I’m not sure how well Facebook boss Sheryl Sandberg would rub along with my son-in-law, former Wasps captain and England rugby international James Haskell. Both may have risen to the top of their respective fields, but when it comes to the delicate protocol of popping the question… well. A discussion between them on the subject might turn into something of a scrum.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appSandberg, CEO of the world’s largest social media platform,that the days of leaving marriage proposal to men are, or should be, over. “I look at all these amazing young women, women I talk to, and they’re totally strong and they take charge of their education, they take charge of their career. And then in a relationship they’re like, ‘Yeah, I want to get married… I hope he brings it up.’”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appLike any decent CEO, Sandberg leads by example. Her recent engagement to marketing executive Tom Bernthal was a model of combined operations. They “picked out” the ring together. They “planned the event” together (a weekend away), although it’s unclear if Bernthal actually went down on one knee over dinner.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appPerhaps they both did, simultaneously. Or maybe they looked deep into the other’s eyes across the table and murmured in perfect unison: ‘Will you marry me?’ Tricky to choreograph, but I guess it’s a tidy piece of romantic theatre if you can pull it off. You’d probably need a willing waiter to act as director, though. “OK, ready, people? And…action!”
Sandberg also criticised men who ask fathers for the woman’s hand in marriage: “You know, there’s also this tradition that’s still alive and well of men [asking] a father for a hand. That’s still happening. Like, really?”
Er, like, yes, really, Sheryl. I myself experienced it barely two years ago. I began receiving texts from my daughter Chloe’s then-boyfriend asking to meet me, alone. It was important, James said. Our diaries kept clashing and as the weeks drifted by I could tell he was getting increasingly agitated. “Mate, we HAVE to meet #important.”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appFinally, we rendezvoused in The Savoy’s American Bar (classy; his suggestion). James arrived, walking a little stiffly in a three-piece suit. “Is that new?” I asked as he sat down, creakily.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围app“Um… yeah. I thought the occasion called for it,” he replied. I still had no idea what was coming. I thought he had some sort of business venture to propose.
“The thing is,” he started, stalling slightly before beginning again. “The thing is… well, you know Chloe and I have been dating for a while now… and I just wanted to tell you how wonderful I think she is, and how much I love her, and… how much I promise to take care of her if… if…” James took a deep breath and the rest came out in a rush: “…If you would do me the honour of allowing me to ask her hand in marriage.”
I almost expected him to go down on one knee and show me the ring.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appI was thunderstruck – probably because I didn’t think young men still did this kind of thing in the second decade of the 21st century. I half-expected Oscar Wilde to come into the room waving Lady Windermere’s fan. But did I feel embarrassed, or patronised on my daughter’s behalf? No, and no. I was genuinely touched and moved by a totally unexpected gesture.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appOf course, it was pure theatre; elaborate ritual. If I’d said, “Absolutely not! I forbid it!”, they would have got married anyway. But such observances, quaint as they may seem to us in the so-called modern age (all ages were once modern), are civilising, humanising protocols and I can’t see the harm in James’s old-fashioned formality.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appYes, you could see it as sexist; why ask me, and not Chloe’s mother? But then you might as well challenge the tradition of the father walking his daughter up the aisle and giving her away. No one seriously suggests she’s his property to bestow on another.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appI’ve discussed this with a number of men friends of varying ages. Most of them say they think what James did was a positive exercise in male bonding. I agree. Neither Chloe or her mother felt remotely marginalised when they learned of it, and there’s no doubt it strengthened the relationship between my son-in-law and me. Nothing wrong with that. Family ties are increasingly important in a fractured world.
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appMeanwhile, my daughter, a feminist to her bone marrow, has always made all her own life choices, and that included accepting James’s subsequent proposal (something of a trope: in Paris, the Tuileries outside the Louvre, and, yes, on bended knee).
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appWhich brings us to Sandberg’s call for couples to get hitched by mutual consent and with shared organisation. Interestingly, my 32-year-old daughter sees no contradictions here. She’s sitting opposite me at the kitchen table as I write this, so I asked her to explain.
"I’ve never understood why women feel they have to wait for their partner to propose, or tread on eggshells when raising the subject of marriage," she says. "It’s a 100 per cent mutual life decision. But you don’t need to lose the romance. Have the discussion and then agree that one of you will surprise the other down the line. I LOVED James proposing to me in Paris! I LOVED his asking your permission!"
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appMy wife, too, is a lifelong feminist. But that didn’t mean she took offence when I clumsily blurted out, barely three weeks after our first date: “Of course, you realise we’re going to get married, don’t you?”
Not exactly the most romantic of proposals but Judy didn’t feel marginalised because I’d taken the initiative, any more than she did when shortly afterwards I presented her with the ring. All right, I didn’t get down on one knee; I left a paper chase of clues around my flat leading eventually to a china box holding a gold ring mounted with two tiny diamonds and a modest emerald - the best I could afford at the time.
The screw of paper beside it read: “Marry me!”
2020欧洲杯体育足彩外围appReader, she did.