Almost every day you see a news story about a guy who painted a marriage proposal on a billboard next to a busy highway, or proposed to his girlfriend on the Diamond Vision at a packed ballgame. It happens so often that a love-struck man really has to do something unusual now to make the evening news — paint his proposal on the side of a cow, carve his message of never-ending love in the middle of a cornfield, or declare his love for his brother’s bride-to-be at the rehearsal dinner.
But here’s the question: Do any of these people stay married? Has anyone looked into whether these marriages work out?
I cringe every time one of these proposals pops up on a ballpark video screen, because I wonder what the guy is thinking. It’s a good bet his girlfriend is not going to humiliate herself on camera by saying “no” in front of a big crowd, and he knows it. He is not asking her to say “yes”; he is asking a crowd of complete strangers to say “yes” for her. Can you imagine the booing if she said “no”? Proposing in public doesn’t say “I love you” as much as it says, “I’m a manipulative creep who will become your stalker if you don’t marry me.”
Asking a father’s permission for his daughter’s hand in marriage has unfortunately fallen out of favor. Now the suitor asks a stadium full of people for permission. Who would know more about marriage than 20,000 people, many of whom have painted their beer bellies with the team’s colors? Certainly not the bride’s parents or her pastor. What do those old fuddies know?
Are ballparks, stadiums and cornfields considered romantic now? “Gee, honey, those $7 hot dogs really bring out the color of your eyes. Your hair matches the color of the gum I’m kneeling on, and your face is brighter than the advertising on the outfield fence. Now that the ‘kissing camera’ is on us, it’s like we’re starring in our own reality show. Who needs to work? We’ll become reality celebrities, and they make tons of money. Will you marry me?”
Then again, the guy may get what he deserves, a bride who says, “I will, if you promise not to get upset when I get, like, a gazillion Facebook ‘likes’ from everyone seeing me on TV and you get only a few. That’s the way it is, so don’t get jealous. Of course, if I get a few proposals, I might have to take a look at them and see if any are better than yours. Now that we’re celebrities, no one expects us to stay married very long, so we’ll have to sign a prenup to split the money from all the endorsement deals we’ll get. If that’s all OK with you, I will.”
Readers of history know that marrying for love is a new idea in world history. In many countries — India and China, for example — arranged marriages and dowries are still common. Parents decide who will marry whom. Sounds pretty horrid and old-fashioned, doesn’t it? The odd thing is, the divorce rate is much lower in countries with arranged marriage than it is in ours. How is that possible?
Well, sure, getting divorced is harder in those countries, but why does it work at all? Is it because they expect different things from a marriage than we do? What do a couple of teenage lovebirds know about building a home, making a partnership work and dealing with needy children? How has deciding whom to marry based on “he’s cute” and “she’s hot” worked out? How many times a day do you need to hear the words “struggling single parent” in news stories to figure out that our system of romantic love is not working any better for most people — and their emotionally battered children — than the one it replaced?
But here’s the most important thing. I didn’t come to the ballgame to watch you propose or kiss. Stop it!
Jim Mullen’s newest book, “How to Lose Money in Your Spare Time — At Home,” is available at amazon.com. You can follow him on Pinterest at pinterest.com/jimmullen.