To most women, the thought of a proposal is sweet and magical, the stuff of storybooks. But believe me when I tell you this ladies, to your guy, the whole experience—from asking your parents, to buying the ring, to the actual moment—is one nerve-wracking, teeth-chattering, bone-chilling experience.
Why does proposing have this effect on guys? To begin with, they don’t want to mess it up. “I knew the importance of the moment,” says Mike, 26, who proposed on the beach at sunset, though he was so nervous he forgot all the romantic things he planned to say.
“It’s a story she’s going to tell other people, so it has got to be halfway decent,” says Sean, 31, who’s planning a proposal.
No matter how much coaching a future fiancée receives, most guys don’t know anything about jewelry and jewelers often work these poor bastards like used car salesmen trying to unload a lemon. As it is, looking for rings is intimidating, but add the thought of what the ring represents and a man in a jewelry store starts looking like a stripper at the Queen of England’s weekend brunch: He just doesn’t belong.
When Charles first went looking for a ring, the jeweler said he understood how Charles was feeling. “You feel like you’re losing your manhood,” the jeweler told him. Sure enough, the guy hit a nerve, and Charles didn’t look again for five months.
Then there’s the cost of the actual ring and what has become an unreasonable social norm that a man is expected to spend two or three months of his salary on the thing. I am not alone when I ask, who came up with this crap?
But a man doesn’t want to be cheap, because: A. He wants to make his future wife happy; and, sometimes more importantly, B. Everyone is going to be looking at that ring and judging him on it. “It’s like checking out the size of your manhood,” Mike says.
If a man wants to be traditional, asking permission of the parents is another stressful hoop to jump through. Considering that you’re asking to take away their little girl, this conversation can be almost as heavy as the proposal itself. (When I, your humble author, asked my fiancée’s dad for permission, we were both drunk—which helped take the edge off.)
Besides the need to make it special for you and the rest of the world that will hear about it, another thing that makes proposing stressful is the thought that the woman might say no. Sure, it’s 99 percent certain she’ll give the right answer, but a man never knows if she’ll change her mind in the moment when the reality of actually marrying his sorry ass hits her. “That one percent chance counts,” says Steve, 31, who planned an elaborate proposal evening including a limo, dinner and special stop at a romantic spot to help make it an offer his now-wife couldn’t refuse.
One other teeny tiny thing that weighs heavily on a guy’s mind is a little question: Am I ready? It’s a question that every man has to ask himself, and one that only he can answer.
Bottom line, being engaged and then married means saying goodbye to adolescence. It means saying goodbye to bachelor pads, dirty laundry on the floor and dishes piled high in the sink. “It’s adulthood,” says Sean, “It’s a big deal.”
I always felt I would meet someone, fall madly in love and ask her to marry me. But it was just this vague idea—something that would happen one day in the far off future.