catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 9, Num 8 :: 2010.04.16 — 2010.04.29


How NOT to propose

A proposal

Despite the current divorce rate, couples are still getting engaged. And despite my almost ten years of marriage, happily married parents, and several sets of happily married friends, I cringe at many marriage proposal stories because, well, they seem so — how shall I say it? — cheesy.

I don’t know if I cringe because so many men who propose seem to think that romance and over-planning go hand in hand (They don’t — just help with the dishes.) or that the engagement itself has become a type of tacky performance art. Just like — unfortunately — too many weddings.

My own engagement story is simple; I’ll save some of the details in my heart, because I think engagement stories are often best told in intimacy, to flesh and blood. But here’s a rough outline so you’ll know where I’m coming from. We were outside. It was dark minus the light from the cars driving under the pedestrian bridge. He proposed. We ran up and down the bridge shouting. It was serendipitous and, although planned, somewhat spontaneous. At least the shouting was.

So, men — and you women out there planning on proposing (this is another issue, one I will not address today) — here are a few suggestions to follow if you’re planning on popping the question anytime soon and intend to be taken seriously by the rest of us. Of course, like all rules, some of these may be appropriately broken. But you’d better have some good reason for breaking them.

1) Don’t propose in public.

A public proposal isn’t a proposal at all because you’re likely not to get an honest answer.  If you’ve set up a marching band, a friend filming and some confetti cannons, your future intended will feel undue pressure to answer affirmatively and this is not fair. Plus, many people don’t like to do anything in public — speaking, dancing, or performing — and the pressure of a question whose intentions are life changing and life-long is just too much.

On a side note, if someone does propose to you in public and you’re a shy person, decline kindly. This person doesn’t know you nor respect your reserved nature.

2) Don’t propose in rented clothing.

No tuxedo (unless you’re already at a tuxedo-ed event), no medieval royalty garb, no suit of armor — wear your own clothing. Costumes are cheesy and they’re not you. It’s you in a costume. If you want to wear a costume, go to a Halloween party or be in a play. But your future maybe wife is not marrying Tuxedo Ken, a prince or a knight in shining armor (no matter how many times you’ve read Wild at Heart). This is the twenty-first century and you work in technical support. Deal with it and be yourself unless you intend to wear that costume every day for the rest of your life.

However, the idea of dressing well to propose is a great idea. If you even want to wear a jacket and tie — heck, maybe you needed a new suit anyway — this is OK. Just make sure you’re not in a costume.

3) Avoid hearts.

Rose petals in the shape of a heart are no longer romantic. They’re cliché. Children draw hearts. Little girls with names possessing an “i” such as “Tammi” sometimes use a heart to dot the “i.” You don’t want to be associated with any of this, I guarantee it.

4) Do not put an engagement ring in food.

You may freak out if it seems your beloved is about to swallow it, and if she does, she’ll feel badly about it. Plus, it makes the ring dirty. Who wants to pull an object out of her mouth and then put it directly on her finger?

5)  Go for real, not synthetic.

You wouldn’t buy silk flowers instead of real ones, would you?  (Unless, of course, it’s for someone with flower allergies or in the hospital or six feet under.) Then why twinkle lights? Use real candles if you want to create a romantic ambience. That’s what Christmas lights were designed to replace.

6) Never propose at a chain restaurant.

This is just plain not cool. It’s only cool if you’re part of a culture in which a man has to prove his financial chops to the woman’s family. If so, proposing at a chain restaurant is only OK if it is part of a wedding gift. Example: “Trina, would you marry me? And to prove my financial wherewithal, I’ve even purchased this Subway franchise for you so that we can save money for our children to attend private college.” Oh, the romance!

7) Don’t propose and drive.

If texting while driving is unsafe, so is proposing while driving. It may surprise your intended more than a ring in a piece of chocolate layer cake, but it may also surprise the driver in front of you. 

8) Do not have someone secretly filming or photographing the event.

First, this is creepy. Second, it’s sort of dishonest. She (or he) doesn’t know that someone is there, recording the images of her every emotion — surprise, happiness, excitement, anger at being spied on. It’s like the paparazzi.

Instead, trust your memory. If the proposal is good, you’ll remember it. If it’s bad, you’ll also remember it, but you’ll be glad that no one was there to witness the badness and record it for possible YouTube blackmail.

9) Keep the animals away.

It is not cute to tie a ring on a dog’s collar. That dog will likely be dead before your first child graduates from middle school. This is not about the dog or the cat. This is about you.

10) Only write a song if she’s truly a fan and you’re actually a musician.

If you dabble in songwriting and guitar strumming, save your talent for the next family reunion. If you want to write an acoustic proposal song, have a professional and critical musician or producer (such as Simon Cowell) approve your song — and singing voice — first. Just because she says, “Oh, you’re so cute!” does not mean that you have talent and this is not a time to be cute.

Proposals should be simple and sincere. Creativity is great, but it’s likely that if you plan a scavenger hunt she’ll know immediately what’s going on (unless you regularly prepare non-proposal scavenger hunts for her).  Don’t do something that will embarrass you or her now or later. The point is the relationship and your willingness to love, cherish and commit — not your event planning skills.

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