On reading about Stephanie Smith, the blogger and New York Post reporter who pledged to make 300 sandwiches for her boyfriend, Eric, in exchange for a marriage proposal, I felt a little surge of smugness. Thank God, I thought to myself, my bloke is suitably evolved that he knows that if he wants a sandwich he has to go to the fridge. He also knows that if he wants the fridge to contain sandwich-making material he needs to visit a supermarket first. These are concepts that have never had to be explained. Ain't life grand?
But then, after the smugness subsided, along with the outrage that in 2013 a man should make such wilfully degrading demands, and a woman should submit to them, I went straight to her blog. I wanted to see Stephanie and Eric for myself. And damn it, I wanted to know what was in those sandwiches.
It was during a casual conversation while they were watching Return of the Jedi that Eric – who is essentially Friends' Joey Tribiani in a blond wig – told his girlfriend she was "300 sandwiches away from an engagement ring". Instead of taking a carving knife to his privates, she made straight for their kitchen where she began devising sandwich menus. Being a writer, she also started a blog. "Maybe I needed to prove that I'm wife material," she explains. "To him sandwiches are like kisses or hugs. Or sex."
There is, of course, a lot that we don't know about Eric and Stephanie. In laying down the challenge, Eric may well have been speaking ironically, briefly putting down the ironing to comically adopt the role of a knuckle-dragging nitwit. It could be that Stephanie is a "feeder", deliberately fattening up her fella until he's incapable of leaving the house so she can make off with his collection of Star Wars figurines.
Or maybe – just maybe – the pair have cooked the whole thing up and, having done a sterling job of stoking worldwide indignation, are, this minute, signing lucrative deals for a cookery book series and screenplay (I'm thinking Katherine Heigl and Jason Bateman in the starring roles).
The depressing part of all this, of course, is that we are not short of real-life Stephanies willing to forfeit sleep and dignity to secure an imaginary future in which they are truly loved. There they are on supermarket adverts, juggling domestic duties and an office job with a benevolent smile because, apparently, it is solely up to them to keep the family fed, clothed and happy.
They are in women's magazines, in the aspirational wives and girlfriends who faithfully adhere to the obligatory "top tips to keep your man". (On her blog, Stephanie shares Eric's wisdom on making your bloke happy: "We're not complex," he says. "Just do something nice for us. Like make a sandwich.")
There are, certainly, less strenuous ways to maintain a lasting relationship: shared hobbies, divvying up the chores, keeping name-calling to a minimum. And if you can come up with a money-spinning business plan that involves letting the world know about your mouth-watering chicken and sweet potato sandwiches, why the hell not?