marriage proposals: business negotiation or disney movie denouement?
So, before I start I’ve got to admit I’m feeling a little bit like a radical feminist troll at the moment because every time I go on mamamia.com.au, “feminist” women’s news blog site, I find something I vehemently disagree with. A few weeks ago I blogged in response to their cute little playlist for women to continue doing the majority of unpaid household labour to, arguing that we should ‘boycott all of that mumsy-“I-enjoy-cleaning-once-I-put-some-cute-indie-pop-rock-on!”-post-feminist-let’s-all-have-it-all-bullshit’. I fully recognise that feminism is diverse and multifaceted, with pockets that resonate with some women more than others and that this difference is legitimate and important; however, for a website that claims to provide coverage of the things that ‘all women’ are interested in and talking about, I find some of their content a bit questionable.
My latest beef with Mamamia is Natalia Jastrzab’s opinion piece on the rise of (gasp) ‘the mutual proposal’. Jastrzab’s opinion (which she is wholly entitled to) is that mutual marriage proposals are nightmarishly unromantic, her personal preference being that a man proposes traditionally to her. By annoyingly referencing a scene from the first Sex & The City movie, in which protagonist Carrie and her love interest Mr Big unceremoniously decide to get married over the domestic banality of chopping vegetables, Jastrzab claims that ‘the mutual proposal is gaining traction in the relationship landscape.’ According to Jastrzab, there is this growing trend of partners discussing their romantic life paths as equals and coming to mutual decisions instead of the traditional feigning surprise and excitement when your long-term beau decides to make you his wife. I fail to see how the traditional view of marriage can make sense in the same way in a time where long-term de facto cohabitation and even not marrying at all are both socially acceptable and widespread. The bride dressed in white to symbolise virginity and purity. The father giving away the bride. It all seems rather anachronistic.
Jastrzab’s article sports the demanding title ‘I don’t want a mutual proposal. I want the guy to ask me.’ Sounds a bit Varuca Salt, to me. But who can blame her? As women we are still being socialised to aspire to old-school life paths, with a wedding still being seen as “The Most Important Day Of Your Life.” As Jastrzab also points out, the proposal is up there in The Most Important/Romantic Things That Will Ever Happen To You Ever. Forget that time when you woke up hung-over next to your partner with a bag full of cold McMuffins that the guys from the party last night stuffed through the letter slot in the door on their way home at four AM. Or that time when he tried to read you The Iliad as a bedtime story but couldn’t pronounce all the names. All that stuff could never compare to the way he pops the question. It’s every little girl’s dream: ‘ever since I can remember I’ve always held up the proposal as the romantic event to beat all romantic events.’
Reading this I almost felt a bit cheated. I’ve never had that fairy tale, Barbie princess, hetero-normative fantasy. My parents weren’t married and they never really made a thing of it. Love is just love. You don’t need a big self-indulgent circus to justify it. But if that’s your thing, that’s fine. I’ll come and help myself to the open bar and make some drunken speech about how I always knew you were right for each other, especially after that time when we were all living together and you used to accidently steal each others socks. And I don’t care how you decided to put it all on. We should be grateful that we can even have this argument, considering that non-heterosexual couples still don’t get much of a choice either way in many places. For couples who have to travel inter-state, or even internationally to get hitched somewhere where it is actually legal, this involves significant negotiation. Jastrzab’s traditional hetero-normative view of the romantic marriage proposal potentially brands these already marginalised relationships as unromantic because they may not involve the ol’ ‘will you be my lawfully wedded wife?’ Q-bomb.
It shouldn’t matter whether you’re sitting around in your kitchen wearing oversized band t-shirts and smelly socks or if you’ve booked a table for two at the swankiest restaurant in town and have a speech prepared. What really matters is the connection between two people who want to spend (pretty much) the rest of their life together. Even if it takes putting up with their facetious jokes and Star Wars references that you don’t understand.