The other day I heard the depressing story of a woman in Britain, no longer young, who is waiting for the Leap Year, so she can ask her boyfriend to marry her. In a way this seems very old-fashioned, as the tradition is that this is the one acceptable day women can ask men to marry them. But it also sounds like one long humiliation. Years gone by, the boyfriend's elderly neighbours may have said something to him like, "Such-and-such is a nice girl. When are you going to do right by her?"
"Mind your own business," the boyfriend might have snarled.
"It is our business," the elderly might have shot back. "Nice girl, Such-and-such. Known her all our lives. Know her people. Knew her people's people."
And then the boyfriend might have slunk off sulkily but newly clued in to the ideas that 1.) public behaviour, like courting or living with a woman for umpteen months or years, is kind of public and 2.) his girlfriend is well-thought of in the community and 3.) the community is somewhat disapproving of him for what they perceive to be a wrong to his girlfriend.
I am of course opposed to married people picking on single people and demanding of them why they are not married. I am especially opposed to married people picking on single women and demanding to know why they are not married or, worse, offering hypotheses for their single state. In the West, it has never been the job of a woman to hunt for a husband; it has been the job of a man to hunt for a wife.
But that's "a wife." I am not terrifically thrilled by men who hunt for a girlfriend solely to have a girlfriend and then to string her along for years and years. That's one reason why I think adult women (out of school) should start to re-evaluate her commitment to any boyfriend who has not mentioned marriage in a whole 12 months of dating.
Personally, I cannot imagine why any seriously religious woman (out of school) would date any man for more than 12 months without a whisper of a hint of marriage, given the sexual temptations, the where-is-this-going anxiety and, eventually, the boredom. However, a thought has just occurred to me, and I suppose it is because she is in love with him, poor thing.
That is why it is up to the community once again to start nagging Mr. Dragging His Feet. Marriage would actually be good for Mr. Dragging His Feet, but men are an eenie-weenie bit scared of marriage, in the same way they are an eenie-weenie bit scared of bears. I can just imagine a man admitting he was scared of bears, however, especially to men who have faced bears and won.
Other Men (chuckling): So, I guess you're scared of bears, son, eh?
I, Seraphic, have a really hard time keeping my mouth shut around Catholic men (out of school) who have been dating the same woman for years and years with no mention of a ring. "Marry or move on" I spit between my teeth, uncomfortably knowing that if they moved on, their girlfriends would be initially devastated. I don't know personally if it is more devastating to be left by Mr Wonderful after 13 months of dating, or by Mr Dragging His Feet after five years of dating, but I am guessing the latter because five years is a way bigger investment than 13 months, and time is something women are a bit sensitive about.
It feels better to dump a guy for not getting to the point than to be dumped by a guy who has found "someone better", that is for darn tootin'. And I think if all adult women (out of school) gave suitors no more than a year and a month to come to scratch, men would stop dragging their lazy man feet about marriage. I can just imagine it: lovely women, all shiny and new, intriguing, exciting and slightly mysterious for twelve months and then---RRRRRAAAAAH! Godzilla. Or at least a raised eyebrow and "Where is this going? Because if it isn't going anywhere, buddy boy, I've got places to go, people to see and there's this new guy in the parish who keeps looking up at me when I'm in the queue for Communion."
Until women get that kind of gumption, however, I leave it to their neighbours, families and friends to start clearing their throats and making short but pointed observations to their long-term boyfriends.