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Your man's down on bended knee – hopefully filling the dishwasher

MOST Irish people are not into public displays of affection, grand declarations of love or anything else likely to mortify us or make us ugly cry (ugly crying is a curse of the soft Irish complexion.)

Like a lot of Irish people, my feelings are best communicated in writing (we've all written the L word on a card, at least) or not at all.

Romance is well and good, but only for people who can handle the type of overwhelming embarrassment it involves for everybody concerned, without even a drink to soften it.

In a world in which most relationships are between two equals and the concept of being spoiled by one's significant other as a matter of course is just a bit squirmy, it's difficult to see where traditional romance fits in.

Broadcaster Claire Byrne recently told an interviewer that her fiance proposed to her while he was doing the dishes.

Claire has not only recently had a baby, she's busy presenting two of RTE's flagship current affairs programmes, so I'm glad to hear he's useful around the house.

Because when you're that busy, the sight of a man getting down on bended knee probably just fills you with the hope that he's going to fill the washing machine.

The problem with romance is that it's totally subjective – and what's romance for the goose may just be cringeworthy for the gander.

If you don't go for a traditional on-bended-knee approach, the problem is that a most 21st Century feeling might afflict you afterwards. It's a bit of an Irish mammy thing – "Ah now, don't worry about me, I don't like a fuss" – which you entirely mean at the time but regret afterwards.

It used to be known as regret, but today we call it FOMO – or fear of missing out.

Say you're a prosaic personality type and your other half takes you at your word and proposes to you one morning while you're brushing your teeth, or when you're buried inside the fridge, cleaning it.

Is there a danger that, afterwards, you're going to regret missing out on the fireworks, fairy lights and the rest of the fandango?

Especially when you see the carefully styled and professionally-done engagement photo shoots that your more glitzy Facebook friends will have organised for themselves, complete with engagement outfits, new hairdos and a castle in the background (engagement photo shoots are a real thing – honest).


I'm a terror for the FOMO, and luckily, himself is well aware of this. At some point (can't honestly remember exactly when and where but it was over a few months and in the course of conversations otherwise focused on groceries, whose turn it was to walk the dog, and whether we needed wine) we'd agreed we'd get married, booked a date and sorted out a celebrant.

But he was determined I shouldn't tell anybody until there was a formal proposal. So I didn't. Well, outside of the dress shop lady and the florist and the friend who's taking the photos and a few other important stakeholders in the whole thing.

I was glad afterwards that he'd stuck to his guns because when he did propose, it was a surprise and it was very romantic. And nobody else was there, and there is no evidence on Facebook, Twitter or Vine that it ever happened the way we both remember it happening.

There's nothing more romantic than that kind of privacy, or the fact that he knew what I wanted without me knowing myself.

Which makes me wonder about Claire. Maybe she's telling the press the full story. Or maybe she was totally swept off her feet in an incredibly romantic proposal, but is preserving it properly. Romance isn't dead – it's just hiding.