Now that I am 26, it’s that time of my life when my peers are getting engaged/married/proposed to. Given that the period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s is peak engagement season, I’ve had plenty of opportunity to observe the different ways people express their commitment to be with someone for the rest of their lives.
Disclaimer: all of the examples below have been inspired by people in my social network. It is not my intention to single any one out, but if an example sounds just like your scenario… then you were probably an inspiration for it 😉
Please note that the list below is not mutually exclusive and collectively exhaustive. I have not lived long enough to see sufficient proposals borne out of, I dunno, green card marriages or tax benefits.
1. Applying for a Built To Order (BTO) flat
Now, this is a uniquely Singaporean thing, but as I had the pleasure of explaining to my mom (whose Mrs Bennet sensibilities have come out in full force), signalling one’s intent to get married works quite differently in the US compared to in Singapore. In the US, the man proposes with a ring, the couple address each other as fiancé and fiancée during the period of their engagement, then they bask in the glow of engagement for a while before a date for the wedding is set.
I don’t claim to be an expert on Singaporean proposals since I spent my adulthood in NYC, but things work differently in Singapore. Some context: over 80% of Singaporeans live in public housing. The government encourages the proliferation of nuclear families by making it difficult for single, unmarried adults to obtain public housing. (There are age and income restrictions, I believe. Couples living in sin or willfully single people must be either rich enough to afford private housing, be over 35, or continue to live at home.) Built-To-Order flats are typically housing developments in new neighborhoods that have not yet been built, and will take four to five years before it is move-in ready.
This means that that young couples typically broach the pragmatic question of, “Should we apply for a BTO?” much sooner before the question, “Will you marry me?” Applying for a BTO involves a nonrefundable down payment of $10-$20k, which is arguably a weightier consideration than a ring.
Posting a flat selection receipt like the one above is therefore a huge deal – a multi-thousand dollar deal – and worthy of all the Facebook likes. A successful application for a BTO means the cessation of the anticipation of whether a couple will get married. From then on, the lady simply twiddles her thumbs, waiting for the man to get his act together and perform the ceremonial part of the proposal, i.e. the ring.
2. A caption-free Facebook relationship status update
Of all the ways to announce one’s engagement, I find the Facebook relationship status update most egalitarian. Presumably, the post appears identically on both parties’ walls, and it is also effective for those who might feel that no words can sufficiently capture their joy.
3. “She said yes!”
There’s a touch of paternalism in this, isn’t there? Like as if marriage is not a union of two consenting adults, a partnership entered into by two equals? That one is the holder of power, and the other bequeaths it? I also would hope that when someone finally decides to pop the question, it is because they are 99.99% sure that the answer would be a yes. Being surprised by the proposal or the answer to the proposal seems to belong to the oeuvre of the 2000s rom-com – unrealistic and outdated.
However, I also understand the trepidation one might feel going into such a proposal. Despite having extensively discussed the prospect of marriage, he may have an internal looping monologue of “please say yes please say yes please say yes” – then when she says yes, he reflexively and triumphantly proclaims “SHE SAID YES!” for all the world to hear.
4. A picture of the ring
One could also announce their engagement by posting a picture of the ring – whether it is the centerpiece of the picture, or an oh-so-casual clasp of a bejeweled finger upon a champagne glass – I have mixed feelings about this. Rings are status symbols. Rings, whether you like it or not, invite judgment. And maybe one DOES want to invite judgement. Maybe, like Kim Kardashian, you WANT people to notice your 20-carat diamond ring.
Look, I like jewelry, and I like pretty things. However, I could also see myself getting an artistic tattoo instead of a ring since my ring finger is all bungled up and wouldn’t look good with the kind of ring I’d like 😦 My point is – should the primary focus of an engagement announcement be a ring, a material object, and a typically expensive one at that?
5. The follow-up thank you message (and the next one, and the next…)
After an engagement announcement, some couples feel so overwhelmed with love and joy that they put out a second message thanking their friends and family for their well-wishes. Sometimes, they follow up with professional photos from their engagement photo shoot. What I cannot abide, however… is repeated posts of the actual proposal process itself. Can we please ban #throwback posts of the proposal process? Can we just make a single announcement, leave the rest of the proposal private and intimate, and curb the groveling for additional likes?
I realize that this post contains some degree of judgment and opinion. I have not been proposed to. I don’t know what I may do, in the heat of the moment, when it happens. Perhaps I may defy all engagement announcement etiquette and be the most obnoxious social media fiancée ever.