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Features

Why the leap-year proposal is a nonsense

The idea that women must wait for 29 February implies that we’re not allowed to propose whenever we want

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

27 February 2016

9:00 AM

I’m planning to propose to my boyfriend this leap year. I’m proposing that he earns another £10,000 and loses a stone. But marriage? Hell, no.

I don’t know why, in the age of equality, society still endorses women going down on bended knee on one solitary day every four years. The internet blames it on St Bridget, who in the 5th century allegedly complained that some men took too damn long to propose. It was St Patrick, though, who came up with the wheeze of granting us special dispensation to propose every 29 February.

But to propose on this day is hideously outdated. It is tacky. It is tabloid. It is a love cliché. It’s like getting married on Valentine’s Day, or like showering your amore with pink heart-shaped helium balloons and packets of Milk Tray. Like anything romantic done in a manner dictated by convention, it is the opposite of passion — it is pre-planned japes. It also smacks of exhibitionism. It is akin to getting down on one knee at the top of the Eiffel Tower or popping the question via flashmob. It has all the nauseating showmance of a Richard Curtis film. Gestures barely acceptable in Hollywood movies are absolutely never OK in real life. My own nightmare is of some chap proposing to me on the London Eye, me saying ‘no’, and then being trapped in a Perspex pod of awkwardness for an hour.

The very notion that women must wait patiently for four years to pass and 29 February to arrive depends upon the assumption that we’re not allowed to propose whenever the hell we want. The leap year proposal is a myth perpetuated to keep women in their place. Women do not need one ‘special day’. If we want to get married we should just ask.

[Alt-Text]


All the best women do the proposing. Zsa Zsa Gabor claims she proposed to all nine of her husbands. The actresses Halle Berry and Jennifer Hudson and the singer Pink did so too.

It makes sense for us to propose. We are better at planning and we know which ring we want (a 23-carat pink princess-cut diamond, thanks very much). We are decisive about our love lives, so we won’t faff around waiting for The Moment. We are not afraid of rejection (we already face it every time we try on size 10 jeans).

And we have had quite enough of men’s appalling efforts at wooing us: petrol station flowers, crotchless red Ann Summers panties. We do not want to have to tell our grandkids, ‘I remember when your grandfather sent me an engagement ring emoji…’

When women propose, they propose with panache. The popstar Pink held up a sign during her boyfriend’s motocross race. It said: ‘Will you marry me?’ He ignored it on the first lap, so she held up another sign: ‘I’m serious!’

I love it when women pop the question. It proves we don’t have to sit around waiting to be chosen, as if our marital status depended on a 19th-century ballroom dance. I like to get really drunk and propose on a first date. But now that I’m tied down to a permanent boyfriend I can’t do that any more, so I just scream ‘MARRY ME’ at regular intervals. My man complains these proposals are so random as to be totally meaningless. But this is the point of them. I love all the drama of an engagement but I’m not quite sure I want to be stuck with him for life.

Marriage, after all, has lost many of its advantages. We no longer need to get hitched in order to escape our parents’ home. And as for money — we tend to earn more than our suitors. With none of these inducements, why sign up to a lifetime of mediocre sex? After all, these days, if it doesn’t work out, we may be robbed of all our winnings in the divorce. A girl sees how much the X Factor judge Cheryl Fernandez-Versini seems likely to have to shell out and she shudders.

On reflection, it’s not surprising women dally for up to 1,460 days before proposing. What’s surprising nowadays is that they bother getting married at all.

Katie Glass is a writer for the Sunday Times.

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