THE BLOG
09/25/2013 04:56 pm ET Updated Nov 25, 2013

'300 Sandwiches' Starring Stephanie Smith, Katherine Heigl and a Misguided Concept of Happily Ever After

A successful and beautiful career woman is slowly poisoning her boyfriend with artisanal sandwiches and/or has willfully chosen to be the long-term punchline of every chauvinist troll's favorite sexist joke, according to the New York Post.

Page Six senior reporter Stephanie Smith has revealed herself as the writer behind a blog called "300 Sandwiches," of which her titular mission involves placing edible things between pieces of bread 300 times in exchange for an engagement ring.

Smith explains her mission with a delightfully misogynistic anecdote:

My boyfriend, Eric, is the gourmet cook in our relationship, but he'd always want me to make him a sandwich.

Each morning, he would ask, "Honey, how long you have been awake?"

"About 15 minutes," I'd reply.

"You've been up for 15 minutes and you haven't made me a sandwich?"

It all started with one such sandwich. Stephanie did such a wonderful job at putting the thing between pieces of bread that Eric set a little goal for her. "Honey," he said, "You're 300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring!" And Stephanie took that very literally and created the aforementioned blog in order to earn herself a diamond. And then she lived happy ever after unleashed the Internet's collective rage and confusion.

This all sounds ridiculous, right? So absurd it could be "Buzzfeed performance art," or perhaps a hyper-complex marketing for an upcoming cookbook or Katherine Heigl film. Yet, it's merged its way into today's conversation, and mere hours after the criticism began, it's beginning to feel like we're trolling ourselves.

The Guardian's Andy Fitzgerald attempted to frame Smith's marital initiative as a complex issue, leaving the facts up for debate, he created an open thread asking readers: "Is this legitimate romance or the worst of sexism?"

Is there even a question? The whole seems too tragically flawed to even bother criticizing. Although, perhaps a better inquiry would be whether Smith's goals are more nuanced than "earning" the right to be wife material. "Look what we got!" she titles a post proclaiming featuring a set of china. "'Well, that's one thing we can cross off the registry,' E told me. He said REGISTRY. As in, WEDDING REGISTRY."

So, just to be clear, Andy Fitzgerald: It's the worst kind of sexist.

Although, like I said, calling that out is almost too easy [insert irreverent explanation of entitlement and submission here]. What is more interestingly problematic about "300 Sandwiches" is the fact that (albeit in a very extreme way) Smith's effort is simply an extension of the all-too-common practice of waiting for a man to propose... and having absolutely no agency in the decision.

That is not crazy or too easy to criticize. That is standard procedure.

Even strong and confident career women, whose marital goal aspires to a relationship based in equality, often wait for the "romantic ideal" of a man surprising her with a proposal. Of course, when we are talking about heterosexual marriage, there is no such thing as a simple, clear-cut, feminist way of doing things. Marriage itself is a patriarchal institution. [Something about the history of feudalism. Blah blah blah.]

The idea of sitting down and discussing the prospect of matrimony as an informed decision calculated by both partners does not seem particularly romantic, now does it? It's almost taboo. Our culture is embedded with this fairy tale ideal, the amalgamation of which amounts to some confused combination of getting down on one knee, unexpected trips to Tiffany's and the choking hazard that is plopping a diamond in her glass of champagne.

I'm not saying that stuff is not romantic. Au contraire -- all that stuff is quite literally as romantic as it gets! It's this concept of "romantic" that formulates the problem in the first place. In the modern sense of the word, it is still quite often a euphemism for the sort of "chivalrous" behavior that elicits benevolent sexism. So, you'd be right in thinking a formal discussion about the prospect of marriage is less than romantic ... but that's kind of the point.

I am sure I will be called "bitter" once again as a result of this article, but I'm perfectly fine with that, because I am far from it. My boyfriend and I are so very annoyingly love that a drinking game based on the number of times we call each other "sugar bee" would lead to alcohol poisoning within the hour. We sometimes sit on the same side of the table when we go out to eat, and have entire weekends as dedicated "cuddle-cations." But when we are financially and emotionally prepared to commit to each other for eternity, we are going to un-romantically sit down and talk about it first. It seems ridiculous not to.

To be clear, I am not proposing that men stop proposing or that only women do the proposing or anything so radical as that. Instead, I am suggesting that the kind of proposal that will lead to a happy and healthy relationship should involve both interested parties. And that shouldn't be a crazy idea. Honestly, given the complex legal aspects involved with marriage and high divorce rates that often follow, none of this stuff should ever be executed as a surprise... but I've done enough work dismantling the fluffy idealization of romance for one day.

Of course, making 300 sandwiches to earn a ring is completely preposterous, but the real issue here is that men have all the stake in initiating marriage. "Ever after" should absolutely be lived out happily, but it should also be free of entitlement and submission. I'm still hoping for a fairy tale, but my version is a bit more egalitarian.

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