Sunday, 5 February 2017

Why Should the Man Propose

I woke up at four and turned in desperation to the computer. The Daily Mail featured some remarks by long-term girlfriends on Whisper about their longing for their boyfriends to propose. Several commentators wondered why the women wait for the men to propose instead of proposing themselves.

The answer to this is that a man proposing is the ultimate proof to his girlfriend that he really loves her and really wants to spend the rest of his life with her.


When I was 15 I thought advice about not calling boys up and not asking them on dates and not asking them to dance was total fuddy-duddyism. Those were modern times, and my mother was totally out of touch with the modern world, etc. I was stung, but not convinced, by being called a brazen hussy. Calling girls brazen hussies is no way to pass on wisdom that completely contradicts everything we read in magazines and hear on TV.

The truth of the matter is that you don't call up boys, or ask them on one-on-one dates, or ask them to dance because if you do, you will never know if he really likes you or is just being polite or is just going along with it all because you are a girl--any girl. You may have begun a journey towards the humiliation that is attempting to assuage the tortures of doubt by asking the man you love if he loves you.

I hated, absolutely hated, my mother's assurances that "the woman doesn't get to ask, the woman gets to say 'Yes' or 'No'"--which, incidentally, is a brutally stripped down version of the call-response philosophy of Saint Edith Stein.  I hated the idea that instead of riding out into the world and winning the man I thought best-looking (etc.), I had to choose from whichever suitors rode up to my door. I was very pessimistic about my own attractions, which may have been humility but may also have been a kind of premature despair. Given a 15 year old daughter of my own, I would counsel her to commit herself to her schoolwork, to sports, to camping, to artistic pursuits and to put dating and dancing right out of her mind until university.

It may be salutary to explain how I won the heart of dear B.A., which was to sit very straight-backed on a couch in an Edinburgh New Town flat wearing a blue silk shift dress and pearls and listen very politely to an elderly Oxford graduate chat about Maurice Bowra, et alia. Also (for the millionth time), I had the very good fortune to resemble B.A.'s favourite singer, the pin-up idol of his university days. If you had told me at 15 that the way to a man's (or, anyway, the right man's) heart was to dress like Jackie Kennedy and not talk, I simply would not have believed you.

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