I know I'm a little bit late to the game on this one, but have you noticed that pretty much everyone you have ever met or even vaguely glanced at has gotten engaged or married lately? There's just a lot of institutional love going down — lots of avowing, much proposing. And despite being nowhere near a marriageable mentality, I've found myself mindlessly scrolling through vintage engagement rings online and clicking through albums upon albums of wedding dresses and, I don't know, thinking about proposals, mine specifically. I AM A BORING CLICHÉ. SHOW ME YOUR PINTEREST BOARDS.
Anyway, I had a few friends over a week or two ago, and we were watching an acquaintance's proposal video because, I guess, I don't have cable. (Women don't just sit around and do this always; we're usually too preoccupied with topless pillow fights and the like.) The video was a lengthy eight minutes and a whole big to-do, like the meme proposal video and, yeah, this one.
"I just feel like proposals are so competitive," my boyfriend commented later that night. "Like, everything's filmed, and you need to keep topping things."
He's not wrong. I used to think it was a bit much when people popped the question over Jumbotron, but that strategy seems almost quaint in the day of hired string quartets, flash mobs, and celebrity endorsements (although woe betide the man who asks me so much as, "Are we out of milk?" on a Jumbotron). It's not that I don't get grand gestures — I just kind of feel like, you know, the grand gesture is more in the spending-lives-together thing than in the moment's viral potential.
Don't get me wrong — obviously, some people want the Cirque du Fiancé. This is totally fine and great; I will watch all of their videos. I'm just here to say, yo, #NotAllWomen.
Part of my disdain for a Big Deal Proposal might be due to my introvert tendencies — see: PostSecret above — but that doesn't cover everything. For example, I'm not super opposed to, say, a fancy restaurant proposal or an outdoor proposal. (Future fiancé, take note.) But I personally see a big difference between a touch of fanfare and what I perceive to be spectacle for spectacle's sake. Lisa Miller wrote a great takedown of the "performance proposal" for New York magazine in 2012, disdaining the concept because:
The performance proposal doesn’t say “I love you because I can imagine you old,” or “I want us to fight and wake up the next morning in the same bed,” or “I love you because you make me laugh when I’m all stressed out.” It draws attention to the groom — his magnificence, his deep pockets — and often makes a fool of the bride. These Vegas-style choreographed proposals go far beyond skywriting. They put the woman on the spot. Who’s going to say "no," or "let me think about it," or even "let’s get a room" in front of a crowd of jugglers?
I realize that it's sort of silly to make a feminist issue of proposals. "Just propose to the dude yourself, then, if you're so independent. Better yet, refuse to take part in this backwards institution altogether." I know. I know. But, much as I wish I were a badass, renegade activist, my aspirations are pretty conventional. I like white weddings and floral arrangements and I hope to be proposed to one day. And I hope the dude taking a knee knows me well enough to know that I'll be feeling freaked enough without the bells and whistles of crowds and clicks.