Last night, anyone who uses the baby-proofed blogging platform Tumblr (now with fewer edges!) noticed that the upper-third of their “dashboard” had been taken over with a banner reading “Marissa Nystrom, will you marry me?” and below that was a post by a Justin Johnson, a user most people probably did not know and were not subscribed to, which included Justin’s video proposal to Marissa (above). AWWWWWWWW. KIND OF. I mean, everyone is entitled to finding some happiness in this world, or whatever, and it takes an actual capital-M Monster to be completely enraged and pessimistic about a young couple just starting to make their way in the world. As far as I am concerned, there is still a certain romance and a certain hopefulness left in the institution of marriage. If you do it right, it looks nice! I’m not, for example, a person who thinks that marriage is an outdated system of wealth consolidation and patriarchal hegemony. Some people believe that, and that is fine, too. I bet those people are even more bothered by this than I am. Oh, because make no mistake, I am very bothered by this!

For one thing, KEEP IT TO YOURSELF! We don’t need to see this. I am sure that if you were able to work it out with Tumblr to have this plastered all over everyone’s computer screen, you could have worked it out with Tumblr to have this plastered all over just her computer screen. I’ve never understood the need for a public proposal. You get down on one knee in a fancy restaurant, or on top of the Eiffel Tower in front of a crowd of tourists, or whatever other boring idea you’ve decided to use as the foundation for the rest of your life–fine. Intimate crowds of strangers…proves you are really in love? Whatever! But baseball game scoreboards and airplanes with streaming banners, all just as boring as the small-bore public proposals and just as thoughtless, have the added indignity of being extroverted and showboaty, and contrary to the whole point of your fucking proposal. This is your guys’s thing, not our thing. Remember that. It will always be true now!

But the thing that bothers me the most about these stunts is that in this day and age they just feel like blatant, aggressive attempts to get on the morning talk shows, and maybe a coffee table book of hilarious proposals, or a movie on TLC. That is what happens to elaborate, very-public stunt proposals (and choreographed Chris Brown processional dances). We know that. These guys definitely know that. “Oh my God, we never thought that it would have this kind of response.” Right. Of course, maybe that is part of the “finding your happiness” thing. Maybe your guys’s love is not strong enough to just do its own thing, maybe it has to do everyone’s thing. Maybe getting validation from hundreds to thousands to tens of thousands to hundreds of thousands to millions of strangers is part of it for you. Maybe the tiny seed of existential lack that sits in the middle of your heart with the weight of a collapsed star can only be filled by external reinforcements that you are special, and that your upcoming marriage has meaning because if it didn’t why would Meredith Vieira have you on her show and say that it did?

But you see how that’s gross, right? And kind of antithetical to the intimacy and self-reinforcement of a meaningful relationship? I mean, I hope that everything works out, but I hope your marriage isn’t going to be like this. All up in my face all the time. All desperate and forced and aggressively “charming.” Good luck with your wedding, though, and I hope the Marissa and Justin merch table is a hit. T-shirts! Commemorative t-shirts for sale!

ADDENDUM: Actually, there’s also a certain amount of cowardice in every public proposal, small- and large-bore, because you’re basically forcing the other person’s hand by making it (at least to some degree) harder for them to “cause a scene” or say no out of nervousness and embarrassment. I am just saying! Don’t you want to start your new life as a brave man? A hero?!

Comments (86)
  1. His video looks like he is aspiring to be a videographer or some such.
    51% divorce rate?

  2. certainly you have a point, gabe, but ahh! you must be in such a bad mood this morning!

    • Actually, I started a post saying most of the same things last week, but the video I was using as a reference was too old. As it turns out, I am in a perfectly good mood, and I simply have a consistency in the way that I think and feel about things!

  3. Not to get all seriousgum here, but for me the perfect proposal is just you and your other, together AND ALONE in a place that means something to both of you. You take their hands, tell them you love them, then pull out the ring and ask. Its one of the most intimate moments you will ever share, and you don’t have to worry about them saying “no” in front of a crowd.

