The Big Question

Will you marry me? I can’t think of another phrase that carries such enormous weight. The world is forgiving if we say, “Hey, would you like to go to a movie with me?” “Ooops, I meant to say dinner, would you like to go to dinner with me?” No problem. Sometimes we just – slip.

But, to accidentally drop the question, “Will you marry me?” Well, I don’t know if that is survivable. Cultures are in the longevity business. It is critical that members do the sacred work of the group and bring in – and up – the next generation. So marriages and all the rituals leading up to them keep the pressure on. And it all begins with the big question.

The new fiancee flashes her ring to friends and family the next day and, inevitably, people ask, “So? How did he ask?” It’s like people set up seats to fully appreciate the story – the sweet, tremendous, original engagement story. They ooooh and ahhhh. Perhaps tear up. But don’t be fooled. There is judgment in there too. Somehow this question, this gesture, serves as evidence of real love. You know, if a guy spends way too much money and time on spectacle and performance, then THAT proves his love.

And – ta da – excited young couples find themselves in the business of performance art. What I worry about is that this kind of show introduces competition and ego into what could (should?) be a tender moment when two people decide to make a go of it. It really doesn’t matter who asks. Couples already know. Or at least they darn well should. So maybe we could migrate some of the ritual to how the couples share their news. The first in a gazillion decisions and rituals they will share in their lives.

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