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Will You Marry Me?

November 22, 2018

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“Of course,” HE replied.

Today we’re going to discuss a new twist on an old ritual: Why is it that the male always has to get down on bended knee and propose marriage to the female? Why can’t the reverse happen?

A bridal party in a fun mood at the Washington Square Arch

I was intrigued with this idea when I came across a pull quote in the July, 2018 issue of Vogue that said, “She hated going to weddings. The idea of having one of her own was out of the question.”

Those two statements are pretty powerful so I sat down and started reading this fascinating piece by Dan Schwerin, a terrific writer who was Hillary Clinton’s chief speechwriter and book collaborator. He starts by saying, “I had made my peace with never being able to propose to my girlfriend. We loved each other. We had lived together for years. We were planning our future. But Yael Julie (or YJ) made it clear that under no condition was I ever to ask her to marry me. “Don’t you dare,” she said.

WHY? WHY? WHY THIS REACTION?

Apparently YJ had grown up in an Orthodox Jewish community in California and had chafed at the idea of marriage at seventeen followed by babies – so she charted a different path. By her mid-30s she was an Ivy-League-educated lawyer and a State Department diplomat who still felt a fierce need to assert her independence.

The couple met in 2005 in Virginia as two recent college grads, but he moved on to Washington, D.C. while she started law school at Columbia in New York. Four years later in 2009 they started dating again and planned to spend the month of August together. Didn’t happen. Instead, YJ moved to Afghanistan to work for a nonprofit.

This back-and-forth continued. Out of the blue, he would contact her or she would contact him. After graduating from law school she worked on a farm in Tuscany, meditated in an ashram in Thailand and surfed in Bali before she decided she was ready for a real relationship. After two years of commuting between their respective cities YJ moved to Washington and they started living together.

A farm in Tuscany – between Florence and Pisa

“Then,” says Dan, “came the heartbreak of November 2016. The life we had anticipated in Washington disappeared in an instant – so they decided to get out of D.C. “In 2017, I spent my time traveling back and forth from L.A., where YJ worked and where we both lived, to Chappaqua, New York to help Hillary write her memoir about the 2016 campaign.”

Then in September of 2017 both of them traveled to Italy for a friend’s wedding. Later, when the two of them were strolling down one of Rome’s charming, ancient streets, YJ paused under a vine-covered trestle. “I thought she was tying her shoe, but she looked up and, from one knee, said very seriously, “Can I ask you something? Will you marry me?” Was this a joke? “Of course,” I said laughing. She kissed me and I realized it wasn’t a joke at all.”

The author and his new bride – photo courtesy of Vogue, July 2018

Two months later, they took their families to a favorite spot in Malibu, and on a bluff overlooking the Pacific Ocean they were married. It was a simple ceremony but they loved every minute of it.

Shaun Nelson-Henrick


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