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Monday, December 30, 2013

72

18 Brides in a Year

If I count events attended plus invitations received, my year in weddings tallies up at 18. I sometimes try to unload a bit of my social vertigo in regards to this figure, and people are like "Whaaaat," and I reply that I know, it's crazy, there is no good reason that someone with my lewd conversational habits should possess even 18 friends. But nonetheless 18 is the number! 18 weddings, 18 save-the-dates fluttering off the refrigerator door when I drunkenly seek my snacks. 18 clues about 36 families' pasts (the curious middle names, the mom I didn't know lived in Charleston), 18 aesthetic indicators of the present (the invitation pressed on a 7" record, the blown-up glamour shots of the bride), 18 opportunities to celebrate a straight and monogamous future (so it goes, this year) through institutionalized romantic ritual.

This isn't a unique problem, or really a problem at all. It's just a situation, and for me the situation is not even unique to the year: in 2012 I went to six weddings in one summer and skipped quite a few more. But 18 weddings is so many weddings that the words start to shift in meaning. Eighteen is now an adjective that means too many. Wedding, a noun that means too much.

•••

First, the C.R.E.A.M. angle. Let's say that I were to go to all of these 18 weddings, which I have not done and won't. But let's say I did, and each time spent around $300 in transportation, $100 on accommodations, $75 on each present, and $100 on incidentals. For the very lowball price of those tickets, 18 weddings would run me $10,350. That is $4,000 more than I spend on annual rent.

•••

Second, I know: my rent is really cheap. Part of the reason is that I live in a college town in the Midwest. The other part is also the real reason I have been invited to so many weddings: the guy I love and live with. Together we are a good pair, good wedding guests; we are both congenial and mildly rowdy, happy to split up at a party and/or flirt shamelessly with the other person's friends. Separately we've got strong group-text game with our people from high school, college, grad school, work. And, although we'd easily go to our friends' weddings alone (and mostly we have; the time, the money!), they are always kind enough to invite us together. It’s been four and a half years, I guess we seem like a unit, and I guess we are.

With the exception of my year in the Peace Corps, I’ve lived with one boyfriend or another since I was 17. My personality to the contrary, I still gravitate towards the stuff of marriage: stability, assurance. And I love the stuff that’s at the base of these weddings too: our friends finding the person that makes them the best and happiest, their friends gathering for a good night and good luck. But in the aggregate and the abstract, I hate the whole charade and everything about it, I hate it, make it stop.

Over the summer, my boyfriend and I did go to one wedding together, when one of his former roommates married her sweetheart under the starry, wild West Texas sky. It was a warm night in Marfa and I leaned against my boyfriend’s shoulder at the reception, wine-drunk, candy-stoned. All I meant to say was This wedding is so beautiful. I didn't realize I said the next part aloud. But I can't imagine myself doing this, and all night I’ve been thinking, if even this can't make me want it, then what will?

When I looked up his face was crumbly, and I wanted to throw myself away.

•••

18 women, 18 brides. 18 capable, wonderful, educated, privileged, professional, socially aware female humans enthusiastically plunging into an institution that holds about as much interest for me as a bag of playground rocks (some! Not much, though) and whose associated totems have historically represented the diminishment and commodification of a gender that needs more of either as much as we need a swift punch in the face. I understand easily why a man would want a wife; it's harder to for me to grasp why a woman would want to be one. The language and semiotics of marriage are terrible: we’re still proposed to, our cervical fealty insured by a ring, our fathers give us away to our fuck buddies, we erase and replace our own names. The preferred aesthetic for "bride" is still very close to that of "princess," a role so passive and empty that there's not even anything there to subvert.

I am surprised much less by the weddings than the reluctance to let those signposts go. People (mostly men) keep bringing this coded nonsense even when your disinterest is registry-crystal clear. When are you gonna make an honest woman out of her? When are you gonna put a ring on it? This Christmas, my dad bought my boyfriend a new set of golf clubs. One of his friends texted Hmm, think that means 'Hey, stop screwing my daughter and just marry her already.'

We are scheduled to go to that friend's wedding next July.

