Engagement rumours continue to 'swirl' for Nico Jackson and Pippa Middleton. Photo: Getty
These are the questions that you will be asked upon telling friends about an upcoming holiday when you are a woman in your mid 20s onward in possession of a beau – can you bring me back some nail polish from Sephora, do you have some good sleeping pills and do you think he’s going to propose.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve been courting for a week or a decade, someone will teasingly or earnestly and excitedly suggest that you had best get your nails done so that you’re engagement ring selfie ready.
For a celebrity example of holiday proposal fever we must look to Pippa Middleton, who, to borrow a phrase from the glossy magazines has had engagement rumours “swirling” around her for some time. And while it’s difficult to feel too sorry for her- she of the perfect bottom, princess perks without the drudgery of actually having to be a princess and strong jawed boyfriend – it must get tiresome to not be able to get away for a bit without someone concluding that a) her current gent must have suggested marriage, and b) like all women of a certain age, she was absolutely, positively, dying to be asked.
Last month gossip columnists again feverishly wondered whether or not Middleton had been proposed to while on holidays in India. It’s a parallel universe example of any unmarried woman who dares to return to the office with a really good tan, relaxed demeanour and no sign of a rock on the finger.
While the question (not “the question”) is usually asked with good intentions, it hints at several cracks in the proposal industry, and you know, pesky gender stereotypes. Namely, that all proposals must be, if not public, then certainly grand and ideally in an exotic locale, that the man must ask the woman for her hand in marriage, and that your life – lovely holidays and all – is not enough if you are not married, or on the verge of it.
It’s something that writer Chloe Angyal simply can’t abide. She noted in Thought Catalog of an impending trip to Paris with her boyfriend of less than one year, that she was constantly being asked if she thought he would propose. A thought she found both horrifying, and cause to reflect on how the proposal has more than ever become a spectacle.
“I’m fascinated, though, by the assumption that this event is going to take place, indeed, that it must take place, not only because we’re at that age and have been together almost a year, but because we are going to this place, together. It will be more special, more of an event, if it happens there. It will make such a good story. With the lights and the romance and the cobblestones, it will be so much more spectacular — and a proposal should be spectacular,” she wrote.
So yes, there’s also a whole lot of pressure on men to outdo each other in the proposal stakes, in ways that hint at both narcissism and sexism. What’s more surprising though is the reluctance of women to propose to men. A 2012 study found that when it came to popping the question, not much had changed from when your grandfather asked for your grandmother's hand at a square dance. Something that will only change, wrote Laura Beck in Jezebel in response to the study, when women start going around asking people to marry them.
But it’s the assumption of a proposal on holidays, and that it is the thing wanted most – more so than an all-inclusive buffet breakfast – that is the bit that sticks and feels unsettling. Of course it would be entirely lovely and special to be proposed to, perhaps while yodelling atop a mountain in Switzerland. But it’s not for everyone. Or it’s not the right time, and it might not be something that occurred to you to think about in-between trawling Jetsetter.com for hotel deals and spreadsheeting every meal that you were going to eat.
What’s more, a proposal doesn’t have to happen while side saddling a donkey on an island in the Mediterranean, or snorkelling in the Great Barrier Reef. Similarly, you don’t have to get swept up into ‘engagement season’ and follow everybody else' rules. A proposal should be thoughtful and romantic, but that does and should mean something different to every couple.
And you know what, on the things you only tell your diary side, so you might be hoping that he will propose to you somewhere across the Indian Ocean. You might take a secret delight in people asking you if think he will, as though it’s a possibility that others have mapped out for you. Hell, you might have a ‘one day’ Pinterest board and a side eye on Hello May magazine, and that’s OK. That’s yours, and something that you shouldn’t let disappointment, or busy bodies, chip away at.
But you can certainly have a wonderful, romantic sojourn that brings you closer together without him asking for your hand atop the Eiffel Tower. You’ll always have Paris, as the romantics like to say, and you can darn well have your holiday too.
Though, and let's get real, if it’s truly on your must do holiday agenda, you know you could always just ask him yourself.