a young girl, there were many occasions when I would fantasize about the man I would marry. What he would look like, how he would talk, how many presents he would buy me on an annual basis...
I also fantasized about that important event that every married couple must experience before they say "I do". The proposal. In fact,I used to run through hundreds of scenarios of how my future husband would ask for my hand in marriage.
(For the record, Hubs had an amazing proposal which I will someday show the video of. Maybe if I get to 300 followers I'll post it. So tell your friends to follow me.)
But today, since this blog is basically an outpouring of every strange/funny/embarrassing/mortifying event that's ever happened to me, I'm going to share a story with you, my dear bloggies, that I very rarely tell.
I've referenced Ex many times. It annoys Hubs to pieces that I continue to tell stories about this past relationship, but the truth is? They're comic gems.
Seriously. Remember this one? Or this? I couldn't make this stuff up if I tried.
So let's go back to January 29th of 2005. I'm 25 years old and living on my own in Kansas City. Ex lives 60 miles away in my hometown of Topeka.
It's my Mom's birthday. The entire family (Mom, Dad, sister, sister's two children, Ex, and myself) have gathered together at Texas Roadhouse for a celebratory birthday meal with Mom.
It's a lovely meal. It's delicious. Dr. Pepper flows freely, rolls are warm and buttery. All is well.
"You know what, Kim?" Mom says between steak bites. "I just realized what I'd love for my birthday present."
"Mom," I reply, shocked. "I got you a nice watch! Didn't you like it?" Truthfully the watch had been rather expensive and sucked up most of my paycheck from the week before.
"Yes, of course, I loved it!" She holds up her wrist and displays the watch. "But I thought of something that would make my day completely perfect."
I place my fork on the plate in front of me and look at my mother. What in the world is she driving at?
"What is it that you want, honey?" My Dad asks, putting his arm around his wife.
"Well," Mom looks across the table at Ex, who is checking out a waitresses ass three feet away. "I think we should all go over to the mall...." She takes a deep breath. "And you and Ex should look at engagement rings!"
Ex's food catches in his throat and I swear he's going to have an aneurysm right there in the restaurant. His eyes are bulging out of his head like he's being grabbed by the nuts.
I cough. "Um, Mom?" I say. "I don't know if that's really something that you do as a family."
Ex takes a huge drink of water and looks at his lap.
"Oh stop making such a big deal out of it, honey," Mom replies, waving her hand lightly. "I'm not saying he has to BUY something today. But you guys have been together almost 6 years! Why wouldn't you go look at rings?"
Mom takes a bite of roll and points at Ex. "You know what, Ex? I think you just need to go and experience it, see what it's like. I think you're just a little intimidated, and if you saw that it isn't a huge deal, you'd feel better about it."
I sit in the booth, incredulous. I can't decide whether to plunge a steak knife straight into my heart or run screaming from the restaurant into oncoming traffic and pray for a semi-truck convention to be coming through town.
Then I stop and think for a moment. Mom has a point. Ex and I have been dating over 5 years. I have a good job and live in a great apartment all by myself. I drive back and forth every weekend to visit my boyfriend who still lives with his father. It's ridiculous.
Besides, Ex and I have talked about getting married thousands of times. Granted, I always bring it up and he usually breaks out in hives, but we've at least discussed it.
And why should it be such a big deal? We're just looking. For fun. Making light of it and it won't seem so heavy and scary. Plus, if I'm honest with myself, I DO want to look at rings.
(Okay, okay, I've been looking at them online for the last 2 years.)
(And I might have three of them bookmarked on my work computer.)
"Well," I say slowly. "If Ex doesn't mind...do you mind, Ex?"
"Huh? What?" Ex says, coming out of whatever safe place his mind has taken him to.
"Would you be up for it?" I ask again. I pat his leg and reach for his hand, which he bats away. He looks around the table, and,seing he is outnumbered 6:1, shrugs.
"I guess, Kim. I guess."
The two minute drive to the mall is absolutely horrific. Mom looks like she's going to spontaneously combust with happiness. Dad looks completely confused. My sister's children are screaming for ice cream, and Ex looks like he needs an oxygen mask.
Once inside, we immediately see a Helzberg Diamonds adjacent to the front entrance.
Trying to exude confidence, I grab Ex's hand firmly and start walking toward the store. He immediately tries to pull away, but I hold fast. No way in hell am I going to walk into a jewelry store with my boyfriend and NOT be holding his hand.
