When does a day begin?
We normally think of a day as when we wake up to when we go to sleep. Day and night are two different entities, but the night technically is part of a day.
For this story, I’m going to go with the 24-hour period from 3 am on December 6 to 3 am on December 7. Why was it so great? I got engaged! Here she is… and yes, I call her “she” throughout the body of this piece for stylistic reasons.
“Our story,” as it’s told on wedding websites, which encompasses how we met, where she’s from, etc., is beyond the scope of this post. And it would need her side, too. This is simply my take on it. In short, we met on OkCupid in April. We started talking on the phone in May. I went to Austin to visit her in June. She came to visit me in LA in July. I met her parents and we became official in November. She met my parents in Cincinnati in early December. Needless to say, this timeline is short. But I love getting my wisdom from movies.
I do believe there were three things that led me to her. One was obviously OkCupid. The other was my one-person show, which transformed me into somebody who was ready to be married. And the final and probably most important was the pooja (religious ceremony) that I did at my parents’ house in June. Hindus believe that you can bless yourself with these sorts of things. And I believe it worked.
Oh, and maybe a fourth. I was tired of having to set up a complex mirror-phone combination to shave the back of my head. A wife would come in handy for this.
For now, let’s just focus on the proposal.
At 3 am on December 6, it occurred to me: I should propose to my girlfriend tonight. We gradually but suddenly (one of my favorite phrases) became serious over the autumn, talking about weddings, “when we’re married,” the whole nine. She’d only met my parents on Wednesday but they, like every friend and family member before them, loved her. On Friday, she and I went ring-shopping at Tiffany’s, simply to get sized and figure out the styles she liked. That night, she told me that her parents would love if I just proposed on this trip. Wait. What? Wow. She really says what she means, huh?
That night (Friday), I featured for Kevin Nealon yet again at one of my home comedy clubs, The Funny Bone on The Levee in Newport, KY, which is often referred to as the Cincinnati Funny Bone. (Just like the Cincinnati airport, it’s in Kentucky.) Incidentally, this is where I had started my friendship and working relationship with Nealon way back in 2005.
So, there I was, at my parents’ house, lying in the bed in which I’d slept since age 11. Well, not the last several years but you feel me. After she and I had stayed in hotels all week, she extended her trip and was staying at my parents’ the last two nights of Friday and Saturday before we both were to head out on Sunday morning. And yes, she and I were in separate rooms.
It then hit me. All the elements were coming together. I’d always thought of proposing from the stage, either when I was headlining or featuring on a large show. I wanted to do what most men couldn’t do — something that was quintessentially me, but would still put enough of a focus on her. I’ve heard some very touching and sweet and awesome proposal stories — and there’s nothing wrong with them. But any civilian could do them. This was something that I could uniquely do. And yes, I totally just called all non-comedians “civilians.”
And what a confluence of circumstances: my favorite big comic, Kevin Nealon, was performing. The shows on Saturday would be sold-out since the Friday ones were. My parents could come. My girlfriend was there. (That helps.) I had her ring size and style down. And now that she’d told me that she and her parents were ready, the only way to surprise her at this point was just to go for it.
So, I woke my Mom up at 4 am to tell her my idea. She said it was “wonderful.” I emailed Kevin to ask his permission since he was headlining and I went to sleep. I woke up at 10 am and conferred with my parents. She and I went about our day, running errands and grabbing lunch. I did my best to play it cool. (Five years of acting training helps.) Kevin called when she and I were at lunch at Brij Mohan, my favorite Indian restaurant in the world, and I stepped out to talk (and mostly listen) to him. He opened with, “Big move, buddy. Big move.” He was concerned for me — was I sure about this? Once I told him that she and I’d already agreed to get married, he was hugely relieved and whelmed (but not overly).
