Public marriage proposals and the male ego

Chirag Shah on one knee proposing to his girlfriend Simone Jhingoor.

Chirag Shah on one knee proposing to his girlfriend Simone Jhingoor.

Another week; another public marriage proposal. Now that our collective narcissism has reached the point where “proposal planner” is a job that actually exists, we can all watch in horrified fascination as men succumb to yet another opportunity to outdo each other when it comes to impressing The Ladeez. 

So just what does a guy have to do to make a girl say “yes” these days? Well, New Yorker Chirag Shah decided that proposing to his girlfriend Simone Jhingoor live on America's Today show was the way to go. 

Jhingoor works for the Bronx-based Women's Housing and Economic Development Corporation (WHEDco), an organisation intent on building a “more beautiful, equitable and economically vibrant Bronx” through “energy-efficient, healthy and affordable homes; early childhood education and youth development; home-based childcare microenterprise and food business incubation; family support services; and arts programming.” 

Pretty impressive stuff, right? So it was pretty neat that Today was willing to give her a public platform to discuss this admirable work.

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Or so she thought. Unbeknown to her, Jhingoor's prankster boyfriend had orchestrated her entire appearance on the breakfast show specifically to propose.

In other words, Today could give two hoots about Jhingoor's work at the non-profit that helps 35,000 families a year, but they did think it was remarkable that a young man wanted to marry her.

“She Said Yes!”, the show's website triumphantly gloated, seemingly unfazed by Jhingoor's initial reaction. “I thought I was here talking about my organisation!” she exclaimed. “I'm giving back to the community!"

Look, Shah seems like a nice enough chap who loves his now fiancee, but surely he must have had an inkling that this stunt kind of undermines the claim that society has moved beyond the presumption that the greatest thing that could ever happen to a woman is for a man to want to marry her.

I know we are meant to coo with delight every time some dude interrupts a basketball game or TV show to propose, but public proposals manipulate women into saying “yes” or risk backlash for not playing by the rules.

They are the internet's version of those “romantic” films where dorky guys chase after the beautiful girl of their dreams who foolishly resists their advances.

But it's a good thing our plucky heroes don't give up easily because eventually the girl comes around. She has to, you see, because he just tried so gosh darn hard to “get her” and now she owes him, damn it.

That's just the way the script goes. Would you want to be forever known as the bitch that turned down that poor guy on live television?

I get that Shah is likely very proud of Jhingoor's achievements and it's probably a large part of why he loves her. But the thing is, we don't know her. She's just a woman we saw on TV for a brief moment who was about to speak but got cut off by her ring-wielding boyfriend.

I'm sure he is not alone in thinking he was being romantic, but in a world that still refuses to give women equal air time, that is dominated by male voices and male politicians and that remains actively hostile to women who express their views in a public space, Shah's proposal just adds to the problem.

What Shah essentially did was say that there is nothing the world needs to know about this woman other than the fact he wants to marry her.

No doubt Shah himself was feeling the pressure to do a “big” proposal now that every milestone in everyone's life has to be celebrated, shared and disseminated to a public audience. 

Men are upping the proposal stakes and no scenario is too outrageous. Consequently, for all the talk about them being the Happiest Moment In Every Woman's Life, public proposals are little more than vanity projects for men.

To this end, Shah's bait-and-switch actually pales in comparison to Russian man Alexey Bykov's plan to give his girlfriend Irina Kolokov an offer she couldn't refuse.

He faked his own death in a car crash.

When Kolokov turned up at a chosen meeting spot, she found her boyfriend lying motionless in a pool of blood. As she burst into tears, a paramedic, who – haha – was really an actor, told her Bykov was dead. After kindly permitting her to grieve for a few moments, Bykov jumped up and asked her to marry him.

She Said Yes!

"I wanted her to realise how empty her life would be without me and how life would have no meaning without me," the modest proposer told reporters. 

But surely the moment the public proposal phenomenon plunged to its nadir was earlier this year when, in what Buzzfeed gushingly described as “The Most Over-The-Top Wedding Proposal Of All Time Ever”, a minor actor and filmmaker, Justin Baldoni, proposed to his girlfriend Emily Foxler via a 27-minute video

Yes, it took him 27 minutes to pop the question. In a video.

In “Justin and Emily: The Proposal”, he arranges for her to watch a giant TV screen as she waits for him to arrive at their favourite restaurant. We are then treated to almost 20 minutes of, among other shenanigans, Justin pretending to be the lead singer in a boy band, Justin dancing while dressed as a Sexy Woman (WTF?), Justin leading a flash mob, Justin asking Emily's father for her hand in marriage AT HER FATHER'S GRAVE.

Who says proposals are all about women? One wonders why he bothered including her name in the video title at all. I look forward to “Justin and Justin: The Wedding”.

