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The Day I Proposed



So now that I’m getting ready to tie the knot (date soon to be announced) I started thinking that it might be nice to just get the story down in writing once and for all.  That way when people start to talk about how I proposed, you can link them to BrianBlack.com, and tell them how swell my blog is.   Actually it’s probably only going to save me from having to retell the story a bunch of times (although I do enjoy telling it).

It’s a little odd, however, that it changes every time I tell it.  Why just yesterday I was telling the story about how I proposed to Michelle at the aquarium, dropped the engagement ring, and watched as it made a minuscule crack in the glass.  One of the sharks in the SeaTube saw this as an opportunity to attack the glass wall in a vicious attempt to eat us.   Even with the SeaTube flooding and a school of sharks trying to eat us all alive, I managed to fight them all back because THAT is true love.  Michelle swooned and of course she said yes.  Every shark I beat down with my bare hands caused her to scream, “Yes! I will marry you, you sexy sexy viking!”

Needless to say, before this story gets any more exaggerated, I probably owe it to everyone to set matters straight (but wouldn’t it have been grand, Michelle?).



One of the first dates that Michelle suggested to me at the start of our relationship was an aquarium.  She loves aquariums.  She loves underwater animals.  She loves the Little Mermaid (and she will make a very convincing Mermaid call if you ever ask her).  I don’t know why she loves these things.  If I was to guess I would say that I don’t have the same kind of appreciation towards animals as she does.  I probably had a bad experience at SeaWorld once.  Maybe Shamu looked at me funny or something. Who knows.  But this was special to her.  And I didn’t want to go.

So there were other places we went.  We went on your typical dates.  We stayed at home and watched Netflix (okay we did more than that). We went to parks.  We went to the movies.  We went to weddings together.  We went to conventions and international conventions.  We went to amusement parks (Cedar Point was particularly fun wasn’t it Michelle!  *ahem* She didn’t get to go.  But she has a t-shirt that says, ‘Best Day Ever’ from there. Hah!) and restaurants and just about anywhere you could think.


So it came about that eventually we were dating for two years.  Now it’s a little unusual as to the total amount of time that we were actually dating. There were some months that we weren’t dating.  And there were some months where things were a little complicated, but ultimately it was two years.  And after one of those years, I decided that I wanted to marry Michelle, but I wanted to do so on my terms which meant paying off college loans, credit card bills, and the kind of things that I thought would be good to be rid of before marriage. Oh and I had to buy the ring!

And every time I was getting close to reaching engagement nirvana something insanely ridiculous would happen.   For instance I had initially planned on proposing last spring.  In February I was getting ready to buy Michelle’s engagement ring.  What an exciting time!  And it was.  I had just gotten off the phone with her one night (I was working till about 1am every night during those days so this was probably pretty late) and I heard a strange trickling sound.  I couldn’t figure out what the sound was.  I got up and found the source coming from the ceiling in my bedroom.  I lifted up the ceiling tile and peeked into the darkness only to watch as water rolled off the now elevated ceiling tile onto my bed.  Confused I went to investigate further and discovered that a torrential downpour of water had just started pouring from my ceiling directly down onto my bed.  A pipe had burst. The water was coming down like Niagara Falls.  I filmed it on my phone while trying to get help.  It was crazy.  My bed was ruined.  My ceiling and carpeting was ruined.  Suddenly I didn’t have a bedroom anymore.


And while we’re discussing this part of the proposal story…I’d like to add that it’s hard when you’re dating someone and discussing marriage and planning to propose and suddenly you have this situation where your bed, now destroyed, is too small anyway.  So what choice do you have other than to buy a bed for two.  Huh.  I got an amazing deal at Macy’s though because they screwed up.  So that’s nice.


Okay so I got delayed.  I didn’t actually propose until August 29th.  But as far as I’m concerned I still made the deadline.  See earlier I had told Michelle, I suppose it was a like a promise, that we would be engaged before our friends Ben and Heather were married.  They’re actually getting married this Saturday! Michelle and I will be there.  So yay for them and yay for us.  If it was a promise, which I can’t seem to remember if it was or more a well meaning guess, I succeeded and that’s great although I still had Michelle fooled pretty good.


So how did it happen?

Well, as I said, I had planned to propose in the spring.  And that’s true. I had the idea at least by late January or February when all heck broke lose in my bedroom.   I spent a lot of time thinking about how people proposed to their girlfriends that I knew.  And I spent time thinking about things Michelle liked.  Michelle loves to run.  Running and proposing didn’t seem like a very good idea.  Michelle loves to eat.  I didn’t think putting a ring in her food would be very smart.  Michelle loves Spider-Man.  I didn’t think I was athletic enough to drop down from the ceiling with a ring.  I spent a lot of time thinking about it.

And then I remembered what Michelle would always talk about from time to time.  She’d say things like, “I want to go to the aquarium [with you],” or “Maybe [we] can make plans to go to the aquarium together.”  It just seemed like a great idea.  But I was a little skeptical.  I mean it’s an aquarium. Who wants to get married next to a bunch of fish tanks right?  I mean I don’t even think fish are that exciting in the first place. They just stare at you with their little fishy faces and kind of don’t even recognize that the only reason why they are alive in that tank is because you’re taking the time out to feed them. Pfft.  Aquariums.

But then I saw the Cleveland Aquarium’s SeaTube.   And more importantly I saw a video of a guy proposing to his girlfriend there.   And it didn’t even look stupid! I mean here was this couple ready to make some great memories for each other in this aquarium where they were underwater with all kinds of fish and sharks and things swimming around them.  Not just to the left and right, but ABOVE them too!  Seamless glass.   It was the kind of moment that made you ask, “Who exactly is watching who in there?”

The couple that I saw were romantic enough, sure.  I don’t really know their story.  I don’t know if she always wanted to go to the aquarium with her new fiance or if he just thought it was unique and flashy.  Either way, it worked. She said yes.  And it got me thinking.  I could do this.  Michelle would love it!

So what happened?


Well I had to sit on the idea for awhile (although I did tell some of my favorite people) and bide my time.  Eventually I made it all happen in July and called the Cleveland Aquarium and set the whole thing up.  It was a pretty painless process.  They told me I could call to have my questions addressed at any time.  I needed to send them a picture of Michelle and I and I also needed to text the security guard whenever I was en route.   Easy enough. Except for one thing…


I didn’t have the ring yet.  See the ring was pretty intimidating to me.  I don’t know why.  I mean some guys just seem to be very confident in buying things like that.  Me? I don’t even like going to stores where I know I’m going to be hounded by someone.  The Internet was made for people like me.  We’re the sort of people that like to research and take our time.  I researched what the various aspects of diamonds were. Carats and cuts and color and clarity and all that good stuff.  I read reviews.  I compared the features of similar diamond rings from places like Jared to online vendors such as Bluenile.com.


When I made my choice I was happy, but nervous.  Unless you actually go with your girlfriend to get her finger sized, you’re never going to be 100% confident that the ring is going to fit.  She told me she was a six and a half.  I was going to have to take her word and the person that measured her’s word for it.  Woo scary!


By arranging for the engagement date and already putting money down and setting it up, I made sure that I was going to quit fooling around with ring researching and get into ring buying.  So that’s what I did and soon I had the ring. It was all coming together!


While all this was going on I had to do some planning.  First of all, had I told Michelle that I wanted to make plans with her and her family to go to an aquarium, everything would have been suspicious.  I mean really suspicious.  I had just spent the last year pretending to HATE aquariums with extreme prejudice in order that we didn’t go and spoil my proposal idea.   Now you’re probably thinking, didn’t this jerk just say he wasn’t really a fan of aquariums and zoos and stuff anyway?  Well yeah!  I don’t even remember the last time I went to an aquarium before I proposed to her.  They weren’t on my top ten places to go okay? Give me a break.

