Monday, September 03, 2012

Pop goes the question

The last two things I watched on TV included a marriage proposal. Now I consider myself to be a fairly traditional and old-fashioned when it comes to items like marriage and all the parts leading up to it. I wouldn't get married on a beach, I don't understand destination weddings and I never challenge the old way of doing things. However, both of these instances on TV got me thinking.

In a typical engagement proposal the man asks and the woman either says yes or no. Now, as we advance through the years, men and women approach a level playing field. Salaries are nearing equilibrium and other than front line combat in the military, women and men can hold pretty much all the same jobs. Progressive thinking tears down the oppressive gender roles of the 1950s. True love shows us all as partners. I agree with all of that.

But when I got to thinking about the proposal itself I wasn't sure how I felt about it. The man asks and the woman holds all of the power to say yes or no. Presumably, the proposal isn't random. If the question is popped, the asker should have some indication of the answer, I would think. I guess the idea is, for the question to be asked the couple is in love and has had talks about a life together. The answer from the girl shouldn't be too much of a surprise.

However, she does hold all the power, doesn't she? As they say, the best laid plans of mice and men often go astray. No matter how sure we think we are, as men, she can always spontaneously say no for any real reason or for none at all. And then all of the planning and preparing are laid to waste. So, we ask in earnest and whether or not the relationship proceeds is in the hands of the woman.

I suppose I don't understand why an engagement, which is the first major and formal step toward a union and partnership, all hinges on the decision and, sometimes, whimsy of the female. They don't propose to men (generally speaking). We don't get an opportunity to decide. Our decision is valued on in whether or not we actually ask the question. Bear in mind that the question is only asked after we have already invested a significant sum of money. Imagine the embarrassment of having to bring an engagement ring back. Buyer beware doesn't really apply here, simply because the onus is not on us as men.

So a surprise proposal requires the man to assume significant risk. I feel as though women get the best part of this situation and men can end up holding the bag. The whole concept makes me nervous and I'm not sure I understand how it's fair in 2012 when all anyone wants is equality and to tear down the walls between genders.

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