LAST SATURDAY we celebrated the leap year with the madness and excitement of people carefully saving up those quarter days.
Of course, I can understand why those poor sods born on February 29th, are so thrilled when their real birthday rolls around every fourth year. I often wonder what that must be like the rest of the time. Do they celebrate on the 28th? Do they wait until March 1st? Or do they feel that their special day is somehow swallowed into time, sucked out between the months for no other reason than to keep the calendar on track?
'I know a lad who's actually five today,' The Boy tells me on Saturday. I wait for the punchline. 'He's three years older than me.'
Do the jokes ever get old?
But the real reason the leap year makes the news (it even trended on Twitter), is because February 29th is the day women around the globe propose to their future spouses.
One of my favourite romantic movies is, wait for it...Leap Year. Yep, that cheesy rom-com starring Amy Adams and Mathew Goode. An American girl (Adams) decides to fly to Ireland to surprise her boyfriend (here on business) by proposing to him on February 29th. She ends up totally lost, and ropes in local, unattached man (Goode) to help her complete her quest. I won't say anymore: suffice to say it's predictable, and no less wonderfully sappy for that.
The tradition, if Irish legend is to be believed, is actually Irish. It dates back to the 5th century when Irish nun St Bridget (her feast day is February 1st), complained to St Patrick (March 17th!) that women were waiting too long for a man to propose to them.
Being a practical sort, she made a deal with St Patrick, that on this one day in February every four years, a woman could propose to a man. Women were expected to wear either breeches or a scarlet petticoat when they popped the question.
Other Leap Year traditions can also be traced back to 1288, where the Scots passed a law that allowed women to propose marriage to a man in a leap year. The law stated that any man who declined a proposal on this day would have to pay a fine: anything from a kiss to payment for a silk dress or a pair of gloves. To be honest, I prefer our explanation. St Bridget was a woman ahead of her time.
But let's be real: this is the 21st century. And it's become quite acceptable for women to propose to men, or other women, whenever they want. Or you know, not propose at all. Most people now live together for a number of years before even considering marriage. Many never bother to take the plunge.
That said, this is a column about the romance of the day that's just passed us for another four years. So, for the craic, I'll share something I stumbled on recently in the famous American women's magazine, McCall's. The article was dated January, 1958 and was bravely titled: 129 Ways To Get A Husband. Here's a list of my top ten favourite suggestions:
1. Have your car break down at strategic places.Presumably, you'll either meet the man of your dreams, end up phoning a mechanic or you know, get yourself murdered.
2. Read the obituaries to find eligible widowers.
And do what, I wonder? Turn up at the funeral? Hello, random grieving stranger, I'm free every Tuesday and Saturday for courtship.
3. Ask your friends' husbands who the eligible men are in their offices.
Read it again, girls. Not your friends: their husbands. Because this is 1958 and presumably only the men have decent jobs.
4. Become a nurse or an airline stewardess: they have very high marriage rates.
Because what other reason would you have, to go into these professions?
5. Be friendly to ugly men: handsome is as handsome does.
Imagine being a man in 1958. Would you have been pleased or insulted if lots of single women were suddenly friendly with you after this article came out??
6. Get lost at football games.
7. Get a job demonstrating fishing tackle in a sporting goods store.
Have you ever seen the bait? I mean, some things just aren't worth it...
8. Learn to paint. Set up your easel outside an engineering school.
Don't you love the ideas that manage to be sexist and just plain mad at the same time?
9. Stumble when you walk into a room that he's in.
Because it's important to let him know that you're clumsy AND attention-seeking.
10. Go back to your home town for a visit. The wild kid next door may have become a very handsome bachelor while you were away.
And they've been pining away, just waiting for you to come home and rescue them from their single state. You're saving them from themselves. In fact, you're probably doing the whole of humanity a service.
At times, you have to admit that the only good thing about the '50s, might have been the clothes. But maybe I've just seen too many Grace Kelly movies.
Anyhoo...you've snagged your man. Now what? If all goes to plan, and he doesn't get in there first, you've four years from now to get yourself ready for the next Leap Year. February 29th, 2024. Mark it in your diaries.
Because we women all follow the rules, right? ;)
Hello again. How's it going? Here we are, back for another month: another column.
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