The Engagement Story

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The first picture ever taken of us, a few days before we were officially “a couple”
Rocky Horror Cast Party, 2012

I remember once, early on in our relationship, Cory and I were in the car going somewhere and a hot air balloon quietly bobbed itself into our line of vision on the highway.

“You know, I think my ideal proposal would be in a hot air balloon.” The moment the words came out of my mouth, I immediately regretted them. We had only been dating a few weeks, maybe a month at most, and if my years of 20-something dating experience had taught me anything, it was that you do NOT utter anything having to do with the “M Word” to a post-college guy. The mere idea incites visions of running into their brains and proposal pressure. How could I be so dumb? I was ruining this fledgling relationship before it had even begun!

“Hmm… noted.” he replied, smiling to himself. The panic in my chest tightened.

“Sorry, I, um, I didn’t mean–like, it’s so early, I don’t mean to be saying that–”

“No, Ashley, it’s okay. But, now I can’t propose that way. You’ll be expecting it.” There was no terror in his voice. No inclination of running. Calm, contemplative, accepting. I was baffled. My last long term relationship partner had shrugged off any questions I had about “our future” with a “I don’t know.” or a “I haven’t thought about it, that’s a long way off.” or the dreaded “I don’t know, what do you want me to say?” and that was when I’d subtly broached the subject of a “future”–carefully avoiding the “M Word.” And now, Cory, a man I’d met off an internet dating site and fallen for faster than any other guy I’d dated, was already accepting that maybe marriage was in the cards for us?

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When the world was supposed to end in December, I jokingly suggested we go to the courthouse and get married, just in case. He said okay. I said I was joking, he said he only half was. Another early instance of him being comfortable with a future with me (however short, if the world had actually ended). It was a new feeling, of being comfortable and not having to side step how I was really feeling. Cory surprised me in so many ways–taking an interest in my interests, going so far as to wear a dress for his first ever stage performance at my beloved theater, making an effort to become friends with my friends, attending events he wasn’t so sure he wanted to attend but doing so simply to make me happy, going out of his way to make me happy in general… everything from calling me “baby” to holding my hand in public, all the little things I’d been missing from guys who simply “weren’t into that stuff” and didn’t feel the need to show affection. I loved it. I loved him. I finally felt like all the love I’d invested over the years to only be returned in half, was returning to me tenfold from someone I was truly, deeply in love with. It was a new, wonderful feeling.

(EDIT: Not to say those were necessarily “bad” relationships–I am grateful for every long term relationship I’ve had, because they all were learning experiences. I just had gotten into the bad habit of compromising things that were important to me–like holding hands in public, or taking pictures together, being able to openly discuss our potential future together, or how much time we spent with each other’s friends–and I felt like I tried too hard make relationships work that weren’t right to begin with. Affection was and is very important to me, but not important to a lot of guys I dated, and I never realized how much I was missing in compromising that.)

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Our “family portrait” please pay no attention to the dirty floor, it was mid-party

At about the six month mark he told me that he knew I was the one for him, that he could see himself with me forever. Heart pounding, I told him the same. He said he fantasized about proposing to me, I told him we should probably wait a year. “A year is probably my minimum,” I said, “anything before that feels like a little too soon.”

“Okay…” he said, “but I’m not sure I’ll be able to wait that long.”

I knew “too soon” was a relative statement. I knew my heart was bursting at the seams for this guy who came into my life so unexpectedly–I had given up on guys after one last stupid boy took me for a run around and in my misery had adopted a cat to give my love to instead–and that if he’d asked me that day I would have given an enthusiastic “YES!!!”

Our first meeting was one for the story books for sure. I’d signed up for a profile at PlentyofFish.com after giving up on OKCupid.com. I’d had almost two years on OKC, and though I’d gotten a series of interesting dates on it, I hadn’t found anyone that I both liked AND who wanted a relationship with me (typically, it’d be one or the other, which I guess is descriptive of dating in general), and I was getting discouraged. “Try Plenty of Fish,” my friend Lauren suggested, “there are more horny assholes on there, but there’s also more guys in general on the site. More chances for a decent date.” Basically, I knew POF would be full of hilarious messages from guys wanting hookups (the BEST cheesy pickup lines are in online dating messages) and I figured I’d get a laugh but nothing more. One night, just for fun, I decided to message some interesting guys based almost solely on grammatical structure of their profiles. You’d be surprised how few of them there were.

