I Think This Might Be What They Call A Plot Twist

The funniest thing about the day is that it starts out badly. Having finally mastered the stovetop espresso pot in our tiny kitchen, I pour inky liquid into two tiny cups and hold them up proudly for Sean. On my first sip, I realize I've mistaken the salt for the sugar. There are two ways to realize that you've mistaken the salt for the sugar and this way is the worst one. As I'm spitting the briny mouthful back into the sink, the toast pops up, black and smoldering. Just like that, our first breakfast in Rome is ruined.


And it gets worse. A fruitless morning of searching for a bank and then a place for lunch culminates in a terrible argument in a sun-dappled piazza in Trastevere. It's awful because it shouldn't be awful: couples are smooching on benches, kids are frolicking on warmed flagstones, and there we are in the world's most romantic city, shouting at each other. Why wasn't that restaurant good enough? Why couldn't we just have gone there? We're in Rome, for god's sake, just choose a damn place to eat.  After all the time and all the money and all the anticipation, there is an almost suffocating pressure for every moment of this vacation to be perfect. We're like pots, boiling, and something has to give. Seething, I threaten to go back to the apartment. Sean throws the keys after me as I stride away.


We find each other at a fountain, perch on the edge and talk our way back to loving each other. It takes a while, but we align ourselves again. It's a relief, we agree, for this to have happened. Finally, we can stop trying to pretend we're in some stupid film about a couple on vacation in Rome.


The cafe is dark and dim as we bite into warm panini. We sip grapefruit soda poured into small cloudy glasses and split a pastry we have to point to; we've ventured off the tourist track now and the woman behind the counter speaks no English. She smiles, we smile, she smiles again: it's refreshing, actually, to be smiled at so much.

Afterwards, we follow a group of nuns down a narrow alley until we see the pale blue dome of St. Peter's Basilica rising in the distance. Something between us has changed now: an easiness exists where it didn't exist before. We've done the worst thing we can thing of, marred our perfect trip with the black smudge of a hideous fight, and now that we've done it---now that we've done it and survived it---things seem suddenly clean and bright and new again. Whitewashed and gleaming, the day opens up before us like a dream.


He almost doesn't bring his camera to dinner. No, bring it, I say, you might want it, you never know. Here, you can put it in my purse.

He doesn't have a bag as we leave the apartment, you see. His hands are empty, his pockets look flat. The wonderful thing is that I have no idea.


It's as though the two halves of the day are mirror images of each other: nothing goes right at first, and then afterwards, things go almost comically right. We find the restaurant we've been looking for and take the last outdoor table. The night is warm, the wine is cheap, the moon glimmers overhead, and on either side of us, couples are chattering in rapid-fire Italian. The girl to our left orders a steak the size of her head and we all laugh when it arrives. Our grinning waiter places a plate of arugula, prosciutto, and craggy shavings of parmesan on the checkered tablecloth in front of us, then follows it up with steaming bowls of pasta that make our eyes roll back in our head. We share a bowl of tiramisu for dessert, and although I manage to stop short of dipping my head into it and licking the edges when it's finished, I do actually run my finger along the sides and lick that instead.

I'm not proud of that, of course. But then you didn't taste that tiramisu.


It's a ten minute walk back to our apartment, and when he grabs me in a bear hug on the narrow cobblestoned street, it's nothing unusual. He's good at hugging, this boy; he hugs like he never wants to let go.

But this time he doesn't. This time he doesn't let go.


The thing I will remember later when I'm thinking back on it is that I am wearing these stupid skin-colored socks from Target, socks that are meant to be worn with ballet flats and only cover your toes, except they don't just cover your toes, they peek out just a little bit, and the effect is wholly unflattering. There we are, embracing in a tiny cobblestoned alley in the middle of Rome, and it's almost midnight, and I'm wearing these stupid socks and I kind of have to pee, and even despite this---even despite the fact that I'm wearing these stupid socks and that I kind of have to pee---he still looks at me and he says it.

He says I want to spend the rest of my life with you. I want to marry you.

I look up at him and I say seriously?, and afterwards we will laugh about how I kept saying that---seriously? seriously? is this for real?---and he pulls something from his pocket, and even in the lamp-lit street, I can tell that it's the most beautiful thing I've ever seen in my life.

He puts it on my finger, and my hands are shaking, and later we will have to sit in a doorway for half an hour to recover, but right there on that street in Rome, all I can think is that this is actually happening to me, that this is my life. And there we are, just looking at each other, just laughing, and then I say wait, you know what? I don't think you even asked me!

And he says Oh! I guess I didn't! and we laugh some more, and he says well, will you? Will you marry me? And I say the only thing I can think of. I say of course.

