The Stupidity of the Big-Deal, Giant, Public Proposal

Dear Dategirl,

I'm really worried my boyfriend is going to propose. Hear me out. We've been together for about a year, and I do love him. But he is a lot older than me. Like 18 years older.

He has a strong tendency for the big production, and friends are starting to hint that he has something big planned. We have a vacation coming up, and I'm getting incredibly anxious. I don't want to break up with him, but I'm far from sure I want to marry him. But if he does some huge production—like Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes at the Eiffel Tower—I worry I will feel obligated to accept!

Should I break up with him before the trip? I don't know—because what if this is all in my head? Aargh, it's making me crazy! I would hate to break his heart, but if this is some Jumbotron-mariachi-flash mob-Oprah thing he's ginning up, I want no part of it!

Not the Marrying Type

I used to think the diamond-ring- underneath-the-dessert thing was awful (don't mess with my mousse), until Internet exposure started this whole competitive public-proposal industry. To my mind, something as life-altering as a marriage should be discussed, dissected, and decided on between the two people involved—not sprung on an unsuspecting party in front of a hundred of the couple's nearest and dearest. And then—even worse—loaded onto YouTube for strangers to kvell over.

W. Bradford Wilcox, director of the National Marriage Project at the University of Virginia, told The New York Times, "Over-the-top proposals allow men to signal to a future wife, and to family and friends, that they are all in. They are ready to man up, forgo all others, and become a responsible husband." I don't quite get how hiring a group of amateur dancers translates to "manning up" or fidelity, but then I'm not the director of anything, so what do I know? To me, theatrics scream attention-seeking manipulation more than "I love you." I mean, how do you say "No, thanks" after he's flown your entire family in from Skokie, hired a marching band, and plunked down 10 G's on a blood diamond?

However, as idiotic as you and I both seem to find these things, the worry that your man might pull something like this is nothing to lose sleep over, nor is it any reason to dump him. Just talk to him about it—tell him outright that you don't see marriage in the cards for you guys for at least 10 years (or however long), and when/if you do decide to marry, you want it to be a mutual decision, not a showbiz spectacular.

There's one more thing to consider. This guy is old enough to be your dad, so there's a good chance you're on very different timelines. Your eggs may have a decade of life left in them, while his sperm is losing spunk by the minute. I'd say the two of you need a state-of-the-union talk sooner rather than later.

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