Sunday, March 4, 2012

On Love. A Decent Proposal.

“LOVE.”  I suppose I have been thinking about the meaning of this oddly bandied-about word, lately.  Well, it has just been February AND a Leap Year at that, so I feel justified in giving it a bit of consideration.  Just a smidgen.  Don’t tell anyone, or say I’ve gone all moony.

Oh feck, who am I kidding?  I’m a hopeless romantic, and, to me, the concept of a specific day (Feb 29th) on which women can propose is like walking into the movies to see the closing credits, or absorbing calories without tasting the cheesecake.  What is the point?

Okay, so the point is that you are then engaged, betrothed, promised… ta dah!   I get it.  Mazel tov.  But... but... it just seems so wrong, so unromantic, so emasculating!
I’m an equal opportunities gal.  (In Eleanor World, the Spice Girls were my homies.  Girl Power!  Karate kicks!  Short skirts!  "We're not sluts!"  "We're empowered!"  High five!)  But really?  Really?  What woman wants to tell their friends, family, old school compadres who-you-didn’t-really-like-but-now-have-to-keep-up-with-on-Facebook that,
“Oh, it was so romantic, we were out to dinner and …”  and what?  Men don’t wear engagement rings, so what do you whip out of your little heart-shaped box?  “ …I hid a Home Depot gift certificate under his oysters and said, ‘Sweetie-Prune-Face, will you do me the honour of living with me forever and fixing my shit?’”

Nay, nay and thrice nay.  This is not how the story should go.  Rewrite. 

Now, before you get the impression—as I believe some of the male variety have—that all women are out to get a ring, FEAR not!  Back off there, Champ!  Step away from the Tiffany counter!  Some women are quite happy to march their own merry way, independently slicing through the crowd to the click clack of their heels on the marble, and the sound of their favourite Beyonce track echoing through their cerebellum.  "I don't think you're ready for this jelly."  I know many fine females able to change a light bulb, order direct TV, who own homes, and tools, like drills with attachments, who take out their own rubbish; finding someone you can do some of these with is just an added bonus, not a necessity.

So what am I saying?  If you do erm… *cough* “love” someone, does it matter who or how one proposes?  Does one even need to propose?  Can’t there be togetherness and marital sportsmanship without the whole Pride and Goon bit?  I suppose it makes a nicer story to tell folks.  It certainly must feel good to know that of all the girls in the world, you are special to someone other than your parents and the stray cat you randomly feed.  And Lordy, if he has thoughtfully planned some surprise to take your breath away and says something heartfelt that makes one jelly-kneed, well doesn’t that make one feel valued as a person, adored as a lover, treasured as a Goddess?  Yes.

A good friend of mine was swept away for the weekend by her now fiancé and, as they walked back to their hotel on a spectacularly star-filled night, he turned to her and said “How would you like to be buried with my people?”  It wasn’t the gesture of the weekend away, or the celestial backdrop, it was his words.  He wanted to be with her for the rest of his life and thereafter; their bones crumbling to dust together.  Kind of macabre, yes, but very earthy and celtic and fitting.  My heart melt into my stomach to hear it.

Another friend, actually, my oldest, bestest friend from Blighty, has quite the sigh-worthy proposal story.  Her betrothed, a HitchHiker’s Guide to the Galaxy aficionado, took her to a lavish dinner to celebrate his forty second birthday.  Following an indulgent repast, he noticed a loose thread from his jacket, and he asked her to pull it.  She pulled, and to the thread a ticker tape and then a ring were attached; the tape read, “The meaning of life, the universe, everything is not 42… it’s you.”

Romance!  It appeals, because I suppose a good proposal, or Valentine’s Day surprise, or heck, a surprise any day of the year, means that someone thinks enough of you to make an effort.  Effort.  Change the ‘e’ to the end, lose a 'f', and you have the French “forte,” strong.  A strong effort: not a lame college try; or the Valentine’s day Interflora package deal that comes up first on Google search; but an effort that takes thought and action.
Of course, it’s all very well making this grandiose gesture or proclamation of undying love, but a proposal is supposed to be an indication of intent.  If there is a superhuman display and no follow up, one could say that the “buyer” was mis-sold.  And aren’t proposals getting more and more extravagant nowadays?  The simple betrothal from days of yore, the down-on-one-knee bit, looks kinda shabby in comparsion to the sky-written proposal, or the Youtube ode, or the live TV recording.

Who is it for anyway?  Are proposals for the delectation of the viewing Public and bragging rights to ones Facebook friends and Twitter followers?  Or should they be private moments, in which you lay your heart on a plate for someone else to stab, or hold?

Marriage isn’t the be-all, end all, women strive for in 2012 anyway.  We can take out our own trash.  We just want to be happy.  For me, finding that someone who does not “complete me,” but complements me, who makes me want to be even better as a person, even though he loves me “just as I am,” would be a lovely thing.  A ring seems rather irrelevant.

