A Halfway-Decent Proposal

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OK, single ladies – when was the last time a man proposed marriage to you? For some of you beautiful women, it may be never. Well, for me, I’m lucky enough to have it happen twice. The first was when I was 21 and tragically naïve, having no idea what I wanted in the world, who I was going to be and how I was going to get there. The second was just last week by a man who is, by all intents and purposes, a complete stranger.

The romance began with the kind of story you tell your kids. I was traveling in the mountains of Ecuador, to a lovely town called Baños de Aqua Santa. I’m actually living 12 hours by bus away, on the coast, but I had an opportunity to explore for a week. Why Baños? Simply because some dude I never met but matched with on Tinder encouraged me to go. Life’s that simple, really.

La Termas de la Virgen, the nicer of the two hot springs in Baños de Aqua Santa. Also where, evidently, I happened to have been the prettiest and most single on one particular day.

Baños is known for its hot springs (or namesake “baths”) as well as its beautiful Ruta de las Cascadas, which is a road that features waterfall after waterfall. I went to truly scary El Pailon del Diablo. I looked down into the caldron and thought about how easily I could throw myself and/or fall over the rocks to my death below. I mean, it’s South America. There are no guardrails or even signs. It’s like, pay $2 and good luck, gringa.

So, I’m relaxing in one of these hot springs, which is really like a warm, muddy public pool that kids swim around and old people gossip and everyone wears a swimming cap. It’s wonderful, and really hot. I had just hiked to the waterfall, and, even though it was nothing like the hike in Guatemala up the Acatenango Volcano, it was still nice to relax. This, evidently, is when I was spotted.

A man slips in next to me and starts talking. I engage in my pathetic-but-maybe-improving Spanish, but he quickly and thankfully switches to English. He calls himself the luckiest man in the world, because he’s talking to the most beautiful woman in the world. I demure. What a line! I’ll take it.

Of course, we’re in the hottest pool, and you can’t last long. So we part ways, but he tracks me down again to take my picture (this, by the way, is not a thing in the U.S. but it is everywhere else in the world. Once, I was on a beach in India and a man yelled, “Ma’am! Ma’am! PICTURE!” And another time outside an art museum in Tokyo, a woman begged me for a photo. What are they doing with these photos?) He also asked for my Facebook connection. Fine. Whatever.

So, I left and, not surprisingly, the man asked to see me again. It took me a minute to get used to Latin men again, after living in Asia for so long. Latin men are extremely forward. I’ve now had the honor of going on dates with a Peruvian, a Guatemalan, a Spaniard (or two), an Argentine, a Paraguayan, an El Salvadorian and an Ecuadorian. These guys! It’s like they barely know your name, and they’re trying to put their tongues down your throat. 

By the way, now’s the time to mention that I was an All-Conference Second Base-woman on my high school softball team. No, really!

Baños really is a romantic town.

But I digress. It’s one thing to be super-sexual. Any guy will try that if it’s the cultural norm. It’s another thing to propose marriage. The man from the hot springs begs to see me again. I finally told him that I was heading to a café to work; he was welcome to join me for a tea. Well, he gets my note, tells his employees to take the afternoon off and gets on the first bus to Baños. Turns out he lives 1.5 hours away. He arrives sweating. He literally ran to meet me. 

After a nice tea, we take a short walk around town. We stop at a park. He tells me that God has sent me to him. He tells me he wants to build us a house – not a big house, but the most beautiful house. He wants to marry me. He wants to take care of me – forever.

I, of course, am dumb-founded. Like I said, it’s not like guys are proposing to me every day. They’re usually just trying to bed me. This guy is trying to bed me for the rest of my life! Now, that’s some cojones.

I strive to be impeccable with my words, so I tell him that I would need a lot of time to think about this and that I needed to get to know him better. We part – did I mention he gifted me a huge bag of fruit? – and I enjoy the remainder of my time exploring beautiful Baños before returning to the coast. I tell my friend about the proposal. This old girl’s still got it! 

Not surprisingly, he wants to see me again. He asks to meet me on the coast. Not having any plans, I agree in the evening. He immediately takes the next 12-hour bus and arrives to meet me at 8 a.m. He suggests a trip to the next town, which turns out to be pretty groovy. We walk around Montañita, have some food, check out a statue of the Virgin Mary that witnesses say cries tears and, creepily, blood. We walk along the beach when he stops me and proposes marriage again, this time directly. He’s lovely. He proclaims his love to me. But I’m not going to say yes. This old girl’s no fool.

After he washes the sand from my feet – yes, you read that right – we return to my town. We part ways, with him telling me he loves me as the taxi drops me off and he returns to his town on yet another 12-hour bus. I’m, again, dumb-founded. My friends think I’m crazy to even consider this. But I do. Do I want children? Do I want a family? Is it now or never?  Would I want to live in a small mountain town in Ecuador and make tortillas? I start imaging wearing an awesome felt hat. Who am I?

Can you see this lady’s hat on the bus? Ecuadorians win for having the coolest hats, with feathers and everything.

Then something interesting happens. He starts posting things on his Facebook page. The first day, he posts a picture of a sexy woman clad in a Corona bathing suit next to a bigger woman in a Corona Extra suit (Ha ha! That big woman ought to be ashamed!). The next day, he posts a picture of him and some woman dressed as a stripper on the side of the road (he was wearing a down jacket – she looked cold and uncomfortable). Then, the following day, he posts a video of some half-naked woman playing the piano. I, not surprisingly to anyone who actually knows me, am repulsed. I’ve seen this behavior before, and I don’t like it.

See, I was triggered. I’ve known so many men who believe the value of a woman is in her shape. It’s normal and fine, isn’t it? Well, I’m here to tell you: It’s not. Just because some women believe that their value is only in their looks doesn’t make it OK. Just because you don’t sleep around also doesn’t make it OK. Just because men are “visual creatures” doesn’t make it OK. I had a boyfriend like this once. He was addicted to looking at women on the internet and porn. He was really pathetic, liking all the pictures of my pretty friends while getting his rocks off in the other room. I kicked him out of my house.

Did this guy have any idea what kind of powerful feminist he was trying to tame? If a man can’t control himself enough to appreciate physical beauty and move on, he’s not man enough for me. The sad thing is, it really isn’t that hard. I told him it was a deal-breaker. He apologized.

The proposal remains on the table. He is a kind man, but is he my kind of man? At least I know I still got it ….