Sometimes I'm a little late to the party when it comes to realisations. For example: matcha lattes. I mean, really? Matcha is green tea.
On occasion, my comprehension is slow on bigger things, things which aren't related to obscure food and beverage names -- for example, I never thought people would judge me for going back to work when my baby was five months old until they did, face-to-face. It was sort of an a-ha moment. "Wow! I see now! Some people are not okay with that." I don't think you can describe me as necessarily slow off the mark, it's more that I apply my own thinking pattern to other people and am surprised when the outcome is diverse to my very own interpretation. Most of us do that.
On the weekend, I had another a-ha moment, and it blew my mind. It was one of those realisations where you cannot believe that this hasn't occurred to you before, despite it being blatantly obvious. How have I been missing this the entire time?
It was about proposals. Marriage proposals.
As a friend told me about how she couldn't believe so-and-so hadn't proposed yet, a light bulb suddenly appeared on the top of my head -- comic book style. Did we all actually realise how archaic and sexist the notion of a 'must be male' proposal was?
I had literally never considered this before. I've been proposed to, friends around me have been proposed to, I've watched umpteenth proposals on television in romantic comedies and dramas, and never once have I thought to myself: "Gee... This is sexist."
I'm a modern woman. I believe in equal rights everywhere. Hell, I even kept my maiden name (something else I never thought I'd be judged on... incorrectly). By all means, call me a feminist if that's the definition you would like to use. But this huge, erroneous issue, 'the male proposal' had never appeared for me as a sexist anomaly... until the light-bulb moment.
So when did the male proposal get started?
It wouldn't be a surprise to most that the notion of marrying for love has not been around for a long time. Prior to the 19th century, marriages were arranged for specific reasons relating to social and commercial interests. Often the terms of this agreement were struck by parents or families, with both parties looking for favourable arrangements. Little had to do with the bride or groom's willingness to enter into the contract. The nineteenth century saw a rise in the individual and in romanticism, and the idea of a romantic union behind marriage.
The bended-knee thing is a remnant for medieval times, when men would pledge their love for a woman (on bended knee) similar to pledging their lives to a lord -- re-appropriated for common use in the contemporary culture.
In Scotland, Finland and Ireland, 29 February in a leap year is said to be the one day when a woman can propose to her partner.
Female proposals are becoming more commonplace in the US -- about five percent of proposals are made by women.
Still, none of this removes the oddity in my mind of why we have vested this core relationship decision in the hands of men? How many of us have listened to stories about why 'he' hasn't proposed, or wondered ourselves when this illusive proposal will occur? It seems strange to me that in a culture which purports itself to be so egalitarian that this relic, remnant of a flimsy tradition (which could only date back a few hundred years) still exists so resplendently.
Is that me being slow, or is it a broader issue? Has today's society just conditioned us to the idea that a man must propose and that's that, done deal, no other options? Has the very sexist nature of the proposal been obfuscated by the myriad of other consumer bits and pieces that glimmer and catch our eyes? Like, for example, the diamond rings, powder blue boxes and bended knees?
Dear readers, I wonder if you could help me with this conundrum -- why don't more women propose?
And how could such a formidable life decision be left to one person alone in the partnership -- male or female?