    • I usually assume that a public proposal like at the ballpark or something is pre-arranged. Or at least that she’s already agreed to marry him but then he said he’d do some sort of surprise proposal to make it special. I don’t think there’s necessarily one specific way to propose. Each couple is different! Creativity is cool, too, but a public proposal is almost always tacky and uncomfortable for every single person, including the couple and especially including the strangers.

  4. This guy is obviously violating the mission statement of Videogum Everywhere.

  5. I wouldn’t be shocked if this is marketing for a new web series or something.

  6. My girlfriend still hasn’t replied to my proposal I got posted on hotbot.com.

  7. FAAAAKE!

    Or maybe I’m just jealous of anybody in a successful relationship. That seems more likely.

    • Like the three jealous hurricanes that failed to kill them!

      Am I the only one who thinks this looks waaaaaay too picture perfect? Like the girl looks just a little too beautiful and expressive and that dude’s voice is just a wee bit too perfectly modulated? Translated: I’m not buying this for a minute.

  8. Alright, I’m going to be Professor Disagreeable here (is that how that joke works?),
    I take your point, it’s very cute, and the tumblr nation doesn’t care as much as they do, or care at all. But he obviously wanted to do something special, and as far as we know, so did she. Maybe it was cowardly, but maybe not. I think there’s room for benefit of the doubt. But either way, I don’t think anyone was really inconvenienced by this. And marriage proposals are generally positive things. anything to counter balance content like “cake farts” and that creepy posing horse-man, are fine by me.

  9. as an elderly person probably about the same age as Gabe I have to agree that this “everything in my life is everybody’s business, i’m fine and progressive and open about sharing everything because everything is acceptable and happy” mentality really freaks me out and makes me long for the days of mixtapes and xeroxed, stapled fanzines. but even then i guess people were probably proposing in the classifieds.

  10. He already has a video of their first week together. Now the proposal. Safe to say, his marriage will be all up in your face. Sorry, Gabe.

  11. I’m all for the big romantic gesture proposals. It’s a great story to tell the kids and be passed down through the family. This is much better (read: more tasteful) than any video game proposal I’ve seen.

  12. Good point. Great read. And other pats on the back….
    BUT, you do realize that these people probably have this whole thing on Google Alerts and will read this, right?
    They ARE real people and this really is the way they’ve chosen to become engaged. But, I suppose in making such a spectacle of themselves they understood that there was a chance they’d also be exposing themselves to criticism and ridicule.
    But still… DAMN, GABE. That’s some cold shit!

  13. I personally feel that the idea of a proposal is simply archaic. If you’re about to marry someone, as in a lifelong commitment, then shouldn’t you be sitting down working out the details like two aware and coherent adults? I just don’t get the idea of “proposing” at all (scratching my head, literally, it itches). It’s not like your families are trading goats for pastures. I would think you’d have several, very involved conversations about what you’d like your life together to be like and then make a joint decision to go forward – together – something like you would do when you’re actually married. Maybe it’s not as romantic or showy or all in everyone’s faces, but it’s real life, youknowhatimsayin??!!

    • I was under the impression that folks do have those conversations before the proposal.

      • yeah. but then why are so many women (i hear these complaints from women mostly) waiting around for months or years to be “proposed to”? like, if you’ve decided, then aren’t you already basically engaged? i just don’t like the idea of one person in a relationship waiting around for another person to make a move. seems old fashioned.

    • When my eleventh grade history teacher told the class that this is basically how he and his wife got married (with no showy proposal), half the girls in the class accused him of being unromantic and not really loving his wife. I was, even at sixteen, just like, WHAAAAAAAAAAAAT.

      People have such weird, Hallmark views of love. GOD FORBID WE BE RATIONAL HUMAN BEINGS. WHERE ARE THE CHAMPAGNE AND FLOWERS AND MYLAR BALLOONS?

