Illustration by Carly Jean Andrews

Signs You’re About to Get Tricked into Proposing (And You Won’t Even Know It)

Inside the online conspiracy to get you locked down and off the market

You’ve been dating a great girl for a while and things are going well. She likes your dog, and your farts, and your dog’s farts, and you think, maybe I could do this? Maybe she seems happy and settled too; she’s waxing doe-eyed about growing old together, or dropping hints about unique un-booked venues still available in June. One thing you might not know is that she’s probably read some of the three million articles on the internet advising her on how to subtly force your hand to ask for hers in marriage.

What, you think she’d just let you know she wants to get married — or even worse, ask you directly? While there are no hard statistics on how many women dare to propose, it’s at once both increasing but overwhelmingly the exception. “We’re seeing more couple-level negotiations in the marriage process with college-educated women and that’s a real sign of progress,” Amanda Miller, a sociology professor at the University of Indianapolis, told The New York Times last year in a piece about the still-rare status of women doing the asking. “Though women have more power to move the relationship closer to marriage, they still want the man to ask. That’s considered his job.”

The proposal, by and large, remains an un-liberated corner of heterosexual relationships. And lucky for you, that means it’s your job to ask, and hers to do every low-key thing in her power to nudge you there without your knowing. Just like saying “I love you” first, if it doesn’t feel like your idea, she’ll make it seem that way, passive-aggressively trapping you with her razor-sharp, yet delicately painted lady bear claws.

How does she figure out how to do this? you might ask. Contrary to popular belief, not all women are born with skills in manipulation and subterfuge.

Cue the internet.

Search for “how to get a guy to propose” and not only will you get autofills of “how to get a guy to propose fast,” or “in 30 days” or “in 60 days” or “6 months,” or “without asking” or “without being obvious,” and you’ll find no fewer than 3 million results that, taken together, amount to an absurd, almost conspiratorial level of man-snagging, from hint-dropping to outright manipulation being used against you right now to give up your freedom… dundundunFOREVER.

The best thing any man can do, then, is to know his enemy. If you notice your girlfriend doing any of the following things, take a beat and consider whether you need to enact a counter-strategy of your own to avoid capture.

Acting Perfect

Did your girlfriend suddenly morph into Nicole Kidman in To Die For? Did she suddenly become the chillest girlfriend on earth, no longer getting upset when you take 46 minutes to text back? This doesn’t mean she’s happy; quite the opposite, my man. The chase is on.

Making You Dependent on Her

Can’t wipe your ass without her sidling up to you with a fresh wet wipe? Great, now you can’t wipe your ass without a wife.

Letting You Feel Insecure at Times

She used to divulge her whereabouts and activities all the time without you having to ask; now she’s going out on her own, having fun without you, and acting evasive. She hasn’t joined the CIA, friend — it’s a trick to make you realize how shitty your life is without her.

Suddenly Booking Plans With Other Marrieds

You used to hang out with single people and couples at shitty bars and even shittier chain restaurants, but suddenly your social calendar is full of three-hour dinners at respectable establishments with married couples who drone on and on about affordable vacation spots and the horrors of remodeling. Sorry, bud, you won’t be having sex tonight — but you will be getting married soon.

Giving You “Signals”

You’re on a friendly nighttime stroll and look up to see a bat-signal in the shape of an engagement ring. Your crusty stack of bathroom Mad Magazines has been mysteriously replaced with Modern Bride. You wake up in a fever dream where your future sexual life pleasing all types of women flashed before your eyes, set to Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March.” (Hint: she whisper-hummed it to you all night as you slept.)

Making Big Purchases

Did she just buy a brand-new Porsche without consulting you? Careful, it’s a ploy just to piss you off. When you are outraged over not being asked for input, the logical next step will be to legally wed her rather than have a basic conversation about shared finances.

Cooking for You Every Day

Once women heard about that crafty New York lady, Stephanie Smith, who only needed to make her man 300 sandwiches to get a ring after he joked that’s all it would take, you better believe delis nationwide have tripled their sales. I guess the key to his legal obligation to maintain her lifestyle when they realize they can’t make it work is through his stomach, after all.

Making Roast Chicken for Dinner

And finally, if you find yourself being served a simple roast chicken in lemon juice tonight, also known as the legendary engagement chicken, spit it out, back away from the table, and flee. It might taste great, and you might really love her, but it’s simply unethical to use animals as part of a torture plot.

If such tactics seems as batshit a way for two people to get together in a world where equality is the alleged goal and we’re all hustling toward egalitarian domestic bliss, consider that one solution to the madness is a simple honest conversation (or several!) about future relationship goals with no tricks—just an open-door policy for discussing what two people want, open to negotiation with no shady games.

But if all else fails and you can’t treat each other like adults, by all means, be a good citizen and ancestor: Play the game, eat the roast chicken and take yourselves out of the running for the rest of us.