Fear not! Your once-in-every-1461-days opportunity is here! You are allowed to ask him to marry you. Hurry though – as soon as that clock strikes midnight you’re going to have to go back to waiting for him to notice you dropping hints about diamonds.
I’m married. Which is at least one piece of evidence that I’m not utterly cold-hearted. I never expected to be, but sometimes life’s surprising.
I’m married to one of the most forthright feminists I’ve ever met, but there’s still no getting away from the fact that marriage is a patriarchal construct; an institution that was built on the view of women as commodities. And one that still excludes gay and trans people while being central to many right-wing values. Well, hopefully my marriage doesn’t. Maybe we can get under the skin of this marriage thing and make it about love and commitment while changing it for the better.
That’s what I’d like. I can understand why so many of my friends choose never to marry.
But if we’re going to change this marriage thing for the better, isn’t it a good idea to look at so many of the oddities that go hand-in-hand with our ideas of how it works?
Those extravagant proposals – serenading someone with a band, in a restaurant full of onlookers, perhaps – might work well in a film, but in real life isn’t it a little mean? Not if you’re proposing to an exhibitionist who loves being the centre of attention and who you’re confident wants to marry you. But if that’s not the case then the person doing the public proposing has had the time to think about it. Before springing a life-changing question on somebody and putting them under a lot of pressure to reply instantly. That’s not my idea of romance.
Here are two of the proposal stories I grew up with:
“We were having a fish and chip supper when he looked at me over the top of his newspaper and asked, ‘when your divorce comes through, will you marry me?’”
“We’d talked about it before and I felt like the time was right. She was in the shower so I popped my head round the curtain and said, ‘what do you reckon? Should we get married?’”
To me, these are heart-meltingly romantic. I do sometimes fantasise about being swept away from my desk with bunches of flowers and into a plane waiting to take me somewhere sunny. But it’s a fantasy; I wouldn’t be able to finish the project I’m working on! I wouldn’t have enough sun cream with me and would burn! It would be really impractical!
No, I like my romance woven into everyday life: coming home to a glass of wine ready poured when I’ve had a rubbish day; someone bringing you a small gift (a chocolate bar maybe) because they saw it and knew you wanted it. Someone who’ll walk to the shops and buy you food and painkillers when you have a self-induced hangover.
I proposed. It wasn’t the 29th February, and I didn’t burst into flames. We’d talked about marriage, in a general ‘it’s a thing we could do but probably won’t’ way. We were out dancing and I was, let’s say, slightly less than sober when it occurred to me that hey! Maybe we should! So my proposal was a drunken shouted suggestion, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Almost 3 years later, it still does.
So here’s my plea for today: marry; don’t marry; live with one other person, or 3. But let’s get away from the idea that there’s a right and a wrong way to do these things, if the people involved are happy and not hurting others.
Romance is dead. Long live romance.