+ engagement story +

I kinda knew it was coming. We had been talking openly about getting married for months. We made trips into jewelry stores to look at rings. We spent afternoons at Barnes and Noble to look at and purchase gay bridal magazines (okay, maybe that was just me). We drafted a budget indicating how much we’d be willing to spend on our wedding. The gun was cocked and loaded, but since Wil hadn’t officially pulled the trigger, the vision of my PERFECT engagement ring faded from my memory, the gay bridal magazines collected 7230875” of dust on our coffee table and The Knot’s budget calculator cycled out of my Internet history.

The impending proposal moved to the back of my mind and eventually, completely out of it as we prepared for the holidays. Fortunately, I was scheduled off on Thanksgiving and Christmas, which made visiting with our families rather simple. Sadly, my good fortune didn’t carry on through the rest of the season as I was scheduled to work New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Ah, the joys of working in health care.

Anyway, we decided to spend that weekend in Manhattan with Wil’s parents for a couple of reasons: One, we could stay overnight at their place so I could have a little extra sleep before getting up for work the next day. Two, we could invite my family over to ring in the New Year because his parents’ apartment is 29853930594053673465 square feet. Game on.

Yeah, they groaned a bit about having to drive into the city on NYE, my mom, brother and grandma were thrilled about not having to split time with us with Wil’s family. We were all going to be together when the ball dropped for the first time in a long time.

Nothing seemed out of the ordinary in the weeks leading up to December 31st, 2010. Wil's mom asked me if my family wanted to eat anything special. My mom asked me if she could bring anything special to Wil's family. You know, typical party preparation stuff between families. Everything was running smoothly until the Sunday before New Year's Eve. 

Wil and I were enjoying a peaceful Sunday afternoon at home, when I received a phone call from my mom. I answered. Here's how that conversation went down:

Me: "Hi, mom."
Mom: "Hi, Dannie. Um, hey. Listen, uh, where are all of us going to park?" Remember, my mom, brother and grandmother (who doesn't drive) are the only people coming to Wil's parents' house...or so I thought.
Me: "Oh, I didn't know Bobby was driving. Well, there's usually plenty of street parking around their place. If he has a problem though, there's a parking garage around the corner."
Mom: "Bobby's not driving."
Me: "Oh. ::confused silence:: Who's 'all of us' then?"
Mom: "Well, you know, Dannie. There's me, Bobby, Abiba...and Natalie...and your Uncle Joey...and his wife, Aida. You know, the family." 

So much for smooth sailing. If there was any point during this whole process where the surprise could have been ruined, this was it (I had no idea that our little New Year's Eve party was a front for our engagement party). My mom kept her cool and did what any other person in her situation would have done: she blamed it on someone else. "I think your grandmother invited your uncle and she probably said something to your sister, too." Well played, mom.

After I got off the phone, I had a mini-meltdown. I remember that Wil was laying on the couch, casually reading a Men's Health magazine while I was slowly rocking back and forth on our living room floor. I was so embarrassed. My mom put me in such an awkward position because it was me who was going to have to basically TELL Wil's parents that an extra three people were coming to their house.

I mean, it's not like they were going to say no if I asked them if a couple more of my family members could come to the shindig, but still. Ugh. I thought that I was mumbling about this situation unintelligibly, but Wil picked up enough of the conversation I was having with myself to figure out what was going on.

"Don't worry, babe, I'll take care of it. I'll call my mom tomorrow and let her know. It's no big deal." I just sat there and stared at him after he spoke those words. He's so good at stepping in right when I'm about to totally FREAKTHEFUCKOUT and take control of the situation. Have I ever mentioned that I love him? He kept his word and called his mom the next day to let her know the new head count and as I expected, she said no problem. Boy, was I relieved! Even though Wil said everything was fine, I still ended up calling her and apologizing for the last minute changes. I needed to hear from her that everything was fine; it was. Phew.

Now that 2398547230875 of my family members who I hadn't seen in a while were going to show up for NYE, I felt the need to dress up a bit for the occasion. It just so happened that I had to go to Chelsea the day before the party to pick up Wil's (early) birthday gift: Knicks/Heat tickets. I figured I'd pop into a couple of stores on Madison Avenue while I was there to see what I could find. What I found was a cute little dress at Express that was so inexpensive that I felt dirty buying it (you'll see it soon).

New Year's Eve Day. Wil had brought all of my lady things to his parents' house and within an hour of my arrival, I was showered, dressed, made-up and ready to receive the guests.

One hour passed. Two hours passed. Three hours passed. Nothing. All of Wil's family members had already showed up, but none of my people were around; they weren't even answering their phones. I had finally gotten in touch with my grandmother and she told me that my uncle hadn't even gotten in the shower yet. Oh. My. God. In a panic, I tried calling my mom 23453245 times to see if she could swing by and pick up her mom and on the 23453246th time, she answered and said that she was too close to Wil's parents' place to turn around; she would just have to wait.

