ok, so last time around, i threw out some hypothetical questions about the nature of "getting engaged" and whether maybe, sometimes, it's not entirely necessary. didn't get a whole lotta feedback there. but that's all right, because i'm hardly sure what i think either.
i realize the practical nature of getting engaged in terms of setting a "beginning" and an "end" to the wedding planning process. i figured someone would hit me with that one right out of the gate, but no one did! of course people need time to plan a wedding. it could be a vastly different amount of time for different couples, depending on if you're talking 500 people at the Plaza or two in Vegas, but there's time involved nonetheless. however, when you think about it, the only necessity of "engagement" is the concrete agreement between two people that, okay, let's get married, and let's do it this way, and let's do it at this time. because you can start planning then (and, if you're going for the two in Vegas option, you don't even need to tell anyone else that you're "engaged"!).
so, the practical side of engagement seems to be taken care of with the agreement between two people to marry. i'm cool with that - you have to decide one way or the other sometime, right? but it's the rest of the trappings with which i am less comfortable. where to start, where to start..
1) the gender roles of "getting engaged"
you'd think, in this day and age, that we as a society would at least be an itty-bitty bit comfortable with the idea of women proposing to men. however, i don't think that we are. i think it's still seen as this weird, devious, aberrant thing about which people are just polite enough to say "oh, well isn't that nice", barely contain a smirk, and then go gossip about in the hallway. (you might try to contradict me on this, saying "but my aunt/friend from college/co-worker proposed to her boyfriend!" well sure, that may be true, and good on her. that doesn't mean society at large is ok with it yet.) and i will be totally honest here - the reason i know society isn't ok with it is that deep down, i think a part of me would not be ok with proposing to BoyCat instead of the other way around. gasp! i know. behold the power of social conditioning. in the long run, i don't think that little voice in the back of my head whispering "but that's not how it's done" would be enough to stop me from doing anything regarding engagement and weddings - there's too much contrarian in me to allow for an excess of conformity - but i cannot deny that it is there. and the whole thing is so fucking patriarchal, i don't even need to tell you. you know.
2) the diamond ring
this is obviously a symbolic extension of the above issue, but with a little extra objectification thrown in. the tradition of the man proposing to the woman follows the old line of women being things that are "won," objects to be bought and sold (if you think i'm exaggerating, go brush up on the history of marriage. i'm not going into it here, because it's enough to make me swear off the institution forever if i think about it too much). the diamond engagement ring embodies this issue. two people get engaged, yet only one is expected to wear a physical signifier that she is "taken," "spoken for," "off the market." why is there no cultural expectation for a man to make manifest his promise of eventual marriage and fidelity? oh right, because he's not the commodity.
3) engagement parties
i don't even really need to justify this frustration, do i? i mean seriously, could you be more crass? you're already having bachelor and bachelorette parties, a rehearsal dinner, a shower, and a freaking wedding where people will practically throw money at you just for showing up in a white dress and a tux. for gods sake, stop panhandling! i worked at a country club as a function server one summer, and engagement parties were hands down the most annoying functions to work. weddings were more stressful, but engagement parties - good god. the materialism, the cattiness, the self-congratulatory smugness! hey, you just got engaged, you didn't cure cancer - get over yourself! if i had a nickel for every time i wanted to punch some bride-to-be, or her maid-of-honor-to-be, or her mother-of-the-bride-to-be, well, i'd be able to afford that destination wedding that BoyCat and i joke around about.
that's all i got on engagements for tonight. phew, all that verbal fist-shaking is tiring. next up, a consideration of why, even in light of all these glaring problems, i have not ruled out this time honored tradition for myself.
i must be crazy.