I recently read your posts about Leap Day and the traditions of a woman proposing marriage (or in this case, a date) to a man. You calling up Mike and asking him out on a date was so inspirational for me. I was really proud of you for mustering that much courage and just going for it! Your journey has been an incredible thing to watch and I love reading the stories you tell, be it about heartbreak, joy, doubt, faith, tears, trials, trust, hope, love, or just good old fashioned craziness. You've moved me to ask out my own Prince Charming (here's hoping he says YES!)
I was so impressed with your tenacity that I wanted to investigate the folklore further on my own. You'd be shocked at what I came up with!
There was a series of 13 postcards published on Slate depicting lady's proposals dating all the way back to 1907. Women who took part in custom had all of Leap Year to do so, not just the day. That aside, they were often ridiculed, publicly shamed, and persecuted for their brazenness and audacity at asking for a man's hand. If a woman so much as asked a man to dance, she was instantly made the butt of the town jokes, having everything from her appearance degraded to her character questioned. These women were considered the worst sort of desperate. Look at some of the postcard descriptors:
Marriage is a raw deal for men no matter the appearance of one’s potential bride.
Any woman with a strong personality probably also has a face like a troll.
The notion of marriage as punishment for men...
The practice of allowing women to propose marriage not only emasculates men but also dehumanizes them. Apparently, what women really want is for their husbands to be glorified house pets.
Leap-year-proposal postcards enforced a double standard by valorizing bachelors at the same time that they depicted unmarried women as undesirable.
Leap-year-postcard artists often drew women resorting to violence in their attempts to get a man to marry them and showed women as bigger, stronger, and more forceful than men. “These domineering women were commonly depicted as unattractive aggressors.”
A woman who asks for what she wants: the ultimate boner-killer.
I'm just wondering what your take on all these postcards and captions are, being a woman who is clearly not afraid to take charge and ask for what she wants?
Thanks for sharing your exceptional writing with the world. Keep at it! We're all rooting for you,
Firstly, thank you for reading my blog and for the kind words about my Leap Day experiment. It wasn't easy getting up the courage to ask out a complete stranger, but I must admit that I probably had the best experience anyone could hope to have in that situation. Mike was fun and witty and charming to talk to. He made me laugh and was so easy going that I knew asking him out was the right decision. I can't say that I'm quite so brazen in person. I've never just walked up to a man I didn't know and asked him out on the spot! (I did sneak my number into the back pocket of a cute guy at a club once. Could not bring myself to talk to him. Was a chicken shit back then. Am much braver now!)
I think that I just kept telling myself: What's the worst thing that could happen? He says no? So what? I don't know this guy from a hole in the wall. He might like me, he might not. But I'll never know unless I take that chance. The reward is always worth the risk. You've got to put yourself out there. You simply have to.
Oh, and please let me know what happens with your date! I think it's great that you're making a move. Be confident. Be strong. Be fun and flirty and interesting. Asking someone out is NOT a sign of desperation. It just means you're a woman who knows what she wants and there is nothing wrong with that!
As for these postcards, I really had to allow my blood to stop boiling before I could respond. For them to say that a woman who knows what she wants is a boner-killer?!?! Who are they kidding? Ask ANY guy who he enjoys being with in the bedroom and he'll say "A woman who knows what she wants!" We are a decisive bunch who can tell you what we're looking for and how to give it to us. That just means we never have to fake it!
"Forceful, domineering, unattractive aggressors..." is the most ridiculous line of bull shit I have ever heard! Think about all the female friends in your life. Perhaps some of them sat back and waited for men to approach them. Perhaps they entertained the idea that love would just fall into their laps. Perhaps they thought that the only men they deserved to be with were men who wanted them first, made the first move, and they are entitled to that opinion. I am a woman who runs at life with arms wide open and that includes embracing love. If there's a man that catches my eye, you can be damn sure I'm letting him know. That doesn't make me unattractive. That makes those other girls wimps!
I think that the caption about bachelors being valiant while unmarried women are undesirable is positively hilarious. There are plenty of undesirable people in this world, but whether they are married or not has little bearing on that fact.
Marriage being a "raw deal" or "punishment" for men is complete and utter bull shit! There are multiple studies that show married men benefit from longer lives, better health, greater financial security, better sex, and overall greater happiness compared to their single counterparts at every age! Marriage (in my opinion) is the thing that keeps men sane. Ask just about any middle-aged guy (even the ones who complain) and chances are he wouldn't have a clue what he'd do without his wife...and he likely never wants to find out.
This brings us to my favorite of these quotes: Any woman with a strong personality probably also has a face like a troll. I promise you that I do not now, nor have I ever lived under a bridge, guarded a castle, or eaten a small child. For men, a woman's beauty is her strength. For me, a woman's strength is her beauty.
There's a reason it's 2012 and not 1907 anymore. These outdated notions of female helplessness are long gone. It's amazing the difference 100 years makes. I wonder what people in the next century will think of us?