I cried. After all the drama my family had caused by inviting themselves to the party, they didn't even have the decency to show up. Wow. I was sad and embarrassed...again. Wil's mom found me crying in her bedroom and said some kind words to me, helped me clean myself up and sent me back into the party. A few minutes later, my mom showed up with my brother and I started to relax a bit. A bit later, my sister and my freshly-showered uncle (with his wife and my grandmother in tow) walked through the door. Now the party could start! 

11:50pm. All of the "kids" (people under 35) were in Wil's brother's bedroom playing Rock Band. Actually, if you want to know the truth, we had been in there most of the night. Wil's mom kept popping her head in to check on us (I didn't make sense of what she was doing until a couple hours later). She kept asking us to go into the living room to dance and get ready for the ball to drop. You know I love dancing, but I love Rock Band just as much and I was this close to getting a perfect score on the diddy I was playing. Just as I was wrapping up the song, she came in one last time and COMMANDED that everyone drop their instruments and head out to the living room. I had no choice.

11:54pm. I walked into the living room. Wil's dad was giving out noisemakers and hats, of which I took neither. I was distracted. I had lost my boyfriend.

11:55pm. I walked back towards Wil's brother's room, but was intercepted in the hallway by Wil's mom. I told her I was looking for her son, but she turned me around and marched me back towards the living room. She told me he was helping her in the kitchen and she would send him over shortly.

11:57pm. I was waiting by the entrance to the living room for Wil, but instead his mom walked in. She suggested that I stand with my grandmother during the ball drop. I really couldn't argue with that, so I walked across the room to where my grandmother was sitting and stood next to her.

11:58pm. Wil finally came into the living room after "helping his mother in the kitchen." I had to fight every urge in my baby body telling me to walk over to him because Wil's mom had told me to stand with my grandmother. My rationale was this: I get to kiss Wil every minute of every day, I don't have to kiss him at midnight on New Year's Eve, too.

11:59pm. Just as I had accepted the fact that I was going to be kissing my grandmother at midnight, Wil started walking towards me. He stood to my left as we began to count down the seconds to midnight.

11:59:54pm. I didn't just pick this number out of thin air, this WAS the time. We had already started the countdown to midnight. Everyone was counting, LOUDLY. At exactly 11:59:54pm, I decided to put my left hand through my hair to push my loose locks behind my ear. While I was completing this task, Wil yelled in my ear: "BABE, I WANNA SHOW YOU SOMETHING." Just as my hand was coming out from behind my ear, Wil shoved something into my open hand (I want you to take a second to imagine how awkward this must have looked. My hand was practically resting on my shoulder when he put the ring box in my hand). At this point, Wil did the most quintessential "Wil" thing he could have possibly done, a thing that I will NEVER forget for my entire life and can't wait to tell our children and grandchildren about...he turned away from me while I still had the box resting on my shoulder (I had figured out what it was, but couldn't move on account of the shock) and watched the ball drop. Classic Wil.

12:00:07am. Wil finally remembered that I was standing next to him with the box in my hand. Everyone around us was still yelling and screaming about the ball dropping and as soon as Wil got down on one knee, all that yelling and screaming became directed towards us. They were ALL in on it! Every single person at the "New Year's Eve Party" knew that this was going to happen, but me! I told y'all that I kinda knew it was coming, but I had NO idea that it was going to happen this night.

I could barely hear him ask me to marry him over the roar of our families cheering us on. Maybe that was the thud of my heart in my ears, I'm not too sure. I didn't have to hear him though, I just had to look in his eyes. His eyes said he wanted to marry me and my whole body said yes.

And just like that, we were engaged. I started putting together the pieces in my head. Now I knew why my mother had invited the rest of the family. Now I knew why Wil was able to "take care of" the party crasher situation. Now I knew why Wil had disappeared. Now I knew why Wil's mom was trying to get me away from her son. It all made sense to me now! I also found out that Wil had called my sister to get the phone numbers of all my family members to ask them if he had their blessing to ask me to marry him (I cried some more when I heard that). I was also completely clueless that our engagement cake was hiding in the windowsill in his parents' room and his mom was worried that I would see it while I was in there crying about my missing family members. I was totally fooled!

Within minutes, our New Year's Eve celebration became our Engagement Party! We had everyone who was important to us around us to share this beautiful moment. It was loud, disorganized, happy and chaotic. It was perfect. We had champagne and gifts and cake and photos for everyone! Before I knew it, it was 5:00am and I had to start getting ready for work. I hadn't slept a wink, but I didn't care. I was on such a high that I was pretty sure I could work a week straight, around the clock and have enough energy to get me through it. 

After work that next morning, I finally got a chance to see this video. In the commotion, I had forgotten that our families made us reenact the whole proposal. Take a look.

And that's how my BFF popped the question. Wil's my rock, my hero, my strength, my joy, my comfort, my partner, my love, my everything. We are so lucky to have found each other when we did. Our life together has thus far been AMAZING and I'm sure it's only going to get better from here. Well, folks, that's the story. Hoped you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed living it.
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