How Google and Facebook Ruined My Marriage Proposal

Marriage proposal

I knew he was going to propose.

Kind of.

It wasn’t coming completely out of the blue, even though I’d only known Nick Aster for three months. We’d been talking about getting married since our third date. We’d even talked about it sober, not just after sharing a bottle and a half of wine.

But I still had no idea when he would propose, or how, or with what? And I liked it that way. In a world of easy access to information about everything from the life span of sea slugs to how to make a comforter fit inside a duvet cover without losing your mind, there were still a couple of things that could and should be left unknown. How someone was going to ask me to marry them could be one of them.

Except I knew. Google told me.

Nick and I were living in separate cities at that point and spending most of our disposable income flying in between New York and San Francisco on alternating weekends. We couldn’t get enough of each other, which is a good sign for humans who have already dated a lot of other people. I was on the West Coast that weekend and we didn’t have any big plans. Maybe we’d go on a hike, perhaps a picnic, Nick suggested. “How did I feel about cheese and pie?” There’s only one right answer to that question.

My computer began acting up so I grabbed Nick’s MacBook to Google a recipe for blackberry crumble and check my Facebook and email for messages from my mom.


From the moment I logged onto Nick’s computer I was inundated with Google and Facebook ads.

At first I ignored the Google advertisements for a sleek diamond eternity band from an ethical jewelry company. I was an unmarried 34-year-old women. Of course Google wanted to sell me an engagement ring. But then the ads just kept coming, each one more aggressive than the next, popping up on both Google and Facebook. This was the most aggressive retargeting campaign I’ve ever seen. And that’s when it hit me. This was my engagement ring. Google and Facebook were retargeting my boyfriend with ads for the ring he had searched for and maybe purchased.

Holy shit!

I took a screenshot of the ad and sent it to one of my girlfriends.

“I think Nick is going to propose with this ring tomorrow,” I texted her.

“Why do you think that? Aren’t you getting ahead of yourself. That’s a nice ring. I’d say yes,” she wrote back.

“Google told me. It is nice. Of course I’m saying yes. Shit. I wish I didn’t know this.”

I knew that I sounded crazy. But I wasn’t. This is how cookies on the Internet work. They capture your data when you visit a website and then they remind you about it over and over again until you relent and buy the damn thing.

I heard Nick’s key jiggle in the lock and slammed his computer shut with the distinct feeling that I had been snooping, even though that hadn’t been my intention at all.

“Cool your jets Piazza,” I said to myself, just loud enough that someone watching would think I was schizophrenic. “Pretend you know nothing.”

And so I did. I kissed Nick hello. I took a shower. We went out to dinner and split a bottle of wine. We stopped at a bar for a nightcap and shared a dessert. I had another half glass off wine and then……

“Are you going to propose during our picnic tomorrow?”


I’ve never seen Nick look so taken aback. Not even the time that I flew all the way from Nashville to San Francisco on a Monday at midnight to surprise him after attending my friend’s bachelorette party for the weekend.

He stumbled and stuttered in a way that would have melted my heart if I weren’t in full-on Nancy Drew mode.

“Why would you think that? No. Maybe. I don’t know. We don’t have to go on a picnic.”

I didn’t know what to do or say. Although I had tried not to give much thought to a proposal, this definitely wasn’t anything like what I’d briefly imagined. This was nothing like a romantic comedy starring Meg Ryan or Kate Hudson or Sandra Bullock.

“We can drop it,” I whispered. “No big deal. Let’s go on the picnic.”

And miraculously that is exactly what we did. Neither of us breathed another word about the ring, the picnic, the pie or a proposal. And when we got to the top of Mt. Tam the next day and sat down on the grass overlooking the San Francisco Bay I was still surprised when Nick pulled that slender, conflict-free diamond eternity band out of his jacket pocket and said, “I have to ask you a question.”



1 comment

  1. Niki 12 May, 2017 at 05:16 Reply

    I’m looking forward to reading your book, and am glad it all turned out well in the end – the proposal I mean.

    But it doesn’t seem to me like it’s Google and Facebook that ruined your proposal, it’s that you happened to use his computer — if he knew you were gonna use it, he may have deleted his cookies, search history, etc or made some excuse so you didn’t use it in case you found out. Google and Facebook are just doing their job – putting ads out there related to past searches, nothing wrong with that, how are they supposed to know that this particular search should be kept secret?

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