Before returning to our classes at Yale, for which we were enrolled but had not yet attended, Bill and I took our first vacation together to Zihuatanejo, Mexico, then a sleepy little charmer of a town on the Pacific Coast. Between swims in the surf, we spent our time rehashing the election and the failings of the McGovern campaign, a critique that continued for months. So much had gone wrong, including the flawed Democratic National Convention. Among other tactical errors, McGovern arrived at the podium for his acceptance speech in the middle of the night, when no one in the country was awake, let alone watching a political convention on television. Looking back on our McGovern experience, Bill and I realized we still had much to learn about the art of political campaigning and the power of television. That 1972 race was our first rite of political passage. After completing law school in the spring of 1973, Bill took me on my first trip to Europe to revisit his haunts as a Rhodes Scholar. We landed in London, and Bill proved himself to be a great guide. We spent hours touring Westminster Abbey, the Tate Gallery and Parliament. We walked around Stonehenge and marveled at the greener-than-green hills of Wales. We set out to visit as many cathedrals as we could, aided by a book of meticulously charted walking maps covering a square mile of countryside per page. We meandered from Salisbury to Lincoln to Durham to York, pausing to explore the ruins of a monastery laid waste by Cromwell's troops or wandering through the gardens of a great country estate.
Then at twilight in the beautiful Lake District of England, we found ourselves on the shores of Lake Ennerdale, where Bill asked me to marry him.
I was desperately in love with him but utterly confused about my life and future. So I said, "No, not now." What I meant was, "Give me time."
My mother had suffered from her parents' divorce, and her sad and lonely childhood was imprinted on my heart. I knew that when I decided to marry, I wanted it to be for life. Looking back to that time and to the person I was, I realize how scared I was of commitment in general and of Bill's intensity in particular. I thought of him as a force of nature and wondered whether I'd be up to the task of living through his seasons.
Bill Clinton is nothing if not persistent. He sets goals, and I was one of them. He asked me to marry him again, and again, and I always said no. Eventually he said, "Well, I'm not going to ask you to marry me any more, and if you ever decide you want to marry me then you have to tell me." He would wait me out.
Excerpted from Living History by Hillary Rodham Clinton. Published by Simon & Schuster. Copyright © 2003 by Hillary Rodham Clinton