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The day I proposed to my boyfriend

Eleanor Paynter

You know that moment when an idea presents itself in your mind, and no matter what you do to distract yourself, it sticks, creating a new life path that wasn’t there before?

That’s how I felt while riding my bike home from work when the idea to propose to my partner popped into my head.

The thought of surprising the man I love made me giddy with excitement, but also nervous with anticipation of how it might be received by family and friends. The ‘boy meets girl’ scenario doesn’t predict her proposing to him…

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I’d been planning Paul’s 30th for a month. It was November, days were getting longer and Christmas was around the corner.

Paul is unlike anyone I’ve ever met. Endlessly charming, intellectual, funny and polite – he makes every waking minute an adventure of discovery, mixed with humorous delight.

Although I knew I wanted to spend my life with Paul, I’d always had a slight uneasiness about marriage.

It was a combination of a few things, the ownership of a woman being passed from father to husband, the expected name change, and exclusion of LGBTIQ couples partaking in the same celebration.

It occurred to me that my discomfort stemmed from the small amount of directive action on the female’s behalf, alongside the issue of traditional gender roles and expectation. The man asks for the father’s approval. The man proposes to the woman. The father ‘gives the bride away’ to the husband…

The woman is able to steer the ship with a yes or no, but it is not commonplace for her to make the decision of where this ship is off to in the first place.

Don’t get me wrong, I love weddings, engagements, the surprise element of a ring. I squeal with excitement when friends, colleagues, and even strangers tell me of their upcoming nuptials.

Why wouldn’t I want to surprise Paul in the same way? On our very first date, he told me he loved surprises. I took that memory as my catalyst to surprise him with something big.

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There aren’t many ladies proposing to their lads. I did a speedy Google search and found that there are no hard statistics on the subject (there is, however, a WikiHow article on ‘How to Propose to your Boyfriend in 11 steps‘… with pictures!).

I decided to make marriage what I wanted it to be. In the twenty-first century where you can alter and order almost anything online, I decided to create the celebration of love as Paul and I would want it (minus the mail-ordered husband. I already had a perfect one in stock).

I asked Paul’s Mum for her approval; she said “Yes ­- of course!” through a big teary smile. Paul’s Dad was a little more taken aback, but responded with a classic Aussie phrase: “Yeah, righto! Go for it!”

I bought a watch to propose to Paul with, wrote a speech and agonised over what to wear.

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On Saturday 21 January, we held Paul’s 30th birthday celebrations. During the festivities, I read a speech to Paul, and at the end got down on one knee to ask the man of my dreams to marry me. It was hugely nerve-racking, I shook for a good five minutes afterwards. I felt overwhelmed by love, and I was elated with surprising Paul, in one of the biggest ways possible.

Marriage is a commitment to love and cherish, as long as you both shall live… however, parts of this ancient tradition are starting to dilute, changing to include new traditions (wedding Snapchat filters, anyone?). Marriage is evolving, and I look forward to the new formations it takes and supporting whoever is proposing.

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I am glad that this special moment in both our lives shatters one of the glass ceilings regarding gender roles, and fosters development for women to take the lead with untraditional societal roles. However, it is not my key intention; my intention is to marry the man that I love.

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Eleanor Paynter

A digital-marketing-strategic-comms person, Eleanor is a feminist, LGBTIQ ally, and human rights advocate. Studying undergraduate communications, Eleanor has worked for not-for-profit, higher education and cultural institutions, and now studies international relations postgraduate. Devoting her time to a number of projects including the Australian Institute of International Affairs and Canberra’s FASHFEST, Eleanor has provided digital communications support to a wide variety of organisations. A big sister to eight younger siblings, she spends her time in museums, dog parks, and anywhere that serves proper chai lattes.

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