My Proposal


Me just after I've proposed

I like surprises, but Camille doesn't. She'd rather be able to look forward to things. For her, half the pleasure of enjoying, say, a vacation comes purely from its anticipation.

I had a challenge before me: How could I give Cam the biggest surprise of her life while also letting her look forward to it?

I originally had the idea to propose to Camille around the end of year holidays. Every year, a few days leading up to Christmas, Camille's family take a trip to the cabins of Yosemite valley. Proposals at Yosemite Christmas, in the Cary family, are practically an unofficial tradition. Unfortunately for me, the engagement ring I had picked out needed more time to be made. And, wouldn't it be nice to pave my own way? While a proposal in front of family is great, I wanted the moment to honor the character of our relationship.

Christmas' day of 2019, I acted super weird. I let on that I was giving Camille a Big Gift™, the vibes of which she definitely picked up on. I am not a good liar. You should see my total absence of a poker face when we play cards at Yosemite Christmas [1]. The way I pulled off authentic engagement-ring-under-the-tree energy was by giving Camille a trip for Christmas. I gave her a vacation to New Orleans for the start of Mardi Gras, over Valentines Day weekend.

Camille and I love jazz. Since we got together in 2012, music has been a cornerstone of our relationship. And, as you can probably guess, Camille and I love food. For these reasons (and the allure of gator tours), Cam and I have talked about going to New Orleans together for forever.

"I was sure that he was going to propose in New Orleans," Grandma Shirley would tell us later. I'm glad I gave off that impression. I had something different in mind.

The cemetery by our house

When we landed in Oakland, we ended up living nearby the Mountain View Cemetery [2]. If you're not familiar with the area, the cemetery acts somewhat like a public park. It has a stunning view of the San Francisco Bay, including parts of the Bay Bridge. Camille and I would often find ourselves taking a stroll in the cemetery while talking about our lives. We would go there with a pad of paper whenever we needed to make a big decision, ornate headstones being our preferred backdrop to make defining choices. Along the way of figuring out the right engagement ring, I knew that I wanted to propose to Camille here.

The day of the proposal was like any other day – except I dressed nicer than usual and was very nervous. I had to overcome what felt like a bunch of wrenches thrown at me to get the timing just right. It was a Friday, a week before Valentines day, and half a week from our vacation to New Orleans. Camille was attending an all weekend WFR training, so I was running out of time. I had just gotten the engagement ring in my hands Thursday, after months of planning. Now, it was go time. All I had to do was convince Camille to take a walk with me in the cemetery after work.

Camille didn't want to go! Another complication: She was training for a half-marathon, which included a weekly 10-mile run, which she had taken that day. Why was I making her go on walk? Couldn't we just stay at the house and hang out?

I had to think fast to come up with a good excuse. "No, let's go on a walk so we can talk shit about our roommates," I told her. She was down.

We gossiped as we strolled down the Ave. I don't remember how the conversation shifted when we got to the cemetery. All I remember is that it was sunset when I popped down on one knee. My proposal speech was a remembrance of when we first started dating, and she asked me where our relationship was going. I had flown across the world to see her in New Zealand, only four months into being an item. We were in a car, and it was raining. Back then, I told her that we were choosing each other every day. In the cemetery, almost eight years later, I told her that I want to choose her for the rest of my life.

The rest of the evening was a dream. We went to happy hour at Wine on Piedmont, as was our traditional Friday night activity. I got a reservation at the excellent sicilian place on our block. We had an exciting trip to look forward to. I got my wish – Cam was surprised.

Cam and I

[1]: Not that it's a big deal or anything, but I did win the poker game that year.

[2]: The Black Dahlia happens to be buried there.