Here are my best weekly columns from Thought Catalog in the last month of 2013:
Engagement rings, Facebook, and the public wedding proposal, about the question everyone asked when they found out I was going to Paris in December, and that my menschfriend was coming with me – is he going to pop the question in Paris?
He and I are 28 and 26 respectively. We’re at that age when questions are being popped. People expect it to happen; that’s just what couples our age do. And Paris is one of the more potent symbols of romance in Western culture. I can’t imagine how many couples from around the globe get engaged there every year. One of my best friends in the world got married this fall after proposing to his now-wife on Île de la Cité, just near Notre Dame. The romance of Paris is hard to resist — the buildings, the art, the French accents, the affordability of wine, which allows you to be slightly tipsy all the time if you so choose. Fortunately, I’m a professional feminist, so it’s my job in life to suck the fun and romance out of everything, and Paris is no exception. Strolling by twilight along the Seine? You don’t want to know how many corpses have been tossed into it in the last few centuries alone. Captivated by the cobblestone streets, the winding back alleys? Cool, picture them running red with blood during the Paris Commune or the Reign of Terror. Romantic, right?
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.
That’s increasingly what we’re told, as proposals and engagements because an increasingly visible and public part of wedding culture in America. “How did he do it?” is the first question a newly-engaged woman is likely to be asked, after “Can I see the ring?” He did it in a restaurant full of people. He did it with the help of your favorite author. He did it with a musical number at Disneyland. And he had it all filmed and put on Youtube so the rest of the world could enjoy the spectacle, too. Then comes the “He asked…” photo on Facebook or Instagram — the shot of your hand with your new ring without the rest of your body or the rest of the couple in the frame. Then the engagement photoshoot. As heterosexual marriage rates continue to drop, our performance of the rituals leading up to marriage becomes more insistent. Faced with marriage’s apparent dwindling relevance, this show goes on, bigger and bolder, like the band playing a rousing rendition of “Here Comes the Bride” as the cruise liner sinks.