Yo Pops, Can I Wed Your Daughter Or What?

Apparently for the first time since the 1930s, it's now a trend for men to ask their girlfriends' fathers for permission to propose marriage. And that makes me the trendiest.

Of course, this probably isn't a trend at all. But that's irrelevant, because people in this Boston Globe article are getting really weird about it:

Barbara Gottfried, of Boston University’s women’s studies department, declares herself ‘‘shocked’’ by the trend. ‘‘The fact that the parents are asked prior to the proposal seems to me to be more than politeness,’’ she says. ‘‘Underneath it all is an anxiety about the threat that independent women pose.’’

Keep it cool, Gottfried. I'm as anxious about the "threat" of independent women as the next guy, but old-school chivalry doesn't always indicate deep-seated sexism. Tradition doesn't always suck. Only sometimes.

In my case, I didn't want to ask "permission," per se -- because it's not like I would have shrugged my shoulders and walked out the door if Deborah's parents said "no." But I did feel strongly about seeking some degree of approval beforehand. There was no question that I wanted to update tradition by asking both parents, and I knew I wanted to do it in person because the anxiety attacks during the two-hour ride to their place would make it all the more worth it.

But why did I feel the need to ask in the first place? Maybe I wanted to show respect to them for raising the woman I fell in love with. Maybe I just wanted them to like me. Maybe I was scared that her father's joke about keeping an ax in the house to fight off unwanted suitors was actually true.

Either way, the notion that this is somehow backwards and sexist is silly. Mandating that women wear a certain color and style of clothing during the ceremony seems so much more backwards -- and void of any real relevance or meaning -- than having a simple conversation that makes the bride's parents a part of the engagement process.

Either that, or as a Boston Globe reader put it, asking permission is really code for this question: "Is it ok if I show up for Thanksgiving for the next, like, 20 years?...So are we ok with this? Or are you going to be giving me shit?"


mayan said...

I did write a response to one
of your columns.
You responded so I guess it must have been of some interest.
Since you quote the Globe and
a BU source you must be living in
the Boston area. Lucky you.
Boston is such a cool town.
Spent a couple of weekends at
MIT and discovered the Stata
building. Amazing.

AV said...

My husband asked my father. He had to: I'm not just traditional, I'm incredibly sadistic. Contrary to speculation, my father did not challenge him to a duel by moonlight, like honest-to-goodness samurai, he just chuckled and said, "you two deserve each other." Long-term, painfully slow karma. True that. ;)

JZ said...

Trend? I thought it was just what you're supposed to do. Ask permission. Get permission. Go jam to "I Know You Rider."

Nark said...

My girl was knocked up, but I didn't ask her until our kid was about 4 months old. Her dad kind of said 'duh' when I asked him.

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