In the run up to Valentine's Day, many jewelry companies are resurrecting the ads they ran during the Christmas season. You know the ones I'm talking about: the one where the couple is strolling past the café where they had their first date, or the stoop where they shared their first kiss, and then create a new landmark when the boyfriend gets down on one knee with a very expensive, very shiny object, and is transformed from boyfriend into fiancé? Or the one where the guy ties a string to his sleeping girlfriend's hand, sneaks onto the roof of the building across the road, runs the ring down the string and proposes on a post-it? At Newark Airport, that kind of romantic gesture will get hundreds of flights grounded and land you in police custody. On TV, a proposal isn't even official unless you break and enter, at the very least.
If TV commercials, especially the kind that are screened around Valentine's Day, have taught me anything, it's that proposing marriage needs to be a big outlandish spectacle, the climax of which is a big outlandish sparkly diamond. On Valentine's Day, the Beatles are wrong: money can buy you love, and you can buy it in chocolate, greeting card, flower or lingerie form. But nothing is more romantic, we're told, than proposing to your loved one on Valentine's Day (and by loved one, I mean girlfriend, because when was the last time you saw a diamond commercial where a woman proposes to a man, or where a gay couple gets engaged?).
The message men hear around this time of year is that proposing on Valentine's Day would be a really great idea. But here's the thing. After the proposal comes the wedding, which also, by the way, barely counts unless it's a big outlandish spectacle (there are also more required sparkly things). And after the wedding comes being married. And being married, as television advertising has taught us, is sheer hell.
Don't believe me? Just ask the men of the 2010 Superbowl commercials. Downtrodden, miserably married, henpecked by their insufferable nagging wives, these men can fight back only by buying stuff: pants, cars, Snickers bars, whatever it takes to rekindle some of the joy and manliness they felt when they were single and their lives weren't totally miserable.
Perhaps the most egregious example of the "marriage will ruin your life and destroy your manhood" Superbowl commercial was the one for Dodge Charger, titled "Man's Last Stand." The men in this commercial are domesticated, emasculated by their wives, who make them do unmanly things like shaving and eating fruit. The Dodge Charger man is forced to be civil to his mother-in-law (you know, that bitch who raised you), and to answer the phone when you call (why the hell would he want to talk to his wife?). He is defeated and neutered. He's barely even a man anymore: he carries your lip balm for you, for god's sake! Thank goodness he has the Dodge Charger to save him from his lifelong feminized hell. "Because I do all this" - because I do pansy things like put my dirty underwear in the hamper like a hygienic adult - "I will drive the car I want to drive." The Dodge Charger man is a real man. The Dodge Charger man draws the line at including his wife in the decision of how to spend upwards of $25, 000 of family money. Screw you women and your "equal partnership!"
Sure, guys, you might love your girlfriend now, and you might believe that this Valentine's Day is the perfect time to go out and buy that diamond ring. You might be excited to plan your trespassing-in-the-name-of-romance proposal this week. But don't let the Zales commercials fool you. Once you propose, you have to get married. Once you get married, you won't be a real man any more, and it will be all your wife's fault. And you will hate her for it. You'll hate her, and her mother and her girlfriends, too. You will hate those women so much that commercials like the Dodge Charger one will speak to you. You will identify with the men in those commercials because you, like men everywhere who are stripped of their manhood by being forced to listen when their wives speak to them, feel their pain.
So this Valentine's Day, whatever you do, don't propose to your girlfriend. Because as much as women love sparkly things (and we all do; it's just biology), we don't love the knowledge that our life partners secretly hate us. Just as no man wants to spend his life with a soul-crushing, manhood-stealing harpy, no woman wants to spend her life with a resentful misogynist. If you don't want to be with us, we don't want to be with you either. If you secretly hate it, then you shouldn't put a ring on it.