October 24, 2013
What's even sadder is that I already had this picture on file (Evan Agostini/Associated Press)
What’s even sadder is t (Evan Agostini/Associated Press)

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man, in possession of good fortune and the Greatest Artistic Genius And Mind Of All Time — ALL TIME — must be in want of a Kardashian. Now Miss Kardashian and Mr. West, after years of friendship, a brief courtship, and a child, are now embarked upon the voyage of matrimony. While initially Kim was worried about dating Kanye on the grounds that it was weird to be stared at lovingly by something that wasn’t a camera, and Kanye was unnerved on the grounds that he was already in a lifelong romance with the most brilliant and attractive person alive — himself — they managed to struggle through these differences and come out stronger as a couple. It is not what is outside that matters. That could change tomorrow. There is plastic surgery for that. What matters is what is within the resilient neoprene and silicone shell that encases your beloved. Beauty fades and love disappears, but that ego will always be there.

I am sorry. I don’t mean to be cynical. I know Kanye has deep emotions. Any man who is on the record as having written an entire album to convey his love for a lamp clearly has deep feelings.

He proposed to Miss Kardashian by using a traditional, understated method: Renting out a ballpark to use its Jumbotron, and getting a 50-piece orchestra to play Lana Del Rey (and, naturally, one of his own songs.) Great. Wonderful.

Now can we stop these extravaganzas?

This is as good a time as any to beg that we put the kibosh on the Big Public Proposal craze that has been sweeping the nation. Kim and Kanye did it. You don’t have to. Every reason that it made sense for them is a reason it does not make sense for you.

I get that, for as long as there has been romance, people have been feeling the need to make large public gestures that might be ill-received. In fact, Kim and Kanye went the traditional route, opting for the Jumbotron proposal over the carefully choreographed viral YouTube proposal. This isn’t one of those crotchety Back In My Day We Proposed Quietly And Traditionally With Minimal Fuss By Giving Six Goats To The Bride’s Father And Nobody Was The Wiser complaints. Such public splashes have their history.

Before the Jumbotron, there was the court minstrel who stopped everyone in the middle of the feast and dedicated his new cover of Greensleeves to you, and then you tried to run out of the feasting hall in embarrassment but it turned out your father had already promised you to him and so you had to act flattered. And before that there was the guy who showed up at your cave with a giant mammoth and a parade of all your best clan-friends with a special engraved club that he was going to use to drag you back to his cave if you gave your consent, and then you said no, and he had to drag the mammoth all the way back home and eat it alone, cold, staring at lewd cave drawings his friends had scratched on the wall to cheer him up. (I may have put too much thought into these scenarios.)

Viral proposals are a relatively recent innovation (and there’s tons of them). You would think that, after almost every one inspires the comment, “Wow, it would be terrifying to be put on the spot like that!” someone might stop. But the impulse seems too deeply rooted. Before, you had to be rich enough to afford an elephant procession, or at least capable of writing a really good sonnet, in order to make this kind of public display. Now anyone with a smartphone can do it. But that doesn’t mean you should. Generally the splashier the display, the less it is about its intended recipient. The fact that Kanye did it should suggest as much.

I understand that one man’s Completely Mortifying Public Display is another’s Powerful Romantic Gesture. But for every UpWorthy-worthy Video Where You Climb On Top Of A Bus With All Your Best Friends And Propose To Your Girlfriend And See, You Were A Romantic After All, there are a dozen or more ways that this can go horribly, painfully wrong. Here are just five. They are uncomfortable to watch, even when they go well, and especially when there is choreography. If you are already so certain that the other party will say yes that you are willing to involve all your friends and family in a giant, elaborate dance, then save it for the walk down the aisle.

The Kimye case is a good example of the only situation that a public Jumbotron proposal makes actual sense. Who likes being put on the spot about something deeply personal, in the face of cameras and a cheering crowd? Kim and Kanye. That’s who. Don’t do it, everyone else.

Alexandra Petri writes the ComPost blog, offering a lighter take on the news and opinions of the day.