The Manipulative Nonsense Of National Proposal Day

Another made-up ‘National Day’ arrives as a thinly-disguised publicity stunt by big businesses looking to profit from manipulation.

Last week, I received an offer I found rather easy to refuse from a PR company who I suspect had not actually read anything on The Reprobate – not an unusual occurrence, it must be said. I’d go as far as to say that they hadn’t even looked at the site but clearly, someone had at least dug into our contacts page to find our email address and the name of the editor, which suggests more than simply another random spec email from someone that is addressed to ‘the editor’ and conspicuously fails to mention the name of the site at any point while offering paid content that they assure me is perfect for my site without actually saying what said content might be. No, someone had at least gone to the effort of personalising this mailing, which made it all the stranger that they felt that we would be interested in running a puff piece for a diamond retailer as part of the celebrations for National Proposal Day. I’m aware that The Reprobate is rather esoteric in terms of what we cover, but really – is there anything, anywhere on the site that suggests an interest in the wedding, engagement and diamond industry?

My initial reaction to this was to dismiss it as I do with similar requests – but there was one thing that intrigued me and that was the very idea of National Proposal Day. This did indeed strike me as something worth exploring – but not, perhaps, in the way that the press release had hoped.

It seems that every day is National/International/Global Day of something or other and while a few of these are government or UN-backed (which hardly gives them more significance but at least provides an official legitimacy of sorts), most are shameless publicity stunts from businesses and the PR companies hoping to get some free advertising from a compliant media that is desperate for content. If these fake National Days take off, of course, the originator becomes forgotten, so it’s generally very much a one-year exclusive for these companies – though of course, if they can con people into believing something is actually a thing – like Blue Monday, the supposedly most depressing day of the year that was actually started as a publicity stunt from a holiday company looking to boost January sales but which is now reported as some sort of scientific fact by lazy journalists every single year – then they probably still benefit from heightened public awareness of the thing being promoted. Their rivals might also benefit, but so be it. It’s still worthwhile. Fiction becomes reality because if we are told something often enough, we tend to believe it. I genuinely thought for a long time that someone really had somehow scientifically worked out which was the most depressing day of the year – but no. It’s all bollocks.

These scams – and it’s hard to think of a more appropriate word – work because large parts of the public have a lemming-style need to conform – tell them that everyone else is doing or believing something and they’ll eagerly join in. I wonder how many think that National Proposal Day is actually a thing and are now draining their bank accounts to buy engagement rings from the diamond sellers who have a vested interest in not only pushing the concept but also in convincing everyone that engagement rings must be diamonds – and must cost three months salary, another ‘rule’ entirely made up by people with vested interests (in this case diamond company De Beers). Will Britain be awash with men on bended knees and quietly wondering about how they’ll pay next month’s bills on March 20th – the day chosen possibly at random, possibly because March is a traditionally slow month for diamond sales and someone wants to change that?

In truth, most of these National Days go by barely noticed – for something like this to work, then you surely need to be publicising it well in advance, unless you really expect people to read a story about it on the day and then rush out to make unplanned proposals. You might think that as publicity stunts go, they are generally harmless – but this shameless manipulation of the public, encouraged and enabled by the press, is always a bit iffy and in this case it feels like an offensive attempt at social engineering. Why on earth should there be a mandated day for proposing? Like the ludicrous and sexist idea that women can only propose on February 29th – a once-in-four-years chance to be on equal footing with men that still gets trotted out as a belief even now, because apparently, some stupid traditions are just fine to hold on to – especially if there is coin to be made in the process. Surely, out of all life’s experiences, a proposal of marriage should be a personal, individual moment that is made because it feels like the right time for both people – something grand or simple, spontaneous or meticulously planned, casual or considered. To try and commodify it into a mandated day in order to boost the profits of businesses that already have vested interests in making the whole engagement/marriage as costly, complicated, conformist and stressful as possible is just shameful.

If you are planning a proposal, might I suggest that you strike March 20th off your considered dates? Let’s not give these opportunists what they want, even by coincidence. And while we’re at it, let’s abandon all the other ‘traditions’ invented by money-hungry businesses to profit from marriage. We already live in a world where people are pressured to make the most extravagant proposals possible – simply asking someone to marry you is no longer good enough when other people are being celebrated for skydiving into football stadiums and releasing doves into the air that then fly in formation, spelling out ‘WILL YOU MARRY ME?’ as you hand over a ring holding a diamond so bit that wearing it requires a hand brace – and that’s not even taking into account the ludicrous extravagance and oneupmanshipping of many weddings these days. Do your own thing, whatever that might be, and don’t let anyone else tell you that you are doing it wrong or haven’t spent enough money. Starting off a marriage as a slave to commerce and debt does not seem the route to eternal happiness.

Anyway – when should National Reprobate Day be, we wonder?


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