As so many of my posts are, this one is inspired by something I read in the newspaper. This time, it’s an article that originated in the Vancouver Sun, and was borrowed by the Ottawa Citizen. Here’s a link, if you’re interested:
To summarize, simply asking your significant other to marry you is so over. Dinner at a favourite restaurant and a bouquet? Please. A proposal these days demands “flash mobs of dancing strangers, helicopter trips to pristine mountain tops, professional-quality movies that incorporate special effects”. Over-the-top proposals are now the standard, and one ordinary guy in love couldn’t possibly pull one off without help. Enter proposal planners. Now you don’t have to arrange for your one-and-only to be in the perfect place at the perfect time, or wrap your head around details like what colour the blimp should be or what style of sweater the emu should wear as it bounds toward you, marry-me note clenched in its beak. The planner will figure all that out. You don’t have to know how to use the timer on your camera to snap your beaming faces, or hide a video camera in a potted plant. The planner will hire a professional photographer, and a videographer, too. In fact, according to the article, a planner can even tell you exactly what time of day to pop the question so that the lighting in the pictures will be just how you want it! You don’t have to give the moment you ask someone to join you for the rest of your life any thought whatsoever – just outsource it! How romantic.
The existence of proposal planners should come as no surprise. People’s whole lives now are scripted, carefully orchestrated and professionally preserved. There are promoposals. No more boy ringing a doorbell, then shuffling his feet and mumbling something about maybe-kinda-sorta going to prom together. No, he has to beadazzle the girl’s name in three-foot-tall letters on the gym wall. Or he has to get fifty-seven of his friends to shout the invitation to her as she strolls by. No wonder the marriage proposal has to be so lavish, if even a prom invite involves a custom-made cake. Once the engagement has been established, people need engagement photos. No, silly, not a two or three shots of the couple snuggling in sweaters in a park! You need nauseatingly adorable poses. You might even need costumes. And these pictures can’t be taken by just anyone. They have to be professional, because they will probably be featured in a collage for the inevitably opulent wedding. No small gathering of well-wishers in a backyard or simple dinner and cake. How did anyone ever settle for that, when they could rent a ranch and ride off on white horses when it’s all over, or fly everyone to Hawaii and get married on the edge of a volcano?
Then, of course, it’s on to parenthood. Parents-to-be don’t just tell their family and friends about the pregnancy. No, they have to make a pregnancy announcement. This can involve anything from a play-on-words picture like a woman holding a can of Prego spaghetti sauce in front of her still-flat belly to a Youtube video spoofing a popular song. After the promposal, professionally crafted engagement and ludicrous nuptials, that bundle of morning sickness and mood swings is worth it. (As an aside, I’ve noticed that these impending parents are also the ones most likely to say “we’re pregnant”. Ew.) Then, of course, there has to be a gender reveal. No, not just saying it’s a girl or boy when someone asks – we’ve been over this. You have to throw a party and serve pink or blue cake carefully hidden under neutral frosting. You might even have one of your multiple 4D ultrasound images displayed on your sixty-inch television with a red circle around the family jewels (or lack thereof). And don’t forget the pregnancy photo shoot. If you are pregnant, you need a photographer to capture your naked bulbous self frolicking in a bedsheet in black-and-white, because mere candid shots of you living your life pregnant just won’t cut it. If you are not the pregnant partner, you must be captured making a heart with your hands over her bare belly, and also staring in rapture at it.
Baby’s here …. now we can normalize, right? Uh-uh. A picture-a-week with the number of weeks cleverly included is now an expectation, along with a professional photo shoot for the first birthday (if the little one makes it that far without an Easter or Thanksgiving or Halloween session, because a picture of your lil’ punkin in a pumpkin is a must). Perhaps you can hire the same photographer you had for your promposal, engagement shoot, wedding day, pregnancy announcement, gender reveal and pregnancy shoot. You’re probably on a first-name basis with him or her anyway. If you play your cards right, you can develop such a long-lasting relationship with this professional memory-capturer that he or she will do your first-week-in-a-retirement-home for half-price! The next round of pics I expect to see are the back-to-school ones. I will take one of my own daughters, backpacks packed, probably on our front steps, or in the driveway. Maybe even in front of their school. I’m doing it all wrong, though, again. I don’t have slates prepared for them with their age, grade, likes and dislikes scribbled on them. There won’t be a stack of leather-bound, gold-leaf textbooks, the likes of which no modern student will ever use, or even a shiny red apple for them to clutch. Just the two of them, with their proud, optimistic smiles, side-by-side and heading out on their next adventure. That’s really what I want to remember, that’s all I need.
There’s nothing wrong with taking pictures and making videos, with the desire to hold a moment still and burn it into your memory because it is so precious. I love taking pictures. I love looking at pictures. I love sharing pictures – I’ve no doubt I bore some people to tears with my pictures. I love watching our blurry, choppy vacation videos. So much of life is special and deserves to be commemorated. There’s nothing wrong with putting a few extra details or some serious thought into how we want things to go. But I question the level of commemoration that’s so common these days, and what it’s really for – and what’s lost in all the scripting and sculpting. How can the rest of your life possibly stack up to seeing your name spelled in Christmas lights on your garage door in a bid for your presence at a highschool dance? Is it really love if a person is waiting on popping the question in order to set and capture the perfect scene? Are pregnancies, babies and children people or PR for their parents and grandparents? Whatever happened to winging it? To throwing caution to the wind? To being filled with messy, unpredictable, overflowing feelings? To simply being ourselves? Where’s the heart in the meticulous way people now plan, execute and curate heartfelt moments?