Michelle Alexander and Teresa Vest-Dowell
Tagg Writer Featured on Front Page of The Washington Post
June 13, 2014
Maryland’s National Harbor
June 15, 2014

Femme Problems 124: The Proposal

I have always worked hard to get what I want. I don’t wait around for good things to happen to me; instead, I make them happen. I have a dream and a vision and before I know it, I’m on a mission. Such is the spirit of a true femme. Every day I walk the line between fate and free will fiercely and freely, and just recently, I decided to grab them both by the horns: I proposed to my girlfriend.

On Saturday, June 7, in the middle of the Capital Pride Parade, on top of the Phase 1 float representing the bar where we first met, I—in all my femme grandeur—bent down on one knee and asked the love of my life to marry me. The crowd cheered. Our friends waved. The Phase 1 float erupted in applause, but I didn’t notice any of it. I only noticed her, my shortness of breath, and that beautiful smile that flashed across her face as she said yes.

I am blessed to have so many incredible people in my life that made my proposal weekend magical. I had friends on the float videotape the proposal, preserving our memory forever. I had friends sneak into our hotel room while we were away to set a romantic post-proposal ambiance. I even called upon friends to secure a table at the Pride women’s main event to celebrate.

Some people choose to have an intimate, personal proposal, but I wanted my proposal to be a true reflection of myself: dramatic, over the top, and a little obnoxious. Nailed it!

This was the single most important moment of our lives, so how ironic to me that the moments leading up to it were filled with stress, pressure, uncertainty, and fear. Would everything go perfectly as planned? Would I lose my balance, fall off the float, and send the ring flying into the crowd, never to be seen again? Most importantly, would she say yes? Sure, I replayed the worst-case scenario over and over in my head, but sometimes, I also imagined getting it just right. I imagined the driver slowing down at the prearranged location, the DJ calling her name on the microphone, and me agilely bending down in her favorite dress of mine to present her with a dazzling custom-designed white gold diamond ring thanks to an “Angell” at B&C Jewelers in Alexandria. And that is exactly how it happened.

The reactions of our friends and family have been overwhelmingly positive. After all, I knew after four days that I wanted to spend my life with her, but I held my tongue for seven months and three days—far longer than most engaged or married couples in our friendship circle. And while I appreciate the many “congratulations” and well wishes, I am truly amused when friends and colleagues do a double take and say, “wait, you proposed to her?” Yes, I proposed. Me, the presupposed submissive femme. We shared an intimate, private moment juxtaposed against a thousand people in one of the largest Pride celebrations in our country, and I couldn’t be prouder.

One of the most beautiful things about the nature of lesbian relationships is that we are free from the social constructs of gender-prescriptive roles and responsibilities. Even couples who operate under the typical femme-butch dynamic don’t subscribe to the archetypal understanding of butch asks femme for hand in marriage and femme unapologetically acquiesces. Some couples mutually agree to marriage and forego the proposal hoopla altogether; others have been happily partnered for years and choose not to participate in the social institution of marriage at all. Marriage and proposal expectations should always be communicated regardless of the gender or sexual makeup of a couple. For me and my fiancé, we decided not to miss out on the joys of proposal and marriage just because we are two women. We each want and deserve a story to share with friends, family, and our future children, and that is exactly what we will have.

Lately I’ve been asked, “So where’s your ring?” My ring is coming. Although I elected to pop the question first, that doesn’t mean she can’t plan a meaningful proposal to me either. She’s probably off somewhere plotting it right now, and I am anxiously and excitedly waiting. Because it’s a beautiful reflection of our relationship: we take turns being the dominant one and sharing the workload. Our children will not see one of us as the “mom” and the other as the “dad,” but rather, they will see us as two individuals, working and communicating together to provide a loving, nurturing environment for them and each other. Sometimes we know when to step up; other times, we know when to step back. That is the spirit of a true femme.


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