A small corner of the internet is dragging Joshua Jackson for the conflicting anecdotes he has shared about becoming engaged to Jodie Smith.
First while guesting on the Jimmy Fallon show, he said that Smith proposed to him on New Year’s Eve. “She asked me, yeah, on New Year’s Eve. We were in Nicaragua. It was very beautiful, incredibly romantic. We were walking down the beach, and she asked me to marry her. There was, like, a preamble. There was a lead-up to it. I did not know, but she was quite adamant, and she was right.”
Apparently, as that proposal story spread following the Fallon appearance, the usual social media suspects grasped at their smelling salts, shocked by the very idea that a woman might have the audacity to propose to a man. Surely, the fact that she suggested the engagement and Jackson acquiesced proved that she was desperate, unladylike, unwanted. Rather than ignore these Victorian musings, Jackson decided to mollify them in a recent interview with Refinery29. When Kathleen Newman-Bremang, Senior Editor at Refinery29, asked Jackson if he was surprised by the internet’s reaction to his proposal, he thanked her for the question. That indicated to me that it was a staged prompt, allowing him the chance to get something off of his chest.
JJ: Thank you for giving me the opportunity to give context to this story. So I accidentally threw my wife under the bus because that story was told quickly and it didn’t give the full context and holy Jesus, the internet is racist and misogynist. So yes, we were in Nicaragua on a beautiful moonlit night, it could not possibly have been more romantic. And yes, my wife did propose to me and yes, I did say yes, but what I didn’t say in that interview was there was a caveat, which is that I’m still old school enough that I said, “This is a yes, but you have to give me the opportunity [to do it too].” She has a biological father and a stepdad, who’s the man who raised her. [I said], ‘You have to give me the opportunity to ask both of those men for your hand in marriage.’ And then, ‘I would like the opportunity to re-propose those to you and do it the old fashioned way down on bended knee.’ So, that’s actually how the story ended up.
Thus, Jackson appeased the racist and misogynist crowd by giving them an alternative proposal, more in keeping with their antiquated judgments. Without mentioning what Smith, who has teased him about being 9 years older than she (he’s 43 and she’s 34), might want, Josh says he decided to ask her two dads for her hand in marriage, because he’s old school.
While many swooned over this new version of events, I was left stammering, “wait, what now?” I’m not so militant about women’s’ rights that I object to Barbies, princesses, white wedding gowns and knights in shining armor. We pretend that Santa Claus brings gifts. It’s ok to pretend that women belong to their fathers, until given away in marriage to a husband (I guess). That’s fun. That’s fantasy. But it’s lame when a man explains that’s how it happened, only to quiet criticism of a woman who took initiative.
Jackson changed his birth surname and took his mother’s maiden name, because his father abandoned the family when he was young. He paid homage to the parent who stayed. The strongest parent, the one who instilled in him what appear to be stellar values. Smith has also said she was raised mostly by a single mother. And it’s because I’ve followed their commentary that the “ask the father for her hand” scenario was more jarring coming from that couple.
Still, Jackson has always been openly chivalrous. He opens the door. He pays for dinner. He’s been seen meeting his ex, Diane Kruger, at the airport with a bouquet of flowers. Unless, he’s annoyed by someone’s rudeness, he’s always come off as terribly gracious.
If Smith thought it would be charming for him to ask her father for her hand, then I know he was happy to do it. But for him to say he did it to satisfy his own notions of propriety, in an interview where he expresses outrage that women, particularly black women, still have to fight so hard for equality, just seems wrong. The statement was incongruent with the rest of the interview. He seemed to be saying, “It was ok for her to propose, but then I had to do it the right way.” It lent credence to the outdated belief that Smith had overstepped the boundaries by proposing.
Josh and Jodie were conveniently captured on video, visiting a California courthouse and taking an oath to obtain their marriage license on August 2, 2019, soon after she learned she was pregnant. I don’t even believe Jackson’s multifold, New Year’s Eve, proposal stories. They make good talk show fodder, as did Smith’s revelation that their first meeting was a one night stand. Who cares if it’s true, just as long as it gets a reaction? They are an entertaining duo and it’s best that they keep proffering the schtick unapologetically. They shouldn’t let public reaction deter or derail them.
My favorite Aesop’s fable is The Man, the Boy, and the Donkey. In it a man and his son are walking to town with their donkey. A passerby comes by and berates both of them for walking, when one could ride the donkey. In response, the son rides the donkey and the father walks.
A passerby criticizes the healthy young boy for riding, when his elderly father needs the donkey more. The boy and his father change places, so that the father rides the donkey.
A passerby criticizes the grown man for riding a donkey, while forcing his poor little boy to walk. Then, both father and son ride on the donkey. That should satisfy everyone. Nope. A passerby upbraids boy and man for abusing the poor donkey who cannot bear the weight of carrying both. The father and son then lift and carry the abused donkey. A passerby sees this ridiculous turn of events, two humans carrying a sturdy donkey, and denounces both boy and man for being fools.
The moral is, “Please all, and you will please none.”
Josh and Jodie should not have worried about pleasing anyone but themselves when they discussed the first proposal. Then, we never would have had to hear the second version, which looks motivated by a desire to repair something that wasn’t broken: a woman exercising prerogative.
But here I am trying to tell them what to do all over again! Pay none of us any mind, Josh and Jodie. Carry that donkey as far as you want.