After I got engaged two weeks ago, there have been a few questions I’ve happily answered many times as friends share in my excitement.
“How did he ask?” (in my mom’s backyard after Thanksgiving dinner)
“Were you surprised?” (completely befuddled)
“Have you set a date yet?” (September-ish)
The one question I am less able to answer is “So, how does it feel?”
How does it feel to be engaged? I’ve been asked a handful of times and I’m not sure what I’m supposed to say. But I’ve been honest in my anticlimactic response: the truth is, it feels the same. It’s exciting, yes, but also the same. Just as it was before we made it official, I’m me, he’s Josh, and I want to be where he is.
When I was younger, I expected that falling in love would be a transcendental, magical experience, ushering me into that enlightenment which is achieved only on the other side of romance. I envisioned Mr. Darcy approaching through a meadow at dawn, Leonardo DiCaprio embracing me on the bow of a ship, Flynn Rider rowing with me amidst a thousand lighted lanterns.
It’s so much quieter in reality. It’s a hand on your back as you walk through a doorway, a laugh next to you during a movie, a knee against yours while you eat lunch with your family. Even the fireworks-inside moments happened softly: holding hands on the subway, a first kiss by a hillside after ten minutes of discussing whether or not we should kiss.
In the past, I’ve had a lot more to say about my relationships or crushes. “How’s it going with you and so-and-so?” friends would ask, and I’d launch into a narrative about how it was amazing except for this one thing, or how uncertain I was about his feelings, or how we couldn’t seem to get along for more than a week.
“You can always tell when a woman is with the wrong man because she has so much to say about the fact that nothing’s happening,” writes memoirist Caitlin Moran in her book How to Be a Woman. This passage has stayed with be because it was so eye-opening to read when I was nineteen. Moran continues, “When women find the right person, on the other hand, they just… disappear for six months, then resurface, eyes shiny, and usually about six pounds heavier…You stop talking about things when you’ve worked them out. You’re no longer an observer but a participant.”
When people ask me “How are things with Josh?” all I have to say most of the time is “It’s good.” It doesn’t make for interesting conversation. But I think it really says everything.
I remember going to a relationship panel at Calvin called “Dispelling the Myth of ‘The One.’” Staff couples like the Heffners and the Al-Attas Bradfords discussed their disbelief in the concept of soul mates, the challenges of making a marriage work, and whether your spouse should be your best friend.
Their advice was realistic and practical. But when asked, “How did you know you’d found a person you wanted to spend your life with?” none of the panelists had much to say. Their answers all boiled down to, simply, “We just knew.”
As an audience member then, I was frustrated. Where was the practical wisdom, the checklists to follow, the sage advice about how you know? Now, I think I understand. Certainly Josh and I will have our struggles, our fights and our incompatibilities. But how did I become sure I want to marry him? I just knew.
My inner critic tells me it’s cliche to write about love, that I can’t possibly contribute anything profound to a topic so many have been writing about for centuries. But I suppose that’s my point: love hasn’t been very profound or earth-shaking. It’s been real.
I suspect even Taylor Swift realized this over time. Her early albums tell of the drama of love, singing about a Romeo throwing pebbles at her window. Her more recent song, “You Are In Love,” says simply, “You can feel it in the silence. You can feel it on the way home.”
Josh puts it a little less elegantly. “I want your head by my head,” he tells me when we’re apart. I understand what he means. He doesn’t need to say anything else.
Laura graduated from Calvin in 2015 with a degree in art and writing. She currently lives in Madison, WI, sharing a house with two other Calvin grads. She works as a software support analyst for the State of Wisconsin court system and enjoys painting, rock climbing, biking downtown, and walking her dog.