I told him I’d like to do it at the end of his set. One thing you must know about Kevin is that he has a reputation for being one of the nicest guys in the game. And he is. He’s come over to my parents’ for dinner… he and his wife send them Christmas cards… he invited me to his 60th birthday party. We aren’t just acquaintances; we’re bona fide friends. Let’s put it this way: he once asked me for a ride to a club in LA and I told him it was too far out of my way. Funny that I should provide an example of something I didn’t do for him to evince how close we are but that makes sense, right?
So, in typical Kevin fashion, he said he’d do whatever I’d like to do. He then suggested that I do it at the end of my set, since “the attention would’ve already shifted from you to me.” I was thrilled because that’s what I wanted to do but wasn’t sure he’d go for it. I was worried that it was too large of an event to follow. He assured me that he could, with just the right amount of, “Dude, I mean, I am Kevin Nealon.” He even wrote a joke on the spot. And he sent me this email. (The “slick material” line is an inside joke. A few weeks ago, my old manager submitted my standup set to The Tonight Show. Kevin had called the booker on my behalf. The booker liked my set and wants to see more. But one of his pieces of feedback was that the delivery on this particular one seemed “slick.”)
She and I ran to an Indian grocery store to buy some things for her parents. While she was shopping, I called Amy down at Tiffany’s to tell her the plan and ensure she had the right style and size. She did and, in a stroke of luck, the shop was open till 7 pm, giving me an extra hour. Not sure one refers to Tiffany & Company as a “shop,” but hey.
We drove back to my parents’, and while they and she talked downstairs, I made my way to the masterbathroom to place a few more phone calls. Thank God she’s Gujarati, which means her parents own a motel, which means their number is listed. I told them my plan and asked for their blessing and permission. Fortunately, they happily granted it. I called both of my brothers to give them the news. They were pleasantly shocked, if that’s a term. I wish I had more time to call even one friend but I simply didn’t. I did call up Tony, the GM of the Funny Bone, to get his go-ahead, too — I never thought I’d have to ask so many men for their permission to marry a girl. He loved the idea and actually gave me some notes on how to do it. All told, Tony and the whole Funny Bone family, from Dave Stroupe in Columbus to Chris Jones (who was one of two videographers I hired) to the wait staff could not have been better. It truly felt like home.
We dressed up and headed to The Funny Bone on The Levee. I’d already told her that I needed to go see my tenant in my house, which was actually true at the time. As the clock was winding down, I canceled on him. But it was not a lie when I said it.
She needed to know what to wear and I told her that we may go clubbing with my friends, John and Lori. John and Lori, with their three kids and house in the north suburbs, probably haven’t been clubbing in a decade. But this ensured she dressed up real purty like.
I dropped her off at the comedy club and ran back across the river. Well, I drove over the bridge. I’m not Jesus. Amy had the ring all ready to go and so I grabbed it and got her advice on how to present it. She said to leave it in the box as everybody would know where it came from. Was that great proposal advice or product placement? Either way, I’d never done this before so fine by me. I ran outside and — girls, this is for you — FIREWORKS were going off as I left. I suppose it was for Christmas. (Jesus’ Birthday.) So I took that as a sign and took the obligatory selfie in front of Tiffany’s.
Fellas, the other sign is that I found a dope parking spot downtown inside of 30 seconds on a Saturday night.
I got down to the comedy club and ensured that she and my parents, who were under the weather but obviously not going to miss this, were seated OK. They were all the way in the back of the 300+-seat room in a VIP booth so I pulled my Mom out and told her to listen for when I ask, “Any single people here tonight?” At that point, since you’re not feeling well, tell her you need help getting to the bathroom, which will bring her toward the front of the room. And if you need to stall (no pun intended), just tell her that you like this one joke and want to hear me finish it (even if you don’t).
So, I’m in the green room with Kevin. He quips, “You don’t seem nervous at all,” because I was pacing and talking about a million miles an hour.
I actually took this time to compose all of my “Hey, we got engaged” texts.
