If I had known dinner was going to come with a marriage proposal, I would have worn a tie.
I still don’t know what to think, much less what to feel. A beautiful young woman asked me tonight — just a few minutes ago — if I would marry her, but it was more like a business proposal or a marriage of convenience.
Kayla is 28 years old. (That’s not her real name, of course.) I’ve known her — not well enough to marry her, though — for about 10 years. She’s beautiful. She’s highly intelligent. She’s talented. And she has a great heart.
But shortly after college, things went terribly wrong in her life. She had family tragedies which she never imagined. And then she had to face personal demons — things none of us saw coming — which threatened to destroy her for good.
I hadn’t seen Kayla for five years. She ended up homeless at one point and I ran into her by chance at the worst of that crisis. She spent one night with me, but I lost track of her again after that. And then she asked to see me tonight.
Kayla is still beautiful, but the stress of her chaotic life is written on her face — and especially in her blue eyes. In many respects, Kayla fits the profile of women who I am attracted to. She’s 5-10, blonde and blue-eyed — and her face is still perfect. She’s gained some weight from the stress of the last few years, but that doesn’t bother me in the least.
She comes from a dysfunctional family, so we have some shared family experiences. Her father is a successful engineer and her mother is an irresponsible flower child who has drifted from one passion to another — some involving careers and some leading to the beds of various other men.
Kayla knows how badly her life has gone off the rails and she’s desperate to get back on track before it’s too late. She faced serious legal problems at one point and she was sent to a program that was supposed to help her deal with her demons. She once expected a lot of herself in life, and other people had high expectations for her, too. She’s desperate to turn things around.
Kayla is looking for redemption.
She decided she needs a partner who represents the life she wants and that she once expected. She decided she needs to say goodbye to the sort of men who she has allowed to pursue her in the past — and lead her to places she now doesn’t want to go. She decided she wanted to change her life entirely.
And she decided I would be the right partner to help her get where she wants to go.
She told me tonight that she’s always felt close to me and always felt as though we instantly connected, even when she was a young and immature “little girl” when we met. (Those were her words.) She said she had admired me and enjoyed my company in the past.
She told me that she had recently outlined the things that would make a man the perfect husband and perfect partner for her. She said she was surprised to realize the only person she knew who fit all of her criteria was me.
She knows I want to find a partner. She knows I want to have children. She’s been reading what I write here and she knows that my values and attitudes are the ones she wants in her life — and which she wants for her children.
It was one of the strangest sensations I’ve ever experienced. A beautiful young woman was telling me that I represent what she wants in her life and what she wants to become — but it was more like a business proposal or a plan to share a home out of convenience.
She didn’t pretend she’s in love with me. She said she thinks she would fall in love with me, but that would come later. And she hopes I would love her.
But even if we didn’t end up with a love of passion and romance, she said, we could both have partners and children and stability. Wasn’t that worth something?
In practical terms, Kayla’s proposal had a lot going for it. I would get a beautiful young wife who wanted to have children with me and be my friend and partner. She would get a husband and partner who would bring to the relationship the experience of having dealt with dysfunction over and over in his life — someone who could help her to heal and to become what she had always intended to be.
Wasn’t that good enough?
After I explained why I couldn’t marry her, Kayla didn’t really seem surprised.
“If I could just fall in love with you first, I think you might fall in love with me,” said said. “But I know you want love. I think I could give it to you, but it might take awhile. I just know I need a change in my life immediately, not next year. As bad as things have been for me, it was worth at least asking you. I didn’t have anything to lose.”
There’s a part of me that wishes I could accept Kayla’s proposal. I’d like a partner. I would enjoy her company. As long as she has defeated her demons, I think she would be a good mother. I need someone like her, at least in most respects.
But I need to be in love with my partner — and I need my partner to be in love with me. I need a partner who chooses me for all the right reasons.
I want all the things that Kayla was offering me, but those things seem useless to me without love.
Maybe I could fall in love with Kayla. Maybe she would fall in love with me. Maybe she’s beaten her demons for good. Maybe she’s worth taking a chance on. Maybe I’ll regret passing up this offer. Maybe.
All I know is that I need something Kayla can’t offer me, at least not now. I need someone who loves me and chooses me for being me. And I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.
Note: Kayla knows I was going to write about this and she didn’t mind. I promised only not to reveal enough that anyone could know who she is.