Now before you get carried away, let me say right now that I have never asked anyone to marry me. I have thought about a future with one or more of my exes, perhaps even imagined and planned on one day maybe taking that step. However I’ve never gone so far as to buy a ring and propose. I’m a rather committed type of person and when I’m with someone my heart’s always in it and hoping for that dream future, the happy ever after.
When I came out to my friends and family all those years ago I didn’t give up on the fairytale ending. Sure, my story wouldn’t be the ‘conventional’ one, since I wanted the princess rather than the prince. Yet I didn’t want to be a prince myself either, I’d like to see Disney do that story. Anyway, I’m getting a little off track here.
I don’t ever go into details about my family. However there was a happy occasion on the horizon and I have fond memories of the day we all spent in London together to celebrate. My older brother Ryan, had planned on proposing to his long term girlfriend, Gemma for a while now. He’d bought the ring and was planning on surprising her on her birthday. He’d planned a city break for the two of them, they were going to see the Lion King and take in the sights around London.
My brother had already earned himself some pretty impressive brownie points for the romantic birthday getaway. What his unsuspecting girlfriend had no idea about was that a number of us had all followed them to London as we were planning to celebrate their engagement over dinner at some swanky restaurant my brother had booked.
My parents were due to fly out on holiday the following day and were staying in Windsor with a couple of friends, Lara and I would only travel up for the day, we picked up my parents on the way into town. We all found our way to the hotel and waited for the couple to arrive back. We knew that they should be engaged by the time they discovered us waiting for her at the hotel. When the four of us arrived at the hotel we saw the future in-laws. Her mum, brother and his girlfriend were already there. Then we were joined by some friends too, the man who would be best man, Brad and his girlfriend and one of my best friends, Emma. One of our group was running late as he was having trouble finding the hotel.
This actually turned out to be a rather happy accident. As Tim called someone in our group to ask for directions to the hotel, he was stood in Trafalgar Square and over the phone he told us that he could see my brother and Gemma a short way off. It was crucial that they didn’t spot him, it would spoil the moment. Tim managed to linger out of sight and keep an eye on them. We received the full commentary as the proposal unfolded, Tim told us how Ryan got down on one knee in the middle of Trafalgar Square and whipped out the ring and asked Gemma to marry him, then he followed them like a ninja to the hotel so that he wouldn’t spoil the surprise when they both spotted us all waiting there.
Gemma was smiling from ear to ear as she walked through the doors to the hotel, she had her eyes fixed on Ryan the whole time. I have no doubt that it was a complete surprise to her, she never thought he was going to propose in a million years, in fact she thought she’d have to give him an ultimatum to get a ring on her finger. It took a while for her to register that everyone was there waiting to celebrate with them and crack out the champers. When she realised we’d all been in on it for a while now she was even more astounded that we’d all managed to keep it a surprise.
My brother made a great choice with the ring, thanks in large part to the role my friend Emma played. Emma worked in a jewellery store and managed to lure Gemma there once or twice to pour over the many engagement ring designs and try some on, he couldn’t fail to get the style and size just right for his future bride. Even still, it’s a brave thing to do.
For Lara and I it was a long day. Going from Somerset to Windsor, into London for dinner and all the way back again in one day takes it’s toll. The dinner was really nice, except for the cucumber they insisted putting in the table water, I’ll never understand that! I still have the photos from dinner, we decorated the table with Ryan and Gemma confetti and my parents had gotten them a cake with a cute couple picture on it for the occasion.
My brother and I are only separated by a year in age, Gemma and I are the same age, our birthday’s are even less than a week apart. Also, owing to the fact that we all grew up in a small town we had come to have a lot of mutual friends over the recent years. Gemma’s brother worked and lived with my cousin, and it’s through that friendship that Ryan came to meet her. They got together in February 2007, something that I probably wouldn’t have remembered if it weren’t for the fact that it’s exactly the same month that Lara and I had gotten together.
I was so happy for them that it was a while before it dawned on me just how different my life was to theirs, yet how similar at the same time. They were on right on track for their fairytale ending, all they had to do now was set a date for the wedding. Lara and I had remained in the same routine from day one to these three and a half years later, we hadn’t moved forwards at all, there was no sign of us moving in together, no sign of an engagement on the cards. We were so resolutely stuck in our routine, it was boring me and I’m sure it was boring Lara too. However I was financially crippled and couldn’t possibly entertain the idea of getting our own place.
I’m not a fan of ‘What if’s’ but I do have my suspicions that had I, at this point have been able to take that kind of a step with Lara that things might have been different. Sure one day I’d still see her perfectly clearly the way I do now, things just would have been different in that moment, perhaps less of the boredom. There were times when we talked about moving in together and even started looking at places to rent, we just never followed through with it as we knew if would be a waste of money.
After this happy day all my mum could talk about was the impending wedding. She was over the moon about having something to look forward to. It brought up awkward questions for me, I remember being at a party Gemma was throwing for her work which doubled as an engagement party and a number of my mum’s friends were there.
I remember being asked if I ever wanted to get married, my reaction was an automatic one of ‘Of course I do, I’m a hopeless romantic really.’ and I think that really surprised my mum as she heard my reply. I genuinely think that until that point she had always thought that because I was gay I wouldn’t value marriage and family in the same ways that she does.
This in turn surprised me, I couldn’t figure out how my mum could think otherwise, I have had the perfect example of marriage throughout my life, my parents have been married since they were 20. They’ve been through good times and bad and always been there for each other, they’re great parents who have always been there for me and Ryan no matter what. I would even go as far as to say that we’re as close to the ‘perfect’ family as you can get in that stereotypical ‘society must conform’ type of way. That was until I came out and became the black sheep of the family, but even now I don’t think they’d have it any other way. How can I not believe in happy ever after?