My favourite proposal story belongs to my sister Jill and her husband Alan, and it goes like this:
They were in Rome, for another friend's wedding. They decided to extend the trip into a longer holiday, and on one of their last days, when the fuss and the hoo-ha of their friend's wedding had well and truly passed, Alan decided he would ask my sister to marry him. They had been walking around all day, and at sunset, he took her to a rooftop cafe that overlooked all of Rome. My sister wasn't impressed. Her feet were sore, and the drinks were overpriced, and she wanted to leave. She was, by her own admission, not at her most charismatic. She was being whiny and irritable, and having had enough, Alan barked at her. "Jill!" he said, slapping the ring box on the table. "Will you do me a favour?"
I love it. I love the wording of it: will you do me a favour. I love that he tried to make an effort at a Disney Princess proposal but ended up losing the rag with my sister. Because that's what real humans in love do: they try for the perfect moment, and settle happily on the imperfect one. As a counterpoint to this, can I please introduce you to the man who flew his girlfriend in a helicopter over a field where a farmer had mowed the words "Dear Sara, will you marry me?" Shyam Thakrar has apparently dreamed of paying a farmer to propose to his girlfriend since he was fifteen, which presumably pre-dates his relationship with Sara by some years.
A number of things strike me about this story: firstly, if you must employ someone else to mow a personalised message into their farmland, surely you'd keep the character length a little shorter? "SARA MARRY ME" feels like a lot less back-breaking toil for the farmer in question. Secondly, given that Shyam has been planning this since the age of fifteen, has ol' Sara got any say in whether she would even like a public proposal? Is this even about his future wife? Or is this about being the guy who got his proposal on the front page of BuzzFeed? In my imagination, Sara spent her engagement night drinking champagne alone in an empty bathtub while Shyam totted up retweets from the safety of his proposal War Room.
Is this even about his future wife? Or is this about being the guy who got his proposal on the front page of BuzzFeed?
Then there's this guy who spent a year crafting his proposal video to his girlfriend, recording 365 video messages of himself with a whiteboard saying things like "marry me babe!" and "my heart stops every time I see you!" The video is 21-unbelievable-minutes long, and is legitimately terrifying. Like, if he can keep this secret from his girlfriend, what in the hell else does this guy have the capability to keep hidden? Is he running an underground mink ring? Is he raising a spider army?
I'm sure many of you will call me out for being an unmarryable curmudgeon with no sense of romance and an unbelievable set of assumptions about these wonderfully creative young men, and to this I say: yeah, you're probably right. Maybe I'm the problem here. However, based on my conversations with other women (read: the entire Pool office) most of us actually don't want our married lives to start with an unbelievably intense proposal, the refusal of which would make us fear for our safety. With that in mind, I am vetoing the following proposal techniques, on behalf of The Pool HQ:
PLEASE DO NOT HIDE THE RING IN CHAMPAGNE GLASS
What if I get some upsetting news at the table, and need to chug my wine?
DITTO IN MY DESSERT
I am not a woman who eats cake slowly enough to notice jewellery in it, and if you don’t know this about me, maybe we shouldn't be getting married.
IN FACT, HIDING RINGS IS OUT
Just give me the ring like a fucking adult.
DO NOT PAY A FARMER TO PROPOSE TO ME BY MOWING A MESSAGE IN HIS FIELD
I don’t want to have to worry about a stranger’s grazing land on my engagement night.
DO NOT INVITE MY FAMILY AND/OR FRIENDS TO ATTEND OUR PROPOSAL
If I wanted a room of 100 people to look at my hand for three hours, I would have pursued my promising career as a hand model.
FLASHMOBS ARE OUT
Because people who are better dancers than me make me nervous and insecure.
DO NOT SURPRISE ME AT WORK
Do you know who the last woman who was surprised at work was? Amelia Earhart.