Sunday, September 19, 2010


Like many of our social rituals, the marriage proposal has been defined and distorted by television.  We’ve seen so many sit-com actors sinking to one knee, making an unbearably pompous speech bursting with painfully self-aware truisms and clich├ęs, that it seems we're somehow obliged to emulate this theatrical behavior.  If it’s on TV, it must be the proper thing to do, right?
    What could be less romantic than inappropriate actions and words in an inappropriate setting?  Being nervous about proposing a lifetime of commitment is understandable, so why add pressure by doing it in a football stadium, a crowded restaurant, a public park, with brass bands, acrobats, dancing monkeys and the ring hidden in the pork chops or the fruit salad?
    This is all so painfully contrived and cringe-worthy that I wonder that anyone’s proposal is accepted and that more proposers are not shot on the spot for criminally embarrassing their prospective mate.
    Not that intimate proposals can’t be equally embarrassing.  A former boyfriend once invited me to a beautiful hotel near Honfleur for the weekend.  We’d been there before and enjoyed it but this time there was tension in the air.  It was cold and rainy and when we arrived, we ordered tea which came in lovely porcelain cups with hot water in them to keep them warm.  But, instead of  enjoying the warmth and the tea, Joyboy kept staring insistently at me, prodding and grabbing.  Astonishingly, he then suggested a walk in the cold, muddy woods.  I declined and the weekend went from bad to worse, communication came to a standstill.  On the drive back to Paris he sullenly muttered as he stared at the road ahead: “Do you want to marry me?”
    Well, no actually.  Couldn’t you tell by the shrinking back and the lack of enthusiasm for all your suggestions?
    At least he didn’t go down on one knee while driving.
    Of course, if you want to marry someone, it doesn't really matter how they ask you, but looking you in the eye with due solemnity will make a proposal more memorable and acceptable than any gratuitous hoopla with balloons and skywriting.


myshorterstories said...

Do all of your exes get unflattering nicknames?
JoyBoy seems to be singularly inappropriate. :0)

I found the whole idea of proposals excruciating, and was glad I never really had one. Martyn came bouncing off a plane with a ring in his pocket, shouting something about having a present for me. I think he had temporarily lost it somewhere mid-Atlantic when he was fidgeting.

Nora Lumiere said...

No, only this one has a nickname.
"..bouncing off a plane with a ring in his pocket" sounds good.
A proposal on a plane would be a horror if you had to turn him down, wouldn't it?

DOT said...

I never had to face the task. My to be wife proposed to me by informing me in a pub one lunchtime in Chinatown, London, that her father was quite happy for us to marry. Did I have a choice? No. Bent knees? No. Splutter? Yes.

Nora Lumiere said...

Fathers have more to do with marriage proposals than we might think :-)