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When It Comes To Marriage Proposals, It’s A Crazy Jungle Out There

A Los Angeles Marriage Proposal

Our daughter, Emily, who lives in L.A., recently got engaged. It was a carefully choreographed surprise — her boyfriend, Danny, told her they were going to see a new Adam Sandler movie (and Adam Sandler) on the campus of UCLA. 

In reality, he was luring her to the UCLA sculpture garden, a place they both enjoyed as undergraduates. He popped the proverbial question amidst the works of Calder, Rodin, and Moore. After a statue-like moment of hesitation, she said yes.

Which is a good thing, as we had flown 3,000 miles on the assumption all of this would happen.

As things unfolded, the couple walked a couple hundred yards to Royce Hall, at the center of the campus. At this point, Karen and I (and our son, Joseph, and his partner, Courtney) surprised her again. She had no clue any of us were in town. 

Just to top things off, what had been billed as a quiet lunch nearby with Danny’s family turned into a further surprise — 40 of Emily and Danny’s friends had gathered to fête the couple. And so the party (mariachi band and all) began.

The Nerves Of A Marriage Proposal

Asking someone to marry you, no matter your age, gender preference, or cognitive state, is a pretty stressful undertaking. Not just for the asker, but for the askee as well.

This, of course, can be further exacerbated if the asker decides to propose while the intended is splashed all over a sports stadium JumboTron. Or stuck on a desert isle. 

All of this reminds me of my own approach to closing the deal many years ago.

My Own Marriage Proposal From 35 Years Ago

It was late December in 1987. Karen and I were in Costa Rica. We had decided to go on a two-day rafting trip on the Reventazon River, which drops several thousand feet from that country’s central highlands towards the Caribbean.

There were two rafts and two guides. Our guide was an athletic young man, perhaps 18, of mixed (Maine and Costa Rican) background. He was experienced, having previously guided in Colorado. Also in our raft were two somewhat loopy women in their late 30s from Detroit. One could only speculate what they had done previously, but it soon became apparent what they currently wanted to do with our guide — which made him increasingly nervous.

We stopped for the night at a relatively flat area alongside the river. During the day, we had been treated to all manner of wildlife, including spotting an emerald-green bird with a red chest and a pair of foot-long tailfeathers — the magnificent quetzal.  

But night, our guide cautioned, could well bring danger. There were likely snakes, including the venomous fer-de-lance, lurking in the jungle underbrush or on branches above. We should exert extreme caution.

The Mere Protection Of A Nylon Tent

As it happened, it was New Year’s Eve. After setting up our small two-person tent, we gathered for dinner. One of the Detroit women broke out a couple bottles of champagne. The guide waived it off; we took a little; they took a lot. Enough to eventually pounce on our poor, sheepish, and resolutely uninterested guide.

Flashlights in hand, we beat a hasty retreat to our tent. At this juncture, I should mention that Karen, normally a woman of steely resolve, known for winning Iron Man competitions and capable of transforming corporate CEOs into quivering bowls of Jell-O, has a pathological fear of snakes.

So here we were, on New Year’s Eve, in a flimsy 86” by 63” Eureka tent. The only thing separating us from poisonous snakes (and marauding women) was an extremely thin layer of nylon. 

It seemed to my reptilian mind like the perfect moment to propose marriage. After all, the choice for her was either to say “yes” and sidle up in the cozy confines of the tent … or face a horrific death outside from a fer-de-lance.

I could see she was pondering these alternatives — more slowly than I might have wished — but she eventually accepted.

Thirty-five years later, we are still together. And she still hates snakes.

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About The Author
Robert Waite
Robert Waite
Robert is Managing Director at Waite + Co., a communications firm with offices in Boston, Ottawa and Toronto. He also teaches at Seneca College. He has more than 35 years experience leading communications, marketing and government relations functions for some of North America’s largest firms, including Ford, IBM, CAE, CIBC and Canada Post. He served as Press Secretary to Senator Edward W. Brooke (R-MA) and Senator Bob Dole (R-KS) and in the Reagan Administration. He is a three-time winner of the New England Press Association’s Best Column Award. He can be reached at [email protected].
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