Well, prime proposal season (Christmas and New
Year), and second-most-popular-proposal-day
(Valentine’s Day) have both been and gone.
If you are female and in a relationship, the notion
that it must be the man who proposes is regarded to be
gold standard for proposals can be very frustrating.
Particularly as there is only one historically
socially “acceptable” day on which a woman can propose
to a man – and as there is no 29 February in 2019 -
patience will have to be a virtue. Or not!
There’s a strong belief that that the male proposing
is the “proper” way, and the way it always has been.
Actually, not so. I like to think of it as an interim
For thousands of years it was the family of either the
bride or groom who pitched to the other with an offer
to good to refuse – we’ll exchange our daughter/son
with your family in return for a strategic political
or economic alliance. The couple had little or
no say in it at all.
And then things moved on and in the 19th century,
couples marrying for love became accepted. But women
were still considered to be under the control of the
men in their lives, so the groom would have to seek
the bride’s father’s permission to propose, which
tacitly meant getting his agreement that he would
transfer the care and control of his daughter to the
groom at the wedding.
At the time, and well into the 20th century, women
were quite restricted in what they could do,
careerwise, after marriage. Until 1966, women employed
in the Australian public service had to resign on
marriage. If their job was one that was considered
unsuitable for a man (such as typists) they could
return as temporary staff, but could not be permanent
or hold a supervisory position, so earnings were kept
In that climate, a woman asking a man to marry her
would have been considered quite rude, except for that
one day every 4 years – 29 February. And there was a
socially approved get out of jail clause for the men.
If they refused they were required to give her a pair
of gloves! That in itself should be a clue that it is
a tradition that has long passed it’s use-by date.
When was the last time you wore a hat and gloves to go
to the shops or into town (except in the middle of
So why does this particular tradition remain such a
stubborn part of our collective consciousness? Why do
so many women wait patiently for years of “dating”,
and often experiencing all of the other milestones
that used to come after marriage – house, children,
and so on? Beats me.
Occasionally when I’ve been doing a naming ceremony
I’ve commented to the mother of the child that maybe
the next time I see her will be for their wedding. And
many’s the time when the answer has been, I’m
waiting for him to propose. I always egg them on
pop the question themselves. Case in point.
Lovely, lovely couple. I had the discussion with her
three times, after each naming. Eventually, she did.
And he told me later that it wasn’t that he didn’t
want to get married, he just didn’t know he was
expected to formally propose! Anyway, they got
married. Lovely, happy wedding, and one of the
strongest marriages you could ever wish to see.
Times are changing. Slowly, when it comes to who pops
the question, but more and more couples are telling me
that she popped the question. And he was delighted
that that stress was taken off his shoulders.
So, don't wait another year. Go for it, girls. Trust
me. You're not going to end up with a pair of gloves!