Photos by Maddie Watts
I proposed to my boyfriend. Yes, I am a heterosexual woman, and, yes, I got down on one knee.
I grew up in Blue Springs in a middle class family with one sister and four brothers. I knew getting married and having a family was something I was supposed to do one day. I journaled about getting engaged, my wedding day, the home my future husband and I would have. I always thought a man proposing to me was how it was “supposed” to happen. You can’t blame me—in a 2017 survey from The Knot, less than one percent of heterosexual brides reported popping the question.
However, traditions seem to be evolving quickly, and I’m someone who is madly in love with her best friend. A 2018 report from Pinterest found that the number of users searching for “women proposing to men ideas” shot up three hundred and thirty-six percent from the year before. Last Christmas, World Cup skier Lindsey Vonn made headlines when she asked her fiance to marry her, writing on social media that men should get engagement rings, too.
In 2014, I departed Missouri to attend American University, a liberal arts college in Washington, D.C. Living in a big city on the East Coast turned me into a social justice warrior. I lived in a land full of opportunities, and I didn’t want to invest time in a potential significant other who might disappoint me in the long run. In turn, I swore off serious relationships.
With that said, I still liked to date around. I did what virtually every college student did—download Tinder. I swiped and swiped and went on dates for interesting conversation and good food. My dating profile read, “Hi! I’m the girl who is going to change your life.” I didn’t know, however, that someone would change mine.
Spencer swiped right on Friday, April 20, 2018. On our first date, we went to a film festival in downtown D.C. and wandered around the National Mall, sitting and talking on museum steps until 3 am. It sounds crazy, but I knew that night that there was something different about this guy.
My relationship with Spencer is like none I’ve experienced before. We are best friends first, lovers second. He picked up his East Coast life and moved to Kansas City with me to be closer to my family. We have just as good of a time enjoying a ten-course dinner at Corvino as we do sitting on the couch eating grilled cheese and watching Disney+. We’d talked about marriage and having a family a few times, but I had never imagined or spoken of proposing to him. That was his job—or so I thought. While so many old fashioned ideas about serious heterosexual relationships have changed and marriage itself has grown to be a more gender-flexible and egalitarian institution, the expectation of who proposes to whom has endured.
One day in December while Spencer was working, I hopped in my car and drove to Jared. I still can’t tell you what prompted me to do this, but something in me wanted to start this next chapter in our lives on a spontaneous note. I bought his ring—a classic silver band—and I spent the next month planning.
On January 6, Spencer and I spent the day doing our favorite Kansas City things. We watched a video I made for him at Tapcade’s theater while sipping cherry ciders. At Manifesto we drank Beautiful Red Bells and chatted about Disney movies. At Parlor we munched on spicy chicken sandwiches and curly fries. Then we walked to The Guild—one of my hands held his, the other fidgeted with the ring in my pocket. We walked into the event space, where I had set up string lights and a ping pong table (an activity we bonded over when we first met).
As one of our favorite songs, HoneyWire’s “Be My Baby,” played in the background, I got down on one knee and asked Spencer to marry me. Seeing his shocked and delighted reaction gave me the best feeling in the world. With no hesitation, Spencer loudly yelled, “Yes!”
The reactions to my proposal story should have been expected. Somehow, I was still surprised by the questions people were—and still are—asking: Why did you propose? Did he care that you proposed? Does he have commitment issues? Are you pregnant?
I knew this proposal would be a shock for him. Hell, it was a shock for me! What I can say is this: Anyone can propose to anyone. There are no rules. Follow your heart, do all the crazy things, and understand that when people express their judgment to you, that is an opportunity to teach them that there’s more to life than being normal.