An Unconventional Proposal (Or Two)
We decided a while ago that we wanted to get married. However, this brought up a lot of feminist anxieties for me. Most of the marriages I have seen first hand are pretty centered around the husband…his career comes first, he gets first choice of parenting responsibilities, he is in charge of the budget. I did not want that. I also have hang ups about engagement rings. There are questions about whether diamonds are ethical, do I even like diamonds, that money could be spent lots of other more useful ways, etc. And then there is the history. It originated as basically an insurance policy against spinsterhood in case things didn’t work out. Riding public transportation during college also left a sour taste in my mouth with regards to engagement rings. Harassment on the train was a problem, and one of my friends suggested wearing a fake engagement ring. Once I did that, I didn’t have a problem any more. Apparently the obnoxious dude bros who wouldn’t leave me alone when they thought I was single respected some hypothetical man’s claim on me more than they respected me as a person.
Lucky for me, my fiancé is a good person and he took my concerns seriously. We worked together to come up with a solution that would allow us to get engaged in a way that incorporated some of the traditional elements we both liked, but still reflect our relationship and values. We decided that we would each propose to the other and that we would both wear engagement rings.
Both our parents are divorced, but both our mothers kept their engagement rings. Rather than buying new gemstones or diamonds, my ring incorporates the diamond from my fiancé’s mom’s ring, and his ring has the stone from my mother’s ring. At first I was skeptical about using stones from marriages that didn’t last, but my fiancé wisely pointed out that first, we both have learned a lot about what to do and not do from our parents; second, they could serve as a reminder to try and avoid some of the mistakes of the past. We both felt good about the symbolism and about recycling the stones.
He proposed to me on our second anniversary, in the place where we had our first date. It was quiet, simple, and perfect. His ring took a while to be made; we had to have a custom job, since men’s engagement rings are not exactly common. I proposed to him the day that I got his ring in our home over dinner. It was also quiet, simple, and perfect.
It has been interesting to observe people’s reactions to our non-traditional path. The people who matter most to us have been very supportive. A few people have laughed at us and think we’re being silly for getting engaged this way. A few people have gotten defensive because the proposal is the man’s job. Most people just roll their eyes at me and my crazy feminism. But why shouldn’t we propose to each other? We both knew we wanted to get married. We discussed it together, and together we decided that now was the right time. Why should all the responsibility and all the final decision-making power go to my fiancé? It’s all just tradition. If traditions are important to you, that is fine. This particular one just wasn’t to us, and that’s fine too.
In the end, we found a way to embrace parts of tradition, but we also changed what didn’t work for us. What we ended up with was a reflection of who we both are, as individuals and as a couple. This experience has strengthen our resolve to have our wedding and our marriage be the same: a collaboration between equal partners. To me, that’s what feminism means. It’s not about anger or wanting to take over. It’s about allowing people, men and women, to choose their roles and find what works for them.