Tuesday, February 23, 2016

29th February

It's 7pm on a Friday evening, and I'm doing a bit of work at home in my study when boyfriend K comes in to ask me a question:

"We don't have any plans this evening, do we?" he queries.

"Not yet," I reply, "but it's only 36 hours until we leave for the skiing trip, so perhaps we should start packing!"

"Well, we've just been invited round to B and C's for dinner :-)".

C is a friend of boyfriend K who lives in a smart apartment quite close to us. He lives there with his boyfriend who's called B, and they've tried inviting us round to dinner twice this year, but so far we've always been busy.

"OK," I reply, smiling at boyfriend K, "we can do that :-). But let's try and avoid getting back too late, because we've also got that party tomorrow afternoon with those old friends of mine."

Boyfriend K has got a great set of friends, and whenever I join any of them and their partners it's always good fun. They always live very much for the moment, but a consequence of that is that occasionally one wakes up the following afternoon with a horrendous hangover wondering what happened!

We arrive at B and C's about 45 minutes later and it turns out to be quite a select gathering. Apart from boyfriend K, me, B, C, there's just one other person, a female friend of both boyfriend K and C who's called Z. I've met Z on a couple of occasions before, but in the past I've never had much of a conversation with her.

"Where's your boyfriend tonight," I ask Z a little later in the evening, after we've had a few glasses of wine.

"He's with some of his friends tonight, at a Jazz club," she answers, "and if you like we could all go and join them later."

"Maybe," I answer cautiously, "but I've got quite a lot to do tomorrow so I may skip it this time."

"I'll come :-)," chips in boyfriend K, "you don’t mind do you, GB?"

"Of course I don't mind," I reply, but we're only half way through the meal so no one is thinking of leaving just yet.

A little later in the evening, Z starts talking to me about her boyfriend.

"You're British, aren't you GB," she starts.

"Uh, yes indeed :-)," I answer, "why do you ask?"

"I've heard that it's a tradition that women can ask men to marry them on 29th February, the one day in the calendar when it's acceptable", she replies, "Is that right?"

"I think I've heard that before, but I don't think it's a very big tradition. Perhaps it's an idea that comes from America, I'm not sure."

"So can I assume that your boyfriend is British and you want to get married to him?" I ask.

"Yes, I feel it's time," she replies, "but I'm scared of what his answer will be."

"How long have you been together?"

"Around 8 years! We're both in our mid-thirties now, so if we don't do it soon, I don't know when we'll get round to it."

Like boyfriend K, Z isn't a native European, so there's one question that I feel I have to ask.

"You don't have a visa problem staying in the UK do you? That can be one reason to get married."

"No, that's not a problem, and neither of us want children at the moment either. But I love him, and I see some of my friend having their big wedding day, and I think why can't I have a wedding too. I just want my day in a nice white dress and a big party :-)."

Z is a lovely looking girl, with a great bubbly personality too, so as far as I can tell any straight guy would be very lucky to have her.

"Well you should just talk to him," I suggest, "I'm not sure that something as artificial as any 29th February tradition is relevant."

"But don't ask directly," I say, "British people are a bit like the Japanese. Indirect is always much better!"

"How do you mean?" she asks.

"OK, how about this. Say to him something like 'Have you ever thought that one day, I *might* like to get married to you?'"

"That doesn't say you want to get married or you don't want to get married. It just asks him whether he's thinking about it, and whether he's thinking about what you *might* want, at some point in the future!"

"In fact," I continue, "he can't really answer 'yes' or 'no' to that question. 'No' would be a terrible answer because it means that he doesn't think about what you want. And 'Yes' is a ridiculous answer, because from what you've said, he doesn't ever talk about it! But of course, he's not going to give a direct answer to an indirect question anyway :-)."

"All that might be a bit too clever for me, GB," she replies eventually, "but I do see what you mean."

The conversation gradually moves onto other topics, and by the time that boyfriend K, Z and C start to think about moving to the jazz club, it turns out that Z's boyfriend has already left. So a little later, we thank our hosts for all their hospitality and make our way home. Around 1am I climb into bed with boyfriend K, and with our naked bodies touching each other, we fall asleep.

The next day, a bit of research on google suggests that it's an Irish tradition that women can propose to men on 29th February. I don't know what Z is going to do about trying to get a wedding out of her boyfriend, and whether she'll try talking to him on 29th February, but I hope she succeeds in the end. Any excuse for another party sounds good to me :-).