In Holland, nothing says romance quite like the destruction of a neighbour’s home, which makes them temporarily destitute and wrecks their insurability in the long term.
Like a bleakly ironic film by Lars von Trier, the Dutch town of IJsselstein has been bearing the consequences of a marriage proposal that went wrong. A man hired a crane to lower him into his girlfriend’s back garden so he could ask her to marry him. The crane keeled over and crushed a neighbour’s house.
You may say it’s unfortunate that nobody thought to weigh down a top-heavy, sideways-slanting piece of heavy industrial machinery in a residential area. I say that Gaia has made a karmic strike against arrogance. Instead of keeping his feet on the ground, this gentleman planned to descend from on high like the angel Gabriel telling the Virgin Mary how lucky she was to be bearing God’s baby.
Imagine the woman indoors, alerted to the looming presence of her airborne beloved by the grinding of crane gears and the screams of local residents.
These stunts give me the creeps. They say more about the self-regard of the person proposing than his regard for his partner. It’s an egotistical way of earning yourself good PR and generating a dinner party anecdote that will probably outlast the marriage.
It’s also a form of emotional blackmail. How can anyone say no when there’s a camera in her face and everyone’s watching? How could she possibly spoil the other person’s fun? Why the need to make a show of our most intensely felt and personal moments?
When someone turns a simple thing into a major production they are making it all about themselves. They want to be seen, not by the one person they love, but by online watchers who can make them feel famous for one second.
The recipient, in this instance, is reduced to being the comedy fall guy, an object, the dupe who had no idea what was coming, a passive recipient who is low on ideas and bad at achieving spectacular feats — but big on reactive emotion. What next? A full-blown Hollywood-style screening of a raw natural birth, as little baby Selfie comes into the world?
It’s as though reality TV has infiltrated our core; we do not see ourselves, we only see other people seeing us, and something doesn’t exist unless it’s public.
So you get choreographed first dances between newly married couples that would put the Ballets Russes to shame; you get other supposedly private experiences mapped out with a serial killer’s attention to detail, filmed for posterity and dished out like a business card to just anyone and everyone.
I will have my satisfaction when, after the marriage proposal that was like a pop video, the wedding photos that were like a Vogue shoot and the birth film that was like a Mel Gibson-directed epic heralding the coming of Jesus, someone takes their camcorder and films themselves dancing down the street performing Serving Divorce Papers: The Musical. — © Guardian News & Media 2014
Bidisha is a commentator for the Guardian, Observer and BBC. She is the author of Venetian Masters: Under the Skin of the City of Love