Public Proposals: A Socially Acceptable Act That Deserves a Rejection


The public proposal: it’s the cliche trademark of every romantic comedy (that’s probably starring Colin Firth) and aims to reach the Disney-esque “happily ever after” ending all within a 150 minute time frame. As romantic as this gesture has been portrayed in pop culture and cheap films, the intention of the gesture is a bit too pushy and emotionally abusive to elicit a gasp and “aww” from naive audience members.

When it comes to public proposals, whether it be at a baseball game, in the middle of a shopping mall, or in the checkout line at a Dick’s Sporting Goods, I have limited sympathy for people who get told the big “no” after they loudly assert their love in a sea of bewildered bystanders. It’s emotionally abusive and manipulative, and not only are you potentially hurting the one you’re proposing too but you’ll also end up hurting your ego when the long-waited, and highly public, answer is a stern “no.”

This act of publicly asserting one’s personal life into the public eye is nothing new to American culture (as well as other cultures worldwide), and forcing others to enter your private life in order to broadcast your personal insecurity of your relationship and ego is just further contributing to the perception of how you need the emotions of others to validate or enforce your own. In this kind of public situation, the answer is always expected to be a “yes,” otherwise it wouldn’t have been planned in a public setting. When the answer is a “no” instead, it’s suddenly the other person’s fault and they are promptly regarded as the insensitive, rude, and inconsiderate one when really it’s entirely the other way around. Because who’s placing one’s feelings and emotions over the other one? The guy who’s publically forcing his fiancé of three months to say “yes” to his half-hearted marriage proposal in the middle of a food court, that’s who.

If the couple is both in agreement that the overt gesture is cute and consensual, then staging a public proposal at a later date probably wouldn’t embarrass the person being proposed to. However, putting your partner on the spot in front of a massive crowd of staring strangers, friends, or family members is extremely demanding and insensitive, and requesting to hear a simple yes or no answer with that kind of immense pressure is not okay. This is a decision that will impact the rest of one’s life, and having someone decide it within a few seconds outside of a Starbucks coffee shop in the middle of August isn’t exactly an ideal location to make that kind of decision.

In regards to heterosexual couples, the public proposal has come to be seen as a mainly male action (although sometimes women have been seen doing it as well). The issue with this is that it’s further contributing to the culture of men showing their dominance over women through benevolent sexism and overbearing protection. It’s fine that as a man you want to make your proposal special for your fiancé, but maybe carrying the action out in a not so demanding and emotionally manipulative way would show that you treat the relationship more than just a sideshow attraction. The reason public proposals are called publicity stunts is because they are just that: stunts. I understand you want to show yourself off to others and that the emotional well-being of your partner is clearly irrelevant to you, but be prepared for a very public flop if your grand scheme doesn’t pan out the way it does on the movie screen.

This isn’t about hating happiness, this is about respecting someone’s private life and personal space. If someone really feels the need to propose to you in a public setting in order to creepily coerce you into marrying them, maybe it’s time for them to recheck their relationship with you and the massive ego they’re clearly more in love with.

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