Quick, what comes to mind when you think of a marriage proposal? Probably a man on bended knee. Well, now you need to add a lady doing squats to that image of betrothal bliss. Because the new trend out there is something called “proposal shape.” Yes, that’s right: Before you’re a shredded bride, you now need to be a fit fiancée.
It’s no longer enough to be skinny when you say “I do.” A number of today’s women are pressuring themselves to be hard-bodied by the time they say “Yes.” As in, “Yes, I’ll marry you! Just let me do a few burpees before we take a selfie so I can tighten my glutes in this fantastically new, flattering bodycon dress I happened to throw on even though I had absolutely no idea you were going to propose this evening! Hold my kettlebell.”
Proposal shape is a tight and curvy metaphor for how out of whack our expectations of the whole wedding process are and the ridiculous pressure women place on themselves during the whole bridal experience. Girlfriends who are pre-fiancées—let’s call them “preancées”—are spending big bucks to hire trainers and take extra core fusion and yoga classes to achieve what they perceive as an engagement-ready BMI.
I have strong suspicions that a man who wants to ask his girlfriend to spend the rest of their lives together truly doesn’t care—and may not even notice—if she’s dropped five pounds in anticipation. It’s safe to say that a woman focused on getting into proposal shape is doing it for herself. I think I can speak for most women when I say we’re excellent at convincing ourselves we need to alter the way we look in order to be worthy of a milestone. The girlfriend furiously attaining proposal shape thinks she’s not enough, or, rather, in the case of her body, is too much.
And maybe, just maybe, she’s thinking of her followers on social media. As a married lady (married twice, in fact), I’m relieved that my engagements took place before I was on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. I’m in my 40s, and I got married and became a mother in my 40s, and I’m astonished by the compulsion brides have today to make every step of their relationship journey public. Not just public, but attractive, shiny, and filtered to perfection.
I’ve always thought the romance of a proposal comes from its intimacy, not from any kind of dramatic ring reveal or surprise wrangling of family and friends. Something about that life-changing promise to each other wants to be quiet and shouldn't call for spectacle—including a spectacular body, no matter how hard-won.
Granted, there are those who want to drop weight and bolster strength for health reasons, which is a laudable goal. When you’re headed to the altar (or chuppah or courthouse) to vow to love each other “in sickness and in health,” you really want to tip the scales toward the health side for a long, happy life together. Those well-meaning preancées (and preancés, for that matter) aside, it’s the superficiality of the proposal shape quest that can get one’s athleisure in a wad. It dramatizes a lack of perspective on what really matters at a special time of your life. It’s a focus on selfies rather than “us-ies.”
Look, I understand wanting to feel beautiful when someone pops the question. When my husband proposed to me, I’d just had a miscarriage. I was slightly fleshier than I wanted to be, and both my body and heart were raw and vulnerable. But when I see the photo a Roman nun took of us in front of the fountain where we got engaged (no bended knee, just equal footing), all I see are our smiles. My proposal shape was happy and grateful.
Faith Salie is the author of the memoir Approval Junkie.