American Meets Belgian: Une Histoire D’Amour

Being engaged is great. In fact, it’s better than great; it’s amazing and a type of bliss, a sort of comfort and simultaneous excitement I didn’t think possible.

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My love & and the beautiful ring he chose.

I once looked at my Facebook newsfeed in disbelief at how everyone I knew from elementary was getting married and having babies. Weren’t we just graduating from college? Maybe you can relate to the feeling. It was as if real adulthood was creeping closer with each friend taking the plunge, and I wasn’t sure how I felt about that. I never exactly thought I would share in on that excitement in the same way as everyone else. Well, they say you know when you know…I knew in the moment Laurens surprised me and proposed that this was fate. Yes, I believe in fate. I moved to Paris to find him (not knowing it), but looking back it all makes sense. And yes, now I too, am posting sappy love stuff. I not only love being engaged, but I can’t wait to be married to him.

I‘m an extremely blessed woman. At the end of the day, I get to live my dream life with my dream guy, someone who has changed everything and made me a better – dramatically more whole, sane – happy person. He’s my baaaaby, my real other half. Ever since we moved to Asia together he’s been my life. Yes, I’ve given up a lot to live with him in Asia, but I wouldn’t change anything. And sure, everyone thinks their guy is the best, the most special, but I’m here to say my guy is the most special. (Wink). I don’t want to get super cheesy on you, but it’s the truth. My truth. This is one of the most blissful moments of my life, so I’m relishing the moment. In light of our recent engagement, I want to share how we met and the road that led to the proposal.

Entering the door of a new chapter is a rare feeling, and a dizzying feeling at that. It only comes once after all, right? Meeting Laurens and him popping the question were certainly two of the most beautiful beginnings I’ve ever experienced.

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My hunk.

Laurens – pronounced Lawrence – and I have been together for two years and eight months. It’s been a crazy journey of a relationship in many ways, in such a short time. Our romance started like most, but progressed faster than most: Introduced by a mutual friend at a Parisian bar not long after I called France home, I instantly took to him. It was that undeniable attraction that draws you to someone. The kind that makes you want to be near them, talk to them, learn about them and everyone else fades away. The giddy magnetism of a crush. I had that with Laurens within the first minutes I knew him. He was so European with his handsome, cool, calm and collected way, oozing an insane amount of mystery and effortless charm. He didn’t just talk to talk and I found that refreshing. He was witty and quick. Standing tall at 6’3, with broad shoulders and a cigarette in his mouth (he later quit), he told me he was from Belgium (half Dutch), and the rest of the night our conversation flowed endlessly. I smiled to myself as he told me he worked in chocolate. My family had owned a Belgian bistro in Texas, and I had worked in chocolate for years. What were the chances? He had perfect English, and spoke three other languages, too. I died over his accent on words like three (he’d say tree) and his big, doe eyes. He was tall and I really liked that! (Most French guys were too short and lacked a certain ruggedness, a manliness that I like.) So, like a giddy school girl, I talked and talked some more. At our next stop, I leaned across the table to spark conversation in the loud jazz bar, in the end not even able to hear a word of what he was saying, but I didn’t even care.

It moved fast and fantastically from there. He was so extremely honest, to the point of surprise. Absolutely no BS, no painting of a perfect mural of himself to impress me (and this impressed me!). Although I didn’t always know if I liked truth this raw, it was refreshing and a far cry from past boyfriends. Once the bars closed, we grabbed a 3am breakfast at a 24-hour diner on the Seine. We talked and talked about our lives, about all our stories with such attention and interest; the exciting way people do on a first date with natural chemistry. Not ready to call it a night, I took him on a late night tour of Paris since he was new to the city. I surprised him with the Louvre by night with not a soul around, and once the metro opened, we hopped on the line to see the Eiffel tower at sunrise. I was excited to show him how well I, an American, knew the city; how I, too, had tricks up my sleeve. Our whirlwind first meeting that night turned into being an official couple only seven days later. He never played games, and from then on was the beginning of something unique for me.

Fotor0102918217As we grew our roots in Paris, and developed our love in the City of Love, our connection strengthened, and I knew something was really different. It scared me at first, because I hadn’t planned on such a serious relationship. He drove me crazy and frustrated me in the best ways; I couldn’t be without him. I know people say this often, but Laurens wasn’t like other guys; he was the real deal, wise for his age, seeing through all my quirks and bad habits. They didn’t deter or put him off at all. In what still feels like yesterday, he asked me if I would consider moving to Indonesia with him for a major job opportunity. Knowing it’d be a far-fetched question considering how early we were in our relationship, he brought it up with a certain soberness, probably expecting me to say no. Apprehensive about the move and all that it meant, I have to admit I was hesitant. As hard as I knew leaving Paris would be, I knew not trying this with Laurens would be even worse. I knew I loved him, and would regret letting him go majorly. I knew love was a good enough reason to do anything, to risk. So, I left my Parisian life behind that March and took a huge leap of faith. A leap of love. It was surely one of the biggest decisions I’ve ever made, and the biggest risks I’ve ever taken. We had to trust each other, lean on each other in the most intimate way possible. Everything would be more intense than before, for better or for worse. I just hoped it would be for the best.

Fast forward almost two years and two countries later:

We lazed our Saturday away at a Thai restaurant in Johor Bahru, not knowing what to do on that long weekend, but full or restless energy. Laurens suggested we do something different for once. Ditch town maybe? Nah. Movie? He eventually decided on going to a luxe day spa for a Swedish massage on Sunday. Mmm. Since I completely revel in that hour of relaxation and tension relief called massage, I was completely up for it.

