Thank you all for coming. As you know, Heather and I have been together for almost four years now and I’m ready to ask her to marry me. I’ve actually been ready for two years, but on our first date, Heather told me she loves surprises—so I have been laying groundwork through lies, misdirections, and pretended indifference to her existence and our relationship for over 700 days to make sure that she has absolutely no idea that I love her enough to propose a lifetime together.

My surprise plan is a little bit complicated by the fact that we live together so it’s hard to keep secrets. We’ve only shared an apartment for six months and I made sure to be super reticent to the change. We had multiple conversations where I said, “I really value my independence” despite turning down two dream jobs (as year-round travel guide in the gorgeous Alaskan wilderness and a Youth Leader of Bear Cub Searches at Yellowstone) in order to stay here in Cincinnati with Heather. She is the best thing that ever happened to me, which is why she truly thinks she dragged me into cohabitation against my will.

I’m going to do it in the park where we first met on our Hinge date. From the moment I saw her eating Oreo ice cream with a spork in the November cold, I knew that she was the person I was meant to share my life with. She thinks I forgot what park it was! We walked by it two months ago and she said “Look! Do you remember?” and I said “What? Oh yeah that’s where I saw a guy jacking off to a horse on the cover of Sports Illustrated,” and she totally looked like she was going to smack me or break down or both. GOD I love this woman and I just want to give her the surprise of her life.

The ring is gorgeous. I know it’s the exact kind she likes because I asked her one and a half years into dating, listened intently, and then never followed up again. When she brought it up at her youngest sister’s wedding two years later, I rolled my eyes and told her I didn’t believe the government needed to be involved in an agreement to split our money in half when we break up (!!!! and she bought it!!!!). She drank four glasses of champagne in 30 minutes that night and totally cried in the bathroom. The look of shock and adoration on her face when she sees the 1.5 carat, oval diamond with perfect clarity, on the thin yellow gold pavé band she asked for is going to be a memorable moment for our wedding album!

And don’t worry, I didn’t ask her for her size or anything. I tied a piece of meat string around her finger one night and said “this is as good as you’re gonna get from me” and then took it off and changed the channel from her favorite show (Doctor Who) to football (I hate football) without asking. She got up and said “I’m going to bed. I deserve better than this.” Of course she does!! She deserves so, so much better and she has no idea that I’m planning to give it to her, forever! I measured her ring size perfectly: 6.25! Oh gosh I can’t wait to slip it on her shaking, completely unsuspecting, beautifully dainty finger as we agree to spend forever with each other.

I can’t wait to finally come clean about how much I adore her. To tell her I actually love seafood (it doesn’t irritate my asthma at all! That’s not a thing!) and we can go to her favorite restaurant again. And she’s going to go bananas when she finds out that I was not raised Jehovah’s Witness and did get her a present for every single birthday and holiday—oh boy does she have a lot of amethyst jewelry, American Girl Doll collector’s merchandise (mostly Molly!), and personalized scrapbooks of every single meaningful moment we’ve ever shared together coming her way. Of course I picked up the hints Heather!!! You’re the Love of my Life!!

The reason you’re all here is I wanted to say thank you. You’re all my dearest friends from before I even met Heather. And I know from talking to Heather and looking over her shoulder to see texts she makes no effort to hide that you’ve all been telling her that I am not worth it and clearly don’t care about her. Thank you, Caitlin! Calling me a poor excuse for a skidmark when I pretended to forget her mom was dead? Brilliant, a true friend.

And Alfonso, after I told her I’d only go to couples counseling if the therapist was smokin’ hot, you offered her your couch or your bed until things blew over. Genius. I can never repay you. It means so much that you all jumped in to help without me having to do anything except an immediate 180 into treating my chosen life partner like garbage. I have been preparing for this moment for two years and having you all in on it just makes it that much more special.

I’m so grateful to give you all the deal while Heather is staying with her sister in Seattle for “a while!” whatever that means! As soon as she comes back, we’re going to start our future! I hope it's within the next week or I might lose my deposit on the horse drawn carriage that I’ve been spitting on in front of her for years.