Phil and I get engaged–after two months–College Memoirs: Life at Roanoke–April 1994, Part 1

One day at Phil’s house, we talked about going to “Maverick” with Dave and Pearl.  I was excited because we hadn’t been to the movies for a while, and this one looked like fun.

Then Phil and Dave started wrestling on the floor in front of the couch where I sat.  I thought it was all in fun, just two brothers playing around.  I used to wrestle with Peter, too, though not quite so roughly as two brothers might.

Dave got the better of Phil.  Then Phil wrestled me a little bit, and I thought it was all in fun.

Then it turned to pain–I think he was bending my arm back or something.  His mom yelled at him.

I’d been having fun, but now I got upset.  I don’t think I yelled.  He might even have yelled at Dave for something.

Then he went into his own room.  His mom mumbled a few things after he left, and was put out.

A few minutes later, I went into Phil’s room after him.  I found him lying on his couch, upset at himself.

He said he didn’t like how Dave always got the better of him, and it hurt his pride.  He didn’t like that he’d hurt me, either.

There was some of the usual–him saying I should find someone else who was better for me.

We ended up talking for a while.  And, well, we never went to the movies that night.  We were all too upset, and talking things out with him was too important.


On probably April 9, Seymour said to me at work as James sat next to me at the desk, “Did you hear that Kurt Cobain died?”

He told me at least some of the lurid details, that Cobain, the lead singer of Nirvana, had just killed himself at age 27, and been found on April 8.  I sat in shock and disbelief.

Seymour said, “But you don’t listen to Nirvana, do you?” and I said I loved Nirvana.

James didn’t like Nirvana, and was satirical about the whole thing.  I, however, was devastated.  Though not one of those people who held up Cobain as some sort of god, I loved his music.


I wrote the following to Pearl in my notes during Botany class on the 15th, describing the night of April 12:

Want details?  Don’t tell Maura or Dave–they don’t know yet–he’s afraid to tell his mom.

That may be because we had only been together for two and a half months.

4/12 late evening, probably 10 or 11; my parents know already; we wanted to keep it a secret at first, but, as you see, it didn’t work–who told you?

She said that Jennifer’s Mike overheard Phil calling me “fancy,” his cute version of “fiancée,” while we were in the library.


He didn’t plan to–he got the idea all of a sudden: Why not now?  Why wait?  Let’s just make it official; we’re already talking about it.  He had a vision of himself doing it.

A minute later, he was on his knees in front of me (main lounge–one of the couches) [we were alone in Krueger lounge], asking me if I loved him.  I had a suspicion.

Then he asked me if I’d marry him, and I said yes.

I didn’t mention a nagging feeling that I shouldn’t say yes so soon.

When would he tell his parents?

When he gets the chance and the nerve; my parents are OK with it.

When will I get an engagement ring?

Next fall, when he (hopefully) can afford it–right now I have the “engagement bird.”

That is, the porcelain bird I mentioned before.  Somebody later joked that Phil “gave me the bird.”

Pearl may have asked me earlier, and I may have tried to evade the question, according to some notes I made a couple years later.  But I don’t remember that now.

Nowadays, people talk like it’s “creepy” and a “sign of future abuse and control” if somebody wants to make you “theirs” so fast.

But back then, we were more concerned about people rushing in too fast without really knowing each other, and living to regret their legal and religious bond.  Otherwise, it was simply called a “whirlwind courtship,” and considered romantic, nothing at all pathological.

It’s weird to hear people call this a “sign of abuse,” when my parents, my husband’s parents, and my husband’s brother, all got married quickly.  Peter’s parents got married within days of their first date–that very day, I believe it was.

One episode of Make Room for the Daddy, from 1959, depicted Danny and Kathy pushing Pat to get engaged to their daughter Terry–only two months after they started dating!  Pat agreed, and the happy couple got engaged.

This was considered a happy ending, no “warnings for the future,” showing 50s attitudes.

The modern idea of “creepiness” and “red flags”–I never heard of such an idea until maybe in the last few years, while researching abuse.  [written 2013]

On the night of the 12th, Phil and I went to get the bird from his house, and it felt so very weird to be engaged.  Not pre-engaged–formally, officially engaged.  After so long being lonely, I finally knew whom I was to marry!

I said as we walked away from Krueger, thinking that I didn’t want the engagement to end, “I hope it’s the only time someone will propose to me.”

Phil smiled and said, “So do I!”

Isn’t it a good thing that hope was not fulfilled!

On April 18, I spoke with Pearl through my Botany notes again.  I wrote, “His mom did think he was joking.”

We’d stopped on the way out the door one day, and Phil had told his parents as they sat in the living room.  His mom thought he was joking, and I think she laughed or joked right back.

I wrote that before he told her, “Someone went up to her to congratulate her and she said, For what?  She wants him to wait until he graduates.  That’s too long!  There’s got to be a way around that.”

Phil decided to work with his adviser so he could graduate, even with a double major of Theater and Math, half a year early and half a year after I did.

It still seemed like too long to wait, especially after I had been waiting for my own graduation to get married, not for anybody else’s.

(It was my own idea freshman year to wait till after graduation to marry, if I found someone by then.  It was not my parents’ idea.  I wanted to focus on college, not babies, and Donna Reed once said 22 was a good age to marry.)

One day my old roommate Candice sat with her best friend, probably her new boyfriend, and a few others in the cafeteria.  I sat with them during lunch.  I told Candice I was engaged to Phil, and she said, “Is that Dave’s brother?”  She knew Dave?

My old boss Nancy found out I was engaged, and had me point him out to her one day at lunch.  “Ooh! And he’s all yours!” she chirped.

Cast of Characters (Work in Progress)

Table of Contents

Freshman Year

September 1991:

October 1991:

November 1991:

December 1991:Ride the Greyhound
January 1992: Dealing with a Breakup with Probable NVLD
February 1992:

March 1992: Shawn: Just Friends or Dating?
April 1992: Pledging, Prayer Group–and Peter’s Smear Campaign
May 1992:

Sophomore Year 

Summer 1992:

September 1992:

October 1992–Shawn’s Exasperating Ambivalence:

November 1992:

December 1992:

January 1993:

February 1993:

March 1993:

April 1993:

May 1993:

Summer 1993: Music, Storm and Prophetic Dreams

September 1993:

October 1993:

November 1993:

December 1993:

January 1994:

February 1994:

March 1994:

April 1994:

Senior Year 

June 1994–Bits of Abuse Here and There:

July & August 1994:

January 1995:

February 1995:

March 1995:

April 1995:

May 1995: