There was a big public radio/media shindig out in Portland, Ore., recently, and people kept asking my co-workers who were there, “This Stu guy from Infinite Guest: What’s his deal?” I already wrote a bit about my backstory in our email newsletter (subscribe at the bottom of this page), but since my narcissism knows no bounds, I’ll be glad to fill in the blanks for you as part of an ongoing series.
On Awesome Etiquette #4, Daniel Post Senning talked about proposing to his girlfriend. As it happens, I, too, have proposed to a girlfriend before. This is where the similarities end.
My now-wife (who I’ll call “Mandy,” since that is her name) and I had been dating and cohabitating (please say “dating and cohabitating” in Clyde Frazier’s voice) for a few years. She was great, so I decided that I should ask her to marry me. Her friend worked at a jewelry store, so I walked in, bought the ring, and that was that. The plan was to take her to a Cowboy Junkies show for her birthday next month, wait for “our” song to play (their cover of Lou Reed’s “Sweet Jane,” which we’d both fallen for before it became entirely identified with Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers), then give her the ring.
The next thing I remember buying, one week later, was a home pregnancy test.
So, my pregnant girlfriend and I went to the concert. The nearby lots were full, but we lucked into a spot in front of the gay bar across the street from the venue. We get to the show, take our seats and wait. Mandy’s waiting for the opening act to get done, I’m waiting for “Sweet Jane” to get played so I can quit checking my jeans pocket for the ring every 45 seconds.
The opening act (which was the band Over The Rhine, who I don’t remember at all, but again, I was nervous; no offense meant, Over The Rhine) ends, the Cowboy Junkies take the stage and are mellow and Canadian and pretty-sounding. Meanwhile, I’m second-guessing myself — not about marriage, but about the circumstances. I hadn’t asked her dad. It was a cliche to do this during “your” song at a show. She probably expected it (later confirmed!), and I wanted to surprise her. About an hour in, here it comes: “Sweet Jane.” Only it’s not the lullaby-ish studio version, but more of a bluesy, rocked-up take on the song. Or at least as rocked-up as the Cowboy Junkies can get, so somewhere between Everything But The Girl and Slayer. I swallowed hard, and waited. There would be better, quieter moments for me to pull this off before the show ended, right?
No. None of the songs clicked, the second-guessing grew worse, and by the time the show had ended, I was completely miserable.
As we walked out to the car, realizing there wasn’t a perfect moment, I asked my pregnant girlfriend to marry me under a sign advertising the bar’s “MR. & MS. LEATHER MINNESOTA” contest. She said, “Yes,” we cried, then we went to meet some friends at a chain restaurant where our friend Sush tended bar. I celebrated with whatever the drink special was that night (if it’s the same as it is now, it was Long Island Teas), Mandy had a sip of wine and some 7-Up, then we went home.
The baby she was carrying is named Celia. She is a sophomore in high school now. She thinks this story is dumb.