Belfast Telegraph

Will you marry me? - should women pop the question?

As Valentine's Day approaches in this leap year, two writers debate if it really matters who pops that all-important question

Women would do it better, says Sarah O'Meara

It is a truth universally acknowledged that every woman in a long-term relationship, no matter how deeply in love, can't rely on her man to propose.

Never mind how many years she's spent making decisive calls on everything from cleaning duties to opening that second bottle of wine with the alacrity of a military leader. When it comes to sealing the ultimate deal, romcom rules dictate she's stuck hoping and waiting.

“Wow, I really wasn't expecting it. I'm so lucky,” the relieved girl will eventually simper to friends, as though receiving the romantic equivalent of an OBE.

It's a strange relationship role-swap. Sane, powerful, modern women, who would normally never let their man do so much as choose a holiday, happily relinquish control over one of the most pivotal events in their life plan.

This would be fine if a proposal of marriage was fairly irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

But it's not. Popping the question has become more significant now than perhaps ever before.

In this age of extended adolescence, it can be hard for a 20-something lady to determine whether she is in fact living with ‘the one', or has accidentally rented a flat with an emotionally immature manboy, who will argue them both into an early grave while never committing to kids.

The proposal is very much ‘the thing', a pledge of genuine commitment. And it is for this reason that we need to take this over-hyped piece of amateur dramatics out of the hands of those least equipped to script it, let alone find a decent set.

So, I propose a new plan. Women ready to take the plunge should sit their man down gently and talk through the future — like when she's organising a trip to see his parents.

She could give him until the end of the week to decide if he's going to do it, before they tell their friends and family.

But you'd be forcing him into it, I hear you cry. He'll back out.

OK, if you really think that asking a man to marry you will jinx that brilliantly effective rite of passage that allows men to fanny around not-being-ready for years, while you twiddle your thumbs, please take heart from two things.

Firstly, my parents can't remember when they decided to get married.

And its been 40 years now. Secondly, I told my husband we were getting married, and thus far it's going brilliantly.

Like all men, he was overwhelmed by the implications and expectations that would be placed upon him once he popped a ring on my finger so I got us drunk, dragged him into the reception of a hotel and asked him whether all the times he'd ever asked me to marry him while drunk could count as a proposal? Slightly baffled, he said yes.

Then I ran away from him and told all my family, who were handily all present as we were at a family wedding. And the rest, as they say, is history.

It's time to get realistic, ladies. Richard Curtis isn't in charge, you are.

It is a man’s sacred duty, says Dave Mark

Now I'll admit this doesn't sound like a particularly reasoned argument, but the idea of being proposed to just seems, well, wrong.

In my case, I suppose it's because I can't cry. I'm rubbish at that sort of stuff. Uncontrolled joyfulness and hysterical happiness are not in my repertoire of facial expressions. Which means that, were my good lady to pop the question, I'd raise my eyebrows and nod and say “wow” a lot, which really wouldn't express the true nature of how I felt. Women are better at that stuff.

Anyway, it's not an easy time to be a man. I don't know what we're supposed to be any more. All our old skills have blended into one big androgynous mess. But marriage proposals, somehow, remain sacred.

That's when a man shows what he can do. That's when he proves he was listening when his partner rattled on about the little log cabin in Sweden where she imagined drinking brandy in a hot tub and staring out across a frozen lake.

That's when he shows he understands her. Accepts her for all her weird ways and wants to be with her for the rest of his life. It's where we strip ourselves bare and beg to be loved. Why else would it be conducted on our knees?

Oh, I know women would probably do a better job of proposing. They'd get your favourite football team to spell out the words ‘Marry me?' in formation crouching. They'd do it brilliantly.

And that's the reason they should keep their hands off.

Both genders have come to the conclusion that men are rubbish. But we're trying. And we never try harder than when it comes to popping the question.

Leave us something, for goodness sake!

Progress is great. I'm all for it. But wedding proposals are a man's domain.

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