 As the fabulous best-selling author Jane Green writes, “Love is a verb.”  A verb is a “doing” word.  Sometimes the odds seem insurmountable: the geography, or the age-difference, or the family opposition,  or the history involved—just to throw a few little hurdles in there—but if you really care, these things shouldn’t make a damn bit of difference.  If I were in love, I’d pole-vault over all of them.  Or at least try, and crash *splat* into them.

I was trying to give a friend a definition—she was grilling me about love and bemoaning her internet dating experience (that’s for another blog)—I quoted Jane Green, and she replied,
“So love is about doing things for people?”  She looked rather non-plused.
“Well, yes, because you love them.  You do things for them to show it.”
Her frown did not smooth itself.
“Well, I do things for my boss, but I certainly don’t love him.”
“Granted.  He pays you.  There are exceptions.”
“I do volunteering, but it’s not because I’m in love with the …”
“Okay!  Okay.  So, let me define it!  It’s not what you can do for him, or what he can do for you, but it is about wanting to do things for him, of your own free will.  Not because anyone is paying you, or for a profound sense of gratification, or for your reward in Heaven or wherever, but because you want to make his life easier, better.  It's finding someone you want to be a team with; to do things, to share things and enjoy experiences together; someone who makes your ovaries can-can with one look, or one breath of his scent.  And he'll smell so good to you.  It's someone you can curl up beside and not want to be anywhere else, with anyone else.  The person whose gaze feels like the sun on your skin, and in whose eyes you feel even more beautiful and lighter and more interesting.  And the thought of never basking in the heat from his eyes again makes your heart wither with sadness.   And,”  I steam-rollered on, “when you love someone you don’t necessarily need this person to reciprocate and do things for you; you don't need a ring and the whole elaborate public "I do"; you just feel compelled, down deep, like rooted in your stomach-deep, right there, that this is the person you would do anything for, not because of anything he said or did, but just the way he made you feel.  And life will go on without him, if we don't find him, if we lose him, or if he loses himself, but crikey, doesn't everything seem lovelier when you have someone that makes you just...sing?"
She bit meditatively on the flake of skin on her bottom lip,
“Interesting.  So it’s a gut thing.”
“I’ve always thought so.  You know you have more nerve endings in your stomach than your spine?  That’s why you feel that stomach implosion when he so much as looks at you.”
“That’s just nerves.  Or a bowel movement.  That goes away.”
“That’s why love is a verb!  It’s an effort, but a strong effort can be easy, and you will want to make it.  Don’t you want to be 70 and feel full with contentment when he smiles at you, or takes your hand and walks you to your stair-lift?  Don't you want to still feel butterflies?”
“I think maybe, En, you just need some Rolaids.  And a puppy.”


  1. Oh, Eleanor. What a gift you have. For writing, for loving, for opening your heart and opening a vein and spilling it on the page so sharply, so softly, with such truth and such knowing.

    You are ovaries-to-the-wall, baring and daring -- yourself and us. A fecking Superhero of a woman, you are. The man who gives a gentle tug to the tip of your cape, capturing your eye as you fly past, is the luckiest man on Earth. Apart from the grueling vetting of your Close Personals, he will be quite blessed!

    My favorite blogette thus far, Eleanor.

    And yes, damn it all! Love is a verb. Love is THE verb.

    1. Oh, CMistWrite! I am so, so glad you enjoyed it. And whilst I know actions speak louder than words, sometimes words are the only tool, or verb, one has left.

  2. You understand eros. I could always see that glimmer in your eye. <3 xoxoxo

    1. Had I been drinking?
      I didn't know much of Eros, but now I have read up on his slings and arrows of outrageous fortune. Thank you. And thank you, Wikipedia!

  3. Mmmm, very good and thought provoking entry indeed. I often muse on this subject and agree with much that you say. I have always followed gut feeling too because asking myself whether I should stay, depart, go deeper, back away slowly or avoid altogether has never resolved itself in my mind. The pit of my stomach on the other hand always has the answer and is just waiting for me to pay attention.

    On whether to marry or not I also sometimes wonder. I know I want to form a life long bond with someone, have children with them and fix things for them because I want to, but do I really need to marry them? I always thought I did because my parents married and my grandparents before them and I am old fashioned and I value tradition but now I am not so sure? Why marry? Well it is a holy sacrament so perhaps for religious reasons? The government treats a married couple differently so maybe for tax reasons? My parents expect me to so maybe out of duty? If I have found the one that makes my stomach do somersaults and for whom my love is uncompromising then do I need to declare this publicly?

    I also resent the cynicism that has crept into certain aspects of marriage: the pre-nups and the huge expense of the day itself. "I am having a 30th for 150 people"..."Your catering with be $X"..."It is a wedding"..."Your catering will be $X000"...but then this is not set in stone and we can all proceed in our own ways, simple or lavish, standard or eccentric.

    I think you describe it all very clearly and it is food for thought. Why does it have to take us so long to figure all of this out though? So much trial and error, certainly on my part! I like to think I kind of have it now but I am sure that in actual fact I will still be learning up until the day I die. Most of us will. And despite the fact that Love is the oldest game known to mankind, we all have to learn how to play it ourselves with occasional advice if we are lucky.

    Good blog Eleanor. Keep writing. And keep the faith. xxx

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