We’ve all seen the jewelry store commercials where the guy and the girl are walking along and she’s thinking maybe he will propose or this is the day when love will find it’s way onto my ring finger and before he knows it is down on one knee and he says, Will you? and then she says Will I what? and then he says help me up because I was just tying my shoe in a knot and she’s like, You’re the worst I’ve go because time is ticking and I don’t know if these ovaries are drying up inside of me.
But I know my love is.
Wait that’s not how the story was supposed to end.
According to a recent survey conducted by the knot.com and Men’s Health magazine, 76% of dudes think that you should get down on one knee to propose when you pop the question.
Please don’t pop the question, it shouldn’t be a surprise, it should really be the end product of a series of conversations that two people have had about starting a life together.
So how did this tradition start? We don’t know.
I scoured my scholarly internet sources, consulted the Ask an Historian subreddit and turned to the hard copy ‘Marriage, a Brief History’ by Stepanie Coontz and you know what I came up with? Nothing! No one seems to know who was the first guy to do this and why the tradition started but we do know a few things.
First of all in the 18th century marriage under went a massive cultural shift away from arranged couples to couples that got together because they might have been actually attracted to each other.
Along with that there was a domestic shift of men as overseer of household labor to men as provider.
So we can see how this structure of guy getting down on one knee to present a ring that he may or may not have bought himself to the woman could be starting to take shape.
As for the whole getting down on one knee when we propose. That probably has to do with the long, long, long tradition of genuflection which goes all the way back to ancient Greece when Alexander the Great imported it from the Middle Eastern custom of proskynesis to show one’s respect, humility and subordination.
Really when guys get down on one knee it’s saying listen lady, I am humbling myself to you to chose me.
And in talking about why straight men still do a vast majority of the marriage proposing, Stephanie Coontz thinks that it has to do with how we’ve culturally elevated that moment of a guy getting down on one knee to be the pinnacle of romantic gesture when we propose because of how it starkly contrasts the kind of posture we expect from masculinity to be upright, tough, strong and rigid.
Not vulnerable, down on one knee and proffering one self to someone else.
But I so wish we knew the guy who started this tradition in the same way that Queen Victoria started the white wedding gown tradition because dude, you’ve got some explaining to do.
Was it courtly love, did you trip and fall, was she just kind of short so you wanted to be on eye-level with her, you know? We can only guess.