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Popping the Question

January 6, 2014

As a society we’re now more accepting of diverse lifestyles than we were when this account of my proposal to Mrs. C. took place. But things were different back in 1973. Much different. 


It happened on a cold day around this time of year, nearly forty years ago. How could time pass so quickly?


Sue (the future Mrs. Chatterbox) and I were dining at William A. Sterlington’s, one of Sausalito’s expensive restaurants. I had no idea who William A. Sterlington was but an old oil portrait of a winking man in a wig hung on a wall and I assumed he was the restaurant’s namesake. I’d reserved a table by the window with a spectacular view of the San Francisco skyline. Our meal was superb, the service impeccable, but something wasn’t right. Something was gnawing at me. I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.


At first I blamed it on a case of nerves as I got ready to pop the big question, but then I noticed people from other tables stealing glances at us. I figured it must be obvious what was about to happen—everyone was waiting for a proposal show—but this didn’t explain why our fellow diners looked irritated. That was when I realized I was the only guy in the crowded eatery with…a woman. In fact, there weren’t any females in sight, other than Sue. Now I knew what William A. Sterlington was winking about.


Of all the places I could have selected for this all-important moment, I’d picked a restaurant that catered exclusively to…men


I didn’t want to pop the question in enemy territory. We finished our meal and went out into the chilly night air. After guiding Sue to an empty patio on the side of the restaurant, I ignored the dampness and knelt down on one knee in the middle of a puddle. I produced the ring, a modest thing. My heart was trip hammering in my chest when I asked her to marry me.


She beamed with happiness as she said, “Yes!” And she looked thrilled when I placed the ring on her finger. I doubt, however, that any of this came as a surprise since women are always two steps ahead of men when it comes to this stuff. But she seemed to truly love the little diamond that, to me, looked pathetically insignificant before the galaxy of glittering lights erupting from the San Francisco skyline.  


We hurried home so she could show the ring to her parents. Even though it was late, they were up and waiting with a bottle of champagne to celebrate the event. Sue’s mom passed the glasses around and we toasted our future.


Then her dad made an interesting offer. “I don’t know what you kids have in mind as far as a wedding is concerned, but I’ll give you a choice. You can have a big, fancy wedding at our country club or I’ll give you a ladder and three thousand dollars so you two can elope.”


Thanks to her dad, a few days later Sue and I had our first major argument. She’d opted for the fancy wedding. I proved I wasn’t the romantic she’d hoped for when I chose the ladder and three thousand dollars.


That ladder never had a chance.


Where were you when you asked, or were asked, that all important question? Was it romantic? Share it with us…


