Full disclosure: My all-time favorite reality television guilty pleasure trainwreck is each episode of every show in the "Bachelor" franchise (The Bachelor, Bachelorette, Bachelor Pad, Bachelor in Paradise and whatever horrible criminal injustice ABC will think of next). If you're playing along at home, you already know this, but current Bachelor, Nick Viall, is going to try to get engaged tonight at a "final rose ceremony" in Finland.
On a very personal level, I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, part of me is rooting for schadenfreude of seeing Nick leave the show without an accepted proposal. I mean, the guy has slept with at least seven different women on National TV, by my count, and he rather famously slut-shamed one of them (also on National TV) on his first outing. But on the other hand, I sort of feel compelled to root for him to find true love in Finland on a personal level, because it just so happens that David and I got engaged in Helsinki, before same-sex marriage was even legal in New York, where we live.
You might say that it was a happy accident that we were in Finland, at all. I had a conference for work in Russia, so David and I decided that we'd build in a vacation for ourselves. We started off in St. Petersberg, marveled at the Hermitage, and saw the sights (and sites), and then continued on to Moscow. I'm just going to say here and now that visiting Russia was difficult. Not just difficult, but unpleasant. In fact, as someone who's seen a fair amount of the world, who's set foot on every continent, and who's explored many different cultures, I can safely say that Russia is the one place that I don't ever really feel like I'd take a return trip. If you're thinking of going, my only two pieces of advice are: (1) learn to speak Russian; and (2) don't book everything on your own.
So, after more than a week in Russia, where everything we did was a huge ordeal of epic proportions, where we battled with service providers to buy rail tickets, pay for cabs, tour museums and order food in restaurants, we had an overnight layover in Helsinki. We had our "New York Subway Faces" on, as we got into our cab at the airport, prepared to do battle with our cab driver over how much we'd have to pay, or whether we really wanted to go to the hotel that we'd said was our destination.
Turns out our cab driver was a woman, and she turned on the meter, chatted cheerfully with us (though we were still guarded) on the way to the hotel, and dropped us off without incident.
The desk clerks were friendly, too. They actually smiled!
It was June, and school had let out, recently, so there were lots of Finnish students who'd just matriculated, cheering boisterously (and probably drinking quite a bit) in their graduation caps and gowns.
We went to a restaurant for dinner and I cautiously asked the waitress for a recommendation. She enthusiastically engaged us in a conversation--was this our first time in Finland? Had we ever tried reindeer? What were we going to see and do while here? This ebullient, friendly conversation was almost more than I could take after a week and a half in Russia.
But my guard came down. Finland was completely and totally gorgeous, and the people were absolutely lovely. The next morning, David and I walked into the main square where there was a weekend arts and crafts market. As we strolled around the stalls looking for interesting souveniers, we found a woman who was selling jewelry that she'd designed, herself. She had these really beautiful rings--just simple silver bands, but really gorgeous.
I pointed them out to David and he liked them, too, and then one of us (I don't remember which of us it was) said, "Should we get rings?"
And the other said, "Well, I mean, if it ever became legal, we'd get married, probably, right?"
And then the first of us said, "Okay! Let's get engaged!"
So, it wasn't a traditional proposal. It wasn't a "WILL YOU MARRY ME" on a jumbotron at a sports event. And tt certainly wasn't a flash mob in a Wal-Mart. But we put those rings on our fingers in Helsinki, and a few years later, when New York passed marriage equality, we moved them from our right to our left hands.
I don't know what's going to happen tonight on The Bachelor (and I'm fairly dying to find out), but if Nick does manage to get engaged to someone (I mean, it's improbable, but, whatevs), I can only hope that his marriage is as happy as mine has been.