Probably not top eleven either.

I was in a little bit of a predicament so I decided to talk to Michelle’s mom about it.  I asked her if she would bring the idea up to Michelle and tell Michelle that she wanted to make plans to go to the aquarium.  I also had Michelle’s mom, Becky, tell Michelle that she could invite my mom and I if she wanted.   Michelle wanted me to go and of course promptly asked me.   I’ll admit I took a bit of sick, twisted humor at the fact that she had to ask me this when she knew I wasn’t fond of aquariums. But she did it.  I asked her if this was really important to her that I go and she meekly said yes that it was.  So I said yes.

It was fun.  Of course she would also later make digs to me about how I would “never” come up with an idea like this.  And I in turn would later make comments like, “Oh sure, you’re never this excited about my plans for us!”   Yeah it went on pretty much until we got engaged.  Although considering how many times we would just hang out and watch Netflix I can see how her mom one upped me there.  We just really like watching Netflix together okay?!


While that was going on I also made plans to sneak Michelle’s sisters and brother, Michael, into the aquarium with my sister, Tammy, and her husband, Paul.   There was a lot of work in organizing how things would work out.  Getting to the aquarium was rather interested since we all seemed destined to run into each other despite our best efforts to not do so.  After a million unnecessary trips to the bathroom and purchases of coffee (also one random planned parenthood protest with vomit inducing signs), however, we finally arrived at our destination.  Michelle was getting frustrated. “Are we ever going to make it to the aquarium?” she asked.

Now I should take the time to mention another conundrum I discovered.  The ring itself.  I wanted to have the ring still in the box when I showed it to her. I wanted to open it up in front of her and then take the ring out of the box and place it on her finger after she said, “Yes.”  Assuming she said “yes” anyway.  The trouble was that pants aren’t very good at concealing ring boxes.  I had to make a quick last minute purchase for pants in the middle of the night that had cargo pockets.  Even then I was worried that some form of human contact between Michelle and I might give away the fact that there was a ring in my pocket.  I know that sounds a little cliche. “Is that a ring in your pocket or are you…” Right.  But it was true!  I didn’t want the shape or the feeling of some hard cube in my pocket ruin the surprise.  I was so self conscious of that ring in my pocket the entire time.  I think I was even afraid it was somehow going to slip out or I would lose it.  It managed to stay concealed until I needed it however.  Thank goodness!

Okay so we are at the aquarium! I hope I didn’t lose you yet. I know this is pretty long.  I also hope it isn’t too boring.

Michelle is with her family and my mom and I.  My sister and her husband and Michelle’s siblings are all further down in the aquarium waiting for us.  We’re there at 12:30pm and I have to be where I need to be and propose at 2pm.  Everyone that works in the aquarium is aware of us and there are even guides that are following us around and talking about us on their radios.  It was crazy.  *Crackle* They’re walking over to the stingrays now. *Crackle*  Yes they are taking selfies *Crackle* 

The aquarium was pretty amazing.  I’m not going to give a complete review here, but needless to say,  we were able to take a lot of pictures and spend a lot of time staring at the various sea creatures in all of their beauty.  I loved watching the seahorses.  They looked so gentle and fragile in the water and they reminded me of monkeys in that they wrapped their tails around the algae and seaweeds that were placed for them.  They just kind of hung out.  I really wanted to get a picture with Michelle’s face at an angle where it looked like the seahorse was swimming towards her, but I missed it by a couple seconds as it changed it’s mind and turned around.   They were all so beautiful.

Other highlights were the clown fish that reminded me of Marlin and his son, Nemo, the jellyfish that were above us in the smokestack that changed various colors, and also the stingrays which we were able to pet.  So much fun!