Oct 15, 2008

Holly, I am another person delurking to say congratulations! I am so happy for you and Sean. Thank you for this beautiful post, and have a fantastic vacation :)

Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! I'm so happy for both of you! Yay!

Oct 15, 2008

Hi! I'm the silly crying tearing-up type and I didn't even know!

Congratulations to you both, that's the awesomest.

Oct 15, 2008

OH! What a lovely story! Congratulations doesn't really cover it, but congratulations! So romantic and sweet, and the way you relived it for us here is perfect.

Oct 15, 2008

YAY! Yay yay yay! What a great story, well told as always.

Oct 15, 2008

Oh, oh, oh!!!!!!!!!! Yay!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
The news we've all been waiting for!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Way to go Sean :-)
So so happy for both of you. I'm going to be grinning all day.
Woo Hoooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oct 15, 2008


I guess Rome WAS in the cards after all. From a reader that have follow you (and Sean) in the blog for over 2 years.. its great to know that I will get to experience part of your next phase!

I'm so happy for both of you... I guess Paris is for the honeymoon?

Oct 15, 2008

Oh congratulations, what a wonderful story! I am very happy for you and this was just lovely to read.

Oct 15, 2008

Yay, Holly! That story brought tears to my eyes. I am so excited for you!

Your story kinda reminds me of the night that my husband and I got engaged. It was the worst night we had had together, and I really wanted to just go home and go to bed, but he was determined to continue on with our evening. At least it was a memorable one!

Oct 15, 2008

About to cry at my desk, for real. Sooooo happy for you guys.

Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! Sounds like it was a wonderful moment.

Oct 15, 2008

Wow Holly!! I'm so happy for you! Your blog just made my day!

Oct 15, 2008


Oct 15, 2008

It sounds trite to say but I can't think of other words -- this is a beautiful story. All the best!

Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations Holly (& Sean)! I read it first on Sean's blog and had to come here and wish you all the best! How great that he totally surprised you!

This entry was beautifully composed, and so real. For better or for worse, indeed.

Oct 15, 2008

And there is your wonderful, romantic happy couple in love scene from a movie shot in Rome moment. CONGRATULATIONS.

Oct 15, 2008

I have been waiting for this post since the day I found your blog and saw a photo of the two of you.

Congratulations! (And, more specifically, FINALLY!)

Oct 15, 2008

perfect story!! congrats :)

Oct 15, 2008

That is one of the most romantic engagement stories I've ever heard. Forget the stupid film about the couple on vacation in Rome. You just wrote your own screenplay.


Oct 15, 2008


Oct 15, 2008

Bawling. LOVE this. Wishing you oodles of happy!

Oct 15, 2008

AHHHHH! I did not see this coming! I didn't! Oh Holly!

(Also, how could you marry this man? You hardly know him! It's only been SINCE YOU WERE A CHILD!)

(Obviously I kid)

Congratulations! Best! News! Ever!

And finally, because I am an engagement ring whore, I need to see it, stat. I can't wait.

Oct 15, 2008

YYYYYYYYEEEEEESSSSSSSSSS!!!! CONGRATS!!! Beautiful beautiful beautiful!! GOD I CAN'T WAIT FOR YOUR WEDDING!!! Is that creepy? Maybe. BUT STILL! I know it will be exciting, GORGEOUS and romantic. Again: CONGRATS!!!!

Oct 15, 2008

That was such a beautiful story - it brought tears to my eyes. I'm so happy for both of you - it's such an exciting time! Congratulations!

Oct 15, 2008

You made me all teary! Congratulations to the both of you!!

Oct 15, 2008

What a perfect story! I got chill bumps just reading. Congratulations to you both! Can't wait to see the ring.

Oct 15, 2008


Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations, Holly & Sean! I'm so so happy for you, it's been obvious since the beginning of your website that you two are made for each other :)

I'm just trying to work up the courage to break up with a guy who's really sweet but somehow just makes me resentful that I'm giving up TV and blogging time in order to spend time with him. And I'm feeling guilty that I feel that way so I haven't left yet. But this reminds me that I should be more excited than that about someone, and that I need to keep looking so I can find a happy ending like this one.

Oct 15, 2008

it's TRUE! he IS a good hugger!

Oct 15, 2008

oh YAY!!!

Oct 15, 2008

Congrats from across the bay (the East Bay haha)!!! Love your writing, and am so happy for you both.

Oct 15, 2008

Oh! My! Gosh!!

Congratulations, Holly!!

Oct 15, 2008

Huzzah! Hooray! Congratulations!

Oct 15, 2008

Oh my gosh! What a great story. Congratulations!!

Oct 15, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS!! I've been reading for a while now! I'm so excited for you both!

Oct 15, 2008


I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT! I KNEW IT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Oh my gosh! Something about your little paragraph about "his pockets look flat" and "I have no idea" made me a tad suspicious. Especially given the fact that you two are in, hello, Rome!!!

