As a non-profit organisation, we regularly look out for journalists requests that offer opportunities to tell people about what we do. A few weeks ago we received requests for women who planned to propose to their partner on February 29 (that’s today), traditionally the day when women are 'allowed' to turn the tables and propose to their partners.
We’re here to say, the tables have already turned. And mainstream media needs to catch up. In an age when you can ask someone who identifies as the same sex as you to marry you, marry in space or in a shark tank, marry yourself, or choose not to marry at all, we think it’s time to do away with the antiquated notion of ‘special days’ when a woman can ask a man to marry them.
The leap day proposal is thought to originate in 5th century Ireland, when an Irish nun called St Bridget complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for their suitors to propose. Patrick declared women could ask men to marry them on the leap day. Cheers, Pat.
Cosmology PHD student, Lucy Clerkin asked her partner, Mischa to marry her in 2015. She didn’t need a leap day to do it. We talked to her about the happy moment.
How did you know you wanted to propose to Mischa?
I guess I’ve always been a bit non-conformist and feminist, and I’d been thinking about it for a year or so. The whole proposal subject is a weird thing: you end up talking about it indirectly when planning for the future, and there’s all this unspoken stuff about it being the guy’s responsibility. It’s a bit of a charade - a nice charade, but it’s silly it ‘has’ to be that way. I loved the idea of doing it the other way around. I dallied for a bit but when I suspected Mischa might be planning something I realised I really wanted to get in there first!
How did you propose?
I’m a student so didn’t have the means to do something wildly extravagant, so focused on thoughtful. He loves the St Pancras Hotel building and I found you can rent the apartment in the clocktower through AirBnB. I convinced him we were going to a secret cocktail bar at the hotel, which he swallowed until we got inside then freaked out slightly and wanted to know what was going on. I had a bottle of his favourite champagne on ice on the grand piano, which elicited more demands to know what was going on - a completely reasonable reaction, but I hadn’t planned for it so just kind of ploughed, ignored the questions and cracked it open. I’d made a little lego diorama thing depicting Intergalactic girl (me) proposing to Batman (his hero) which I gave to him. While he was unwrapping it, I got down on one knee, whipped out a box with a diamond nose stud I’d commissioned, and asked him to marry me. I was ridiculously nervous, which I hadn’t expected, but yeah - was properly shaking!
What was Mischa’s reaction (besides the obvious, yes)?
First thing he did was laugh. I am quite a lot shorter than Mischa so he was kind of towering over me. He pulled me up and kissed me and said “yes of course!”. Then he looked kind of panicked and said “I’m so sorry, was I supposed to ask you?”, so I reassured him that I just really wanted to ask him. We finished the champagne while it all sank in, then headed out for cocktails and dinner.
Did you experience any negative or challenging reactions to the proposal?
Before proposing I brought up the concept of women proposing with friends. Even some of my more feisty female friends thought it would be emasculating, or that their other half would have hated it, which made me question my plans. I didn’t care about other peoples’ reactions but didn’t want to upset Mischa. He is incredibly chilled about pretty much everything, and as expected was very cool about the proposal, but I think his reaction of ‘oh damn, was I supposed to do this first?’ is unavoidable because of the ingrained social norms - which is a shame.
I had asked his mum and sister (his dad passed away a few years ago) for their blessing. I waited til the day before as his mum would’ve been too excited to keep the secret any longer. I reassured her we’d always be there for her and she was really happy. His sister was super happy too and cried, and I cried, and it was all really sweet - glad I decided to do that bit.
Our friends were all really excited about the news, and I still get high fives from people I’ve never met who Mischa’s told - particularly women. Mischa also got high fives from male friends for being off the hook on having to organise anything! The only annoying comments, like assuming I’d got bored of waiting for him to ask, or was it a leap year, were from people we didn’t really know and generally older generations.
What advice would you give to anyone thinking of proposing to their partner?
It’s difficult to give advice as it’s really personal to your relationship. It’s definitely not for everyone, but hopefully you know the person you want to marry well enough to decide! Would your guy be put out? But absolutely equally, if you want to do it, would you regret not going for it? If you do go for it, remember it’s not the extravagant gestures but the thoughtful things. Mischa really loved the Lego thing - I could have just given it to him at home!
Whatever you decide, just enjoy it. It’s such a big, happy, emotional event. And I had so much fun planning it. I hope that it’s something in the future that more women feel able to do if they want to, because it’s such an awesome thing!
Thanks Lucy! Wishing you and your family lots of love and happiness.