When you live over a thousand miles away from family, and have to work both the day before and the day after Thanksgiving, you don’t give much thought to planning for the actual holiday. As far as I was concerned, it was simply a day off. A day I could relax. A day I could do nothing.
I couldn’t have possibly been more wrong.
My girlfriend and I woke up at her apartment Thursday morning with literally no clue what to do with the day. Her family is all in Russia and, you know, Russian, so Thanksgiving isn’t a big deal to her in the first place.
“What about the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade?” Evgeniya asked.
“You must be out of your mind,” I responded. “And fight the cold weather and all those damn tourists?”
“You must be out of your mind. I meant watching it on television.”
“You must be out of YOUR mind. I would sooner stick electrified forks in my eyes than watch that crap.”
So we did nothing for a while. Then a very personal, very private conversation happened. At the end, we had two ideas for how to spend our day:
1. My idea: Go for a nice drive upstate and find a nice restaurant open for Thanksgiving.
2. Her idea: Shop for engagement rings.
Okay, my bank account and I really liked my idea. But her idea wasn’t the kind you just push off for a drive and a meal. She won. We got ready and hopped the Q train towards New York City’s famous Diamond District.
The Diamond District is known for being a place you can get great deals on jewelry. However, it’s also known for being a place you have to negotiate. By the time we were finished, If I had a dollar for every time I heard the phrase, “I’m barely making any money on this,” I wouldn’t have needed to pull out my Visa card. Luckily, one benefit to working in sales is that I enjoy the haggling process. I won’t bore you with the details, but I will give you two tips:
1. Don’t be afraid to not speak. When the silence between you and the salesperson becomes a little uncomfortable, the first person to speak is usually the person with less leverage, and will give on his/her position.
2. Never make it obvious that you’ve fallen in love with their product.
Well, I don’t want to name any names, but I did my part. However, after looking at several dozen rings, an anonymous person we’ll call “Schmevgeniya” damn near had tears in her eyes when she saw the perfect one.
I don’t know what the rule is here. I know I’m not supposed to buy the ring in front of her, but how the hell do you negotiate for 15 minutes, agree, then not buy? And, Evi had this look on her face that seemed to indicate that if I didn’t buy it right now, I might as well start investing in Kleenex for all the crying she would be doing.
“I’ll take it.”
I had to call my credit card company for approval (“Mr. Simmons, this is the Fraud Department; did you initiate the purchase of a small country today?”) but afterward we walked out of there with a beautiful ring and Evi practically walking on air. The weird part was, I hadn’t proposed. I still had the ring. Plus, I had a few crazy ideas on how I’d pop the question, none of which could be implemented any time soon. Did Evi want me to wait until I could make it perfect, or did she want it now?
“Baby,” she said giddily. “What do you want to do after dinner? Do you want to go to the top of the Empire State Building?”
She wanted it now.
After dinner, we wandered around for a bit. I’d already been at the top of Empire and One World Trade Center, so the only building that would be good for me was Rockefeller Center, as I’d never been to “Top of the Rock”. But Evi has been at all of these attractions hundreds of times, and it was more important to make it special for her. I was getting nervous.
In my head, I kept asking myself, is this how it’s supposed to happen? Is it supposed to be this spontaneous? Is this going to be a good enough memory?
We wandered around awhile. We walked through Times Square, around it, then back through it again. I liked the idea of the crazy lights and noise, but something about it just didn’t feel right. Evi and I made conversation, but I think it was real smalltalk-like stuff that we usually never say. Upon arrival at Rockefeller, instead of going into the building, we went around back where the plaza is. We noticed that on the wall of Saks Fifth Avenue they were having their annual holiday light show, which you can see–amongst the crowd of people–from Rockefeller Plaza. With the ice skating rink behind us, the show in front of us, and all the angels decorated with light around us, it was incredibly picturesque. Understandably, Evi wanted to take lots of photos.
At one point, Evi had me hold her phone as she posed in front of all the lit angels and the light show. She had never looked more beautiful. I thought about how much I loved her; how I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her; how I couldn’t possibly imagine my life without her. I lowered the phone.
This was it. This was the moment.
I walked up to her and said:
“Evi, I love you more than anything I’ve ever loved in my life. You make me so happy, and I want to spend the rest of my life making you as happy as you’ve already made me.” My voice was cracking slightly. I got on one knee.
“Will you marry me?”
Evi was nearly in tears. She nodded and said yes.
The crowd we didn’t even know was watching exploded in applause.
I struggled with getting the ring out of my coat pocket, but managed to get it on her ring finger, which started another round of applause and shouts of “congratulations”. People took pictures of us; we were, but for a moment, like celebrities.