Almost from the beginning, Zarina and I felt an attraction that was more than infatuation. I think we both knew we were destined to be married, which is maybe why she told me I had to wait to propose to her until she was "ready"–to slow things down. So when she finally told me that I could propose to her at any time, it kind of put the pressure on. We’re both romantics, and I know she was hoping for a memorable proposal. But how to surprise her when she knows it’s coming?
Well, I’m a literature professor and we’re both writers, and since I had a poem accepted for a conference on "Baseball and Poetry" at Hofstra University that I was invited to read, I asked Zarina to go with me. My best college buddy lived in New York City, and so it was a no-brainer to ask him to help me with the proposal. He was going to take the pictures. And since I was a John Updike scholar, I asked one of America’s most esteemed writers if he’d also help. You see, Updike had written a book titled "Marry Me: A Romance," and I sent him my copy, asking him if he’d help me propose by writing an inscription inside the book. If there was a more appropriate way to propose to a writer, I couldn’t think of one.
The day came, and my friend Jerry and his significant other (now wife) Ann were going to double-date with us for dinner at the Rainbow Room. Since we were tourists, we first went to the top of the Empire State Building. Though my wife is a big fan of "Sleepless in Seattle" and knows all about the romantic associations that the top of that building has, I waited until we were done looking around to make her think that nothing was going to happen after all. Then I caught her by the arm and said, "Wait a minute. There’s something I need to do." I took out a small tape recorder, set it on a ledge and pressed "play." While "Arthur’s Theme" played–you know, "When you get caught between the moon and New York City"–I started slow-dancing with her. People all around us were watching. I knew what was going through her head, but when I stopped and said "I have something for you," she was expecting a small box. Instead, I reached behind my back and pulled out the book, which was wrapped in a plastic bag (okay, so I sweat a lot). I handed it to her. She looked momentarily puzzled. Then she saw the title, "Marry Me," and it dawned on her. Jerry kept snapping photos. "Read the inscription," I said. She opened the book and took a look. Updike had written, "Dear Zarina, if you say yes, you just might get a ring at the Rainbow Room. Best of luck and felicitations, John Updike." When she said "yes," everyone on the observation deck applauded, and we went to the Rainbow Room for dinner and dancing.
I told her then that I wanted to give her the ring at the Rainbow Room because I was afraid I’d be so nervous that I’d drop the darned thing and lose it. But I felt great because I managed to surprise her after all. I still remember the feeling of slow-dancing again on that revolving dance floor, as if it was our whole world.
Proposal Story By:
Bloomington State: IL