The Marriage Proposal Challenge aimed to bring out the best, the worst, the weirdest in your romantic souls. It didn't. We had a ton of entries, and some were excellent, but not enough made the cut to have ten prizes, so I'm only awarding seven lots of chocs and signed copies of The Matchmaker of Kenmare, and I'll eat the other three boxes of chocolates myself!
To be serious: I was puzzled by the entries for this Challenge. Expecting fun, I got edge. Expecting profound and lasting passion, I got wistfulness. Expecting mad, heart-savaging recklessness, I got a kind of "perhaps." As the entries came in, we all looked at them, wrinkling our brows. A moment came when I felt that maybe I had struck a wrong note by setting up the Challenge at all, had trod on too-delicate a ground, or else hadn't made myself clear - because entry after entry hung back. The seven winners did go for it – but only somewhat, as you'll see, and I worried further about what had gone wrong. Over all the entries, I pursued a conclusion along these lines.
Proposing marriage is too serious a business to warrant jokes. Asking someone to marry you is too alarming to be weird about. Going down on one knee and meaning 'til death us do part is too deep to treat lightly. I pushed these thoughts and saw the two camps materialize. For the men who, by and large, are the still the ones who pop the question, the implied responsibility becomes massive, and further confused in the moment by the need - and desire - to appear truly romantic. For the women, the anxiety is differently great: Will he, won't he? Will I be alone for ever? And if he does propose, will he screw it up by falling over, sneezing, throwing up or showing up with flowers that I hate and a ring that I loathe?
In short, proposing marriage occupies an anxious place in life, and that's putting it mildly. But your generous efforts (several of you sent in multiple ideas) startled and illuminated me. Thank you all – again – for being such good sports. Next time I'll keep away from matters of the heart - and from joint finances, which also cropped up a lot!