A friend is considering proposing to her boyfriend. I am against it, not because of gender roles but because a man will commit to you when he is good and ready. How do you feel about women proposing to men? —Anonymous
In theory, I’m not against women proposing to their boyfriends. I was once a girlfriend who discussed marriage with her significant other and was anticipating a ring. It did trouble me that because I chose to abide by tradition, the entire timeline of the future we were planning together was being determined by him.
I was wondering and waiting and hoping for a ring while he was the one with the option to take action. It was one of the few times in my life when I didn’t feel like I was being an active participant in it. For women who feel a similar way, I absolutely understand why they would take the initiative to propose.
That said, I never considered proposing. I consider myself a modern woman, but in many ways I’m very old-school, and I like the idea (and romance) of a man going after what he wants and doing the asking—whether it be a first date or proposing marriage. It seemed contradictory to me to want a man who is a leader and then not let him lead by asking him to marry me. For women who want a leader type of spouse—and not every woman does—I wouldn’t recommend proposing.
But those are my thoughts. What really matters most here is how guys think about this scenario, since sometimes they are the ones being asked the big question. I asked several what they thought about being proposed to by a woman, and I’m glad I did. I’d guessed that most would find the idea emasculating, but many of the men who shared their thoughts—on the condition of anonymity— weren’t turned off.
“Women talk about ‘leaning in’ and all this empowerment stuff, yet sit around and wait and hope that their man proposes to them is the most ass-backwards thinking around,” one man responded. “You champion liberation and equality, yet feel that it’s a man’s place to propose because ‘that’s the way it should be; that’s the way it’s always been.’”
Another gentleman echoed similar sentiments: “If we’re in a mutual relationship and heading in that direction, why shouldn’t either one be able to propose the next step? I think this is another vestige of our society’s paternalistic approach to relationships. My manhood would not be threatened by this.”
He added, “All of that said, if you never in all the time we have been seeing each other reached for a dinner check, don’t all of a sudden get liberated.”
But other guys weren’t so on board. In fact, they were adamantly opposed.
“I would not want to be proposed to, and if I was, it would be indicative of a bigger problem,” one man responded. “I’d wonder if she thinks I’m a bitch, if she thinks I pussyfoot around, if she thinks she has to take control of a situation. All of that epitomizes emasculation. These are not ideas that I want my wife to have in her head about me.”
Most of the men who responded implored women to wait for a proposal. “There’s something to be said for some traditions,” one man said. “Let us have this one, please.”
The biggest reason? Your man’s not proposing is a sign that he isn’t prepared to or, worse: You aren’t the one.
“The fact that I have not yet proposed means that I’m not ready,” said another man. “Saying yes to her proposal would be a decision based on emotion [not wanting her to feel bad] rather than logic and principle.”
Yet another man said a proposal from his lady would be a huge turnoff: "Thirsty and weak,” he began. “Those are the qualities that I don’t want in a wife. If my current proposed to me, I would feel bad for her and wonder how did it get to the point where she is so desperate. If she’s proposing instead of me, then I must have doubts about her candidacy as a wife.”
My take? If a woman is seriously considering proposing, she should communicate with her partner to see how he feels about that and base her decision on whether he’s flattered or appalled by it. (My husband wandered into the room as I was writing this. I asked him about me proposing to him. His response? “Hell no!” and a sideways glance before walking back out.)
For the women who decide to go this route, I have only one request: If you’re going to get on one knee to propose, wear pants. Or just stand in your dress or skirt. This may be a petty thing to harp on, but I’ve seen so many viral videos of proposals that depict women on the ground in a skirt, and I’m always more put off by the flash of undies than the idea of a woman asking a man to marry her. Being nontraditional doesn’t mean compromising class.
Demetria Lucas D’Oyley is a contributing editor at The Root, a life coach and the author of Don’t Waste Your Pretty: The Go-to Guide for Making Smarter Decisions in Life & Love as well as A Belle in Brooklyn: The Go-to Girl for Advice on Living Your Best Single Life. She answers your dating and relationship questions on The Root each week. Feel free to ask anything at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Previously in Ask Demetria: “Prewedding Jitters Led Me to Sleep With My Ex. Should I Call Off the Wedding?”