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Since You Asked: Can't a guy get a break?

I thought that in a leap year, guys are off the hook for taking the lead in the romance department in reference to the ole' Sadie Hawkins rule. (Please help me here and explain the ole' Sadie Hawkins legend).

What I am looking for is a "get out of jail free card" for Valentine's Day and leave the plans up to the lady for a change. I'd like the women to surprise us men, at least once every four years. Please give us a break and take the pressure off of Valentine's Day, we'll end up paying the "price" later anyway.

Thanks,

— Name withheld because he's "already accused of being a chump," he said, Gold Hill

WHAT YOUR LADY SAID: Tsk. Tsk. You old romance-dancer. I bet you have the ladies lining up, panting for a chance to pine at your side-steppin' tootsies. How about we just call you Romeo? Don Juan? Casanova? Clearly not.

If I'm reading you right, you're trying to get out of the annual Valentine's Day romance dance because, according to Sadie Hawkins legend, it's MY turn! Right? Leave the plans to the LADY, huh? "Get out of jail free card," huh? How 'bout I surprise you with a quick exit?!

WHAT WE SAID: (whistling tunelessly, averting eye contact) Hmm. So ... WOW, how 'bout this awesome weather!? Feels like spring, doesn't it?

OK, down to brass tacks. We searched and we searched. But we weren't able to find any Sadie Hawkins info that shields you from your duty to purchase flowers and candy for your (ahem) lucky beloved.

We were, however, able to find some Leap Year lore that may have your hair standing on end.

For those who don't know, Sadie Hawkins was a female character in Al Capp's wildly popular cartoon strip "Li'l Abner," which ran FROM 1934 to 1977. Many communities prefer to celebrate Sadie Hawkins Day on Nov. 13 (or Nov. 15 or the first Saturday after Nov. 9, depending on whom you ask) — which is when Capp first mentioned the one day a year where the women of Dogpatch could chase down their men, hog-tie them, and ask them to marry them.

Did ya catch that, Romeo? Marriage! Wait, it gets worse!

According to marriage experts Sheri and Bob Stritof, Leap Year has also been a traditional time for women to propose marriage. This practice dates back to when the rules of courtship were stricter, women were only allowed to pop the question on one day every four years. That day was Feb. 29 — which only comes every four years, and yes we're in a leap year.

Also known as "St. Bridget's Complaint," this tradition was started in fifth century Ireland when St. Bridget complained to St. Patrick about women having to wait for so long for a man to propose. According to legend, St. Patrick said the yearning females could propose on this one day in February during the leap year.

According to English law, Feb. 29 was ignored and had no legal status. Folks assumed that traditions would also have no status on that day. It was also reasoned that since the leap year day existed to fix our inaccurate calendar, it could also be used to fix an old and unjust custom that only let men propose marriage.

The first documentation of this practice dates back to 1288, when Scotland passed a law that allowed women to propose marriage to the man of their choice in that year. They also made it law that any man who declined a proposal in a leap year must pay a fine. The fine could range from a kiss to payment for a silk dress or a pair of gloves.

So, the moral of this story: Get thee to a candy store — and hide the newspaper!

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com. The volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.