Ask Dr. Nerdlove by Harris O'Malley

What’s The Best Way To Propose During Quarantine?

DEAR DR. NERDLOVE: So this may not be your typical question. More or less I need to bounce some ideas.

I want to ask my girlfriend to marry me. We’ve been together for over four years and she’s helped me become a better person and reach for things I doubted I could do before. She’s smart, funny and attractive. I love her more every day and I’m looking forward to spending the rest of our lives together.

Thing is, I was planning on making a proposal in front our friends at a party I wanted to hold after I completed work on a big project of mine. But then the coronavirus hit and changed everything. We can’t have gatherings so I can’t invite a bunch of people over to look at this thing and then make the proposal in front of them all. I couldn’t have done it without her, so I want her to be a part of the whole thing.

If this was normal I’d probably just be like “well whatever, I’ll just do it in private” but it’s not exactly normal. You see, my girlfriend is trans. This is a non-issue for me and our friends, but one thing I know what she wants is for the engagement to be a big deal. She’s expressed that she feels she deserves a special proposal just as any woman would. I agree that she deserves to have a big deal be made about getting engaged, and I want to make that a reality.

But we’re all stuck at home and that makes it difficult to make my plan a reality.

Thing is, we have no idea how long this will last. Some estimates are over a year, and I don’t want to wait that long. Honestly I was hoping to have done it by now already.

My girlfriend’s needs and desires are important to me and I want to make her dreams come true, but I also want to be engaged to her and call her my fiancé, like, yesterday. I’ve already almost messed up and called her my fiancé a couple times. So what do I do? Do I just go for it and make this finally happen in as special a way as I can in isolation? Or do I wait to make the day as special as it can possibly be?

And just for the record, I have no doubt she’ll accept. We’ve talked about it before and she’s made it clear she expects me to propose eventually. This won’t be a surprise besides the day, time and way I plan to do it.

Thanks for the help.

-Isolated in Indecision

DEAR ISOLATED IN INDECISION: First of all, congratulations on your impending engagement, IOI; it’s great that you and your girlfriend are at a point where you’re ready to tie the knot. It’s a damn shame that you — like so many others — have had your lives and plans turned thoroughly upside down by the COVID-19 pandemic.

So let’s talk proposals.

On a strictly personal level… I’m not the biggest fan of elaborate or showy proposals. I can understand the appeal to a certain extent, but I find that past a certain point, they’re less about a celebration of love and partnership and more about showing off. A lot of those viral proposals may make for great moments on TikTok or YouTube, but they always rub me the wrong way; it feels more like they’re for other people instead of the couple.

But that’s just me; I can also understand wanting to give your partner the proposal she wants, especially in a way that gives her the validation society often denies trans women. So f

k it, let’s showboat a little. The fact that we’re stuck in unusual circumstances doesn’t mean that you can’t propose, or that you can’t make it special for her. It just requires some creativity and out of the box thinking.

The key here is to think about just what would make her feel special and why. Would it be about including your mutual friends and family in the moment? Would it be about the effort it took to make it special? Maybe it would be something in the way that you did it — something that you can put together that speaks to the things she loves and enjoys.

There’re a number of potential options and ideas, depending on how elaborate you want to go and how much time, effort and money you’re willing to throw at the project. One of the fastest and easiest would be to enlist the help of others. If, for example, a favorite celebrity of hers is on Cameo, you could commission them to help you pop the question. Alternately, you could propose — while still maintaining social distancing — by delivering the ring via drone; fly the drone up to her window, while you stand below. Another way you could involve friends or family is to propose via an online game; many couples have proposed in World of Warcraft, Final Fantasy XIV, even Animal Crossing. All of these give you the chance to have your friends in virtual attendance, even allowing them to get dolled up in ways they might not be able to in the real world now. You could even arrange a Zoom happy hour… that just happens to be so you can propose. Hell, set things up so y’all serenade her

Other couples have gotten literally creative with their proposals. If you or your girlfriend have a favorite comic or artist or art style, commissioning a short comic might work. Others have used bespoke games to propose to great effect. But proposing — even a showy, special proposal — doesn’t need to be an incredibly elaborate or expensive affair. Even something as simple as a Twine game would feel special; the point is about the two of you, after all, not the amount of money or trouble you went through to make it happen.

So think about the things that are meaningful to your girlfriend or that are representative to your relationship. What has the most meaning, ties into something she loves or is reminiscent of the story of your lives together? Use that as the base and work outwards from there.

Just remember; at the end of the day, it’s not the proposal that matters, it’s the love behind it.

Good luck.

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