Holly and Sean, congratulations!!!! I'm actually sitting here at work at my desk crying! For people I have never met! Because I'm so happy for you two! This is one of the best!moments!ever!

Now I think I need to go pee my pants. ;) Just kidding. Seriously. Sean: you are awesome. Holly: I'm at a loss of what to say. Other than you are so fortunate to marry such a wonderful guy and to be proposed to in such a way.

Congratulations, again. Aren't you glad you decided to go to Rome?

Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! I don't even know you and I'm so very happy for both of you! And trust me, my engagement story has a huge argument at its center, they're not always perfect (contrary to popular belief). :)

Oct 15, 2008

I knew as soon as you started talking about his empty pockets that it was a proposal story. Congratulations to you both! Enjoy the rest of your trip.

Oct 15, 2008

Oh, yaaay! Have been reading you for a while and totally love your writing. Am delurking (I know, I know, like the 100th person on here, gah) to say congrats. :)

Hot Bride
Oct 15, 2008

Holllllyyyy! Hooray and congratulations! Such exciting and amazing and fabulous news! Good on you Sean for a romantic proposal, in a romantic alley in a most romantic city.
Now enjoy the rest of your trip that you'll remember forever.

Oct 15, 2008

Another longtime reader delurking! Congratulations to you both - I must say, this story is rather romantic! What a day to remember. (thanks, I'm now teary at work!)

Oct 15, 2008

Oh my word, so happy for you both!!!

Oct 15, 2008

OMG, HOLLY AND SEAN!!! I'm squeeing for both of you! Congratulations! xoxo

Oct 15, 2008

I was hoping so strongly that that's where this post was headed. I'm so happy for your both! Congratulations!

Oct 15, 2008

I started tearing up (way to make me cry at work) at the 'I still had no idea' part, and it took lots of restraint not to scroll to the bottom and confirm. What a fantastic story and experience.

Oct 15, 2008

A recently new lurker here who has been reading up for the last week on all the archives...and constantly wondering, "Why aren't these two MARRIED? They may as well....they will be together forever." Congratulations. From someone happily married to her highschool sweetheart for over 16 yrs.

Oct 15, 2008

Congrats Congrats Congrats!

Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations Holly! I remember asking you at Blogher last year whether you thought it would be soon, and you said, I HOPE SO, and I was so hoping too and now YAY! It's happening! Congratulations, really, heaps and HEAPS of congratulations!!!

Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! That was such a great story.

Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! So totally romantic, and to know you can weather a bad fight means you are more than meant for one another.

Oct 15, 2008

that post made my heart want to break out into a song...

congrats to the both of you, this is wonderful news!

Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations Holly and Sean! That's absolutely fantastic, and that is such an amazing story... I'm so happy for you both!
Enjoy the rest of your vacation, and congratulations again!

Oct 15, 2008

This was beautifully written. I can't wait to read about all of the wedding planning.
You will be the most beautiful bride!

Oct 15, 2008

I've never commented on your blog, but I've been reading it for a few months, waiting for a post to comment on. Congratulations on your engagement! I love weddings, but I love engagement stories even better. Especially when they're about two people who are clearly meant to share each other's lives forever.

Oct 15, 2008

HOLY FREAKING AWESOME!!! Congrats and love and wonderfulness to you both! xoxo

Kerri Anne
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! to both of you. It was so hard for me to to read, just keep reading, because I started thinking "He proposed in Rome! He proposed in Rome!" and then I wanted to skip the end. So glad I kept reading, as it was such a beautiful recounting. So happy for you and Sean.

Oct 15, 2008

AAAHHHHHHH congratulations!!!!!!!!!

what a wonderful, wonderful story...seriously it's like a movie engagement!! :) so, so happy for you!!!

Oct 15, 2008

So fabulous! Must see the RING!

Tami A.
Oct 15, 2008

How awesome, Congratulations! What a perfect place!

Oct 15, 2008

awwwwww snif snif... yay!

Oct 15, 2008

OMG! Congratulations! I wish you both all the best :)

Oct 15, 2008

CONGRATULATIONS!! He's a smart buy to wait 'til Rome.

Oct 15, 2008

Oh my god, I thought you were going to get MUGGED! All this, "no; take your camera even though you want to leave it" this and "he didn't look like he had anything in his pockets" that. Man; I've internalized a few bad pickpocket stories about Rome, I guess.

But now I have a great story to counteract all that negativity. Very best wishes to you and your lovely man; and thank you for all the wonderful words.

Oct 15, 2008

I'm all misty-eyed! I love you two as a couple (seriously, I know that's crazy but you know how it is, how attached we get through the Internet or at least I DO!) and I am SO EXCITED for you and Sean. Today is my wedding anniversary, and it's a good day for LOVE!