We spent that Sunday morning with our good friends Dominique and Felicia, eating dim sum and the guys played video games. Nothing out of the ordinary. When it came time for the massage, we headed back to our apartment where Laurens got dressed up and I (out of laziness) stayed in my casual pink and black dress, hair up in a bun, no makeup. Few things get me as excited as going for a massage, so I was already in the best mood and just wanted to get there. We drove up to the spa and were welcomed in by the friendly Chinese owner. As we were sat down, she directed three statements at me that came out with the intonation of a question.

“You like massage, ah? Especially here (points to shoulders)?”

“You like firm massage?”

Huh? How did she know how much I like massages, and that I like really firm massages? I looked at Laurens, surprised, laughing it off as coincidence. She informed me that we’d be getting the Adoration package, a two hour relaxation experience. Ahhh my stress was already melting away. We climbed the spiral staircase to a perfectly set up room where there was a jacuzzi tub in the corner of the dim-lit room, the scent of lemongrass oil and professional tables set up side-by-side covered in traditional Malaysian batik clothe. The massage was far more professional and refined than any other I’d been to in Malaysia so far – the technique and strokes were perfectly planned, timed and executed. (Definitely far from the rambunctious style of the Chinese massage I’d gotten accustomed to.) It was 90 minutes of transcendence. As all good things come to an end, and so did the massage. As she wrapped up, my masseuse covered my eyes with a cool beaded mask. I heard small feet pitter-pattering on the wood floor, possibly setting up the bath for us. I could hear Laurens get up as well and a bit more commotion followed. I waited a bit longer and finally when I removed my mask, I could hardly see straight. Laurens asked me to stay seated on the table, and he dashed into the bathroom to check his hair. As I came out of my daze, I realized my always calm and collected man seemed a bit nervous, jittery even. All I had on at this point were my disposable bra and panties that I was required to wear,  complete with a shower cap (sexy, I know). The thought crossed my mind – was he acting funny because he was going to…? Nahh, I thought. We had talked about marriage, but it always seemed so far off, like a, “one day in the future, if we decide to…” heavy kind of conversation. I didn’t want to act all weird expecting something that may not even be! Either way, I followed suit into the bathroom, scraped the shower cap, fixed my hair a bit and wrapped myself in a robe from the wardrobe. As I stepped out into the room with butterflies in my stomach, I could see it all clearly. It was dimmer than before, perfectly intimate with rose petals laid out everywhere, tea candles illuminating the room, music playing and bubbles going crazy in the jacuzzi. I went and sat down at the small table next to the jacuzzi. I looked around in awe, how beautiful and special this day was shaping up to be. Ginger tea (my favorite), cookies (also my favorite), candles, and a single red rose were laid out on the table. I even saw a bottle of champagne set up next to the jacuzzi, with two glasses. The butterflies grew stronger. Maybe this is part of the package? Laurens wasn’t sitting down yet, but before he could settle in, I spotted the most shocking item of all. A smooth, small, black box. A wooden box inside of a glass cover, waiting to be revealed. I looked at him and the next thing I remember, my eyes filled with the most automatic blubbery tears. I looked at the box and back at him. I had never happy cried like that ever in my life.

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We’ve been so fortunate to see so many stunning places in the world together.

I covered my mouth and it all came together as I tried to keep it together. He was proposing! And at my favorite place in the world at that. He wanted to spend his life with me. The minutes that followed were the stuff movies are made of. Just us, in our special, special moment. He sat next to me and told me how he pulled off getting the gorgeous ring, driving to Singapore just the day before, masking it as “work” so I wouldn’t have a clue. I really was stunned. He said he couldn’t wait anymore to ask. He told me how he arranged the setup with the spa that morning, also while at “work”. (That’s why the owner knew what I liked!) We had a heart-to-heart beating out all others. He poured out his reasoning, his feelings with a nervous, sincere and steadfast tone, admitting the 90 minutes prior were so nerve-racking for him. What would he say? How would he say it? He was being a real man in that moment, a real gentleman. He recounted our love story and our journey together. He told me many things, but the most important? He told me that I’m his woman, the woman he wants to not only be engaged to, but married to. That he knows what sacrifices I’ve made and that he knew this was it from the very beginning. With my racing heart and joy, the details became fuzzy, and made fuzzier with the bottle of champagne we enjoyed in the jacuzzi just after I said, “yes!”  Once we were all bubbled out, we took our buzzed, happy selves home, in desperate need of a nice meal. Our first meal as an engaged couple. It’s only at the restaurant that we took some photos and let it sink in, and I haven’t stopped staring at the ring since.

Now, after living together for two years and being more “married” than other couples our age, when he proposed, something changed. Something clicked and felt incredibly different. Different in the best way possible, and it’s extremely hard to put into words. I won’t even try to. A profound appreciation filled me after that day, a sort of amazement I didn’t know possible. It felt like the beginning all over again, with an even stronger connection to my future husband. To know that this person, this extraordinary human wants to spend his life with me – humbled me. It stunned me. To think that someone could truly see me as unblemished, despite my human shortcomings and quirks makes it absolutely unreal.

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GoPro romanticism.

Of course, it won’t be easy to decide if and when we’ll have a ceremony. Big or small? US, Europe, or Asia? Those details are less glamorous. His Belgian family – my Texas family, we have friends all over the world, but who would come? We love Asia, but who would really fly? Either way, we’re enjoying the engagement for now and the planning is further off in the distance. It turns out there’s plenty of red tape involved in marrying an American. Oops 😉

“Love is a force more formidable than any other. It is invisible – it cannot be seen or measured, yet it is powerful enough to transform you in a moment, and offer you more joy than any material possession could.” ~ Barbara de Angelis

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