Clearly, Justin is a canny guy who knows a prime opportunity to improve his Klout score when he sees one. When Justin finally materialises in the flesh before Emily, he gets down on his tired cliche, bended knee, flanked by his own entire family and Emily's mother who he flew in from another city.

It was all so carefully scripted. So naturally, She Said Yes!

47 comments

  • Any man foolish enough to get married, let alone to a woman who isn't devoted to him, in this day and age deserves scorn and derision.

    Commenter
    Direct
    Date and time
    November 07, 2013, 8:00AM
    • Moreover, any man that feels he has to go to that much trouble to impress a woman (which is what this is all about - make the woman feel special like a princess) should be the subject of scorn and derision. Women are equal now. No man should put on a big song and dance to 'impress' her. It should be a mutual decision based on a desire to enter into a lifelong commitment.

      Any man trying to manipulate a woman by using such a flashy proposal is pretty low (not as low as the rapists on the other column but still pretty low).

      Commenter
      Bender
      Date and time
      November 07, 2013, 8:59AM
    • That's a bit harsh. However, I believe the getting down on one knee aspect of proposing is outdated. Women want and deserve equality. Therefore, when I'm ready to pop the question, I'll be proposing by calling out "heads up" just before I throw the engagement ring at her head.

      If she doesn't find that funny, then at least I'll know in advance it wasn't going to work out.

      Commenter
      Malik the magic sheep
      Location
      Perth
      Date and time
      November 07, 2013, 10:21AM
    • Men benefit more from marriage than women. I think you got this round the wrong way.

      Commenter
      Mandi
      Location
      syd
      Date and time
      November 07, 2013, 11:03AM
    • Getting down on one knee is by no means something that should be insisted on, but some men like it as a tradition. My husband got on a knee to propose to me - he clearly thought it was part of the gesture though I'd never said anything to indicate I thought it important. (He knows quite well he could have popped the question on a park bench over a stubby of beer and I would have said yes anyway). I actually think that how he proposed meant at least as much to him as to me, because I'd sort of suggested getting married a short time before he proposed, and was immediately shushed and told with a bad poker-face that I should just wait a little while... Turns out he had the whole thing planned for our anniversary and I was on the verge of spoiling it by proposing first!

      Commenter
      Red Pony
      Date and time
      November 07, 2013, 11:52AM
    • Men don't benefit from marriage whatsoever. The so-called health benefits (assumed from differences in life expectancy of married vs single) don't prove a benefit. The difference is due to sample bias ie men dying of old age now come from a generation of men that mostly got married and had wives cooking for them (meaning the sample of single men is very small and would mostly consist of the weak and poor as the better ones were chosen for marriage). These men weren't too well schooled in healthy cooking (leading to increased morbidity where they didn't have a partner cook for them). Thus the samples are skewed and give skewed results. These days men aren't so ignorant and the women rarely do healthy cooking. For current generations the results will be very different.

      Commenter
      Bender
      Date and time
      November 07, 2013, 12:21PM
    • I'd suggest the 'down on one knee' still continues to serve a practical purpose. It provides a visual cue to the proposee of what is about to come, so they can have some context to the potentially unintelligible babbling that is likely to ensue.

      It may even assist the proposer themselvs with getting some composure, and establishing a platform upon which they can start their likely heavily practised monologue.

      Never underestimate the power of non-verbal communication.

      Commenter
      Markus
      Location
      Canberra
      Date and time
      November 07, 2013, 1:18PM
    • @Malik: love your sense of humour. Marry me?

      Commenter
      bornagirl
      Location
      Melbourne
      Date and time
      November 07, 2013, 1:33PM
    • Any man foolish enough to get married...'. Make that man OR woman.

      Marriage is unnecessary, a couple can make a lifelong commitment without ceremony and vows. Wedding ceremonies are only about making a statement, the bigger the wedding the bigger the statement. I guess the same applies to the proposal. You can maximise the wedding including the proposal, or you minimise every part of the whole thing down to nothing.

      Commenter
      rudy
      Date and time
      November 07, 2013, 2:13PM
  • Granted, the Shah proposal was sad (and what else have we to expect from these infotainment programs? - don't watch them!) but has it been considered that the male extreme proposal could also have something to do with the fact that a lot of men are shut out of the wedding planning process, 'allowed' to choose the wedding cars (because cars, of course, are a man thing) but then relegated to the role of showing up at the ceremony? Maybe if we de-centered the wedding from the bride and started to require more from men during the whole process getting married their glory moment wouldn't be the proposal.
    Having said that, Justin asking his partner's dad (dead or alive) for her hand was very creepy- 'I'm gonna ask your dad to pass you from his ownership to mine' really not romantic- weird!

    Commenter
    Skye
    Date and time
    November 07, 2013, 8:20AM

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