How We Met
LONG STORY (Only way Anna can tell a story) SHORT
Ben and I met freshman year of high school, in sort of a roundabout way. Bear with me. One of my best friends, Roxy, had the same math teacher as me, but had the class later in the day. We had lunch together every day to catch up—and for Roxy to get a peek at Anna’s math homework. One day Roxy brought along this guy, Ben. Anna had met but had never given Ben much thought (he was and still is, a man of few words). So, at first, Ben was just a guy that Roxy had befriended who occasionally copied Anna’s math homework—the benefits of which, he quickly learned, were somewhat offset by the fact that the homework was often incorrect.
Fast forward to that summer. Ben had begun reaching out to me via the standard method of teenage communication for that era. See, while our friends these days find love (or whatever) through Tinder, Bumble, or JSwipe, all we had was that old reliable standby: AOL Instant Messenger (AIM). One day Ben and I were chatting on AIM, and we realized we would both be at a mutual friend’s house that night for a party. Roxy came over beforehand, and when I told her how I’d been chatting with Ben, she teased me that she was SURE he would try and kiss me at this party. I blushed and told her she was being ridiculous. As it happens, a best friend’s intuition is not to be taken lightly. A week later (on AIM, of course), Ben asked me to be his girlfriend. And so it began.
High school—even all Ben’s interminable football games—flew by. Before we knew, it was time to leave for college. That’s right, the chapter every high school relationship dreads. We only applied to one school in common, and when that didn’t work out we cried. A lot. Well, I cried a lot. Ben consoled me while remaining characteristically stoic.
Although Ben and I decided not to enter college in the standard boyfriend/girlfriend paradigm, we texted all the time, we Skyped all the time, and we talked on the phone. ALL. THE. TIME. We were very young and were constantly and ominously warned that long distance never works and only ends in heartbreak.
After the first semester of nonstop texts and calls (big shout out to AT&T for only dropping four or five calls a day, and to our parents for unlimited calls), Ben called me up and said, “Be my girlfriend?” See he doesn’t say much but when does speak, it’s to say the right thing.
Long distance was difficult. It tested our relationship in so many ways, both foreseeable and not. And it was also, as I still maintain to this day, the best thing that could have happened to us. Falling in love so young, we had isolated ourselves from our friends. Ben and I hung out—just the two of us—nearly every night in high school. It dawned on me when I got to college that, without him, I didn’t really know who I was. But the physical separation that was a function of going to different schools gave us both the opportunity to learn about ourselves. For my part, it gave me the push I needed, along with encouragement from another best friend, Emily, to build more friendships—to find out who I was, other than Ben’s girlfriend. But it worked for us. Our relationship flourished in spite of the odds, and we’ve truly grown both individually and together.
After college, I moved into a two-bedroom apartment with Emily in Chicago’s Lincoln Park neighborhood. Ben stayed at home to save money. After a year, Ben moved in with Emily and me—an arrangement about which we all had some reservations, sorry Grandpa it’s true. But four years later, here we are, all still living in the same apartment. That’s right, each day I get to experience every girl’s dream: I live with my (now) fiancé and best friend under one roof. Even better, they’ve become great friends as a result!
As of this writing, I’ve just finished getting my Masters in Applied Behavior Analysis, Ben is in graduate school himself, and we’ve been together for 13 years. It became the biggest joke that I was just never going to get engaged, no matter how badly I wanted it. Ben would joke too, saying, “What’s the rush?” Everyone else may have laughed, but for me it was enough already.
We met in high school through Anna’s friend Roxy. We dated. We went to different colleges and so we fake broke up and got back together. A year after college graduation I moved in with Anna and her friend Emily (sorry Grandpa we kept it a secret from you). Anna nagged me to get engaged. I didn’t cave under the pressure and proposed when I was ready. We are getting married in December.
(See I am a man of few words, I get to the point without the drama).
How They Asked
A bit of background: the Lincoln Park Zoo is a free admission zoo in Chicago, and about 200 paces from our apartment. Each winter they have a Zoo Lights event, during which the entire zoo is meticulously decorated and beautifully lit with Christmas lights. When, in 2018, Roxy (yes, we’re still best friends!) told me she’d never been, I was shocked, and so we planned a night to go. We brought along Ben, Emily, and Roxy’s boyfriend, Gabe.
Roxy loves to take pictures and videos, and, having just gotten her Masters in film production, she’s all about perfect lighting for optimal photographs. So, when she suggested we go to a bridge near the zoo (my favorite spot for a stunning view of the Chicago skyline) at sunset for the best lighting opportunity, I thought nothing of it.
Now, I had been waiting for a proposal for so long, had on so many occasions erroneously convinced myself “today’s the day!” that I had learned to ignore my dreamy thoughts of getting engaged. I must confess, I even had such fantasies that day. My sister from another mister and my mom talked me off that ledge!
We walked over to the skyline, took some pictures and admired the beautiful sunset we were so fortunate to see. We then decided to head down to this honeycomb sculpture, which is great for pictures.
Ben came up behind me and started whispering insanely romantic things in my ear. At first, I just took in the moment and the things he was saying, until he said, “I can’t wait to spend the rest of my life with you.” Of course, I responded to these heartfelt musings with, “Wait, what are you doing?!”
I turned around and he was down on one knee.
And I lost it.
He’d finally said the words I’d been longing to hear! After so many tears and so much laughter; after the disbelief; after the jumping up and down; after losing count of how many times I had to ask, “Is this real life?” (Ben literally had to assure me that, yes, it was), there followed a surprise party with all our family and friends. Even my parents (who were supposed to be in Florida) and my best college friends flew in to surprise me and help celebrate!
It’s safe to say that I spent the majority of December 15th, 2018 ugly crying—for the most spectacular reason. I’ve never felt so loved and supported in our relationship. A huge shoutout to my friends and family for all the decorations, favors, and gifts in regards to our engagement. An even bigger shoutout to my talented best friend, Roxy for capturing the moment with her videography skills. She got great footage from that day and I compiled a short version of the moments to attach below.
Every day I wake up with a huge smile on my face thinking about how lucky I am to get to spend forever with Ben, and how lucky we are to be surrounded by the most wonderful, supportive and thoughtful friends and family. We truly can’t wait to celebrate our big day! (See I can’t tell a short story)!