•••

There's that great line in Persuasion: "How quick come the reasons for approving the things we like!" That's my favorite sentence in all of Jane Austen, who I admire greatly as a writer but have never desired to reread. Be that free indirect discourse ever so lovely, nothing’s dead on arrival like a goddamn marriage plot.

Still, Jane Austen is great at the intersection of ego and faux-conviction, and this quote implies an even-wiser converse. How quick come the reasons for disapproving the things we hate! I’ve got other reasons, by which I mean personal failings, that go into my “conceptual” distaste for marriage. My boyfriend, the most emotionally secure and generous person in the world, was recently kind enough to suggest that my fear of commitment might be linked to my aesthetic predilection for the transitory over the permanent: fireworks over monuments, live music over all. "I think that's why you like the internet," he added.

•••

The internet in 2013 was particularly great at asking whether isolated women and their isolated actions were feminist, or feminist “enough.” This can be a good question, inviting clarity about how one person’s pursuit of happiness can stomp all over another’s. But much more often it’s a bugbear. Pop stars aren’t closing any abortion clinics; we’ve got to leave people the fuck alone.

It’s here, on this issue only, that I find myself on the other end of the equation with my interference flag in hand. This year my wedding invitations have in fact seemed to me like the internet's bad habits: why has this routine become ubiquitous, why are we all doing this when half the fuel is narcissism and half the time we’re miserable, why can’t we burn it down and build for ourselves something better?

But then I remember that it’s really none of my business, and that being a woman today still means learning how to rehabilitate junk patriarchal traditions in the manner of your choosing, and that the “Is This Feminist” question almost always says less about the person in question than it does about the person writing from behind the screen. These 18 brides, the women of my year, are doing what they want. Me, I’m standing in front of my refrigerator coming to grips with the way these invitations condense so many of my fears: the persistence of institutions, the necessity of compromise, the fetishization of women and objects and women as objects, the way men grow up believing they're so important, the slight possibility that for some of us, for me, they are.

•••

Last night, I went to my last wedding of 2013. This couple I love like family got married at the venue where the groom works; the bride’s two-year-old twin daughters walked her down the aisle. Her bosses made the dinner, her friends and relatives spun the records, and the whole night was glittering and wintry and down-home and real. I remembered how different these things feel when the Marxist horror of the whole production eases up, and how great it is to have a buddy in this deeply unfriendly world. I thought about how the bride and groom are best friends who have already had babies, bought a house, drowned in medical bills. They came up floating. May we all.

Jia Tolentino's feminist attitudes are highly inappropriate for the learning environment.



72 Comments / Post A Comment

HollyJ

Beautifully written, and so timely when the engagement announcements are coming in hot and forcing you to reflect on what weddings/marriage mean to you, and if you want that.

omgkitties

Jia, this was perfection.

paper bag princess

Beautiful!!! More of this, please.

DianaPrince

Holy cow, this was excellent. The balance between celebrating with friends who are genuinely happy to be getting married and fighting against the persistence of patriarchal institutions is a tricky one, but you sound like you're doing alright.

Also I changed my last name to my husband's this year and I don't think I'll ever get used to it, I'm not sure I would do it again.

cuminafterall

@DianaPrince You can change it back! Or find some other configuration of names that suits you better. This person did, it seems a little $$ and hassle-y, but then again, it's your name! In terms of cost per use, definitely a good investment. If your husband's name feels like it's becoming your name, great! If not, you don't have to live with somebody else's name just because you're married.

angermonkey

@DianaPrince Or do what I did: just add a last name. You can have two. Space, no hyphen. My full name is a parade of French, English, Welsh, and Spanish names. And ignore your BMV/DMV who may say it won't fit. That's hogwash.

hallelujah

Oh man, this is just perfect. I got married a little over a year ago, despite never caring much for it, mostly cause I just had a baby & it was very important to my partner. Despite refusing most of the outward markings like rings/ceremonies/namechanges (I'd die before I gave up my name - my son has my middle & last name also #misandry) I find myself deeply uncomfortable with participating at all, and disappointed in myself I couldn't hold my ground. Then the tax returns get here & I feel so much better. CREAM.

sophia_h

@hallelujah I really wanted to give my son my last name, since we have planned on having two kids and each getting one name, but I knew my in laws would flip and they already don't love me terribly. So he has my husband's, and I'm just hoping we can manage another kid (props if it's a girl, because symmetry).

