By: Ben Eisenberg December 10, 2004 was a Friday, just one day after our three-year dating anniversary. At the time, I was working on a project in New York City and Alanna was interning in West Windsor. In fact, December 10th was the last day of her internship. Whats more, her only other outstanding requirement before graduation, her Honors Thesis, was signed-off on and submitted to the faculty on Monday. I had made dinner plans for us in the City to celebrate the end of her internship, the completion of the thesis, our three-year anniversary, and most of all, our anticipated engagement -- only Alanna didnt know about that last part.
Alanna met me in the City after I got off of work. If I recall correctly, I walked down to Penn Station to meet her at the train. From there, we hopped on a subway and headed down to Union Square for dinner. I had made reservations for us at Candela, only she didnt know that. She didnt know any details of the evening, although I had an entire evening already planned out. I told her that everything was a surprise, with each activity better than the last.
Candela is a chic restaurant near Union Square that is focused around one theme -- romance. The entire restaurant is lit solely by the alluring glow of hundreds of candles. Although we both found the food to lack uniqueness, the atmosphere for the evening certainly received a 10.
After dinner, we went for a long walk to find dessert. We wanted to go to Rice To Riches, but neither of us remembered the exact street address of the citys rice pudding connoisseur. For those of you who havent heard of such a thing, yes, Rice To Riches sells only rice pudding. They have about 25 different varieties and scoop it up like an ice cream parlor in futuristic, brightly-colored orbital dishes. (For those of you going, There has to be something more -- no one can make a living just selling rice pudding, youre correct. Not too long ago, it was in the news that the rice pudding baron was arrested for running an illegal gambling operation. But thats a different story.)
The rice pudding was a refreshing treat after our unexpectedly-long hour walk to the rice pudding store, but our adventures in the city did not end there. Next, we walked up to Macys in Herald Square, to gaze like tourists at the world-famous Macys Christmas window displays. Then we walked up to Lord & Taylors to look at their holiday window displays, which I recall as equally as impressive as Macys. We followed that with a walk to Rockefeller Plaza to see the famous Christmas tree -- something I knew Alanna really wanted to see that evening.
And thats where I chose to propose. We walked around to the back of the tree, kind of tucked into the entry way of the GE Building. While still outside, we were no longer completely out in the open. However, this spot at least gave us the illusion of some privacy.
I made the suggestion that, since we are under the worlds tallest holiday objectification, we should trade our Hanukkah/Christmas/Anniversary presents, which -- believe it or not -- we had been carrying all evening.
Alanna gave me my present first, at my request, because I knew that nothing she was going to give me would top what I was going to give her! However, she did come pretty close, as my gift was two tickets to the Patriots-Jets game at the Meadowlands!
Then, it was my turn. I presented her with a gift bag, in which she pulled out a shiny, gold drawstring pouch with a small Sephora tag at the bottom. For those of you unfamiliar with ladies cosmetics, Sephora is a popular fragrance and make-up store that sells a line of bath products called Philosophy, which Alanna adores.
Earlier in the week, I dropped into the Sephora to see what I could find to hide the ring in, as I didnt want to do the straight-forward get-down-on-one-knee and brandish a ring box approach. In Sephora, I went straight to the Philosophy section. And as if it was there calling out to me, I zeroed in on a seasonal product, Gingerbread Body Soufflé. It was the perfect box! Not only was it just the right size to hide a jewelry box in, the entire posterboard box, which was a deep holiday red color, was filled with Philosophys trademark humor and quotes -- all about a womans new love: This is the best guy on planet earth. I just love ending my day with him. I finally found a man even my mother loves! The box referred to The Gingerbread Man, but make a minor substitution -- like a diamond ring -- and suddenly all of the quotes refer to Alannas perfect man.
So, Alanna opened the gold bag and pulled out a wrapped box. She gently peeled back the wrapping paper to see the body soufflé box. Then, at my request, she opened up the body soufflé box to reveal a blue jewelry box sitting amongst some festive tissue paper. Alanna froze like a deer in headlights. I dont know what was running through her mind at that point in time -- either Hey, thats not body soufflé! or Oh my god, I am about to be proposed to! But either way, she was shocked. So I reached over, took the ring box out of her hand, opened it up, and asked her to marry me.
At first, Alanna didnt say yes. She didnt say no. She didnt say anything. Instead, she stood there, shell-shocked and tearing up. It felt like an eternity, but it was probably only a few seconds before she leaned forward and gave me biggest hug we ever shared and told me that she would, of course, marry me! I slid the ring on her finger, and we embraced again.
Then, in typical New Yorker style, we were interrupted with a teenage girls shout, Yo, did you just propose to her? We said yes, and the girl told us, Congratulations, I hope you two have a happy life together, and then walked away with a friend. But that short exchange of words caught the interest of a middle-aged female tourist, who walked over and offered her own congratulations. She asked to see the ring, which Alanna proudly displayed. My own New Yorker roots came through at that point and my radar went up, fearful that our display of emotion would turn into a mugging. But, instead, the woman was harmless and continued on with the banter, Thats great for the two of you. Weve been married for . . . umm . . . how long have we been married . . . Harold! she screamed to her husband who had since drifted away with the crowd, How long have we been married? Well, anyway, its been like 35 years. And there are ups and downs. So, basically, what I am saying is, Be careful what you wish for. And with that little piece of advice, I was ready to move on before we attracted any more well-wishers. We moved to the other side of Rockefeller Center and stood there marveling at the tree, and at each other, until the police closed the site down for the night, about 30 minutes later.
That would have been enough to end the evening. After all, what can top being proposed to under the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center? But I had one more activity planned for the night. And, like everything else, it involved walking. We headed north towards the Plaza Hotel, on the way passing Trump Tower, Bloomingdales and a handful of other luxurious stores, in which we did a little more window shopping.
At the Plaza Hotel, I hailed a cab. But not just a regular taxi cab -- I mean a hansom cab, also known as a horse and carriage ride. We sat in the carriage, under a blanket, as it was a chilly evening, while the driver took us for a half-hour ride around Central Park. The park was gorgeous at night, although Im unsure how much of the ride Alanna remembers. I think she spent the majority of the ride marveling at her new bling (or is it ice?).
We completed the loop around the Park, nearing -- and then passing -- the Plaza Hotel. We walked right down 59th Street, and then turned left down 7th Avenue, right in the middle of the busy street with the regular reckless taxi cabs and automobiles. Alanna got a little nervous, since she had no idea where we were going, no idea why our horse decided to walk down the middle of a busy New York City street, and no idea that I had earlier talked to the driver and asked him to drop us off at our final destination for the evening -- John and Lisas apartment on 51st Street and 7th Avenue. (John and Lisa are good family friends who were out of town and let us borrow their place for the evening.) It was a romantic way to end a very romantic evening, and Alanna was thrilled that -- for once -- we got from Point A to Point B without having to walk!
We spent the next day in New York City, as well. After a relaxed morning, we went to my companys family open house day at our new office, shopped a little bit at a sample sale near my office, and then went up to the Hayden Planetarium for an IMAX show along with a subway train full of singing Santas, before catching a New Jersey Transit train back home that evening. It was a great weekend, and for obvious reasons, a weekend that has changed my life forever. It was a weekend that completely surprised Alanna, who thought that we were just celebrating our anniversary and the holidays, but nothing more. All my talk about waiting until after her graduation before popping the question made the timing of my proposal so unexpected! But in my mind, I could think of no better time or way to propose than the way I did it.
Like the Gingerbread Man box says, "Finally, a man who is truly smooth."