{the life} The Whole Leap Day Proposal Thing

by Rachel on February 29, 2012

As I’m sure you’ve heard by now, there is a legend (rule? superstition?) that today is the day that all the ladies are supposed to go out and put a ring on it. On their men, that is.

When I mentioned this to my two male coworkers last week — who are really smart and well-versed in all sorts of random information — I was really surprised when they didn’t believe me that this is, in fact, a thing. This led us to Google, where I was totally validated.

While discussing our thoughts on the idea of women proposing, we ended up on the Wikipedia page on the topic (so you know it’s true), where we discovered these vintage postcards that make pretty clear the artist’s thoughts on the concept. The big metal trap with the money bag in it? Good lord. And the others are less than flattering as well.

While the postcards are more than 100 years old, I have to say…I don’t think we’ve really come that far. We know a lot more women are proposing to men these days (and not waiting to do it based on what the calendar says) and proposing to other women, but I feel like there is still a lot of stigma attached to the women-asking-men thing. People love to presume things about other people’s relationships based on proposals (the magnitude of the hot air balloon spectacle, the size of the ring, whether there even is a ring) and it seems like far too many people still assume that a woman proposing to a man means that, well, she’s dragging him into a huge-ass bear trap (which is a really nice way to think about marriage). I guess I’m not surprised by how many people still act like all women are bound and determined to drag men into marriage (read comments on a popular YouTube video for a few minutes if you think sexism or racism no longer exists), but it’s still a little disheartening to hear. I feel like people aren’t saying, “Oh how silly that you could only propose to a man every four years!” It’s more like “Oh how silly that you’d ever want to propose to a man ever!”

While I’ve said before that proposals aren’t for me because I think proposing is quite often just for show and not really about getting an answer to a question, I do understand the desire to mark the occasion somehow, and proposals are the way a lot of people want to do that. So if proposals are a couple’s thing and a couple is cool with the idea of someone popping the question…then why, exactly, can’t women be the one to pop it? Men are doing more housework and women are making more money than men…so why do both women and men still have hang-ups about this?

Do women not propose to men because they are really that stuck on tradition? I find that hard to believe because many women who are against the idea of proposing to men are so modern in all other aspects of their relationship, from dating to sex to chores. Then again, the stories we’ve been told about the “right” way to decide to get married run deep.

Is it because both women and men are worried about that whole bear trap perception in 2012 and don’t want to be the subject of gossip and judgment? While that sucks, I get it; people get pretty vicious when discussing proposals and I can see how it would be easier to stick to the status quo to avoid feeling shitty about your relationship. Maybe no one wants to be the woman in the postcard.

I really don’t know the answer; it’s just something that’s on my mind today! Really, I’d love to hear your thoughts and discuss in the comments. I know a lot of you have proposed and I’m curious if you took a lot of shit for it. And I’m also wondering…is anyone out there planning to? Does anyone want to but isn’t planning to for some reason? Does being in a same-sex relationship change anything, or does “tradition” still come into play? Are you horrified by the very idea of it?

I don’t care where you stand — I’d just love to hear why you feel that way so I (and, by extension, all of us) can understand this whole thing better!