Before I started doing research for this article about leap-year proposals and its accompanying postcard slide show, I had never heard of the tradition of women proposing to men on leap day. But I was ignorant only by virtue of my nationality—as I mention in the article, the tradition still enjoys some popularity in the U.K.
However, I had no idea that the tradition is truly thriving across the pond until this morning, when I received a press release from a London publicist who’d commissioned “a tongue-in-cheek survey” on behalf of Chevrolet U.K. about leap-year proposals. Much like leap-year postcards from 100 years ago, the press release was a grab bag of unfortunate gender stereotypes that basically boil down to the idea that romantic relationships are a constant battle between marriage-crazed women and freedom-loving men.
Among the helpful data points I learned from Chevrolet U.K. (all, no doubt, scientifically rigorous and peer-reviewed) was the following:
When asked why they will be proposing, astonishingly, more than half (51%) of women aged between 25 and 44 said it’s because their man will never get round to doing it, himself. While more than one in ten (12%) say they’d do it because their friends are married and they don’t want to be left on the shelf.
Anything but being left on the shelf! Actually, if we’re going to continue to compare single women to commodities, can we at least update our lingo a little bit to keep pace with our changing shopping habits? How about “their friends are married and they don’t want to be left out of the Amazon shopping cart”?
But the fact that a woman’s life apparently has no meaning until a man deigns to marry her was less interesting than one of the regional trends I learned about Brits:
To land the hand of a man in Scotland, you may need to wear trainers …. One-in-five Scotsmen (21 percent) would rather run a mile than say 'yes' if their girlfriend proposed on February 29.
Just imagine—a whole mile! Sounds like those rakish Scottish bachelors would do anything to avoid settling down. Although I wonder how the designers of this survey settled on this false dichotomy over the millions of other arbitrary options they could have given. (Would you rather marry your girlfriend or do a somersault? Marry your girlfriend or brush your teeth? Cake or death?)
Chevrolet also asked men where they would most prefer to be proposed to by their girlfriends. One respondent suggested “in the bedroom” and added (just in case the connotations of that room are too subtle) “pre- or post-coitus.” This suggestion is exceedingly romantic compared to a couple of alternatives: One man’s recommended proposal location was “on a sky diving trip with only one parachute,” while another said his girlfriend should propose “on the edge of a cliff so I could push her over it.”
So it would appear that we’ve gone from suggesting that a man would say yes to a proposing women only under threat of death to suggesting that any woman who proposes to her boyfriend deserves to be murdered. I guess this is what passes for progress.