Michelle loved it.  She was excited and giddy and bouncing around and to be honest I think my mom enjoyed it more than she did.  Half the time I think my mom forgot I was even proposing.  She just wanted to take pictures of us and the fish all day!

The moment came to enter the SeaTube.  My heart was beating pretty fast at this point.  I had an idea how it was going to go down.  My thoughts were that we would be looking at sharks and fish in the SeaTube with the rest of the guests and we would see the scuba divers that were cleaning the aquarium or interacting with the guests and fish and then they would see us and suddenly come up with the sign.  Michelle would be shocked and by the time she turned to look at me I would already be on my knees proposing*.

Things didn’t exactly work out as I had envisioned.  For one thing, the divers were already waiting for us! For another thing, no one else except for our group was in the SeaTube.   The divers were waving to us to get our attention.  Michelle and I were waving and the divers blew kisses at us and were being playful and fun.  They told us to wait behind the glass and suddenly one swam over and pulled out a sign from the sand beneath them.

Michelle picked out the sign and what it said immediately.  “WILL YOU MARRY ME?” was suddenly pressed against the glass.

“YES!” Michelle screamed at once.  I was in shock because I hadn’t even gotten to my knees. I had just started to wrap my brain around the idea that it was a good idea to grip the ring box in my pocket and start to fish it out.

“Oh…” Michelle said.  It was a sheepish kind of response.  There was a hint of embarrassment.  It was a lot of cute.

I had a second chance and got down to one knee and opened up the ring for her to see.  I don’t really remember what I said to her when proposing.  I had planned it out.  I had rehearsed it.  And what I said was similar.  “Michelle, when I am with you, you complete me.  I’ve known for a long time that we were meant to be. I love and will forever love you.  Would you do me the honor of becoming my wife?”   That’s what I meant to say I think.  I said something similar.  I was just too shocked by how things happened. It wasn’t how I had planned and suddenly there were people surrounding us**.  They were a blur. I didn’t know who they were, but they made me a little nervous too.  Plus you have the diver staring at you from the glass.  It was all kind of funny.  Like suddenly the focus of the entire universe was on us.

And again, she said yes.

I stood up and removed the ring and took her hand and I placed it on her finger.  It was shaking.  I looked into her eyes and I could tell she was trying to keep from crying.  I really surprised her. She had no idea!  I had spent so many months trying to convince her that I wasn’t even ready to propose yet and that I didn’t have the ring!  And here it was when she didn’t see it coming and she was so excited.

She hugged me and we kissed and people clapped.  Even the diver was jumping up and down.  For that moment, for the first time, amidst our families, the aquarium staff, and the curious underwater creatures we were getting a taste of what it might be like to be married.



So there you have it.  The true story.  This is the story from which all other versions can spawn from.  Tomorrow it might be about how some weird underwater cult of fishmen decided to invade and I proposed to Michelle while we were dispatching them with lightsabers. Maybe next month it will be about Michelle actually being a mermaid in disguise and I proposed to her so that her Merman father would make me like the rest of their merpeople so we could swim about in the Cleveland Aquarium forever! Sure sure. But this one is legit.


And honestly? I wouldn’t have it any other way.  I do love telling the story, just as much as I love talking about Michelle.  Hurray! We’re getting married!


*Funny story about me practicing with the whole proposal thing. It occurred to me that I should probably rehearse since I wanted the dropping on a knee and saying what I wanted to say to be a smooth and romantic thing.

By going down on my one knee I actually injured myself however. It was so bad that I had to wrap my knee up for weeks.  Even now while I don’t need a brace to walk, I’m still having trouble bending.  Don’t overdo romance, guys.  Love hurts.  And who honestly gets hurt doing something like that? Yeesh!


**The people that I saw surrounding us were my family!  I completely forgot that Michelle’s sisters and my sister and brother-in-law were there and waiting for us. Michelle didn’t see them either until after we proposed.  It was a pretty cool thing to see everyone together and hugging and talking.  We’re all family. 🙂


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