"Welcome to Helzbergs!" a young brunette sales girl chirps as we cross the threshold. Her shirt is so thin I can see her nipples, and her lower half appears to be wrapped in a black loin cloth rather than a skirt. I am fairly certain her shoes came from Priscilla's.
"Um...hi!" I finally say after it's apparent that Ex is not going to speak. He's too busy staring at her boobs.
"How can I help you today?" Nipple Girl asks with a smile.
"We're here to look at, um, rings? Right, Ex?" I stare into my boyfriend's eyes, hoping for a glimmer of happiness. There is nothing but embarrassment.
"Oh great! Well, I'll be with you in just a second," Loin Cloth replies and points to the entrance. "Let me just greet these customers."
"Oh, no," I gesture toward the crowd of five people filtering in behind us. "Those are just my, uh, family," I stutter. "They're here to -" I pause to think of the right word. "Watch."
Loin Cloth can barely contain her laughter. "Well, what a neat idea! Keeping it all in the family! Come on back this way, and I'll show you what we have."
Hooker Shoes leads us to a large display case with a gigantic offering of diamonds and baubles. For just a moment, I get caught up in the possibility of it all. Any one of these rings could be on my finger soon. Something that shows the world I belong to somebody. Someone loves me enough to buy me this special piece of jewelry.
"MOMMY!" My niece Jacque screams, only a few decibles below an ambulance siren. "It's HOT in here! I want to LEEEAAAVVVEE!"
"SHHH!" My mom hushes her quickly. "I'm so sorry about that. Please ignore us. We're just here to help if you need us!"
"Um, thanks," I mutter. I turn back to the display case and contemplate what I'm supposed to do next. Ex is busy examining his nail beds. I nudge him gently with my elbow.
"So!" He snaps to attention. "Did you see what you wanted to see? Are we done?"
I giggle uncomfortably and glance at Hooker Shoes. "Ha ha! Come on, Ex. You aren't even looking!" I point to a small round diamond in the display case. "That's a nice one, don't you think?"
Ex's eyes follow my finger as he shrugs indifferently.
"Would you like to try that one on?" the sales girl asks.
I turn to look at my parents who are both staring at me like it's my wedding day. And suddenly a thought enters my head.
Is it supposed to be like this?
I had never really thought about what an engagement ring shopping experience would ential. But I did know that I never imagined that it would be so uncomfortable...or crowded.
"Yeah, I'll try it," I finally say.
Ex immediately pays attention when the jewelry case is opened and Nipple Girl bends over to retrieve the ring. She slips it on my finger and my Mom and Dad rush over to look, their comments spilling on top of one another.
"...I like that setting, honey! It's so you!"
"...not a horrible price for that carat, you know."
"...come back here, Jacob! Don't put stuff from the floor in your mouth! It's FILTHY!"
As the happy compliments and words of encouragement pour in, my ears pick up a quiet conversation I'm not expecting.
"...Yeah, I'm just looking at these because her parents are making us. We're not getting engaged for a LONG time. Do you work here for your full time job?"
I can't believe it. Ex is actually HITTING ON THE SALES GIRL while I am trying on an engagment ring.
My hand begins to shake and I'm certain everyone has heard what Ex has said. But over the loud bustle of my nephew crying and my parent's excitement, Ex's intuition to lower his voice has kept anyone else from hearing.
Slowly I remove the diamond from my hand and place it back on the counter.
"Thanks so much," I say, fighting back tears. "But this one doesn't look quite right. Thanks for all your help."
I turn and begin to walk out of the store. Seconds later, I feel Ex behind me as he puts a hand around my waist.
"I have to admit, that wasn't so bad, babe!" He kisses my cheek and smiles. "Wanna go to another store?"
The excuses swirl through my head before I even realize I'm thinking of them. Maybe I heard him wrong. Maybe he's insecure because he doesn't have a lot of money and was just making light of an awkward situation. Maybe he's pretending to be bored because he plans to come back and buy the ring tonight and really surprise me.
So, just like I will do a million more times before we finally break up, I forgive him. I put on a false smile and go to three other jewelry stores that afternoon. Because I love him, and I'm pretty sure he loves me.
Looking back, I am able to laugh at this story because it was SO ridiculous. Five adults and two children shopping for an engagement ring...and the potential groom hits on the sales girl. Sometimes I want to go back in time and whisper in the ear of that silly, insecure version of myself and say, "It's going to be okay. You're going to meet the most amazing man that will WILLINGLY take you to an engagement ring store and promise to make you the happiest you've ever been."
Because I did. And Hubs did. And I have my happy ending.