Singaporebrides | The Groom Room

October 2012

When The Girl Proposes

While it’s still the norm for guys to initiate marriage proposals, some ladies have been bucking the trend and doing the asking instead. Fu Jinming ponders the practice, and what it means for dude-kind.

The big question was popped between my friend, Darrel (not his real name) and his longtime girlfriend one balmy night. Except in his case, the girl did all the asking.

Her proposal was classic textbook stuff, with a scheme that started simple enough. She asked him out and brought him to a quiet restaurant at the edge of town. It was a romantic little number, picturesque with a garden and a fountain, like an alfresco affair right out of Roman Holiday. A two-piece Bossa Nova band completed the scene, serenading them under the stars. Then just as dessert was served, his girl dropped the bombshell: She didn’t want to be his girlfriend anymore. As he turned wide-eyed, a note went up to the singer of the band. It was a question directed at him. To which, with the entire restaurant’s attention on him, he said yes.

Darrel beamed from ear-to-ear. It was the happiest day of his life. Only the wedding itself could have topped this, he thought. Most of all, he was floored by what he felt was a “gutsy” proposal.

With age-old social and cultural norms dictating that men ask for his lady’s  hand – bended knee, diamond ring, champagne glass and all – it’s no wonder his now-fiancée’s proposal is seen as a ballsy, unconventional one.

But is it really?

An emotional scene from Friends – The One With The Proposal

The Changing Tide

Since the feminist movement levelled the gender playing field at work and home, ladies have had a cultural shift in the way they perceive their place in life. There are no longer reasons a woman cannot pursue her passions.

Indeed, what a girl wants, a girl gets. And that includes the man she wants to spend the rest of her life with, thank you very much. To be sure, marriage proposals from women are not uncommon in other cultures, particularly non-Asian ones. In fact, it is an accepted custom in places like Finland. Recent surveys have revealed that women proposed about 9 per cent of marriages worldwide. Some see it as a leap year tradition. Others – such as Queen Victoria, who asked Prince Albert for his hand in 1839 – take it as a right to marry the man she loves. And for those inspired by Monica’s proposal to Chandler in the popular sitcom Friends, there are now websites detailing how womenfolk should pop the question (with gentleness) and ensure results (without mercy).

Can’t say I blame them.

Because when it comes to popping the big question, men inevitably turn into boys. The kind of boys that love toy guns, but break into cold sweat when it’s time to pull the trigger on the real ones.

The Bumbling Man

Where women are organised, decisive and brave, men generally hiccup, hem-haw and palm-sweat our ways through life. Asking for the hand of our dream girl is, unfortunately, no different. It’s like a bad song on repeat. Look at our track record with pick-up lines. Or our spectacular first date disasters.

I’d put our embarrassing feebleness down to a combination of fear and reluctance: the fear of getting rejected, potentially in public. And the reluctance to grow up. Indeed, the latter is a shining example of the difference in which men and women perceive marriage.

Girls see the walk down the aisle as a rite of passage, a tick in the box marked “Stability”. We see it as a tearful farewell to singlehood, and we’re desperate to hang on to every last shred of it. If it means letting the women we love wait – till the day we are finally tired of having the boys over for an impromptu Oktoberfest, or marauding nights at the pub – so be it.

And so, rather than twiddle their thumbs in anticipation of the big question, women have learnt to take things into their own hands. Like Darrel’s very significant other has. For her, age is a deciding factor. She is two years older than Darrel. And commands a higher salary. While she appreciates Darrel’s intentions of getting his career off the ground first, literally – Darrel is a newly minted commercial pilot – her biological clock has decided otherwise.

Not that Darrel is complaining. Not many men would either. It saves us the trouble of asking, and the harrowing task of picking out a proposal ring on our own. After all, women have always been known to nail nuptial arrangements with military precision. Might as well let them shop for their own rings while they’re at it. And it does make for a good story at the wedding. Or when you have grandchildren. Imagine the smirk on your face as you detail how irresistible you were that Grandma just had to ask first.

Bad news is, the odds are against us. Studies have shown that although one in 10 women have popped the question, almost three-quarters of them wished their partners had asked them first.

So boys, the truth stands: The ladies still prefer us to take the initiative, and go down on our bended knees.

Which, by the way, is fine by me.

Gentlemen First

Call me old-fashioned, but I’ve never thought twice about opening doors and pulling up chairs for the fairer sex. And I definitely wouldn’t mind giving the woman I love a proposal to remember. It’s all part of that essential quality that separates men from boys: Chivalry. And chivalry, I’m told, never goes out of style. Sure, I’ll probably trip and fall my way into the proposal like the bumbling fool I am. And I’m the furthest thing from Hugh Grant in any of his floppy-haired, endearingly clumsy roles.

But therein lies the charm. For to struggle into unchartered waters, through confusion, anxiety and stage fright, is our equivalent of climbing Everest, of slaying dragons to save the princess. It is the final act of the hunt, of our devotion.

Because we are not simply asking a question. We are making the conscious decision to give up the things that mean the world to us. Things like mandatory football nights, harmless office flirtations, bromance films, and solo backpacking trips.

We are accepting the fact that, should she say yes, it would mean Sunday dinners with the in-laws, toilet seats that stay down, rom-com re-runs at home, sharing our day every day – no matter how banal – and lots and lots of snuggling. It’s almost like entering monkhood. Except in this case, you get to keep your hair, while she keeps everything else.

Which is why a marriage proposal is the ultimate proof of our love. And like everything else that requires effort, you’d cherish the success of the proposal even more. Think of the surprise on her face. The twinkle in her eye. The tears that (may) follow.

Think of the celebratory sex.

Besides, I’m a masochist. I like to work for what I want. After all, love is nothing without work. And marriage is a lot of work. So I might as well roll up my sleeves and start with the asking.