He pushed the door of the jewelry store open. The pusher was obviously a confident young man. If he owned the store, he couldn’t have been more self-assured. He marched right up to the diamond ring counter. This was a customer who demanded attention.
It wasn’t that this youngster was bad looking. He appeared to be almost six feet tall, a tad on the heavy side, long dark hair with a sallow complexion. It was the attitude of contempt radiating from him that made the two male sales clerks watching shake their heads.
One clerk muttered quietly to his associate. “The expression pompous ass comes to mind, big time. Do you want him?”
“It’s my turn, I guess I don’t have a choice. Watch my fake smile in action, pal.”
The clerk approached the diamond ring counter. “May I help you?”
“My name is William Knowlton. I am here to purchase a diamond ring.”
“For yourself or perhaps for a young lady?”
“I want an engagement ring. She is a beautiful woman. I want a spectacular, very large diamond.”
Pompous ass or not, thought the clerk, this could be a nice commission. The clerk was correct. In a few minutes William bought an exceptionally expensive ring.
As the clerk wrapped the ring he announced, “Beginning this year, 1985, we have a new policy. When we sell an engagement ring, our store policy is…if the lady happens to say no, you have thirty days to return the ring.”
Knowlton looked down at the clerk as if he was daft. “Are you implying that a woman would turn down a proposal of marriage from me?”
“Oh no sir, not on your life. It’s just my job to inform you of the store return policy.”
Nose in the air, purchase securely in his hand, young William Knowlton marched out.
Once outside, Knowlton stuck the ring box in his pocket, climbed into his Mercedes and started driving from Indianapolis to Ann Arbor. Spring vacation was over. He was off to begin his last quarter before graduation at the University of Michigan. In the fall, he would attend Harvard Business School to begin work on his MBA.
Before he left the Ann Arbor campus, there was an important piece of business to complete. He wanted to lock up the vivacious Margaret Weatherby. She was only a freshman; however she was a very attractive girl. William had taken her to several outings. He’d reached a decision. Margaret socialized well. She would make a good hostess. Business leaders need wives who compliment their husband’s responsible positions.
As he drove along he began to compose the words he would use in his proposal. I know, I’ll simply announce, I have selected you to be my wife. Simple and right to the point. She will be exceedingly happy. Furthermore, I will announce my decision to marry her on our date tonight! Why wait? She will have the entire spring quarter to show off her ring around the campus.
At about the same time as William’s Mercedes flashed across the Indiana - Michigan state line, things were happening at the freshman dorm in Ann Arbor. Margaret Weatherby tossed her suitcase on the bed and hugged her roommate, Joanne Dartforth. It was great to be back on campus.
The two roommates were good friends. They exchanged their spring break adventures. Joanne had simply gone home. Margaret went to Florida with her parents. She spent lots of time on the beach and she had a gorgeous tan to prove it. Blue eyes twinkled with joy and excitement under her sun bleached short blond hair. She was a ‘happy camper.’
Then a sad thought crept into her mind. It soon reflected on her face. Joanne picked up on the change immediately.
“What’s wrong, Margaret?”
“I have a date with William tonight. I’ve made up my mind; it’s time to dump him”
“Break it off? I thought you liked him.”
“I guess I’ve never explained William have I? His Mom and my Mom are old friends. They arranged our first date. I knew immediately I didn’t like him. He’s way too full of himself. Because of Mom, I felt obligated to be nice to him. We’ve had several dates and I continue to feel absolutely nothing for him. Zip. Nada. The only reason I kept going out with him was I didn’t want mother upset with me.
“But, enough is enough. I talked to Mom on vacation and she understands. So I need to get this over with tonight. I hate to shoot anyone down but I know this is going nowhere. To be fair to William, I need to tell him.”
“I understand he is awfully rich.”
“Well the rich part’s true. He’s been very careful to let me know that his parents own a chain of some kind of appliance stores. My plan however, is to marry for love and not for money. Besides, William is a pompous ass. My only problem is how to let the guy down gently.”
