Five Ways To Propose Marriage
An instruction manual, for my only brother
Molly Melina Sultan
Tell me this: Does she love you? Of course youll say she
does, but I am not so sure. This is the way, the only way to know
Leave the house. Dont let her know
where youre going, but leave muddy boot prints around. Leading
to nowhere in particular. Leading everywhere. Women like
a little mystery, and mud is mysterious. Ida has this thing for
my hands when I come home from work and have mud caked beneath
my fingernails. It gets her going. So, best bet is, leave mud
all over the whole fucking house. But clean off those piles of
crap from your dining room table! And leave one thing: a ticket.
To Saint Helena. Its this minuscule island in the dead center
of the Pacific with thousand foot cliffs surrounding it. Its
insane! But heres the truly insane part: You can only
get there by boat! Only by freight boat. One comes
once a year to deliver dry goods wrapped in Styrofoam peanuts.
You can book a bunk on it, its cheap as hell and takes fourteen
days to get there.
But heres the catch: Shell have
to go to New York to catch the boat. Just to think of catching
the boat is insane. If she goes, you know she loves you, and you
know her love is pure. Because pure love is insane. Insane!
So heres what you do--you go to New York, you wait at the
dock where the boat leaves, you wait for her, and you wear those
boots with the mud on them but by now the mud is all dried up
and crumbling off in places, but heres the thing: When she
gets there, if she gets there, you dont make her
get on the boat. You get down on your knees right there, man,
and you ask her! Because she loves you. If she was going to go
all the way to fucking Saint Helena for you, she loves you. On
the other hand, if shes not there, she dont love you,
and youve got yourself a boat right next to you going as
far away from her as you can get, so if she isnt there,
forget about marrying her, EVER, and get your ass on the boat.
Say this mantra the whole fourteen days of the trip, SHE DOESNT
LOVE ME, NOT NOW NOT EVER! And hey, once you get there, you can
be a goat herder. Thats what they do over there.
All right, not to insult you, but
do you love her? Dont get pissed off, I know you tell me
that you do, and I hope you tell her, but do you really love her?
Heres what I mean: You think love is getting drunk together
and letting her throw up in your car and giving her a bath when
you get home and not getting angry when she pees on your mattress
and you make her eggs in the morning and tell her its no
big deal, you have this chemical thatll get the smell out.
And that is love, no doubt about it. You also think love is all
the other stuff, like wearing her underwear on your head when
shes out of town and sucking out the beans from her burrito
when it bursts all over her and laughing about it all the way
home in the car. And that is love too. But, the real test is that
shes going to get old, and Ive seen old women, they
arent like old men. I know you probably think you know this,
but you dont know. Ive seen old women. I mean naked.
The point is, theyre crinkled, man, they are all crinkled
up! And its almost beautiful in a way, all the little lines
like fingerprints on their skin. I bet no two of them are alike.
The question is, will you love her, all crinkled like this? Because
for women--you know I know women--you cant just love their
brains. You cant just say Baby, youre all wrinkled
up but I love your thoughts, because women dont go for that..
They need to be beautiful always and youve got to tell them
with sincerity. Otherwise, theyll get suspicious and think
youre cheating. Its nobodys fault, but it does
matter. Its shallow, man, but remember, in the end, WE ARE
ALL ANIMALS! Damn, if everyone kept that in mind, nobodyd
be going to jail. So what Im saying here is, youve
either got to love crinkled women, or youve got to be a
damn good liar. And I mean, a damn good one.
And heres a secret: Women love it
when you talk about getting old with them. Itll gross you
out, but its the quickest route to their hearts. This is
a God damned promise. The day Ida conceived Bitty was the day
that I told her that I loved the little bulging triangles where
her thighs were starting to sag, and I stooped down and licked
them and told her I hope they get bigger. I think I even
meant it, because I was really feeling something when I said it.
Anyway, nine months later, Bitty came along, and my point here
is, I know women, so, listen to me! I know my shit.
