Recently, there was a video of a guy who proposed to a lady in public and she left him, still on his knees and ran off. One can only imagine how embarrassed the guy felt. He must have assumed that the lady would say yes; I’m quite certain that if he knew what the outcome of that proposal would be, he would have ensured it was privately done (that is if he proposed at all).

So what’s the harm with big public proposals? 

Anyone, regardless of sexual or relationship preferences, can see the overarching problem here: the public spectacle being made of your private lives. Suddenly, your relationship is being put on a public platform, assessed by strangers and loved ones, looking on, expecting the obvious agreement with the traditional arc of relationships. You must emerge from the cocoon made of public onlookers as a gushing fiancée. 

But what about rejection?

Putting someone on the spot is hard enough, but when you do that in public, you’re negating their options. No doubt, by proposing, you’ve already reached a conclusion this person will, in all likelihood, say yes. The idea of “other options” simply does not exist for you. And perhaps it says a lot that you’re so confident about your relationship that you can do it publicly. But regardless of your confidence, you’re still dealing with another person. Confidence doesn’t equal truth or reality, only an assurance in your assessment of it—indeed, as the litany of “public marriage proposal fails” indicate, people really don’t understand their relationships. And that realization comes at the cost of severe, a public embarrassment for many, including the victim/, proposed. And with “public” comes “recorded,” since smartphones are our new third hands. 

Public antagonism towards the person rejecting a marriage proposal must be considered by those initiating the proposal, but of course, must be discounted if they carry on with it anyway. Here the audience is upset that the performance—because that’s what it is—isn’t playing out how they’d like. They know nothing about this relationship between two strangers. This is the anger over an actor missing his lines, not a show of solidarity with someone seeing their relationship possibly crumble. This “romantic gesture” seems part of a general attitude of dismissal we have regarding others’ preferences or sense of security.

Basically, if I were a man who wasn’t certain that my girlfriend would agree to marry me, I’d do it as publicly and loudly as possible, to “stack the deck” in my favor, as it were. It could easily be used as a method of coercion, not just a romantic gesture. 

Of course, it doesn’t mean every man who proposes publicly is thinking like this. They could well be doing exactly the sort of thing their partner would love and appreciate forever. But whatever the intentions of the people involved, it inevitably adds more factors and pressures into what should be a simple yes/no question between two people who know each other intimately.

And if you’re not sure your partner would say yes without all the elaborate public extras, maybe you shouldn’t be proposing yet?
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