I never thought this would happen to me.
Not because I didn’t think I deserved it, no. But just because in my family, we don’t really get engaged. We barely get married, in fact. That’s just the way I was raised. My parents had a quick civil ceremony when they got married, and so did my mother and step father twenty years later. We all (all = about ten of us) had a glass of champagne at the neighborhood bar to celebrate and that was that. And to this day, I’m not totally certain my father is officially married to his wife.
By the way, that proves how unimportant marriage is in France – we use the terms “wife” and “husband” for anyone who’s in a serious relationship, whether they actually had a wedding or not. “Say hello to your wife for me!” and so on. The first time, Ali, a French friend in New York, asked Chris how his “wife” was doing, he made a pretty funny face, let me tell you…before saying he actually kinda liked the idea.
It’s a little bit my family, and a little bit French. Even if it seems like it’s making a sort of comeback, marriage in France just really isn’t a huge deal.
Not to mention engagement, a concept that took me quite a while to fully understand. What? You have to be asked? You don’t decide together? And there has to be a ring, okay. And it’s up to the man to ask? Hang on, what year is this, again? 2016? Okay, okay.
So the reason I didn’t think this would happen to me is pretty simple: It’s just not at all a part of my culture.
It wasn’t until I moved to the US that I got the full picture. Before, I just thought American movies were laying it on thick for dramatic purposes. But NOT AT ALL. Finding “The One” and “The Ring” and planning “The Wedding” (not to mention all the showers at every step) – are real things.
Reality, much stronger than fiction, I assure you.
I met Chris the summer of my 39th year. If you’ve read my book, you know I was newly single, totally not ready for another love story, and pretty sure I’d never meet anyone in the crazy dating world of New York.
Plus, that day, I was with my mother, her best friend, Martine, who I’ve known since I was born, and my step father Eric.
“I’m taking my family out” mode, basically.
Anyway. They’re super cool, and we were already fairly drunk and dying of laughter when Martine spotted Chris, who was singing that night at The Standard.
She noticed him…thinking she might snag him herself! Like I said, my family is pretty cool.
When he came over to talk to me and handed me his card, asking me to contact him, it didn’t really hit me. He was too handsome, he was crooning me way too much, I didn’t understand anything he was saying, and the only thing I had in mind was to enjoy my time with my family.
But a few days later, I remembered him. Something in our short conversation had touched me.
After moving a few things around on the calendar, we finally set a date to see each other.
Honestly, with my unbridled romanticism, I thought we’d just have coffee. Maybe go out for a drink, nothing more. We’d get to know each other and it wouldn’t go beyond that.
But when he said: “I’ll take care of everything”, I started to wonder… Take care of what?
I showed his message to my friends and the Americans were all sure: “He’s taking you on a date!”
Hmmmm. Okay. For the first time in my life, I was going on a “date”. This was all starting to get interesting.
The day of our “date”, my unbridled romanticism came back knocking, so I decided to dress super casual. The last thing a girl in fashion wants to do is scare a guy off with her studded Valentinos.
So I put on a pair of sandals, a skirt, and a sweater.
TOTALLY French, actually. Never do too much, hold back, show you don’t care!
Obviously, he showed up super well-dressed — suit jacket, his collar slightly open, totally gorgeous. Me? I was as green as my stupid sweater. Keep it together G, keep it together.
He had told me to meet him in front of the Nomad Hotel. He said “follow me!”, and we went up to the roof terrace, just below the Empire State Building. Which was all lit up, of course.
We were the only ones up there. He had arranged it so the rooftop would be just for us. And right in the middle, there was a little table with a champagne bucket. Just for us. We sat down (he pulled the chair out for me, etc) and he pulled a mini boom box out of his pocket so he could put on music. Just for us.
Noooo way, this was all too much. What kind of a trap is this? The guy’s managed to stress me out.
And what do I do when I’m stressed? I talk. I blab on and on. I’m a word mill. I tell my whole life story from beginning to end and everything in between, I add extra details. I show off, basically. That’s how it is. We tend to do or say something stupid when we’re feeling a lack of self-confidence, and at that moment, let me tell you, my confidence was really in the red. Help!!!
Well that’s when he came straight to my rescue when he asked with a big smile: “So, do you always brag this much?”
I think it was right at that moment that I started to really like him.
After that little stroke of genius, I started to relax, and the evening went on being magical. It was strange, actually. The last thing I wanted was to jump right back into a relationship with someone.
But that’s the way it goes…
After that, he took me to dinner (Bacaro – romantic, low light, perfect, all that) and he started to tell me about his life. His childhood spent in Florida fishing and surfing, his career as a musician, his worries, the things that make him happy.
And at that moment, despite the fact I still completely had my guard up and it was the last thing I would have expected, I felt the floodgates of love burst open, one after another. Everything I’d ever loved in a man (art, humor, self-deprecation, kindness, confidence, humility…) it was all there right in front of me.
Shit. Oh noooooooooo… I’m going to fall desperately in love with him, I thought to myself.
So there you go. I just wanted to tell you about my engagement, but apparently I’ve decided to take you on a panoramic view. Find out what happens next in next week’s episode? What do you say?