For their fifth anniversary of going steady, he wanted to surprise her.
The restaurant was a few notches above their usual price class, and she felt somewhat awkward and underdressed at first. The food was very good, and so was the conversation.
It turned out that the real surprise followed after the dessert. He knelt in front of her, presented her with a diamond ring and asked, "Will you marry me?" Conversations around them stopped, other guests curios at the display.
Very quietly she answered, "We need to talk about this." It all broke apart.
Both of them were distraught about their shattered illusions.
"I don't understand. I thought we were... why?"
She'd had the way back to try and sort her thoughts to explain, and started by showing him her hands, fingers spread. "Have you ever seen me wear a ring?"
He shook his head. She hadn't even owned any for a decade.
"That's because I don't like them. And real jewellery is an atrocious waste of money. And I know I told you that the whole 'diamond engagement ring' thing is nonsense made up by jewellers to make people to waste money on superfluous... bling."
"But don't you think you're over-reacting, to refuse because of a ring..." It did not make sense to him.
"That is not the point, it's that I thought you knew me better. Not only the ring, I rememer not long ago there was an ad for a TV show involving public marriage proposals, and I found it so off-putting that I said how it seemed to be designed to pressure the person being asked into accepting, in the heat of the moment, or lest the audience disapproved. And judging from the muttering in the restaurant, I was right."
"I didn't mean to... I was certain you'd accept, or I wouldn't have spent the money and effort."
She sighed, not sure anymore if she was making sense. "I would have, on the spot, if you had just simply asked."
"But why did you not, then?"
"Because I want you to know who I am, not expect me to follow some clichéd script, as if I were a kind of generic, instantly replacable puppet." It seemed to get through to him, at least a little, so she followed up with, "You told me you don't like sports matches, so would you like if I bought stadium tickets for you? I know you meant well, but it's a matter of respect."
He obviously swallowed the first reply that came to his mind, and after some thought reluctantly admitted, "Maybe I should have known you would see it as some kind of... herding, or something."
He sighed, and she sat next to him on the couch as he went on with a slightly ironic quirk, "I'm sorry I didn't consider how little you think of Hollywood romance."
"I'm sorry the evening did not turn out as nice as you expected." She hoped the tone hinted at the 'but I am not taking the blame' that she did not add explicitly.
He took out the ring case again and asked, "Well, what now?"
"Let's just take a bit of time. You kept the recipet? Then you can put the money by for something that's actually needed. Maybe the fridge or the car breaks down, or we'll have a wedding party to pay for..."
He gave her a lopsided look.
"I never did say 'no'. Just, let's see what happens."