My co-worker T got engaged over the weekend and conveyed the glad tidings to us this morning. Much friendly bantering ensued and, like a birthday boy, T did not get much done today besides basking in the attention. By popular demand, he promised to be available until there were visible signs of his hitched status. A date for the wedding has not been fixed yet.
Later in the afternoon, we went into a meeting where T was the only man. One woman congratulated him. Soon everyone knew and “Oohs” and “Aahs” followed. Then there were questions. “So how did she react?” “How did you propose?” “Was she expecting it ?” (The answer to which was “I guess it was about time. We’ve been dating seven years. She has waited enough.”)
Nevertheless, the ladies persisted “Did you go down on your knee when you proposed?” (Acting out the Cinderella and Prince Charming fantasy I guess.) “She must be overjoyed ?” “Have you decided where you’ll be getting married?” (Was this going to be a destination wedding or a theme wedding? T presumably is a destination kinda guy.) And finally, “What does the ring look like?” T went on to describe it and the ladies cooed en-masse, “How beautiful!”
I came to see a very interesting contrast between the reactions of a random bunch of men and women to the news of T’s engagement, especially in light of the fact that his girlfriend “had waited long enough.” The women illustrated why T believed he had done the girl a favor by deciding to marry her at long last. She had waited for him long enough to make her worthy of the honor and privilege. One guy reminded T that he had “upgraded” his girlfriend’s status by getting engaged but nothing had changed for him. T was in complete agreement.
As a woman, I felt offended when he said that and I was the minority of one. Isn’t it as much a man’s pride and joy to ask the woman he loves to marry him? The boys viewed the engagement as T finally caving in to pressure; to the girls it was about perseverance awarded with a diamond ring.
I wondered how little is different between women in the first and developing worlds and how little “independence” and “choice” had to do with mindsets. A girl in India who “catches” a suitable boy to marry her is viewed exactly how T’s fiancée was viewed today by this group of Americans. Whereas men think she was impossible to shake off, the women marvel at how her persistence paid off in the end. I felt sorry for T’s would-be bride and for those who so rejoiced over her good fortune.