Previously on “Our Engagement Story” – our heroes Bret & Jessica have decided to get married, but have opted for a secret engagement. Who will find out? How will they get married? What’s up with the miniature donkeys? And why is airplane food so bad?
Rings & Bling
My first task was clearly to find Jessica some bling so she’d have some visual proof of my eternal and undying love. Even though we’d sworn – under penalty of shame and mockery – to not tell anyone about our engagement, I’m what is typically referred to as “fashion-blind” (in addition to colorblind) and I didn’t necessarily have the confidence to pick out a ring myself. So, I asked Drew to help, which he gladly agreed to, and while I was at it I asked him to be my best man, and he squealed and shrieked and make lots of other such noises. He was driving us somewhere and he pounded on the steering wheel and in general gets my award for “best reaction to the news,” Men’s Division.
The only restrictions Jessica had given me was “no diamonds,” which was really cool because I work part-time at a preschool. I printed out a ring-size chart and got a close approximation of Jessica’s ring size, and then Drew came over one morning to take a look at her jewelry collection. He wholeheartedly approved of her tastes and proclaimed her to be a lover of vintage and vintage-style jewelry, and so we had a starting point, and set off to visit some local jewelers.
Despite the fact that I was staggeringly bad at being secretive about the whole thing, it was still fun trying to be covert. At one point I accidentally sent Jessica a text message that was meant for Drew, which said “I think Jessica *may* have dropped a hint that she wants blue.” Jessica texted me back something like “ummm… what’s this about?” and I freaked out a little, because, after all, we had agreed not to tell anyone. I admitted I had someone helping me, she forgave me, and we moved on. Later on, she told me she didn’t actually drop a hint about wanting blue. Whoopsies! My next boneheaded move was that after I’d bought the ring, I left the ring size chart AND the receipt on my desk, and since Jessica is a prying little snoopy-pants, she found them.*
*Just kidding about the prying snoopy-pants part.
As I mentioned previously I settled upon a delicate little blue sapphire with a white gold band, and felt pretty damn good about it. Drew concurred. Next up was deciding how to do it – Drew told me I should absolutely get down on one knee and propose old-school-style, but right around the time he was suggesting this, Jessica told me she didn’t want any of that; she wanted us to be on the same physical level. We also decided it would be nice for her to have something to give to me, as well, so she got to work writing me a little letter that she would read aloud after I slipped the ring on.
The Stages of Secrecy
During our secret engagement, we went through a wide spectrum of emotions. At first was the “excitement stage,” during which we relished the secrecy of it all. We’d say to each other, “hey, remember our secret?” and the other would smile and nod knowingly. If someone did something to annoy the other, they would say, “so, are we still secretly engaged?”
Then came the “antsy stage.” During this stage, it became harder and harder not to tell people. There were so many opportunities, and so many ways to slip up, that I’m actually pretty astonished no one found out. There was one evening where we were sitting at home, wishing we could call our friends, and we almost cracked. I even asked her “should we just do it now?” and if she had answered yes, we probably would have sealed the deal right then and there.
Mixed up in the antsy stage was several instances of panic, where we both became convinced that someone close to us was going to announce their engagement, after which we might be accused of thunder-stealing if we immediately announced ours. “But,” we’d protest, “we’ve actually had a secret engagement for several weeks!” and the engaged friend, sobbing, would say “yeah right! You guys are ALWAYS ONE-UPPING US.”
Finally we arrived at “acceptance.” We just had to wait. It was going to be so much better to get engaged in Mendocino, and in the end, we’re glad we waited.
Originally we’d just booked one night in Mendocino, but it seemed so rushed that we decided to go up a day early. The Headlands Inn, where we’d stayed once before a few years ago and where we had a reservation for Thursday night, was unfortunately all booked up on Wednesday – so I did a little calling around and reserved a night at the Inn At Schoolhouse Creek, a quick drive down Highway 1 from Mendocino. It turns out to be an excellent choice. Here was the view from our cottage at the Inn:
Nice, eh? It’s pretty nice. You can admit it. Here’s the view from the other side:
Off to the right is an all-hours, clothes-optional hot tub, flanked by an “animal exercise” field. The place is very dog-friendly, so much so that there are chests in each room filled with all sorts of doggie goodies. We met some really nice dogs, including a beautiful dog – owned by a nice and talkative couple from Reno – who had cancer and was being taken on a long road trip as a final goodbye. We also met some not-so-nice dogs, as you can see in the photo to the left. The Inn owns two miniature donkeys named Heidi and Monique, very sweet animals who spend their days munching on hay and eying guests warily. Every time we approached their enclosure and called them over from the barn, they strolled lazily towards us and backed up to the fence to allow us easy access for a good ol’ rump-scratch. They made no pretense about wanting anything else from us, and so we happily obliged.
Our room was gorgeous, a stand-alone cottage with a jacuzzi tub, a porch with a two-person swing, and lots of windows. We went into town and got sandwiches and wine, came back to the room, and putzed around for a while. We were both in a state of frenzied, nervous agitation, and finally we couldn’t take it any longer.
“Should we do this thing??” Jessica asked me. I nodded. “Bring it on.”
We sat down by the “fireplace” (really just a heater that looked a wood-burning stove, but I won’t hold that against them), got all giggly, and I told her to close her eyes. I slipped on the ring, then she opened her eyes, and I asked her to marry me. You’ll never guess what she said. Hint: it was yes. She then read me her letter, which is private, ok? And then we ate our sandwiches and drank our wine and grinned from ear to ear.
Following our engagement we bought a phone card from the front desk – we had no cell phone reception – and called our immediate families. My mom yelled “Youpi!” (sort of a French hooray!) and my dad said “Hot Damn!” Jessica’s parents immediately suggested that we all have dinner together, which happened shortly thereafter – the first time our parents met. The universe did not implode upon itself, as we had feared, and now we no longer have to wonder “what’s going to happen when our parents finally meet each other?” Now all we have to winder is “what’s going to happen when our parents finally meet for a second time?”
We celebrated our engagement by strolling over to the Inn’s VHS collection, and after a brief scouring of movies, selected the most-watched post-engagament film of all-time*: Face/Off. We drifted in and out of John Woo’s crazy action, the overly operatic score, Nick Cage’s tortured facial expressions, and John Travolta’s terrifying cheek dimples, and drifted off into a happy sleep.
Our story ends with a day spent calling friends and dealing with the awkwardness of delivering the news on April Fool’s Day. We sat on the beach, munching on cheese and crackers and smoked chicken breasts – you should try one – and calling and texting until our thumbs and ears were sore. We spent the next night at the Headlands Inn:
We highly recommend this place to anyone heading to Mendocino (as well as the Inn at Schoolhouse Creek) – they serve your breakfast on a tray right to your room at 9 am, with juice and coffee and fruit and fresh-baked pastries alongside a main dish, which happened to be stuffed french toast.
And here is where our story comes to a close. Now we’re engaged, it’s no longer a secret, and I can safely call her my ex-girlfriend.
Thanks for reading. If you got this far, you either love us very much or are bored at work. Or both.