    • That’s exactly how I got engaged. I’m grossed out by romantic stuff in general, so having a conversation about it over dinner seemed like the best way for me. It’s a major decision (or should be), and your judgment shouldn’t be clouded by jumbo-trons or an audience.

  14. it’s 2009, right? people get married still? i’m not a fan (parenthesis joke!) but isn’t all this slapping the face of all non-hetero coups who want to marry, too? maybe they use a different internet.
    OR
    best part: raging hard against the always non-traditional aspect of the extremely traditional act of marriage! grr! so hard! wait until my 2.5 kids hear about this in my finished basement while i drink microbrew!

    • Hey you guys, Let’s make a pact. Let’s promise, to meet back here in 5 years and if none us us are married then we’ll all give each other high 5′s because marriage is totally dumb and romance is for sad people that are not very smart.

  15. Basically, rather than buying into the myth of transcendence-through-romance (“Sexual intimacy is seen as the last hiding-place of real transcendence.” Walker Percy), this guy sees that true romantic love is experienced, grows, and becomes engaged over time in the context of a shared life within a community. His community is Tumblr. *shrug*. It might raise one’s hackles. But to posit romance as a privileged circle of two which somehow transcends all other relationships, obligations, and practices is to cast romance in an utterly antagonistic role. Think any Disney movie ever made here. The romance is always the central point of conflict for the characters with everything else in their life; it gives them a sort of transcendence over the ho-hum realities of life and takes priority over it. (The Little Mermaid epitomizes of this sort of story.)

    This guy is joining in the subverting the mythologies of our age. Bravo. Next time, can you do it in a less irksome way to population X, please.

  16. If we as an internet community (uh thats what we are? gross) can’t come together and support this wacky proposal, what will become of this couples fragile union?

  17. “Mommy, how did daddy ask you to marry him?”
    “In a fucking voice-over.”

  18. Gabe, I’m flattered. I accept.

  19. Not that I am trying to disprove your point or anything, but not EVERY publicized proposal is a fame-grabbing attempt at notoriety. my fiance was hit by a car while he had the engagement ring in his pocket, he proposed to me in the ICU of the hospital, the hospital people found out, and we were on the news about it. His original plan was to do it in private, and i was a little mortified that so many people saw something so personal between us, but we both just dealt with the fact that we looked like assholes… and BOY, we really did look like assholes. All i’m saying is that not every couple with a public proposal is a duo of d-bags.

  20. Don’t you want to start your new life as a brave man? A hero?!

    Justin Johnson, you have been “Burnt”.

  21. Hey everyone, look how cute my girlfriend is. I’m gonna put a ring on it.

    Ugh!

  22. What is Meredith Vieira?

  23. My problem is that this video is safe & boring. SF! NY! Cats! Neat… Gabe, we know how you feel about pranks. Public proposals are just an elaborate pranks, aren’t they?

  24. I’m sure Gabe is just sour from his own (first) wedding proposal, which of course occurred at the end of the Great War, during a riotous street celebration. Though down upon one knee (back in those days, Gabe was an Etiquette Professor), the comely lass had paused, frowned slightly, mouthed words over the roar of the crowd taking in the free-flowing emotions of this most special moment. “I must make a scene, and say no,” she mouthed, and Gabe’s heart sank. And though he tried a public proposal once more at a World Fair, eventually the pain sunk in too far to be moved, even by the invention of blog technology.
    So be sensitive.

  25. Man, Florida, San Francisco, New York. Settle down, you two. Oh, wait, you are. NM.

  26. Wait, so is Gabe asking KStew to marry him?? IS THAT WHAT THIS IS???

    I’m so confused!

  27. Justin actually works for the company that created tumblr. Jussayin’.

  28. I asked my girlfriend to marry me while I was running a radio show in college. I can’t remember if I was on the air or not… it didn’t matter since it was at 11:00 at night or something, and nobody listened to the college station at peak times in the first place. I felt stupid and weird about it for years, and I think it would have been much nicer if it was (conceptually) isolated and focused on making her feel great about herself.