So, you get this indelible marker and hide
it for a few weeks. Be sure to wait it out, otherwise youll
be too excited and your thoughts wont be clear. Then, some
time after you two have been going at it and Cassandra falls asleep,
you go and get the marker. Be sure shes sleeping soundly,
you cant get impatient on this one. Wait until she makes
that little buzzing noise through her nose (does she do that anyhow?)
and her belly should feel all relaxed and easily jiggled. Do the
jiggle test. Then open the marker, and breathe hot air on the
tip for a few seconds so its not cold and startling. Then,
you write on her! I promise, she will love this. On her
thighs you write "these thighs are just my size," and
on her belly you write "theres nothing funny about
this tummy," and on her ass you write, "this behind
is mine all mine!" and on her boobs you write, "these
boobs are perfectly huge," and you can definitely think up
the rest, but they gotta be nice. Dont write any shit like
"these tits are the pits," because while it might be
a little amusing to you, its not the time. Anyway, after
youve written all over her, you go into your bathroom, and
you write on the mirror, "Be my wife for all your life,"
or "Be my bride cause I like your hide," or "Marry
me, cutest little baby." The last one doesnt have perfect
rhythm, but shell like it cause it has the word "little"
in it, and women dig that word. This writing on the body thing
is good because it honors their body in a way that they can see,
and thats better than sex, and they like that. Shell
definitely say yes if you use this approach.
But do it on a weekend so she wont
have to go to work the next day, because some markers dont
wash off so easily.
The Power of Powder
Heres facts everyone should
know but nobodys taking the time to think about, so therefore,
only I know! Im the man with the facts. Ever wonder what
it is for women about men in uniform? You hear it all the time:
Oooh! A man in a uniform makes me swoonie! Or moonie? I
forget which one it is. My advice when questioning the universe
is always: look deeper! Do you think its simple coincidence
that marines, postal workers, policemen, janitors, and roto rooters
all wear blue uniforms? My man, there is no such thing
as coincidence in this life. This might get you--its both
deep and obvious--all of these uniforms these guys wear are the
same color! Blue has what I like to call animal magnetism. When
you wear it, you smell a little better to women, your butt looks
a little more protruding and rounded, your whiskers more stubbly,
and the veins in your muscles stick out more. Its attractive.
Think about that word like you never have before. Who do you think
of? Elvis, of course. I dont need to say his last name,
kings need no more than one name. Elvis was at his best in his
blue suit. Not just blue mind you, powder blue. Powder blue speaks.
It speaks worlds to women. It says, powder and blue.
It says baby boy and summer sky and gorgonzola
cheese. Bet you didnt even know I knew what that shit
was! Blue cheese, my friend! Powder blue says sensitive,
youth, vulnerable, opportunity, and hot air balloon ride.
It says big king size bed full of puffy pillows. Dont
ask me how I know all this; years of reflection! Why am I telling
you? Because, if you want her to say "Ill think about
it," or "Ill get back to you," or "I
love you so much but Im just not ready quite yet,"
or "Im only fourteen!" then wear your best suit
and get down on one knee in your favorite steak house and hide
a diamond ring in her flaming baked Alaska. But, if you want her
to catch her breath, want her eyes to fill with little starry
blue tears, want her to whisper, passionately, "YES!,"
then, you, my friend, must wear powder blue.
Consider that life is really like
one crazy fucked up poem or song or something, and you are
writing it. The key here is, of course, that you are writing it
and not me and not Cassandra. Everybody writes their own crazy
little poem with only a couple of rules, really, like a few spaces
and a few words that make sense in at least one language. Do you
see what I mean?
My poem is:
My dog is the thick black tongue
Whose lick reminds me when I ask
Where is home?
Im right here!
That is just my poem today. Tomorrow
it will be something different. At the end of my life, it will
be millions of day poems all jumbled together to make one life
poem, in no order. Because that is how I want it. This brings
me to my point, which isnt so easy to say: Essentially,
can you put a woman in your poem? Another thing is: When you put
a woman in your poem, is it just as good as it was without her?
