My generally negative feelings about the institution of marriage and the ritual of weddings aside, I find myself both mystified and horrified by the phenomenon of public marriage proposals.
You, too, may have read recently about the guy who interrupted his girlfriend’s first-ever New York City marathon to propose to her (more on that shortly), but this is far from the first and, sadly in my opinion, not likely the last public proposal. They range from “the whole world is watching” — those pro sports aficionados who propose on the giant videotron at the game or men who hire a plane to write their proposal across the sky — to smaller escapades that still place the recipient of the proposal in a potentially awkward position.
The music of love
Last May, my partner and I attended a weekend long music festival in rural Ohio. I am all for romance, and there is little that is more romantic than listening to beautiful music in the moonlight and quietness of the countryside. On the final afternoon, the husband and wife duo called Over the Rhine, who were the hosts of the festival, announced that their nephew was going to perform a spoken word piece. The young man came up to the stage and began presenting a love poem to his girlfriend.
What initially felt a little awkward soon felt much more so, as it became clear this poem was leading to a marriage proposal. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a woman of about my age herding a young woman down the aisle toward the stage. The young man left the stage and completed his proposal face to face with the young woman, whose mother stood with her. The young woman was clearly taken completely by surprise and seemed not to know where to look or what to say. The audience almost immediately burst into huzzahs and applause, as my partner and I squirmed in our seats and tried to figure out how we could quietly escape.
Of course, the proposal was accepted. How could it not be?
Getting in the zone
I am not a marathon runner. There was a brief time several years ago when I took up running and ran in a few road races, none of them more than 5 kilometres long. I had read about the zone that long distance runners get into, but I can’t say that my running experience ever took me to any zone other than the longing-for-it-to-be-over zone. I finished last in every race I ran other than one, in which I managed to beat a woman who was about eight months pregnant and pushing her toddler in a stroller.
One of my sisters is a serious long distance runner, who has run in the Boston marathon a number of times. She has told me lots about getting into the zone; something she has perfected. In fact, when she ran in the marathon in 2013 – the year of the bombing – and a police officer stepped in front of her to tell her the race had been stopped because of the bomb, she said she didn’t believe him and needed him to get out of her way. She was in her zone, and no one was going to stop her from crossing that finish line. (He did eventually convince her that she had to stop running.)
Had Dennis Galvin, the man who proposed to his girlfriend Kaitlin Curran at the NYC marathon, proposed, instead, to my sister, he might not have lived to tell the tale.
Who’s it really all about?
These public proposals seem to be more about the proposer than the proposee, which doesn’t seem romantic or even considerate. Why do these guys want to make something public out of something that seems more appropriately private? What if the woman wants to say no or even maybe? What if having 50, 100 or a kazillion people stare at her is her worst nightmare?
What if she just wants to stay in her zone, finish the marathon and not share that moment with anyone else?