Ours wasn't that long ago, and was just telepathically understood. I do remember asking her what kind of ring she would like and she answered a nano-second later, "Platinum, 3 diamonds". And so it was.
By: Scott Cody Park on January 6, 2014
We went for a walk after having dinner at a fancy restaurant. It was foggy, Sweet Man took off his trench coat, laid it on the grass of a park, under a street light. We sat down, chatted for a bit and then he said, "I want to spend the rest of my life, loving and taking care of you, so if you love me, you'll marry me". And that was that. Not even a question, although he didn't have to ask. I did and we did.
By: Oma Linda on January 6, 2014
You're a lucky man.:)
By: Daniel LaFrance on January 6, 2014
I loved this story! I'm with your wife, and I'm glad you let go of the ladder idea. My husband proposed to me on our first date...and I accepted! That was 29 years ago~
By: Shelly on January 6, 2014
I've popped it 4 times, each one worst than the last...well the fourth wasn't too bad, but I suck at proposals hopefully I'm done. A ladder and $3000? I thought you were smarter than that. I've heard of gay bars, but not a restaurant. If the food is good hetero's will come.
By: Cranky on January 6, 2014
I asked my wife at outside of our favorite coffee shop. It was late, and the shops were closed. We walked around window shopping till I got the nerve to get on my knee and ask.
By: David Walston on January 6, 2014
Bud & I dated for several years & were planning our wedding when I realized he had never proposed. I made him get down on one knee & ask me before we went ahead with the wedding!!
By: fishducky on January 6, 2014
awww. so cute.
By: TexWisGirl on January 6, 2014
Well,it is a rather long maybe some day.
By: Tabor on January 6, 2014
I remember those young optimistic bright eyes. Congratulations on your engagement anniversary ! Many, many more happy years together! We've all had wonderful roll models to base a long marriage on!
By: Laurie on January 6, 2014
P.S.-Dave says he proposed at Ghirardelli Square and I recall it at his apartment. Why do we have such different memories?
By: Laurie on January 6, 2014
Good thing she said yes. You were a lot less chubby Chatterbox back in the day.
By: PT Dilloway on January 6, 2014
How adorable, sweet and eager for life you two looked. I would have opted for the ladder.
By: Akansas Patti on January 6, 2014
You two look so young, exuberant and in love. My favorite line in here was the one about "enemy territory". I was proposed to on the beach of Bodega Bay. It was incredibly romantic, only he forgot to actually ask the question. I said yes anyway; I liked the ring. xoRobyn
By: Robyn Engel on January 6, 2014
I can't believe you chose the ladder and the money. You should have known that women are all about the wedding. I have no romantic stories to tell despite being married 3 times. But perhaps the 3 times thing is why I have no romantic stories...
By: Lexa Cain on January 6, 2014
Were we really that young when we made our offers? I was married in 66 so much the same game!
By: red on January 6, 2014
Awesome story and your picture is precious. I'm surprised they even let Mrs. C in the door at that restaurant. Congratulations.
By: Bouncin Barb on January 6, 2014
I know that feeling. I almost proposed to my ex in a hetero restaurant! I'm kidding, but the story was great. Forty years is a long time to be able to put up with somebody.
By: Katy Anders on January 6, 2014
hahahahaha!!! mr lime and i grew up in different states (in more ways than one). We were in the farmer's market in my hometown, sitting on the bench that when i grew up was occupied by the town pervert. There was no ring and because things were not worded as a question I did not recognize it as a proposal at first. I took a month to actually give an answer. My father made the same offer to us as well, you can have $3000 dollars toward a wedding or I can write a check and drive you to Maryland (where no license was necessary). Mr. Lime was reaching for a check when I reminded him that neither of our mothers would let us live long enough to enjoy the honeymoon if we opted for that.
By: lime on January 6, 2014
What a sweet story - and I love your photo! My husband proposed to me by giving me this huge, awkwardly shaped, clumsily wrapped box. I tore off the wrapping paper - it was a mail box, one of those rural mail boxes that stand by the side of the road. On the mail box he had taped the letters "Mr. & Mrs. Peeper." Then he told me to check if I had any mail. I opened the mail box, and yes, there was a ring, along with a card that said "Will you marry me?" We took the ladder and $2,000 from his parents and eloped to Vegas.
By: Pixel Peeper on January 6, 2014
If i could have gotten my parents to agree, i would have wanted to elope and take the money. They were the romantics.
By: mimi on January 6, 2014
Your post is wonderful. A sweet story and great picture. I got down on my knee and asked Lana, in my apartment as my roommate was at work and we had a moment of privacy. We broke the news to our families on Christmas eve. No one offered us the ladder option. I think we both would have taken it!
By: Tom Cochrun on January 6, 2014
Look how cute you two were. Our engagement story was complicated as both of our families were "complicated". We knew we needed to get out and move away...which we did but we were young. I mean really young. The teachers in my high school were less than thrilled about the impending nuptials..yikes..but 43 years later, I am a happy person, still married to a happy person and we landed on our feet.
By: Cheryl P. on January 6, 2014
What a sweet photo! My proposal was in the living room of my two-bedroom townhouse, across the parking lot from Hick's one-bedroom apartment. I would gladly have taken that ladder. I'm not one for pomp and circumstance. In fact, we had a small church wedding, and received a new refrigerator and a few house payments from my parents.
By: Val on January 6, 2014
All this time and I never before knew that Mrs. C is named Sue. That photo is adorable. The proposal was not romantic. I have only a vague memory of the wedding. I considered canceling the night before and should have, but then I wouldn't have Favorite Young Man and The Hurricane. The marriage was 30+ years of Titanic-proportion disasters. I'm quite happy now in my little house, with Willie Dunne Wooters visiting twice each week. Love, Janie
By: Janie Junebug on January 6, 2014
A heart warming story and a great photograph!
By: John on January 7, 2014
So wonderful to see that picture of the two of you. Mrs. C is obviously "a keeper" even if she had to have that stupid big wedding. But $3,000 wouldn't have gotten you very far anyway. Now if he had offered $20k in 1973, that might have made a difference (but probably not to Mrs. C).
By: Mitchell is Moving on January 7, 2014
love this story and your photo is adorable- you two are so cute! My sweetie claims he never proposed but when he asked me over a beer and a pizza at Bridgeport brewery if I'd like to spend the rest of my life with him having fun....I could have sworn that was a proposal! By my response he realized I thought he was talking marriage and 24 years ago he knew he'd just better go with the flow. Not too many arguments always having fun and our parents never offered $$$ and a ladder!
By: Kathe W. on January 7, 2014
What a sweet story. I'd have preferred the ladder.
By: Hilary on January 9, 2014
Such a cute story. But you didn't tell us what you said to your own kids when they wanted to get married. Did you offer them a ladder?
By: Madeleine McLaughlin on January 9, 2014
"...Iâd picked a restaurant that catered exclusively toâ¦men." OMG!!! How funny!!! What a wonderful romantic story!! ~shoes~
By: redshoes51 on January 12, 2014

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