Wednesday, November 25, 2020

A Marriage Proposal That Isn't a Marriage Proposal

When is a marriage proposal not a marriage proposal? Today’s question arises naturally from a Miss Manners column. 

A woman writes thusly:

I am known as an exceptional cook and baker. I take great pleasure in entertaining, and pride myself on offering delicious, beautiful fare. Invitations are enthusiastically accepted, and even sought, which is certainly flattering.

I would consider myself otherwise to be a fairly average person: neither homely nor beautiful, rather quiet and reserved, no sparkling personality, but polite and pleasant. The food, and the more outgoing company that it attracts, would certainly be the draw at my dinner parties — and not me. That is fine. I am more a people-watcher than a "people person." I do not want to be the center of attention.

My problem is that men at the dinner table declare their love for me and even propose marriage (though they, and I, are already married) with surprising frequency.

I completely understand that they do not mean what they are saying, that it is just an awkward compliment about the food and nothing more. Nor do I have any romantic interest whatsoever in these gentlemen. But I hate to see the hurt expression on their lovely wives' faces when their husbands make these outrageous comments, and I am rather annoyed when my husband begins to act possessive in the face of this false competition for my affections.

Is there a charming way to end this nonsense and protect the feelings of the ladies present without upsetting the party?

The comments are not really outrageous, even if they are decidedly unflattering-- to the men's wives. The meaning is quite simple. These men are remarking on the fact that their wives do not know how to cook, or refuse to cook for them. Thus, they feel starved for affection and are thrilled to receive it, even from a friend. 

The purpose is to embarrass the wives. Obviously, the hostess does not recognize that she is somewhat retro, because modern women do not cook. Either they do not know how or they do not care to do so.

Miss Manners proposes that the hostess turn the tables and say something about manly skills:

“Well, can any of you ...” and then you name some household skill your husband has. Or just reel off a list of what were traditionally considered manly tasks: rewiring the lights, fixing the roof, building bookcases, fixing the plumbing and such.

Of course, how does anyone know that said men are incapable of performing said tasks? Miss Manners does not seem to recognize the possibility:

You are bound to hit at least one that each of the wives wishes her husband would do or has always done herself. Those wistful looks will turn into gently accusatory smiles at their husbands, and you are unlikely to receive such ridiculous compliments from them again.

Miss Manners is far too optimistic here. The compliments are not ridiculous. They are the only way that these husbands have-- notably it is not just one malcontent-- to express their feelings about their wives’ failure to show affection for them. In today’s America a woman who does not cook is thought to be liberated. Unfortunately, she is thus more likely to be freed from being married at all.

The remarks, as Miss Manners fails to note, are also a warning sign. Imagine this scene. One of these disgruntled husbands is out having a drink with a group of colleagues. He mumbles something about the fact that his wife does not even know how to fry an egg, when a woman on the other side of the table blurts out: “If you were my husband, I would always cook for you.”

At that point, the marriage is on life support. And of course, this must represent one of the reasons why so few Americans marry or stay married. Miss Manners should have said that these kitchen-phobic women might just undertake to prepare meals for their husbands and their families. Because when it comes to the lizard-like male mind, these things matter, far more than you think.

And, you thought it was all about blow jobs?


trigger warning said...

Let me begin by saying I can rewire your lights, stop your faucet leak, build your bookshelves (or even a mahogany end table), and replace your brakes.

But I received two snippets of advice that literally changed my life for the better (as far as women are concerned).

First, while I was in puberty, my loving aunt signed me up for ballroom dancing lessons. Naturally, I hated them. But when I entered high school, I was so thankful. Girls love boys who dance. And when I say dance, I don't mean flinging one's arms and legs in space. I mean dance. And I was grateful, because the hottest girls all took dance lessons, had great bodies, and nobody to dance with - except me and a couple of other guys with smart families.

The second piece of advice was in grad school. The female population of my STEM institution was < 20%. I asked a good friend, "How do you meet women in this place?" So much competition, and my time was limited. My friend said, "Learn to cook. Women love men who can cook." I bought a copy of The Joy of Cooking and did just that. Worked wonders. Practice and cooking classes full of - you guessed it - women who can cook! That advice turned me into the [ahem] best nonprofessional cook I know. (BTW, I did one other thing: I signed up for a summer class in the Botany Department titled "Bonsai". Ten women, yours truly, and a lifetime love of living art. I was learning.)

Beautiful, intelligent, refined women are similar to angels in just one way: if you want to meet them, you must seek them where they dwell. While my single friends in Boston were buying ridiculously expensive call drinks for smart-assed pyrofeminists in the downtown singles bars, I was working a gold mine on Sunday afternoons: Music at the Gardener, a free classical concert at the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum. Those Sundays were an ode to joy.

Prior to executing a winning strategy, one must first define the target market and pursue it in its native environment. ;-D

Sam L. said...

I pity those guys...and wonder if/when they will file for divorce, or work it out.

Randomizer said...

I work in a profession that is approximately evenly split between men and women. Occasionally someone makes a joke or references the idea that women do the cooking (or shouldn't have to). I point out that women don't cook. Doesn't everyone know that? Most of my peers who are into cooking are men.

Its a subtle point that we seem to have lost. Men show their love by keeping the family safe, women show their love by keeping the family fed.

I am a single man, passed the point where I am seeking a wife. Some of my male friends may alternately tease and envy me. A blow job on my birthday doesn't seem like its worth the trade-off.

When I seek female companionship, volunteering at the local dog shelter is my gold mine. Plenty of women of the appropriate age and a low stress way to develop a rapport before pursuing a relationship.

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