This post continues a series about feminism, engagement, and wedding planning. For background, see the first post in the series.
Generally speaking, women seem to look forward to being proposed to. I however, was not one of them. It’s not that I dreaded a proposal or anything; getting married just seemed like a practical decision, not an occasion for elaborately arranged declarations of love. In particular, I hated seeing those very public proposals at ballparks and nice restaurants. If someone were asking me to marry them, I certainly had no interest in involving thousands—or even a handful—of other people, be they strangers or friends. I didn’t understand why men arranged for their friends to snap photos of their “surprised” (really?) girlfriends’ faces when they got down on one knee, and quite frankly, kneeling itself felt too dramatic for my tastes. I wanted simplicity. Hey, so are we going to get married or what? Yes, ok, well let’s do it then.
I don’t remember if I ever thought about proposals before my late teens, but the only stance I ever remember having towards them was one of complete apathy towards maintaining traditional gender roles. In fact, I always thought it would be cool to be the one to initiate the getting-married conversation—after all, I had usually been the one to pursue guys growing up. One day two-year-old me came home from preschool, gushing about how “Robbie kissed Ashleigh.” As I went on, it became apparent that I had also started some kissing myself, and when my mom asked which happened first, I replied, “Ashleigh kissed Robbie.” And that’s just how it’s been. I don’t think I realized this was out of the ordinary for many, many years, long after I’d asked boys to hang out with me or told them I liked them. It didn’t always work out, but I wasn’t about to like someone forever and not try to make something happen, and I thought that process should involve honest, direct communication.
I never thought much about how often the proposal itself pushes women into a place of hoping, waiting, and indirect communication—or even outright manipulation—until I read Wicoff’s book. She talked about how frustrated she felt having to wait for her boyfriend to propose, how it felt like he had all the power to choose who and when he wanted to marry, while as a woman she only had the option of saying yes or no. While they went about things the traditional way, she decided she also wanted a chance to propose and let her fiancé answer, which she did several months later—an experience she found beneficial in some ways but not everything she hoped, since after all, he hadn’t been waiting his whole life to be proposed to, and she didn’t put nearly as much time imagining the “perfect” proposal as he had.
This experience led Wicoff to suggest a “proposal month” in her book. Basically, the idea is that a couple chats about the possibility of marrying, they pick a month or week or other span of time together during which they will both propose, and then they each go about planning their proposals. The engagement is, to some extent, real from the time they decide to have a proposal month, but it is not quite official until both people have gotten to ask and be asked.
I thought this was a creative idea that would give each party the chance to both express and receive love—not not just say “yes” or “I love you, too,” but to independently declare their feelings and intentions. While many couples do discuss their decision to marry ahead of time, it is not always definite or given a time frame until the proposal. Wicoff’s proposal month suggestion gives women more say in whether and when marriage happens. Additionally, it offers women the joy (and the pressure) of thinking of an exciting way to propose, and it allows men the chance to experience being the cherished and beloved. To me, it seems like a win-win-win for women, men, and relationships.
This post is continued in Pt. 2b.