Look at Life: Grand Gestures

10th February 2017

Who Says Romance is Dead?

By Claire Moulds

I was never one of ‘those’ schoolgirls who could expect a flurry of Valentine’s Day cards thudding on her doormat. Nor was I alone in that amongst my friends – but that still didn’t take the sting out of having to constantly answer ‘no’ to the pointed question ‘so, did you get any cards?’ from registration until hometime.

That was all we expected, though: a card. I pity the teens of today, for the bar has now been set ridiculously high in terms of what a suitor might be expected to present on 14 February. And thanks to the joys of social media a ‘hit’ or a ‘miss’ is equally likely to be splashed all over Instagram captioned ‘gift from the best/worst – delete as appropriate! – boyfriend in the world #soloved’. The pressure to showcase your worth as a human being on such sites – in this case measured in terms of how much thought, effort and expense your other half has poured into Valentine’s Day – means that potential suitors are up against it from the start.

And it’s not just Valentine’s Day. The innocent, homemade charm of a mix tape – showing my age now! – that might have marked three months together has been replaced by big ticket items – from jewellery (you only need to look at the queue snaking out of Pandora every weekend to see that they are mining a rich seam of girls who want the ‘bling’ to cement their relationship, while the boys being cajoled along beside them want to be seen to make the big gesture without completely breaking the bank in the process) to sell-out concert tickets.

The problem with all this is that everything further down the line is now also expected to be bigger and better than before. As a result the ‘promposal’ – where a boy asks a girl to go with him to the prom – is now taking off over here. In the USA promposals can actually be more elaborate than a wedding proposal, involving flash mobs, personalised billboards and even flying a girl over her house in a plane so she can see where you’ve secretly spelled out ‘will you go with me to prom?’ in her backyard.

Luckily it’s still early days for the promposal in the UK, but given how teenagers have embraced other aspects of this typically American celebration – the fancy car to take you to and from the event, the glamorous gown, the hair and makeup professionally done etc – it can only be a matter of time.

We’re already seeing a growing trend for incredibly intricate wedding proposals designed to demonstrate just how much you love your future spouse – and these will only grow as the promproposal takes off. After all, nobody wants their prom story to be better than their engagement tale. At a recent wedding a quick chat around our table at dinner only served to underline how those guests who had been married for over ten years were more likely to have popped the question while sitting on the sofa at home watching TV, while those who got engaged more recently were sharing stories of exotic shores at sunset and being serenaded by musicians. In fact, the latest ‘will you marry me?’ involved a trip to Milan, where the young woman was proposed to at the top of the cathedral, whisked from there to a renowned jewellers to design her ring and choose stones for it, before she and her new fiancé headed back to the hotel – where she was presented with tickets for the opera that night and, when saying she had nothing suitable to wear, told to open the wardrobe door behind which was hanging a designer dress picked out especially for her, along with a pair of diamond earrings.

Ultimately, of course, it’s not about the gesture, it’s the sentiment behind it. And in a world where ‘show’ seems to count for more now than ‘substance’ there’s a danger of losing sight of the real meaning and our real feelings. After all, it’s hard to say no to the person whose just presented you with a hundred red roses, even though you don’t actually like them and aren’t that keen on him. Meanwhile, the expectation of a grand gesture means that something smaller and simpler might leave us feeling we don’t matter as much as we thought to someone, even though if we step back and really think about it, what they did was actually perfect in every way.

This fascination with how things look and come across to others and the need to fully plan and orchestrate these ‘special moments’ is perfectly summed up in a quote currently whizzing around social media: ‘Dear future husband, please plan a secret photographer for the proposal. I want a genuine photo of the moment. Dear best friends, make sure my future husband knows this…’

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