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Summer 2012, Beach Trip

Cory’s profile pictures were all of him making goofy faces, so I didn’t even know if I was physically attracted to him at first. This was probably in his favor, since I’ll be the first to admit that in the world of online dating, pictures end up being way more important than they should be. I continued reading his profile and, in addition to having all words spelled correctly, he actually had something to say. I liked that he was an artist, and despite his very last paragraph saying that he didn’t like girls who wore makeup or lived at the mall (me = guilty on both accounts) I decided to message him anyway. I asked him about his tattoos. What came next was a back and forth conversation that lasted two days–each of us refreshing our messages every few minutes hoping for a response from the other.

It turns out that another friend of mine had actually met Cory in college. She confirmed that he was “a good guy, a little shy, but very nice and an extremely talented artist.” That was the final push that convinced me to meet him.

I was in the middle of performances for Rocky Horror, so I couldn’t meet him just yet. I told him he should see the show, assuming he probably wouldn’t. Rocky Horror didn’t seem like the kind of show a 20-something dude would attend just to meet a girl. But he did. And the night he chose was the night I was taking tickets–full lingerie outfit, full sexy-clown makeup, and in character as a breathy, ecstasy-influenced minion of Dr. Frankenfurter. My first words to him, before he even knew it was me, were “hey there, big boy.” I died inside. He gave me a quizzical look, then realized it was me.

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Signs you’re meant to be together: you show your support for each other’s dorky hobbies.

“Oh, hi!” he said, smiling. I knew he was tall, but the online pictures did him no justice. The guy I’d been enthralled with for the past two days was. freaking. hot. And I was half naked. And this was the first time we’d met face-to-face. And I expected no date to come of this. After the show, I thought he’d left. But then I felt a hand on my shoulder, “so, what are you doing after this?” I invited him to our cast gathering at Applebees and we sat together, squished in a booth with the entire cast of Rocky.

To quote a cliche: the rest, my friends, is history.

A year later, we made the decision to move across the country to Austin, Texas. We both needed to leave Massachusetts, to explore the world a little, and a job opportunity for Cory was the deciding factor. We were apart for three weeks while I finished up my work in Mass, and Cory began his job in Texas. It was the longest we’d ever been apart and we counted the days until we were together again. Though I wanted a long road trip, Cory was insistent that we make it back before our anniversary. I assumed it was for his job, so I agreed.

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Packed up and ready for Austin!
Not sure how my poor car held ALL THIS STUFF.

The night of our anniversary and our first full day in Austin, Cory took me to a lovely restaurant on my favorite street in town. South Congress is probably the “hippest” part of the city, a colorful street lined with cafes, boutiques, thrift and vintage stores, and all sorts of kitschy amusements and street vendors. South Congress Cafe is a $25 per plate kind of restaurant with wonderful food and ambiance to boot. After a wonderful dinner we tried to find a local movie theater, but after our GPS took us on three wild goose chases we ended up back at Cory’s aunt’s house, where we’re staying until I find a job and we get an apartment.

When we got home, I immediately went to the computer to check my Facebook messages, blog comments, and email. Cory was still dressed to the nines and insisted I come into the kitchen. “I’m almost done!” I said. I was chatting with a friend who had just gotten married, and didn’t want to be rude.

“Are you coming? I have that champagne from your mom, ready to open!” My mom had given us a bottle of her favorite sparkling wine, as an anniversary gift. I wasn’t sure why Cory was so insistent on the wine, but eventually I met him in the kitchen.

We toasted to a year together and kissed. His aunt was in the next room with a friend, talking and watching television. Cory pulled back and, leaning on the kitchen island and looking down at his hands, he started to mumble.

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A few hours before the proposal!

“I was waiting for the perfect moment, and I had a million romantic scenarios planned out in my head… but you know me and, well, I figured I should just be casual and…” he pulls out a small box. “You know I want to spend the rest of my life with you, and… yeah.” he hands me the box. Heart pounding, I open the box. Inside is a small ring, on top of a fluff of cotton. On Valentine’s Day he had said a similar speech and given me a promise ring, so I was a little confused. I didn’t know if this was an anniversary gift or more, and the ring was on its side, so I couldn’t see what was on it. He was standing, not on one knee, I didn’t want to jump to conclusions!

“Are you… are you proposing?” I asked.

“Yes. Will you marry me?”

I hugged him and said “yes, of course! I love you!” He had waited exactly one year to promise, remembering my request. His heart was beating so hard in his chest.

“Were you nervous?”

