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  • Making the Private Public

    Posted by Jonathan on February 15th, 2005 (All posts by )

    Ann Althouse disapproves of a politician who made a big public show of his marriage ceremony. “No word on how the wife liked having her private feelings turned into a giant political display.” That’s one way to look at it.

    I never understood why women put up with men who put them on the spot by proposing marriage in front of large audiences. I assume that the men, by making their intentions public, and risking public rejection, think that they are declaring their love in a profound and courageous way, and they may have a point. But there is also something tactless and manipulative about such proposals, which are usually made in private for the same reasons that sensitive proposals of all kinds are usually made in private. Or maybe the women in these cases have already agreed privately, and are going along with the public show because it furthers their men’s (and hence, as partners, their) agendas.

    I once saw a plane at the beach, pulling a banner that read something like:


    and followed an hour or two later by another plane (or maybe the same one) whose banner read:



    10 Responses to “Making the Private Public”

    1. incognito Says:


    2. Jonathan Says:

      Yeah. And maybe the whole thing was a joke. Didn’t look like one, though.

    3. Ralf Goergens Says:

      Alpha males know to keep private matters private.

    4. Steve Says:

      I figure if the lady loves him, she shouldn’t mind. Maybe it’s not a bad system after all.

      For the suspenseful moments before she answers his public proposal, there is a razor-sharp balance of power between the man and woman.

      For those seconds, she holds all his pride in her hands. She, he and the wedding party, all know the damage that her refusal could do to his most important possession: his prestige.

      And he controls her credibility. By proposing publicly, he puts to her a public test and her response will reveal all. Were all her prior, public affections towards him fake, or real?

      The longest seconds of any guy’s life!

    5. Progressive Reaction Says:


      Hey, David – follow this link. But first grab a barf-bag. More at Chicagoboyz. (And good on Sue!)…

    6. Ginny Says:

      Jonathan, I don’t at all disagree with you in specifics. Those p0ublic proposals always seemed to me to be manipulative. (Actually I come from the wedding in the living room, nuclear family style – getting used to the big Czech polka fests has not been something with which i’m comfortable – though I did like my daughter looking beautiful with her new elegant husband leading the wedding march.
      Nonetheless, I would like to say that when we talked to the minister at the time of our marriage – in the anything goes seventies – we tried to explain that we saw marriage in nineteenth century terms, in which we as a couple were joining the community of adults, that we were committed to each other in the sight of the community, that the chldren born of that union would be our responsibility and part of our responsibility would be to raise them as productive, ethical, loving members of that community. We may have not reached this goal, we may fail in many ways in the future, but to me that was always part of what marriage was. It is central to most communities. Our religions were not ones that saw it as a sacrament, but it was, at least in part, a sacramental rite.

      In the end, I guess, wht I’m saying is that I don’t think marriage is just private – I think society has some role in marriage and that a couple has responsibility toward society. I don’t have a lot of problems with Bush encouraging marriage – I think it makes people happier but it also leads to a more productive society. In the end, as long as people out there think that the government needs to be the husband,society has a stake in encouraging others to take that role. And frankly if tomorrow a breeze passed across America and all those government programs disappeared, society would still be expected to take up that slack. And it would appear in multiple wasys – from the dysfunctional kid in the classroom that makes learning difficult to the kid that shows up on your doorstep because a parent threw him out.

      It is Benjamin Franklin time – this is prsagmatism.

    7. dick Says:


      What you said was so powerful in its meaning that we can even overlook the way you spelled pragmatism.

      It is wonderful to hear someone say these things. I came from a small midwestern town where marriage really means the whole megillah. I have always believed that and when I look around at the people who can get married 4 or 5 times and it seems to meand nothing to them at all other than a couple of words they forget immediately after the ceremony, the old ways to me seem the best ways.

    8. Jonathan Says:

      Ginny, I agree with you. There are many more stakeholders in a marriage than just the bride and groom, and there is nothing wrong with celebrating a marriage publicly.

      My point was different. A marriage is a contract. One may announce and celebrate a contract publicly but one usually negotiates it privately. To confound the announcement and the negotiation, as these public marriage proposals (if they are real) do, strikes me as unseemly and manipulative.

    9. Ginny Says:

      Yes of course – I agree with both of you.

    10. Robert Schwartz Says:

      The political wife who really made me cringe was Gov. McGreevy’s wife, who had to stand there and smile while he outed himself as a “gay American” and as a man who had cheated on her. Her family is old world, Canary Islanders. I can only hope that her male relatives blot out this shame in the right way, not like some crazy Jordainian.