The door to DR. SELMAN’s office was closed and Christina Aguilera’s “Beautiful” could be heard playing. At 7 p.m. DR. SELMAN waved them in; HILLY showed off her new engagement ring.
DR. SELMAN: Let me check it out in the light.
HILLY: O.K. Well, it’s too big, so I have a ribbon around it.
Dr. SELMAN: Wow, nice.
GEORGE: Yeah, it’s over a hundred years old and it was my great-great-great grandmother’s. Or maybe my great-great grandmother’s. But I’m certain that my father gave it to my mother.
DR. SELMAN: How did you go about presenting it?
GEORGE: Well, last time we were here, she gave me the ultimatum, right? So I got pretty serious and she reiterated that threat a few times, said she was going to move out. So I got to work, swiped one of her rings and took it to Verdura, where it was sized. So then what happened?
HILLY: It was on December 19, it was about 7:14 p.m. and it was the best day ever. I was at work and George called and asked if I wanted to meet him for dinner. I was a little suspicious, because he said he made actual reservations at this place that we’ve been to before, Zarela, this delicious Mexican restaurant. So I got there first and then he showed up and we started chitchatting, and then he kind of cut me off and said, “Oh, Hilly, I’ve got something for you.” I said, “Oh really? What’s that?” And he pulled out this box that said “Verdura” on it and I got really excited. He put it in front of me and I said, “Can I open it?!” I opened it and inside there was a beeswax candle, and I said, “Oh, that looks cool.” And he said, “There’s something else in there,” and I pulled out this little pink pig. It was a little plastic key ring with a button on the pig’s head and when you press it, its snout lights up.
GEORGE: Got it at Gracious Home.
HILLY: And then he said “There’s something else,” and, you know, the box wasn’t so big, so I said, “What’s in there?” And I looked and I pulled out a pair of toe warmers, like you get at the drugstore. And I thought, Well, maybe there’s something underneath, but there wasn’t anything underneath. And I thought, Well that’s still really sweet, because he knows that my feet get really cold. And then I looked at him and he said, “I’m really sorry, you have to be patient with me, I just can’t do it right now.” And I stopped and I looked at the pig, and I was thinking about what I said before, that even if it was plastic, the ring didn’t have to be real or anything, it was about the gesture. And I couldn’t help thinking that the little piggy key holder was round, and somehow I could have that transformed into some kind of ring. And that’s when he said, “Just kidding!” And he pulled out another Verdura box and I opened it up and there it was! And it was glorious to behold. And I put it on my finger and I was so happy! So happy. And then this woman came over and tried to sing, and I pointed the piggy at her and she went away. And that same day, I got a Christmas card from Eddie Van Halen.
GEORGE: I decided that day we’d go to Zarela because I knew they had waiters who come over and sing opera and stuff, so I set that up, and right before I left to meet Hilly, I checked my favorite Web sites and there were some really negative, mean comments on one of them—about me. And it really jolted me. Here I’m about to go give this ring to Hilly, big moment in my life, in her life, and I have to read that I’m a selfish, narcissistic loser: “I’ve always considered George Gurley to be a complete loser.” And someone else compared me to the guy in Out of Africa who gave Meryl Streep syphilis.
DR. SELMAN: This was based on the column?
GEORGE: I think so. Maybe some other things, too. So I had these commenter comments in my head and this was terrible timing. Here I am, an hour away from getting engaged, and I have these comments in my head. So I had to push these thoughts out of my head, and get into a better mood to propose to Hilly. I had to come up with something fast, so I thought about when I was that age—because I picture these commenters, they’re 25 years old, graduated from Wesleyan and now here they’re here in New York and no one’s paying attention to them, no one cares about their degree in comparative literature or herstory, and then they’ll read something like this column and something goes off in their brain—“Heyyyy, wait a second, I’m smarter than that guy! What about me? It’s my turn. Why do I have to work at this crappy job, and he doesn’t even have to go into an office? He goes out every night and sits around all day in his pajamas. …” So then I started thinking, that’s real power. I took it a little farther, and thought, I’m probably one of the most powerful people in New York. Don’t have to get up in the morning. Don’t have to go into an office. Can Mayor Bloomberg do that? No.
GEORGE: Then I wanted to cut these kids some slack because I was like them sometimes at their age—seething with envy.
DR. SELMAN: Did you actually ask her to marry you?
GEORGE: I don’t think it even got to—I think she was so excited. One thing I like to clarify is that the prank Verdura gift box—I wasn’t trying to torment her. I had the other one, the real one, right on my lap, ready.