He said yes!
Wait, that didn’t look right, did it? She’s meant to do the acquiescing, not him.
Attention, ladies. According to Scottish, Irish and Finnish superstitions and traditions, if you absolutely adore that beautiful soul slumped next to you on the sofa, the only socially acceptable time for you to ask him to make you his wife is on the 29th February, every leap year. That’s one slot every four years. He also has to pay a fine if he refuses.
Ann: James, will you marry me?
James: No babes, sorry.
Ann: OK fine, but it’s going to cost you that Dolce & Gabbana number we saw the other day.
James: Says who?
Ann: Ireland, Scotland and Finland.
The question of marriage proposals has a lot to do with flattery. It is flattering to see the man you love offering you his life (and a pretty shiny ring). It is flattering to be the centre of attention in a room full of people. In that moment, you are the desired woman. You’re the one who has been requested. You’re attractive and nice enough to be wedded to. Someone’s got you off the shelf. This flattery is fuelled by its advertising in rom-coms and fairy tales. Well, wouldn’t we all like to have a sub-plot in Love Actually?
Marriage proposals also have a lot to do with perks. Deep down, secretly, we can’t wait to shove that engagement ring in our friends’ and exes’ faces. We can’t wait to bore everybody about it. We can’t wait to describe in detail how your unromantic boyfriend gave up his freedom to tie the knot with you and only you. Not her. Not the skinny exotic girl at the office. Not any other member of the female population. Just you. It’s all so flattering and perky.
I’m not saying that you spending the rest of your life with an amazing person with whom you click so well is a silly and frivolous notion. Of course you’re thrilled. Of course you’re giddy about it. He is a wonderful man with whom you feel complete and you’re probably going to have a prosperous and fruitful marriage… but you do have all of the above happening or at the back of your mind. That is bound to have an effect.
Would the experience be just as thrilling for both parties if the lady had to do the asking? Surely, in a world that is actively fighting for equality, a woman should have as much right to propose to her partner as much as he does. It’s not illegal. My dear madam, you can go ahead with it, if you so wish. But wouldn’t it be nicer if he were staging the romantic gesture? It’s bad enough you have to organise date night every weekend. Good grief, is it going to be up to you to do all the marriage-asking as well?
Social stigma is holding women back. You can just subconsciously hear the bitchy remarks at the back of your mind. ‘My God, she was so desperate, she had to ask him herself.’ ‘That must’ve been so emasculating for him.’ ‘That must’ve made him run a mile.’ It’s as if the marriage would be rendered of less value if it’s instigated by the woman. There’s also the fear of rejection. By being so bold as to defy such a social norm, you’re worried it might scare him off, or expose the fact that he’s not ready for such a commitment. If he refuses, will he break up with you? Would he view you as a clingy burden for revealing your desire? Will he resent you for taking away his socially implemented responsibility of doing the asking? If any of this had to come up, it would expose to you a lot of things about your relationship, which is absolutely fine. It’s good to know where you both stand, and it’s perfectly acceptable if one person in the relationship isn’t ready for the commitment. If the other person belittles you for daring to defy the norm, then you need to ask yourself what the hell you’re doing with him in the first place.
Consider this. If you really want to be joined in matrimony with him, you wouldn’t care who did the asking. If you’re looking for the excuse to boast with your peers about how he asked you, then you shouldn’t be getting married at all. So long as the union’s happening and you’re both happy together, it really doesn’t matter who initiated it. Perhaps, the question itself needs rewording. Perhaps it should change to, ‘Shall we marry each other?’ After all, the idea of men doing the asking stems from the old custom of the woman being given away and acquired as property. Only a man had the right to decide the marital future of a woman. We have evolved from that. We acknowledge that a marriage creates, for want of a better word, the acquisition of each other.
Rita: Will you marry me?
Anthony: No, hang on. Will you marry me?
Rita: Yes, but I asked first. Will YOU marry me?
Anthony: Yes, but will you- Ok, babes, I’m confused.
Rita: Sod it, let’s marry each other.
On the 15th October 1839, Queen Victoria had proposed to Prince Albert. For someone living in the 19th century, that was quite liberal of her. She was queen of England. She had absolute power. She reigned. She liked it and she passionately put a ring on it. Yes, all right. He was her first cousin, but hey, takes all sorts.
Women now have control of their careers, income, bodies, inheritance… You name it, we’ve got it. Are we therefore not queens reigning over our own lives? If you deem that lovely man of yours worthy to be your king and equal, then there is nothing stopping you from offering him that place in your kingdom. If you want something done, be a woman and do it yourself. Have no fear, it wouldn’t be demeaning. It would be regal.