Monday, 7 November 2011

19.57 From Euston

On Saturday, this was doing the rounds on Twitter:

When I watched it, I thought ‘aw, that’s nice,’ posted it to Facebook and promptly forgot all about it.

This being the internet, a few people have reacted in a more considered way.

Natalie Dzerins (Forty Shades of Grey) finds it utterly cringeworthy, which is fair enough – but more than that, she thinks it is demeaning to women; a thought that never even crossed my mind until I read her post. The woman generally speaks a lot of sense so this prompted me to re-visit my initial reaction.

When I shared the vidjo on the book of face, I did so with the tagline “anybody remember the group ‘Disney Gave Me Unrealistic Expectations of Love?’ This guy clearly does, and said, ‘no more!’”

To explain, said group united those who had reached adulthood only to discover a distinct lack of perfectly coiffed prospective partners with freakishly straight teeth and talking animal pals. Where were the dragon slayers, the perky princesses, the lovers who unexpectedly burst into song at the drop of a hat?

Members bemoaned the fact love at first sight is not as common as Disney led them to believe, and that most people are pretty much the same – everyone gets a bit crabbit when they’ve not had enough sleep, wicked stepmothers are not especially prevalent, and most men don’t even own a cloak (excepting the more dedicated Noel Fielding fan, perhaps).

However, the occasional friend will find their own Prince Charming or Cinderella, you’ll be invited to a lovely wedding with a ceilidh and a bucket of stovies, and a collective sigh will go up for lo, there is romance in the world after all. Who doesn’t want a happy ever after in a castle full of talking crockery?

Well, I wouldn’t, to be fair. It’s one thing to enjoy a bit of schmaltz in a movie, quite another to deliberately inflict it on a loved one in a public space.

But I don’t speak for everyone, and I like to think there’s a possibility that the boyfriend in 19.57 from Euston made this ridiculously over the top gesture because they are madly in love, and he knew she’d appreciate it.

Dzerins concedes that it seems to have worked out for this pair, but: “all I can think when I watch it is "but what if she wanted to say no?"”

My instinctive my reply to that would be, she would have said no.

This sort of proposal puts a lot of pressure on the woman to comply, Dzerins argues, because it’s so public. Gangs of total strangers feel they have the right to stick their oar in and tell her to agree, and if she doesn’t he will become some kind of martyr for the romantic cause.

I take her point, but to be honest I’d have thought the emotional fallout between the couple is ultimately the same whether she rejects him in public or private. Yes, if you’re unlucky there is a possibility it goes viral for a week or two and people write some nasty comments about you on Youtube. But surely that’s the least of your worries when you’ve just discovered your partner knows sod all about you – for them to have misjudged your reaction so completely belies some serious communication problems.

My other query would be why is it only the woman is demeaned by this show of affection? The man has spent a load of time and money sorting it out solely to impress her – isn’t that flattering? Couldn’t it even be said he is demeaning himself by reducing his personality to 2-Dimensional cartoon prince purely to satisfy the romantic streak of the otherwise level-headed, educated woman he fell in love with?

The notion that this type of proposal is impersonal, or designed to make strangers think you’re cool, feels overly cynical to me. Yes, it’s cheesy, and no, of course you don’t need to make a massive song and dance over a proposal to make a marriage work - but who says that’s why he did it?

I like to think he was motivated by a sense that his fiancé’s feelings of joy and being special would outweigh the embarrassment either of them felt.

It wouldn’t work for me but that’s OK, because it’s not about me - or my feminist principles, or any other stranger from the internet.

It’s about two hopeless romantics on the 19.57 from Euston.

Long may they be sick-makingly sweet.


  1. Flash mobs are so happy they make me cry anyway, but that is especially beautiful! Boo to the people who don't just find it wonderful. I don't think it's a cliche at all - at least, I've never heard of anyone else proposing like that. I bet for every woman who finds that cringey, there are a hundred who really would quite like a proposal like that.

  2. I have to say I do like flash mobs, there was an orchestra one at Glasgow airport a couple of months ago that was really well done... I think in terms of proposing it really depends on the couple and what works for them, but in this case she seemed pretty pleased!

  3. I'm considering setting up my band outside the house and serenading my wife Jenny with a medley of Cult songs sometime! Do you think this would be a good idea? I'm only the bass player though so I'm not sure it it would work...

    (I've ruled out doing it on the Glasgow-Paisley Canal train as our house is at the first stop only 4 mins into the journey and we wouldn't even have time for Fire Woman...)

  4. I think this is an excellent idea. Make sure you get it filmed and on Youtube!