David Howard


When guys propose, most I know have screwed it up. They make a plan that’s very romantic and well intentioned. It includes several steps, set dressings and classic sleight of hand. It usually includes some kind of public place, with unpredictable elements, some bad writing and uncooperative supporting actors. They never go to plan. So, naturally, I make a plan.

Her sister had gifted us Neil Diamond tickets at the Hollywood Bowl. Outside of my childhood carpools, I know nothing of Neil Diamond. I purchase the entire Neil Diamond anthology. I want to sing along with Neil Diamond, be Diamond-esque I listen to only Neil Diamond for an entire week when I discover a very important flaw in my plan. Neil Diamond has the shittiest songs to propose to, EVER. The classics, probably in the show, "Love on the Rocks," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers, " and "Solitary Man" are all about the end of relationships, ones that should have never happened in the first place. Let’s not remind us of our bummers. "Sweet Caroline?" Never propose during a song with another girl’s name in it. Duh. Somewhere in the back of my head I remember a fringe friend who worked (and was kicked off) the Neil Diamond tour ten years ago. He must knows someone who can give me the setlist. GENIUS! Except for... " Neil doesn't have a standard set list. He chooses the afternoon before the show." Neil Diamond is my out of control supporting actor. A week out and I don't have my happy Neil Diamond song. Two days later, nope. I call her dad, nada. Two hours left. I get a phone call that I let it go to voicemail. "Dave, list is locked, do ‘Forever In Blue Jeans.’ It comes at the 60 minute mark. Good luck." "Forever in Blue Jeans," Really? I liked that song but there’s something K-Tel about it. Were we always going to poor or always be casual and comfy? What kind of blue jeans? $200 Brooks Brothers blue jeans, $49 (at Sears) 501 blue jeans, David Bowie sexually ambiguous blue jeans. What kind of blue jeans? I write a speech and run it by a galpal. It’s 300 words and ends with “Will you make me the happiest guy in the world?” “No, moron. If nothing else say the words. Say ‘Will you marry me?’ If you take nothing else away from this conversation, we want to hear those words, exactly, in that order. We good?” I listen to “Forever in Blue Jeans.” Might work. And, it's in the set at the 60 minute mark. Perfect.. Unless Neil screws it up with a sullen Neil song right afterwards. We get to the Hollywood Bowl. Time to put the plan into action. I had written a speech. Then it didn’t matter. 60 minutes: Those chords: A D A Bm C#m E A. I’m a good person, people like me, yes? My hand wriggles through my skinny fit blue jeans (why did I buy these awful pants?) I get flustered,emotional,choked up. Touched by the moment. BAIL on the 300 words! Just get the important sentence out!I I get the ring box out of my pocket get on one knee. No speech, just get those four words out. I'd been spending all this time figuring out the perfect song. I hadn't spent any time wondering what her reaction would be. I mean we're closing in on 40, weddings proposals, theatrics, that’s high school. right? We're too cool for this, right? And now the two of us are the only ones sitting with 14,000 dancing fans. “Will you marry me?” That’s the speech. She explodes into a fit of laughter and tears. Her hands start making circles as she rocks back in her seat. She kisses me in way she never had before. I can feel her tears fall down my cheek. Surrounded by the crowd, it seemed like a very private moment. I say "Doesn't count until you say yes" And she screams "YES!" Song plays.I listen. What I had thought to be over sentimentalized now became, well, sentimental. She was next to me, differently. Deeper. Solid. Committed. Different. All alone, by the fire, just you and I took on a new meaning. It just meant “us.” The song didn’t matter. She just wanted to get married, to me. She really loved me no matter which song was in the background. And Neil finishes and tears up the classic "I'm A Believer." "Then I saw her face, now I am a believer" That would have been a good song too.