“Yes.”

“Did you think I’d say no?”

“No… but you never know!”

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We kissed again and I tried to put the ring on my finger. It got up to the first knuckle and wouldn’t budge. I laughed. “We’ll get it sized,” he said. I asked him if we could do more than that—you see, I’m supposed to inherit my mom’s ring from her first marriage, to my dad. I loved the story of their engagement because it mirrored mine and Cory’s a bit–both were young, engaged fairly soon, and didn’t have a lot of money. So Dad gave Mom a promise ring, and they paid for a proper engagement ring at the department store. They’d visit it every week and Mom would wear it while Dad paid for that week or month’s payment. I loved that story, and knew someday the ring would be mine. It was important to me to have a piece of this family history, so we decided that we would use the diamond Cory gave me–his grandmother’s ring, another ring with history and heirloom significance–my mom’s diamond, and another family diamond to create a new ring.

The proposal was adorable, and so uniquely Cory. He had gotten the ring from his mom shortly before leaving for Austin and had mulled over when to propose. He’d decided on the holidays, but once we got to Austin he decided he just couldn’t wait.

In the meantime, I am continuing to wear my gorgeous opal and diamond promise ring from Valentine’s Day on the proper engagement finger, and the engagement ring on a chain around my neck.

We joke that we’ll be engaged longer than we were boyfriend and girlfriend–as currently I am trying to find a job and we are trying to save for an apartment, so financing a wedding is still a long way away. We are so happy to be engaged, and have been humbled by the outpouring of support and love from friends and family.

That’s our story, and I hope you enjoyed it 🙂

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A love letter to my community theater

To my dear, dear The Shea Theater (a love letter),

This Sunday I leave for a new life in Austin, Texas. I will be leaving behind Western Massachusetts for a new adventure, and when I think of all the friends and family I must say goodbye to, the Shea is not far from my thoughts. In fact, it’s probably the epicenter of my thoughts, just to the right of “I Will Miss My Mom” and “I Will Miss My Cat.” After all, it is because of this amazing theater that I’ve found such wonderful friendships and shared countless incredible experiences.

A friend of the family had been bugging me to audition for the plays years before I finally gave in—despite having done theater in high school, I was intimidated by the idea of auditioning with adults. There was no way I was good enough, I thought. What if they’re mean? I wondered. Finally, I gave in and auditioned for The Country Player’s “Oklahoma!” In 2008. I was a chorus part, but the feeling of returning to the stage was invigorating. Each year I looked forward to my summers home from college, so that I could do the yearly TCP musical.

Each year my parts got a little better, each year I learned and grew as an actor. Occasionally I would feel the rivalries and jealousies that come with being an actor, but it was always overshadowed by the tremendous support and camaraderie of the Shea family. Eventually I expanded my theater circle to include New Renaissance Players and Shea alum Ja’ Duke, and while I never was able to do an Arena Civic Theatre show I met many great ACT regulars and enjoyed watching them perform as well. Each group was so different, but each one amazing and welcomed me with open arms. After I was a chorus member I was a funeral director, a sassy Scotswoman, a mobster’s moll, an actor in a play-within-a-play, a pirate, a former debutante, a phantom, a nurse, a ditzy dancer, Alice (in Wonderland), and a fairy.

After moving home from college, I was excited to finally be able to do plays year round. Being a constant presence in the Shea rather than a once a year visitor, I was better able to make lasting relationships. In the past few years I have met the most amazing people who have become my most cherished friends. The other day a group of us met at Twisters and tried to make a “family tree” of how we all met each other. Eventually, the tree became more of a tangled bush—if one of us had never invited everyone over after rehearsal, if another one of us hadn’t invited a friend to join a play, if someone hadn’t seen that audition post, if someone else hadn’t taken a chance and met for drinks via a Facebook request, all these ifs that would have resulted in someone being absent from the group, or the group never existing at all. In the center of this loving tangle was the Shea.

This theater has given me so much, I cannot thank you enough. It’s given me a voice, a home away from home, an opportunity to be seen on stage, something to look forward to every single season, people who need me, and friends I will never forget. I wish I had a million dollars so that I could put in just a fraction of what the Shea is worth to me. I will never, ever forget my time here. I love this theater, these people, with every inch of my heart. Thank you, thank you so much for everything.

Until we meet again, “take pains, be perfect, adieu.” 
Ashley Blom

 

Originally posted as my Facebook status, but I decided to put it here to save it in a more organized fashion 😉