    In any case, Gabe is completely right about this. Correct me if I’m wrong ladies (or any folks that will one day be proposed to), but wouldn’t you prefer to be asked in a way that really shows you that your partner cares for your feelings? If you really want to be the victim/target of an improv-is-everywhere-prank-proposal, that’s your business. If you want your partner’s moment of vulnerable dedication to you covered up by a grab for attention at your expense, then you should probably call Chris Brown’s choreographer now.

    Point being, we can’t know who’s intentions are purest without a Chris Angel: Mink Freak intention scanning machine, so I’m left to judge others through experience. My experience tells me that most people who have a knack for entertainment or elaborate public displays of attention-grabbing do so because it makes them feel good. The desired reaction of the one being proposed to is “You did all this for me?”. It’s really impossible to get altruistic in that case. You can’t be giving that kind of proposal as a selfless gift to your partner. It’s got at least somewhat to do with how you want others to see yourself.

    Is that a little cynical?

  29. which is maybe why David Karp mentioned “getting married” in his viceland interview the other day? this video kind of makes a nice companion piece to his defense of the overshare:

    What about oversharing? Is this the Age Of Oversharing?
    I hesitate to use the word overshare, because? well? it?s more that our personalities are now able to reach out a lot further than they would ten years ago. Ten years ago there simply wasn?t an option to find like-minded individuals so easily, but now if someone somehow get to your blog they can decide that you?re like-minded and might want to get a drink with you next time they?re in New York. Or get married. Or whatever.

    http://www.viceland.com/blogs/en/2009/11/16/ill-tumblr-for-ya/

  30. What is that Levi’s commercial doing at the top of this post?

  31. i was totally annoyed by this, but then i remembered that horrible fake disney proposal and it made me feel better about this one.

  32. This is all part of his master plan of becoming famous. If she refuses to marry him he will release the sex tape. Plan A or plan B. It’s her choice. He will be known.

  33. So much for proposing to my boyfriend on the next New Party Game :(

  34. I wonder if he’ll do the same when he asks for the divorce?

  35. Without the audio it looks like a memory montage for a movie character dying in a hospital bed. Creepy.

  36. I can’t decide if this is viral marketing or if my black heart is completely dead.

  37. here here! I couldn’t agree more with Gabe and all you monsters. People need to keep some things to themselves. I would be horrified by a public proposal because it really does force the person on the receiving end to say yes in an effort to not humiliate the proposer or to be seen as a monster (no offense you guys.)

  38. Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

    • Please don’t get depressed about this. It’s really not worth it.

      The truth is if you put something very private and personal up in the public domain you are subjecting yourself to judgement from complete strangers on a medium which can be very unforgiving. I have the capacity to make running down the street naked happen, but with a little foresight I can weigh up the consequences and the potential backlash and, no matter how much I want to do it, come to a decision where the outcome won’t take me by surprise and depress me.

      I am sorry if this is has taken a little gloss off their engagement, but the internets can be a rough place. Cynicism rules and with good reason, because there is plenty to be cynical about in today’s world. Unfortunately some sincere gestures are going to get caught in the crossfire.

      • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

        • Well, no that wasn’t what I was seriously doing. I was being facetious.

          The fact of the matter is if you brazenly bare your soul on an unforgiving place like the internet you are opening yourself up for criticism as well as praise.

          And since you wanted to get personal (and noting what I just said), I just had my relationship of 2 years end recently, so I do have a fucked up version of love. Thanks for reminding me. I’m gonna phone my brother up so he can come on here and have a pathetic whinge at you.

          • Oh christ, get a hold of yourself.

            My brother didn’t call me up to defend him, I doubt he even knows that this post exists. I’m actually a passive videogum user as it is, I just never post. I’d imagine that if there were dozens of people talking shit about your brother on a website you peruse you might just jump in as well. I sure as hell hope you would.