As soon as William picked her up, Margaret knew letting him down gently was going to be tough. She could tell something exciting had changed his usual boring manner. She decided to wait until they finished eating before giving him the news.
Unfortunately for William, he decided to spring the good news as soon as they’d ordered their dinner. The minute the waiter left he announced, “I have a surprise for you. I’ve decided we should be married. Here’s your engagement ring!” He removed the box from his pocket, opened it and pushed it across the table toward an astonished Margaret.
She was thunderstruck! The only thing she felt for William was disgust at his incredible conceit. How could he possibly imagine she would be willing to marry him? Then she realized, William never thinks of any one’s feelings except his own.
While she pondered this, William became aware of what one could call an awkward silence. So he asked, “Don’t you think it’s a beautiful diamond?
“It’s a lovely diamond, William, however I cannot accept it.”
Completely ignoring her reply, William continued. “I thought you’d enjoy showing it off this last school quarter before I head for grad school.”
Margaret shook her head as she continued to be appalled at his self-centeredness. Then she realized ……..he never even asked me to marry him! The pompous son of a bitch simply announced that he decided we should marry!
“William, I told you I cannot accept your diamond or your ‘declaration of intentions.’ As she said this she felt her anger began to boil over. “Do you realize you never even asked me to marry you? You self-centered goat, you simply announced that you decided we should marry. Did it ever occur to you that I might want to have some input in a decision of that importance?
Temporarily stunned William exclaimed, “You don’t understand, Margaret. I, William Knowlton have consented to take you as my wife. When someone as eligible as me asks you to marry, you accept. With alacrity I might add. The lady’s consent is a given.”
“Well, this lady’s consent is no given,” Margaret shot back. Then she softened. William, I don’t love you. I don’t even enjoy being with you. There’s no magic between us.”
“Margaret, a wise person doesn’t marry for love. A wise person chooses a mate with his head, not his heart. Now if you will use that pretty little head, you will see that I am a terrific catch for you.”
Margaret stood up, snapping the ring box closed and pushing it across the table toward him. “You can pick your spouse any way you want, William, but when I pick mine it will be with a heart full of love. Good bye. I’m taking a cab home. Please don’t call me again. My decision is irrevocable! Squaring her shoulders, she left the astonished young man staring at the empty seat that had just been vacated across the table.
When Margaret got back to the dorm she was still steaming. Luckily her roommate was still there.
“What happened? You’re back so soon,” Joanne asked.
Margaret unloaded. “That pompous ass asked me to marry him. No he didn’t…He announced that HE decided we should marry! Then he shoved this big diamond ring across the table at me as if he were buying my consent!
“It never occurred to him that I might want some input in selecting the man I want for my husband! I was so angry I called him a self-centered goat, shoved the ring back at him and walked out. I took a cab back. How can any human being be that involved in himself?
Joanne’s face quickly twisted from concern to hysterics. She tried to keep from laughing but it was useless. “I can just picture the look on his face when you called him a self-centered goat! Her snicker became a giggle which quickly turned into outright uproarious laughter! Seconds later Margaret joined her. The two roommates laughed for a long time.
Margaret’s refusal became intensely personal for William. His wounded ego took a long time to recover. He pretended it did not matter. There were other women out there who would realize he was a fabulous catch. But it did eat at him. Within a few weeks his supposed affection for Margaret turned into genuine hate.
Several months later William met a woman named Shirley Lansing. After a six month courtship she accepted his very similar marriage declaration. In William’s mind, Shirley would be more of a hostess than a wife. Of course Shirley didn’t realize this.
William and Shirley had two daughters, Betty Ann Knowlton and Laurie Lansing Knowlton.
Margaret fell in love with a wonderful man, John Randall. They had one child whom they named Brad.
Twenty five years after the rejected proposal, it was then 2010, Laurie and Brad wound up as college freshmen at the same institution………....