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  • Writer's pictureDeborah Yaffe

Popping the question

According to my parents, one of the most important promises they made to each other upon their marriage was this one: no surprise parties.

I share the parental distaste for such enforced spontaneity -- perhaps it’s genetic? – so I had a mixed reaction to a news tidbit that finally crossed my desk recently, a few weeks after its initial splash.

Back in mid-July, as an actor named Geneviève Lowe wrapped up her final performance as Elizabeth Bennet in a British theater company’s spoofy production of Pride and Prejudice, her real-life boyfriend, Shane Grant, came on stage and proposed marriage in front of an audience of three hundred and fifty.

He got down on one knee. There was a ring. She said yes. They kissed. And all the people cheered.

Apparently, Lowe loved it, telling the local paper, “It was such a beautiful moment. I couldn’t have imagined a more perfect proposal.” Which is wonderful. Grant, also an actor, correctly assessed his target market and delivered exactly what she wanted. I hope they’ll live happily ever after.

All I can say is – there’s no accounting for tastes. Killjoy that I am, the public proposal, that staple of romantic comedies, has always struck me as at best exhibitionistic and at worst coercive. I know that Kids These Days think nothing really happens unless it can be immortalized on Instagram, but TMI, people! Declare your undying love to each other, not to the rest of us!

Jane Austen, you will recall, regarded marriage proposals as so private that half the time she wouldn’t even let the reader listen in. I’m with her – at least when it comes to real people. I would have been happy to eavesdrop on those fictional proposal scenes.

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