I’m beyond thankful that you swiped right on that cold winter evening a year and a half ago. It was a simple but profound gesture that has changed the course of our lives.
If you hadn’t come across my photograph in our mutual friend’s social-media account–and instinctively wanted to get to know the sunburned redhead in the photo next to his buddy at the local Boston Pizza–we might never have met. Because then you recognized me on Tinder and knew it was our chance. It seems we were meant to meet.
You got my attention when you started our first text conversation and then piqued my
interest even more when you risked disappointment and showed up at a house party full of strangers because you knew I was there.
“I’ve only ever dated redheads,” you told me during our first face-to-face conversation, and it threw me for a loop (as did the “I’m vegan” confession but to a much lesser degree). My hair was once a source of deep insecurity for me. As a kid, I was teased relentlessly. I would never have thought that this once embarrassing trait would one day be responsible for finding the love of my life. But after all the redheaded frogs you had to kiss, you finally met me, your bearded, tattooed ginger prince.
Yet I was still guarded. At 25, with little long-term-relationship experience and a fair amount of practice with rejection, I’d resolved that I’d be single for the rest of my life. And I felt fine with that. “Love’s just not for me,” I’d reluctantly tell myself, despite the fact that I grew up feeling the love that is abundantly present in my parents’ relationship–after 33 years together, they still absolutely adore each other.
Hell-bent on breaking down my walls, you let me in very early. You had enough confidence in our potential to take a sledgehammer to the stubborn exterior I used to shield myself from getting hurt again. You did this bit by bit every time we were together, like when we played The Game of Life at the coffee shop by your place or when we took a trip to Niagara Falls for the weekend and played the Willy Wonka slots until our 20 bucks ran out. When I asked what it was that made me different from the men in your past, you told me, “Things were completely different from the moment we met.” With them, you said, there was no foreseeable future. But with me, you saw the house, the kids, the everything. You made me feel like love could actually be in the cards for me–that it was in the cards for me.
But I was still looking for something that would tell me we weren’t meant for each other–evidence that this was too good to be true. But that didn’t happen. Instead, with each trip to Niagara and each cup of coffee (biscotti on the side), I loved you more. And when I told you I loved you a touch too early–just three months in–you didn’t freak out. Another key moment came seven months after that, when you came to a dinner with my extended family for the first time. At the end of the night, I leaned in to kiss my grandmother’s cheek, and she said, “She loves you, you know.” When I asked her how she could tell, she replied, “It’s the way she looks at you.” Indeed, my grandma–who watched you like a hawk that evening–knew then that what we have is real.
What made me realize that my walls were officially down was that I missed you when you weren’t around. This was something my parents pointed out. In the past, I would distance myself from relationships and relish time apart. But when you weren’t with me, I wanted you to be. I’d never experienced that before.
As our relationship has evolved, I’ve come to see that love isn’t some grand gesture or spectacle like it is in the movies. The key to love is in the little things–the things that are just between you and me. Like when you twist your legs in mine in the middle of the night even though you know it makes me hot. And when you leave a corner of your Melba toast for my spoiled dog, Shooter Box, because you know how much it means to me.
It’s also about accepting and enjoying the subtle changes we bring to each other’s lives–like how I no longer feel awkward standing in the middle of a Sephora when I am with you and how, because of your ridiculously early hours as a vegan baker, we manage to balance the days when you get up for work before I even make it to bed. It’s about how you’ve become the daughter my parents never had and how my best friend, Scotty P, has become yours as well. It’s about how you somehow manage to watch me, a carnivore, devour gourmet burgers without so much as a glint of judgment. When I first met you, veganism was something I knew very little about, and throughout our relationship you’ve opened my eyes to healthy foods I didn’t know existed. And I’m thankful. Because of you, I’m a changed man. I’ve gone from being a cynical bachelor to a (sort of) vegan marshmallow.
Sarah, I’m so proud of your passions, your creativity and your accomplishments. I promise you all the love I can possibly give for the rest of my life. I promise you many more pizza nights with the folks and more failed attempts at purchasing our first home together. Because, at the end of the day, even when we disagree (like in our conversations about raising our children vegan or whether satellite radio is better than AM/FM), we’ll work through it together – until we’re old, wrinkled and full of wisdom. I want to set an example for our children, the way my parents have for me, by showing them every day what true love looks like.
Sarah Beatson: I live for your smile, your love and the baked goods that I ask you not to make because I’ve been working on my “beach body” for the past 26 years. Because of these things and more, I want to ask: Will you marry me?
When it comes to weddings, there is immense pressure on both parties – but it all starts with the proposal. My buddies clearly got the memo, because their proposals were damn good. Needless to say, I had a lot to live up to. A few years back, my best friend surprised his girlfriend while she was on vacation in the Caribbean with her family. The guy flew to freaking Aruba so he could propose on a rose-petal-scattered beach. Just a few months ago, another friend proposed on a trip to Chicago. His girlfriend thought the Blackhawks game was just a last-minute event, but during the game the team’s mascot walked up to her with a sign that read “Celia, will you marry me?” as my friend got down on one knee. The proposal was caught on the Jumbotron, and the audience roared with congratulatory cheers. So this is why I set out to make my proposal different from those of my friends. It’s no easy feat, especially in this Instagram era, where things have only gotten more competitive – and public. As a writer, I felt that presenting my proposal in a magazine article would be unique, romantic and something nobody in my social circle could do. I wanted it to be creative and no less spectacular than freaking Aruba. – Bobby
This proposal originally appeared in the July 2016 issue of ELLE Canada.
For the latest in fashion, beauty and culture, sign up to receive ELLE's daily newsletter.