Monday, January 18, 2010

Engagement, and my dislike of Facebook

A month or two ago, Stephanie and I decided to get engaged. I am not a fan of tradition for its own sake, so there was no grand gesture on one knee by either of us; instead we came to the consensus over time that we were both expecting to follow the other indefinitely. I was not sure at first that this was wise because of the many unknowns involved in applying to graduate school; once we discovered that the other was willing to compromise regardless of admissions outcomes, the deal was sealed. We are getting married. To my surprise, that has been the easiest decision yet.

The particulars of when, where and how of a wedding happens can be the subject of much debate; even the step of announcing an engagement can be done in many different ways. I tend towards being quiet and unscripted about such attention-grabbing announcements, while Steph has many more ideas of what should and shouldn’t happen. Initially we planned out a surprise announcement- this was axed on the grounds that Steph’s roommates were able to easily figure out something was up. Her best friends mostly knew, but we were able to keep it off Facebook (lest the whole world know before our relatives, or worse, that relatives learn of the engagement via the impersonal HTTP protocol). So, rings patiently waiting in their leather boxes, we tried to come up with a more timely and practical way of "breaking the news".

Next was telling friends and family; we planned to do this at Steph’s graduation reception, but weren’t sure whether my family could make the trip around the lake so close to finals week at university. At the same time, we didn’t want to tell my family at Thanksgiving in person and face driving to Wisconsin for the sole purpose of telling Steph’s parents, or worse, telling one set of parents well before the other. Such a lag would be sure to stir resentment or feelings of favoritism. Steph informed her parents by herself. She outright told her father while driving, and delivered a rose to her mother at work. Once Steph’s parents (mother, in particular) knew, we had limited time until it was tweeted, facebooked, and blogged (okay, maybe not) around the world. With this in mind, we had a Skype battle royale featuring Brian+Steph vs Brian’s Parents. They were very happy for us; over the remainder of the semester we began telling nearly everyone about our engagement.

Except a certain Mr. Facebook. Before about 5 years ago, one did not have to worry about an engagement being disseminated over the internet equally to your relatives and distant acquaintances (unless you are of substantial celebrity, which does not apply). In the present, one must be extremely careful to mitigate the embarrassing situation where your uncle, cousins, former BFF’s and others learn of an engagement in the [re-contextualized with extra thumbs, blue boxes, and inane comments] setting of Facebook. While it is somewhat nervewracking for me to tell people about being engaged, at least I have some control over the message. Some people scarcely remember whom I was dating, the gender of my partner, or that I was dating at all. Others are intimate about our love story and inquire regularly. It’s just better to have control (or at least blunt the impact) of your message, especially when its one you will [hopefully] only deliver once. Recall the last time you heard about an old friend’s death over Facebook. That guilt of lost communication and of being a lame friend is something that I want to escape. Perhaps the only solution is to exit Facebook, and I have considered it several times.

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Epilogue.

Steph is now working this semester at Purdue, and we have moved into a new apartment together. Planning for the wedding is mostly deferred for later, because I don’t yet know what university (or country) I’ll be at in a year’s time. In the meantime, I am finishing my final semester at Purdue, and we are slowly merging our formerly separate ways of life into a single household. It’s harder than it would seem, but nonetheless enjoyable.