300 Sandwiches To Get Engaged: Why We're All Missing The Point

300 Sandwiches To Get Married: We're Missing The Point

So now we know that Stephanie Smith, senior reporter for the NY Post — who told the world she's a mere 124 sandwiches away from an engagement ring — is actually embarrassed by the whole incident. She went on the Today Show and basically said, "Geez guys, it was a joke."

And I'm saddened by that. Because she caved.

Yesterday, I was all for her doing a thing she wanted to do, for pushing back on the notion that a woman doesn't have to earn anything to get married. I wanted her to go bigger, stronger. To stand up for it, to say it mattered and to tell us why. To push back and defend her actions.

Instead, she backed down. She revealed that her gimmicky stunt was tongue-in-cheek. So, while she did not set the women's movement back 50 years with her sandwich-making moment, she did show that when a woman is publicly shamed, she'll surrender her power and pretend she was just kidding.

That's the biggest bummer of all. Fact is, anything you do in an attempt to get that much attention in less than 24 hours is going to attract haters — period. The prevalence of social media just means that there are more platforms from which people can spew their distaste.

But she let the haters win. The apopleptic feminists beat her into submission, which creates an interesting and disturbing turn: Women told her to shut up and she did. Which either speaks to an inflamed feminist reaction or to the weakness of a woman who gave up when everyone else didn't agree with her. (Do I need to remind you of feminism being about a woman's right to choose? Read my take on why it’s not wrong just because you don't like it it)

Either way, it sucks.

The inflammatory knee-jerk response to the very idea that a woman should make a sandwich for her man says more to me about our own feminist hangups than it does about Smith's relationship (which, in the end, is nobody's business but hers and her boyfriend’s). Here are a few issues that come up with this whole 300 sandwiches controversy.

Issue #1: The idea that feminism means never having to make a sandwich.

Smith may not have stood up for her idea, but I will. You and I have been taught to think that being liberated, from the kitchen and everywhere else, means a woman shouldn't have to lift a finger for her dude. We are heretofore released of all domestic responsibility, and how dare someone ask us to do otherwise.

The notion that you shouldn't ever have to do anything to work at, maintain, or give to a relationship is the problem. Smith hit a nerve by saying she was willing to do a thing to please a man she loves. If that’s enough to make you flip your wig, it's time to really rethink things. Because that twinge you feel speaks more to your fears and insecurities than to your position of power.

The thing that some people really find offensive is the notion that he's making her jump through hoops to get what she wants: "Make me 300 sandwiches and I'll marry you." It feels cheap and manipulative. And to a degree, it is. Yet many a woman has put a man through multiple hoops — to earn her trust, to earn sex with her — and often, to keep earning it. Keep reading...

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Issue #2: It was never about sandwiches.

The whole premise couldn't go the distance. Mainly because I don't believe that the sandwiches matter all that much. It was a gimmick, a stunt. A bold opinion and practice should inspire me to change, to emulate. This, not so much.

I knew when I first read this story that the center on it couldn’t hold: Why does he need her to earn an engagement ring in this way? What do 300 sandwiches prove that 200 or even 50 don't? Why wouldn't you want to make something for a person you love — especially since, by her account, he makes her dinner all the time? Why do we care? What's at stake? Even she admits he’s not leaving her if she's short one ham on rye.

The problem isn't this guy or the sandwiches. The problem is the lack of vision, authenticity and meaning. Anyone can follow directions to earn a thing. I'll make you 300 sandwiches if you pay my rent for a few months, for instance. Anything's negotiable. But we already know it's not that big a deal to her that he ask her for it or that she do it. So nothing's at stake. She went for a titillating counter-feminist thing, and then she dropped it when it got too hot.

If she were a powerful women with a bigger idea about why this mattered, she wouldn't have done that. She'd have said, "No, this is important to us, to him, to me, and the fact that you hate it is your biggest issue." But she didn't. And so the rest is moot.

Issue #3: The idea that earning ends.

I’d be remiss if I didn't touch on what initially bothered me, and still does, about the sandwich premise: The idea that the earning ends when you get what you want.

Remember this joke? The best man asks the groom, Why are you smiling? He says, "Because last night I got the best blow job of my life." The maid of honor asks the bride why she's smiling. She says, "Because last night I gave the last blow job of my life."

The joke points to one of the biggest potential problems in a relationship: This misguided notion that we do favors until we get what we want, and don't have to do them anymore. You can apply it to sandwiches. Or foot massages. Or whatever. The point is, if you're jumping through hoops to make a point or earn a thing, that's easy. Who cares? What's far more powerful is the notion that someone asks you for something he wants and you willingly give it, again and again. And vice versa. That you keep wanting to do it.

Smith's mother tells her that a relationship is a marathon, not a sprint. And yet this is nothing more than a 300-sandwich sprint to the end goal. Fact is, the guy has to want more from his girlfriend than a sandwich for a sandwich’s sake. And she has to want more than a ring to make him one.