A former student of mine–with my help–proposed to his girlfriend on the set of The Big Bang Theory a few weeks ago.
Let’s do a Talmudic-style analysis of this sentence, phrase by phrase, squeezing the meaning and implications out of every word for the ultimate purpose of a deep and powerful understanding of it.
1. “A former student of mine”: After Blossom ended, I earned a BS in Neuroscience (with a minor in Hebrew and Jewish Studies) from UCLA. I was 23 when I finished my degree and I went directly into a PhD program, also in Neuroscience. Part of our training in graduate school is to be a teacher’s assistant, or TA. I always loved teaching (my parents were both teachers until retiring with a combined 65-some years of experience) and was a TA for about half a dozen classes in my seven years of graduate school.
Kristian was in my “Anatomy and Physiology of the Sensory System” class the first time I taught it. I distinctly remember him because he did a few things hardly any other student did:
a) He smiled at me. Most undergraduate pre-med students were grumpy, surly, and sort of hating life. Those students made me happy that I did not choose to go to medical school, because if I had gone that route, I also would have been grumpy, surly, and sort of hating life as an undergraduate. But Kristian was memorable because he was pleasant and friendly.
b) He laughed at my jokes. Being a TA is no easy task (see my description of pre-med students above), and having a quirky sense of humor is also no easy task in a world of generic comedy. I did my best to make people have a good time in my classes. I did not always succeed, so I recall having a few laughs with Kristian as the other students ignored me or rolled their eyes. And in case you were curious, most of my students were too young to know me from TV. Not that it would have made my jokes any funnier, but it might have made them pay attention or feel obligated to placate me by laughing at my jokes.
2. “–with my help–“: Kristian and I had not spoken in maybe eight or nine years, since I saw him take his final exam and wished him well in his life. He emailed me last fall and asked if I remembered him. I did! He told me he was finishing medical school (despite his not fitting the grumpy, surly, hating life profile) and he had a fantastic girlfriend who was also finishing med school. He wanted to know if he could fly out to LA (they both live back east) and propose to her on our set. I was thrilled and honored to be part of someone’s joy, because even though I am a grumpy, surly person who despises romantic comedies and thinks love is a rather troublesome task on my best days, I respect those who dive in with such aplomb, especially if it involves contacting former TAs who are on TV shows they love. “The kid’s got chutzpah,” I thought, sounding like an 80-year-old vaudeville producer, “and I like that.”
I told Kristian that I may not even be in the episode he wanted to fly in for, but that I would get him on our set somehow even if I had to sneak into work in the back of Jim Parsons’ car and make it happen! When Kristian and I spoke again after the New Year, I was by then able to confirm that I was in the episode, and I reserved him and the fiancee seats, told our trusty producer’s assistant the details, and away we went!
3. “proposed to his girlfriend”: After many theoretical problems Kristian and I discussed (“What if security asks what the bulging box is in my pocket and makes me show the ring and ruins the surprise?” was his worst fear), we decided he should give me the ring beforehand to hold, just to be safe. He flew in a few days earlier, brought me the ring (which I took to work and locked in the safe) and we meticulously went over the plan.
He decided to make the whole taping a surprise for Vedika. He took her sightseeing that day (texting me things like “Aaaahh!” and me texting back “I am sooooo nervous!”) and casually told her they were seeing a taping of her favorite TV show right before bringing her to the studio. I decided I would pretend like I barely remembered him and I warned him I was going to act a little bit “icy” so she would not suspect anything. I spotted them in the audience and walked over, pretending I was not sure it was him. “Kristian? I wasn’t sure that was you! This must be your girlfriend. What’s your name? I’m sorry: how do you pronounce that?” (They don’t call me an actor for no reason.) I shook hands with them briefly, played the part of busy slightly icy actress, turned on my heels and flashed a quick smile. I was loving this performance of mine!
After the show finished taping, they came backstage as I told him to do. I noticed that the audience was still filing out of the stands, so I had to kill time, not wanting his proposal to happen in front of hundreds of noisy fans! So I pretended I knew nothing about Kristian’s life and killed time asking what he did after he graduated, feigning surprise when he told me his field of specialization, and acting as if I did not know his girlfriend was from India (“Where is your accent from?”)
4. “on the set of ‘The Big Bang Theory'”: Finally the crowd thinned out, and I walked Kristian and Vedika to the living room set, saying we only had a few minutes before the set had to be covered up for the night. I snapped a few pictures of them with Vedika in Sheldon’s spot, my heart pounding so hard I was sure I was going to keel over. I was so excited and wanted everything to go perfectly! As Vedika got up to leave, Kristian stopped her and told her to sit back down. She looked alarmed and he took a deep breath and told her that the whole day had been pre-planned. He turned to me, and that was my cue to hand him the box tucked into my denim jacket that I wore special for the day so I would have a pocket to hold it in!
I snapped a few pictures of him on one knee telling her she is the most perfect person for him and that he waited his whole life for her. Nope, I didn’t cry–I told you, I’m a Scrooge!–but it was very emotional indeed and very sweet. He handed her the ring, they embraced, and our Creator/Executive Producer Bill Prady who happened to be watching this unfold applauded. I hugged her and said, “This was all an act: I am freaking out and so happy for you!” And we explained to her how everything was planned just for this moment; the sightseeing they did (which was related, unbeknownst to her, to a scene in that night’s taping), the Oscar-award winning act I did; all of it was for Vedika’s special moment.
We took pictures with some of the cast, had a beer, and told anyone within a 5 foot radius what had just happened. It was an exhausting night but we did it! Thank goodness she said yes!
5. “a few weeks ago”: Kristian and Vedika are the second couple ever to get engaged on our set, Bill Prady announced the following morning at our script reading for the next week’s episode, the first being a couple visiting from Northern Europe who got engaged during the taping in the audience! I emailed Kristian right after to tell him that the whole cast and staff of his fiancee’s favorite show applauded their engagement and gushed over the unexpected way our show touches lives.
Kristian and Vedika are planning their winter 2012 wedding in India with a reception here in California. I hope I can go. But if I can’t, I will rejoice with them wherever I am knowing that I got to be a part of the start of something with all of the potential for beauty in the world.