One of the things I learned from my reader survey was how many of you identified yourselves as “ladies in waiting,” i.e. women biding their time until their boyfriends propose. Well, girls: STOP WAITING! If you're into questioning traditions, start by questioning the very first assumption about weddings: that a woman's role is waiting for a man to pick her.
I know: it's scary right? You're thinking, “What if he says no?” Well, no one said taking your life by the reins would be easy, and the anxieties and fears of rejection that come up around proposing give you great insight into some of the cultural pressures men traditionally experience.
Proposing is definitely scary, and I'm speaking from personal experience here. As those of you who've read my book know, I actually proposed to Andreas …
On our third anniversary, we went to this pottery painting place. As I'd planned, I painted a big plate with a picture of us holding hands. (Yes, we were naked in the painting. I like painting butts!)
Above the little people, I painted the words “Psst: will you marry me?” Then I put my grandmother's diamond wedding ring onto the plate and slid it across the table to Andreas.
He looked at the plate. He looked up at me.
I looked at him. Nothing happened.
“…Well, will you?” I said.
“Of course!” he said, and I exhaled in relief.
“…But you don't mean, like, IMMEDIATELY, right?” he said. “I mean, of course we're spending the rest of our lives together. But there's no rush, right?”
“Er, I guess not…” I said.
“Awesome!” he said. “I love you!” And then he went back to painting.
I sat and freaked out a bit, but nothing had really changed: we were still just as committed and someday we would get married. Just not quite yet, evidently.
“No rush,” in our case, meant getting married three years later.
Grab the traditional institution of marriage by the balls and tell it that you're doing this on your terms and in your own way.
This is all to say that I know that it's scary and intimidating and hard. (It should be noted that Andreas has expressed feeling sort of bad for how he handled the proposal. I mean, it all worked out ok, but it wasn't the stuff of swelling violins and magical twinkly lights.)
Of course not all men want to be proposed to, and you know your boyfriend best … I'm thinking that chances are good that if he loves you for being a sassy independently-minded offbeat girlfriend, he's the kind of guy who would appreciate tipping an old tradition on its ear.
When you propose to your boyfriend, you're taking a huge first step toward grabbing the traditional institution of marriage by the balls and telling it that you're doing this on your terms and in your own way. It's an exercise in taking ownership of your life and your journey through it. It's your way of saying, “I'm not going to drop hints to get what I want — I'm going to apply that energy to building the courage to do it myself.” This isn't just about proposals. It's about knowing what you want and feeling strong enough in yourself to just go get it.
This isn't to say that it's not a wonderful thing when men propose. Ideally, any proposal is the result of many conversations about what marriage means to both you, why you're committed to each other, etc. It should never really be “popping the question.”
But if you've had conversations about commitment and you're ready to get married — STOP WAITING!
Read part 2: How to propose to your boyfriend