real life

'This is the thing my engagement nightmares are made of.'

Carrie and Big


You might remember the scene from the first Sex & the City movie.

Carrie and Big are sitting in the kitchen. Big is chopping vegetables, and then marriage somehow comes up in conversation.

“Do you want to get married?” Carrie asks.

“I wouldn’t mind being married to you,” Big replies. “Would you mind being married to me?”

“Not if that’s what you wanted,” Carrie says.

Then they both agree to get married.

This, my friends, is what’s called the mutual proposal.

The mutual proposal is a term recently coined by Salon staff writer Tracy Clark-Flory in an article called “Why are men still proposing?”.  It’s what happens when a traditional, man-gets-on-one-knee-with-a-diamond-in-one-hand proposal gets thrown out the window and replaced with… a reasonable conversation between two people about the most appropriate way forward.

It is literally the thing my worst proposal-related nightmares are made of.

But let’s not get into that just yet. Let’s look at Tracy’s experience of the mutual proposal. One day, her and her significant other Christopher hiked through a forest to get to a cliff that overlooked an ocean. They sat down together, and then this happened:

Turquoise waves churned below and a seagull took stomach-turning dives as we read each other letters we had written moments before alongside a shady creek. These notes — our individual expressions of why we wanted to make this commitment — said the same things with different words. We cried, hugged and then took turns asking, “Will you marry me?” We both said yes and, hands shaking, slipped engagement rings on each other’s fingers.

See? They asked each other to marry… each other. Hence the “mutual proposal” phrase. Because – as Tracy explains – it’s the most appropriate term for such a non-traditional approach.


Look, I’m sure that Tracy and her husband will live happily ever after. Much like Carrie and Big did after that whole debacle with the library and the flowers and the bird on Carrie’s head.

But that’s not the point. The point is that the mutual proposal is gaining traction in the relationship landscape.

Just as proposal flash-mobs are taking off, there’s a whole other side of the coin that involves couples rejecting traditional ways to take part in what Tracy refers to as a “wildly problematic institution”.


And I can see why that’s happening. After all, we are in living in a progressive age. Dowries are no longer part of the picture. Men don’t need to ask permission from their future father-in-laws. Couples are picking engagement rings together – why WOULDN’T the whole proposal process become just as mutual as just about everything else in the modern relationship?

To the mutual proposal, I say – each to their own. If you want to write each other letters that list your reasons for wanting to be together, that’s excellent. Knock yourselves out.

But – I’m going to be honest here, despite my fear of being shouted down – there is no way that I would want a mutual proposal.

Of course, I think my partner and I will have conversations about our futures, and invariably discuss things such as engagements and marriages throughout the course of our relationship. I seriously doubt the proposal moment will be a complete surprise. But when it does happen – I’d ultimately like it to be him asking me.

My boyfriend and I on Anzac Day this year. I’m sorry if this picture makes you want to throw up.

He doesn’t need to be down on one knee. He doesn’t need to bring along a mariachi band, or make a Youtube video, or write a song.

He doesn’t need to write “MARRY ME?” on the beach and champagne is not a requirement.

I don’t even want it to occur in a particularly amazing location. A chalet in the Swiss Alps will be just as good as the kitchen table at home.

I just want him to ask me.

Not the other way around.

And the thing is – I can’t even pinpoint why I’m so set on the idea of the traditional proposal. I’m guessing it’s because of the giant, lame-story-loving, Notebook-inspired romantic within me.

Ever since I can remember, I’ve always held up the proposal as the romantic moment to beat all romantic moments. It won’t be nearly as romantic if I have to negotiate my way into some kind of mutual proposal.

Plus it ruins all chances of a surprise flash mob.

Am I a failure to feminism, or are you also opposed to the idea of a mutual proposal?