March 3, 2008

The Proposal, Part II

Posted in Cultural Differences at 10:19 pm by Jess

For months after we had our secret official wedding, Jon and I did not discuss an actual wedding ceremony. Then, during the summer, the subject began to surface. We both felt ready for the next step, and what felt like the real step for us: a ceremony in front of cherished friends and family.

As we discussed engagements and weddings, and mostly how long one could be engaged before holding the ceremony, we fell upon yet another cultural difference. The Swiss don’t usually give engagement rings, and certainly not diamonds! As you can imagine, this was no light-weight discovery. Jon showed me the most impressive and popular wedding bands, and my face crumbled in dismay at the sight. Then Jon researched what people spend on engagement rings in America, and he felt his own staggering sense of despair. Worse than the price for him was the discovery of what the perceived expectations around an engagement ring were.  For the next six months, as he and I batted around the subject of engagement and a proposal in public terms, Jon also began to fret heavily over the subject of the ring.

When we visited America, instead of keeping his eyes at eye level to take in the sights around him, he would screen the feminine left hands that passed within his sight, and then let out a long sigh. Sometimes he would get downright pissy, and say things outloud like “Why do you even need a diamond ring, you Americans. Is it just to show off? Do you know where those stones come from!?” Throughout those moments I tried to remember that he was not angry at me, and to keep in mind that the man was encountering this subject, and the weight of the price and expectations, for the very first time in his life. Facing the thought of disappointing the woman he wants to marry must have been staggeringly rough (must be for even American men at this step), but so was swallowing the fact that he was going to be doing this for me only, and because it was my culture.

At times the subject saddened me. I said, “No diamond. Forget it.” I cried a few times.  I wanted to feel that he desired to make this effort for me. Then I was forced to ask myself tough questions: Why do I want a ring? Do I need one? Is my cultural expectation really grounded on anything?

In the end, I decided I did want a ring. I did want a proposal, preferably on one-knee – another idea I introduced to an increasingly shell-shocked boyfriend/husband. Did I need a ring? No. Did I want one? Yes. Did I need a diamond? No. I wanted an opal to replace a ring my favorite, inherited ring which I lost the dayI flew to meet Jonathan in Hawaii. What I wanted was a visible testament to his desire to make me happy, and a piece of tangible proof of our mutual commitment. The world sees this ring and, in my head, knows that I have committed myself to someone. Why do I care if the world knows it? Because I think this ring, or perhaps it could be anything I could wear everyday, is also a living compliment to Jon himself. With this ring, I pick him, above all else.

Also, I give him tangible proof. Perhaps not diamonds, or even a nice watch, but I try to give him tangible proof too. I hope our lives are filled with small exchanges of it.

As it turned out, my mom had  a loose diamond taken from my deceased grandmother’s wedding ring, which she decided to donate to Jonathan. One night he sat me down at the kitchen table and said, “You know that your mom is giving us a diamond. I will find a way to make you a ring, but from now on the conversations stop – this is my project.” As usual, he greatly exaggerated his ability to keep things from me.

Fall was one long season of torture. My engagement ring, which Jon continued to inform me is beautiful, was hidden in our apartment. I was leaving for the United States in Early November, and he still had not told me when he was going to propose.

This ring has been a series of small discoveries since our “final” conversation. Once I stumbled upon a piece of paper accidentally dropped into my personal “mailbox.” It was a drawing of the ring. That was discovery number one. Fortunately for him I had the good sense to crumple the paper before my eyes registered the design.  Then there were other discoveries, accidental, which meant that I knew where it was made, and I hoped, the relative time-frame he might give it to me.

For example, one day Jonathan seemed to have a temporary loss of memory and told his father in French where the ring was coming from, while I was standing in the room. I had to remind him, in French, that I understand French, ya know… for future reference.

Once the rings physical existence was somewhat known business, Jon thought it was acceptable to leave me in Neuchâtel one afternoon while he went to the ring maker and checked on it. I thought it was torture!

Then one weekend, about a month laster, while eating dinner at a colleague’s house, I I happened to walk past the open door to the coat closet, and I saw his colleague passing Jonathan the box.

Eek! I was only feet away.

From then on Jon teased me ruthlessly by showing everyone but me the final product – the ring he had hand designed for me. And I had only to wait, and hope in utter selfishness, that it came before I left for America for two months.



  1. Megan said,

    I’ve done a few google searches, but I haven’t looked too much. I may do that again tonight. :]

  2. Veronica said,

    You are a wonderful story teller! I can’t wait to find out how this proposal turns out!

  3. Megan said,

    This is such an exciting story so far. I can’t wait for the next post. :]

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