          • I’ve got a hold of myself, im not upset, im dissapointed.

    • Just because my brother HAPPENS to be the video PROMOTIONS guy at a web video company doesnt mean he SPAMMED everyone with a tumblr account for ATTENTION. It was a PRIVATE, INTIMATE thing. If you dont believe me just read this NEWS ARTICLE about it!

      LOTS. OF. LOVE.

      • Yes, because anyone who works in promotion is incapable of having a sincere personal life.

        Justin was obviously comfortable announcing his love to the world, which was opening himself up for criticism like this. If you really think the proposal was tacky that’s fine, it’s clearly your right to express that.

        Yet, it isn’t ok to attempt a psychoanalysis of him, or try and determine the earnestness of his relationship.

  39. This doesn’t force the person on the receiving end to say yes because it’s not happening in real time and all eyes aren’t on the proposed. Since this happened 10 other things have been posted on videogum (a majillion on the internet) and we’ve averted our gaze to a kitty being angry at a tickle me elmo or something. By the time she decides if she’ll marry him we will have forgotten about it, and won’t be reminded as she probably won’t agree to or reject his proposal in the manner it was made.

    If you want someone to spend the rest of your life with you, you have to show them that you care about them, and that you are prepared to go out of your way for them. ACCOMPLISHED!
    Telling everyone about your intentions proves that you don’t mind thousands of other women knowing you are writing them off, and that you aren’t ashamed of your choice.

    Having considered all that, this is in fact the most perfect proposal ever.

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  40. At least they weren’t trying to sell me viagra.

  41. i think you’re giving us more credit than we deserve to characterize our griping as ‘backlash.’

    i can see how for you, as this guy’s alleged brother (we have to take your word for it), it might be sad to read us being critical of a situation you know more about. to you, they’re a great couple; real people in whom you have an emotional investment.

    and it’s true that gabe’s knowledge of the couple was probably pretty limited. that’s because this is an entertainment blog, and gabe isn’t an investigative journalist with a staff of fact checkers and research assistants, compiling binders of background material. he’s just a guy with a search engine and some strong opinions.

    in this age of balloon boy scams, where it’s easier than ever to get your 15 mins of fame with just a little bit of effort in the right place (for example, a very public gesture of romantic love?) i don’t think it’s unrealistic for the idea of a fame grab to cross our minds. sure, it’s cynical, but it’s not a baseless assumption. no, the proposal wasn’t done via google or AOL, but tumblr is hardly a community bulletin board system. the gesture was VERY much a public one, forcing everyone to be a witness and participant in the proposal. which is fine! but then you can’t begrudge people for having opinions on the thing they are participating in, without their consent. we aren’t in a position to know what your alleged brother’s motivations were, because we don’t know him, but let’s be honest with ourselves about the fact that this was NOT an intimate little proposal over dinner. if it had been, we wouldn’t be having this discussion in the first place.

    i am sure i’m not alone in wishing the couple a lifetime of happiness. no sarcasmo! love is the best, most important thing about being a human, and any time people find love with each other, it’s something to be celebrated. so, we celebrate their love with you! (and we also gripe about the showboat-y way it was professed.)

    • Hidden due to low comment rating. Click here to see

  42. when my husband asked me to marry him – for a second i thought it was going to be a public proposal. we always get tamago at sushi restaurants as like our sushi dessert (bourgeouisie barf i know) and that night they forgot it from our order and i PANICKED thinking my engagement ring was about to roll out wrapped in sea weed and egg. i talked myself down by thinking ‘ok, you love this man, he means well, he thinks it’s cute, you’ll get over it’. and thank god he asked me when we got back to his apartment last night.

    so yeah, public engagements. the worst.

  43. I completely agree Gabe. Anyone who thinks having a whole bunch of strangers know about your proposal makes it that much more romantic is quite frankly, terrible.

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