Thursday, March 20, 2014

Will you please turn down the arena rock?

Today is Proposal Day, because some guy apparently decided that was a thing. I learned that by reading Slate's This Is Why Stunt Marriage Proposals Are So Annoying. It's an interesting exploration of gender norms as they apply to proposals, giving the ritual a retroactive feel. But the article skips entirely over why I (and I imagine many others) think stunt proposals are tacky.

I'm not the most lovey-dovey type of romantic. My ideal relationship is an equal partnership where company is the point, but I don't have a pressing desire to be in one. I find most traditionally romantic conventions to be stilted, forced and outdated. I cannot comprehend the idea of spending money to prove love, nor of being with someone for its own sake or for appearances. Though I'm not closed to dating, I do not feel incomplete as a single man. But even if none of that was true, I suspect I would still hate stunt proposals. Because even if I were an incurable romantic, I would still be an introvert. And as such, I shy away from being a captive audience.

Once I thought I was witnessing a public proposal about to happen, and every fiber of my being wanted to bolt out the door. That turned out not to be the case, and the relief I felt was palpable. 

Proposals, at their best, are confirmations between two people who decide they're in it for the long haul. Anything more than that is showy and emotionally manipulative. But I wonder if even the simplest proposal is more than a formality, because I'd imagine two people who want to get married are going to be on the same page about it. Also, so many people talk about proposals months or even years before the fact, sometimes within full earshot of their squeezes. How anticlimactic is that?

And what if it is climactic? Any person for whom a proposal carries genuine suspense is taking a huge risk by making it public. That goes beyond annoying into potential pity territory. YouTube is full of these fails. And, frankly, they're entertaining in a way they wouldn't be if they'd gone smoothly, at least from the perspective of a stranger who's been roped in to another's personal stage show. I don't laugh at the rejection, but I grin at the profound misjudgment that goes with being over-the-top when things are so lopsided.

Also, there's the whole matter of elaborate, expensive, extensively choreographed viral videos created by professionals with casts of hundreds of their closest friends. Those are about love the same way Fruit Roll-Ups are about strawberries. 

Take it from someone who doesn't know: The best proposals are the ones with the smallest audiences.

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