Asking Dad for her hand in marriage

Is this retro trend for real?

Published October 9, 2007 8:35PM (EDT)

Feministing tipped us off to this Boston Globe trend story about young men asking their would-be bride's parents for permission to marry her before popping the question. The story trots out some representative couples, where the wannabe groom asked the bride-to-be's dad -- sometimes cluing in the future mother-in-law, too -- for his blessing.

Barbara Gottfried, of Boston University's women's studies department, told the Globe that she's "shocked" by the trend: "The fact that the parents are asked prior to the proposal seems to me to be more than politeness," she says. "Underneath it all is an anxiety about the threat that independent women pose."

Sure, sure. It smacks of treating the bride like chattel to be passed from one man -- dad -- to the next -- husband. Everything old is new again. Or, is it really?

What exactly would these couples do if the prospective father-in-law answered, politely: "You seem like a very nice young man, but, no, I don't want you to be my son-in-law"? Does this retro trend of supposedly asking for permission actually have teeth? I sincerely doubt it.

By Katharine Mieszkowski

Katharine Mieszkowski is a senior writer for Salon.

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