Is it better? Of course, it wont always be better with her
in it, but what you got to ask yourself is does it have the
possibility to be better? Is Cassandra the woman who can make
some of your poems incredible, where without her theyd be
just even keel, straight and narrow, moving the groove? Are you
catching my drift? I realize your question right here is probably,
"How am I supposed to know?" And of course you cant
know. But you can guess. It has to be educated, has to
be a calculated prediction. Heres what you do: Try writing
some day poems with her in them. It has to be her, it cant
just be womankind in general, because theyre going to be
around no matter what. But--and I hope this doesnt confuse
you--it doesnt have to be all of her. For starters,
put her hands in a poem and see what it does. See if you feel
good when you read it. Then try her hair. Or her laugh? Cassandra
has that loud laugh that is funny enough without the joke to go
along with it. Maybe there could be a poem about that. Im
not sure. You figure it out.
If youre brave, which you have been
on a few occasions (dont worry, man, Ill never tell
Cassandra about those), youll take this further. Youll
include offspring in a poem. Just to see how it feels. Because
I know she wants kids, and I know youve wanted them all
of your life. Its not like me where I had to think about
it. A lot of good that did me! Dont get me wrong, I love
Bitty like she was my only chance at a good life, but if I had
done some poems to imagine her, I wouldve been a lot better
Ill let you in on a secret. I get
lonely with just women around me all the time. The truth is that
you will too if you dont get yourself a son. Women like
to talk pretty much about everyone else. Or themselves. And its
all psychoanalysis. Even when theyre tiny. I watch it self-perpetuate,
under my very own roof. When Bitty comes home from school crying
because some little bitch stole her doll, Ida tells her that the
little bitch (of course she uses the girls real name, Tiffany
or something) just went through the divorce of her parents, who
are in a custody battle, and shes feeling out of control
of her world, so shes trying to exercise control at school
by stealing peoples shit. I said, How the hell do you know
that? And Ida looks at me funny and says, Everybody knows that.
Thats women for you.
What does all of this have to do with proposing
marriage? Youve got to look hard to see it. But marriage
is ABOUT LIFE. Its not just about white dresses and a drunken
trip up her skirts for the garter, a sexy kiss all of your friends
will watch and analyze (dont give her tongue, please), and
a honeymoon full of the kind of sex that gives you indigestion
because youve just eaten more than you ever thought possible.
No, marriage is about homes and women and men and babies and filthy
diapers and filthy cars, filthy everything really, about mowing
lawns and weed-whacking and uncontrollable dust and daily dishes
and macaroni and cheese more than you want it and jobs and your
tired ass on the couch wanting a beer but theres none in
the house, and millions of poems, all stacked high in your heart.
Im not trying to get you
down but married life is no bowl of sugar peaches. Ive got
this kid to raise and I dont know how the hell shes
going to go to school if were moving every few months because
I cant keep a good job. A few days ago, I figured its
time to change ways. I shouldve realized it the moment I
kissed Ida and said "I do." But the truth is--and I
dont have to tell you this--I was stone drunk at that moment.
Anyhow, Im sticking in one place for a while. Maybe for
a long while, if I can handle it. Ive got this new gig going
here and its not so bad. Ever tried playing the harmonica?
I think I want to stick with it for a while. Ida says I never
stick to anything. She says she cant believe Ive even
stuck with her this long, and I cant believe it either.
But heres the truth: Marriage can be nice, but it is complicated.
You know those glass globes where the snow falls down when you
shake it up? Thats marriage. If I was gonna stick you in
one of those snow ball worlds for the rest of your life, would
you want Cassandra in there with you? Youre in there together
and youre looking out at the world, and sometimes things
look a little warped because of the curve of the glass, and sometimes
things get a little messy because theres nothing you can
do to get rid of all the fucking snow, and thats frustrating,
believe me. But its not cold in there, its never
cold. Sometimes too hot, sometimes you get seasick from the
swirling water. Youve got your little plastic mountain to
climb, your little castle on top of it to dream about, your little
green toothpick pine tree to make love under, and you got your
snow. Sometimes it settles around you, sometimes it falls and
piles on your head. But in marriage, man, inside the snow ball
world, snows always gonna be sticking to your feet. Everywhere
you go. And, everywhere you go, even if Cassandras not with
you, shes right there. Shes in the snow ball world
with you, always. Are you ready for this? I cant tell you,
but I can tell you this: Im in here, and its snowy,
and its a fucking beautiful place, but its the strangest
place Ive ever been. But Im not going anywhere. So,
you tell me, Sam, where are you going? <
in the February/March 2000
issue of Boston Review