Leap Day, 2012 is nearly upon us


We get an extra day this year. Is that good or bad? The answer depends on how we spend Leap Day, 2012. It only happens every four years so we had best get our acts together and make plans.

Conversations with people about the day that stretches the year to 366 days included a variety of opinions. A waitress in a busy restaurant said, "It will just mean another work day." She has a point. Leap Day is a workday as usual and this time it will be on a Wednesday. Babies born on Feb. 29 are called leaplings and must celebrate one third of their birthday anniversaries on Feb. 28 unless they are willing to wait four years for the actual day.

For single women who subscribe to whimsical tradition, Leap Day just might be what they have been waiting for.

Traditionally, going far back into history, it's the day single women can step up to the plate and propose their wishes to an available man. Would they ask for dinner for two, a movie, a warm hug, or even marriage? In its origin four centuries ago in Scotland, the tradition was called Woman's Privilege. Al Capp updated the idea in his Sadie Hawkins cartoons in the 1930s.

Today, single women who decide to pop the question rather than wait the old fashioned way for a proposal, can get it over with in a hurry. Think of the nerve-wracking challenges Scottish, French, and Italian women had back in the day after they had waited patiently for the bonus day to arrive. To ask a man to marry them, or even to go to the town dance, was a face to face conversation.

No so today. Modern electronic tools make quick work of communication no matter what the questions are.

The introduction and widespread use of technical advancements in the electronic age has lowered the Leap Year bar. On Feb. 29, she can write her innermost longings on email and send it in seconds. She can post her hopes on Facebook. Or she can text the man in her dreams with a sweet heartfelt message and include her best photo in the transmission.

Al Capp, author of Li'l Abner hillbilly cartoons, first sketched Sadie Hawkins, "homeliest gal in all them hills" in November,1937. The cartoon related the sad tale that Sadie was 35 years old and that she and her father were both frantic that she was still a spinster. To hopefully solve the problem, all the single men in Dogpatch were called to join in a foot race, with Sadie in hot pursuit.

The Sadie Hawkins Day race was an annual November feature for 40 years in the Capp cartoons. In the real world it became a popular theme for high school dances when girls asked the boys and because it echoed the ancient Woman's Privilege gender reversal tradition, it also was adopted for Leap Day party themes.

Mary Alice Powell is a retired Blade food editor.

Contact her at: mpowell@theblade.com