I set my phone to airplane mode, sent them all, and received message failure notifications. That way, I could hit “Try Again” later when I knew I wouldn’t have any time. I’m not superstitious about these things; I often do the same thing when I’m flying — I text, “Landed!” before I land. So far… so good. (Obviously, I s’pose, or I wouldn’t be here to write that.)
Kim Sherwood, the MC, does his ten minutes and kills again. He brings me up and I actually thought I was going to bomb since I was a ball of nerves but I killed ’cause I’m hilarious. Then…
Well, watch the video. Figured since the proposal was public we may as well stick it on YouTube. Major shout-out to Patrick McConnell for shooting and editing it within a few days.
It’s hard to describe what I was feeling. These were my notes to self:
The biggest one was a reminder to look at her, talk to her, make it about her. Sure, I wanted to perform, but she had to look like the most important person in the room at the moment because of course she was.
My friend, Samia Khan, loved it but said that I should’ve said I was trying out some new material. To that end, I was actually going to say, “She’s been here all week. Monday thru Thursday, we stayed in hotels. The last two nights, before we fly out on Sunday, we’re at my parents’. Last night, I tried to put the moves on her and she hit me with, ‘Not at your parents’ house! At least till we’re engaged.’ So, here you go.” But the joke writer in me felt it was too long of a setup. Oh, and also my parents were there?!
After this, we received very warm hugs from my parents. She and I retired to the green room, where Kim was hanging out. We chatted with him for a while; he told us about a marriage that had fallen apart due to infidelity. (Excellent engagement night conversation, that.) I had her step outside, despite the cold, just so we could have a moment together. We then had the green room to ourselves, where we just held each other for a good while. Then we called my parents back to join us — and she touched their feet! It’s an Indian tradition but the way she did it was so sweet and, well, touching.
While she and I were alone together (my favorite oxymoron), I really wanted us to be off our phones during this time. The first “message” to be sent was to her about how she was the most important person to me — not the 50 (or more?) people who were about to be pinged. (And yes, I’m sorry to the two people I missed. You know who you are.) Of course, there was a deluge of missives over the course of the next several days and I resolved to enjoy each interaction with everybody instead of focusing on the line of people to call back. Although I love how a life event allows you to use it as an excuse as to why you haven’t responded to people in weeks. I’m totally blaming this.
My favorite responses were captured in a Facebook post.
My brother, Vikas, won for funniest next text:
I got a number of people saying that they hoped they were going to get a wedding invitation. Man, I can already see that I’m gonna lose some fans.
We later posted it on Facebook.
So, it’s official. Well, when do things become official in this day and age? Was it the proposal or when we put it on Facebook?
Or, when she suggested, she de-activated her OkC account?
We hung out with Kevin for a bit.
Then we went to a bar called Brothers with John & Lori, Neil & Scott (not a couple), Mike Hicks (who grew up with me on Wittenberg Dr.), Joe Baer, and Jeff Rennekamp, who lifted us up where we belong.
I’m ready to begin my life with her. Especially because this now totally ruins my after-show game. Ha. The whole thing happened so fast — and it needed to because the drugs that Bill Cosby had given me were beginning to wear off. Oh! I think perhaps the last straw was the news from a few weeks ago. A man from Cincinnati, Ohio, who tried to make it in entertainment in California, got engaged. That was Charles Manson. I can’t let him get married before me. I mean, c’mon.
Surprises are funny things. We just did a surprise 70th birthday party for my Dad last month. And we totally fooled him. There’s that immediate rush but afterwards it’s kind of like the person who got fooled feels stupid and now knows that he’s surrounded by a bunch of absolute LIARS.
I wish she could’ve felt what I did that day — the anticipation was a lot of what made it the best day of my life. Then again, she got the joy of being blindsided by the proposal. So, we both win. Well, I win. You’ve seen pictures of her.
We went back to my parents’ and eventually passed out around 3 am on December 7.
Originally published at www.rajivsatyal.com on December 17, 2014.