Mrs. Who
Oct 15, 2008

What a GREAT story to tell your children.

Oct 15, 2008

Yippee! How romantic, a proposal in Rome...

Wow, apparently only two things can get me to comment. Crack whores and engagements.

Oct 15, 2008

GAH!! What an awesome story- from beginning to end! Congrats to you both :) :)

(Just an aside: My husband and I also had a fight about where to eat while we were in Rome. It was hot, we were hungry, what can I say? Then we realized um DUH, we're in ROME. Get over it! heh)

Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! I am a fairly new reader of yours, yet I was moved by your story. Marriage is wonderful- Congrats!

Oct 15, 2008

OMG! Congratulations!

Maggie Mason
Oct 15, 2008

Congratulations! Being married is fun.

Oct 15, 2008

Crying the happiest tears of joy for you guys right now. Congratulations! To think you spent your day feeling like you should be recreating some Hollywood movie only to have your evening turn into the perfect movie script ending.

Oct 15, 2008

I teared up at the end. Congratulations!

Oct 15, 2008

What a wonderful story.
I mixed up the sugar with the salt once for Thanksgiving pumpkin pies. My poor dad had the first taste and was so disappointed.

Never been to Rome and had such a horrible morning and then the perfect afternoon, though.

Congratulations! What a great memory you have.

Oct 15, 2008

Wow, that IS a plot twist! Congratulations to the both of you!

Oct 15, 2008

reading the first part (the fight and the make-up talk by the fountain) i was thinking how sweet that that was, because it reminds me of scenes my husband and i have. and i thought awww they really love each other.
then the proposal! Congratulations!!!

Oct 15, 2008

Yay!!!!! Congratulations to the internet's cutest couple. So, all your readers will be invited to the wedding right? Oh gosh?! Where will it be? All the choices- California, South Carolina, London, Singapore, ROME?! I'm happy for you guys, have a wonderful rest of your trip. Also, my husband and I argued the morning before we got engaged- I think he was nervous and that's what started the snapping. Maybe it is lucky since we're still together ;)

Oct 15, 2008

Fabulous news, wonderfully written. Congrats! See, we readers knew what we were doing when we voted for you to go to Rome ;)

Oct 15, 2008

I'm probably not the only person who had a fleeting thought when I read you guys made it to Rome, wondering if he was going to propose while you were there together. Kind of strange, I guess, since we don't actually *know* each other, but as soon as I saw what you wrote on Twitter, I just knew Sean had proposed! CONGRATULATIONS TO YOU BOTH!
Much love & light,
House of Jules

Oct 15, 2008

Wahh! I was beginning to read this, and then for a split second I thought "Oh, they might have gotten..." and then I look over and there in your flickr side bar is a pic of the ring and then I started tearing up and I don't even KNOW YOU. Perhaps because I am recently engaged, myself, and have been feeling a bit emotional about the life change? Who knows. Anyway, CONGRATULATIONS! You and Sean are quite literally the most adorable people on earth and the two of you will have such a wonderful, amazing life together. :) Also, give me your job! And your accent!

Oct 15, 2008

Oh, boy... can't wait for all the wedding planning posts to start! You think finding a restaurant in Italy caused a ruckus? HOO-BOY, this is gonna be GREAT!


Oct 15, 2008

Rome? Seriously, the location of that proposal couldn't have been better.

Susie told me all about the engagement and I literally halted my exam revision to read your post. I even wept like a baby at the end.

Super congratulations!

Oct 15, 2008

BEST. STORY. EVER. It's weird—I don't know you except through your site, yet I'm weeping through the story and truly could not be happier if it happened to my best friend. Congratulations to you both.

Oct 15, 2008

I am so completely happy for you. Jeff and I shared tiramisu on the night he proposed, too! And as of next Monday, we've been blissfully married for seven years. Blissfully, I say! (It's all about the lucky tiramisu!)

Congratulations to you. What a perfect day.

Oct 15, 2008

It couldn't have happened in a better place. Congratulations to you both!

Oct 15, 2008

YAYYYY!!! Congratulations! So excited for you both.

Oct 15, 2008

Many congratulations to you both!
It's just as beautiful that there are at least 175 people who are so happy for you they're literally CRYING.
That much joy has got to be good omen for things to come.

Oct 15, 2008

AHHH! Delurking amidst uncontrollable squealing to say congratulations!! Also, this is the cutest engagement story in the history of time :)

Oct 15, 2008


Oct 15, 2008

Delurking to say congratulations! Proposal stories always make me misty eyed. No exception here.

Oct 15, 2008

Oh, what a great place to get asked. I'm jealous! But so happy for you! Your ring is absolutely stunning aswell.