I hate hate the name change issue, it stresses me out so much. I couldn't possibly see changing mine, it just felt wrong, but it's been an unending headache I don't see ever being less of a hassle. So either feel wrong or like I gave in for the rest of my life, or keep dealing with it forever.

daisicles

This was wonderful. I've been thinking a lot about weddings this year, as this is the first year I've ever really had the opportunity to attend any as an adult, and this is such a good discussion of the kind of mixed emotions I have about them.

stonefruit

This was truly wonderful. I have my Summer of Weddings (I am a late bloomer, and there are only 4 of them, but still) and I'm just now experiencing some tsuris over the scheduling aspect.

(I am willfully ignoring the financial aspect.)

panther

There have been a lot of year-in-review type pieces on the internet in the past few days, but this is the best that I've read yet. Love it.

garli

No one should get married who doesn't want to but you can just skip all of this:

The language and semiotics of marriage are terrible: we’re still proposed to, our cervical fealty insured by a ring, our fathers give us away to our fuck buddies, we erase and replace our own names. The preferred aesthetic for "bride" is still very close to that of "princess," a role so passive and empty that there's not even anything there to subvert.

I did. (Mostly. I changed my last name, and my old last name is now my husband and I's middle name). Just skip what you don't like.

twirl2

This whole essay is great, but this is genius: "a role so passive and empty that there's not even anything there to subvert."

anachronistique

Hot damn, Jia. <3

honey cowl

I simultaneously love this and disagree strongly with it. Good one, Jia!

H.E. Ladypants

Ugh and oh man, this hit me in a place. I am getting married/planning a wedding. I am generally delighted to attend other people's weddings but was never keen on my own. However, I proposed marriage because I am very keen on the actual vow/promise of it bit. For me, personally, the making a solemn vow that means more than a piece of paper from the state has quite a lot of meaning for me, in the way that saying something true can be very holy.

But the wedding bit, the reception. I am amazed at how much I loathe it. I thought I'd move from not caring to liking it eventually because I like planning big events but I hate it instead. I'm going along with it because my fiance wants the big wedding so badly and his family expects it so reflexively (and they are footing much of the bill.)

It feels like there shouldn't be many feminist complaints that can be made about my wedding. I proposed. I gave him an engagement ring. Our ceremony will affirm our equality. He's even going to take my last name (his idea.) But the hoopla still turns my stomach in so many ways and for so many reasons I can barely put my fingers on them all.

So many feelings.

shantasybaby

@H.E. Ladypants I always thought that the thing most people could agree on was the party part! If the making the vow to each other is important to you, why wouldn't a big fun party to celebrate it not make total sense (especially if you remove all the old school baggage, I assume you will not be having a garter taken off with his teeth or anything.) But I of course get where you're coming from over all, I always thought I was not that into marriage the institution or the ceremony but when it came down to it, it turned out I wanted the whole thing for me, my husband, but also his family and a chance to see all the people I love in one place, all telling me how happy they are for me that I'm happy. Planning can be a bitch but it really can be a great relationship memory (it doesn't have to be the biggest or best memory, that's where traditional weddings stories lose me.)

Beaks

@H.E. Ladypants I feel like a wedding is about the only event where you are expected to plan the event for yourself. I'm all about planning stuff for other people/ helping with crafts, but when it came to ours we basically just threw money at people. We picked a venue that would do everything for us, only made decisions about the food, and basically answered every other question with "here is a photo of some flowers we like. Something that goes with that." And it was still a pain in the ass.

The writing our own vows part was pretty awesome, though. Those are my favorite. And making everybody travel to see us for a change (rather than the other way around).

bowtiesarecool

@H.E. Ladypants Oh man, I hear you. I kept expecting to feel better about it, and I never did. I hated everything about our wedding, pretty much. And I did absolutely zero DIY and spent wayyyy less time and money than the norm - we handed money to a restaurant and a couple of other people and told them to stop asking questions; we didn't care. People's reactions to me as A Bride(tm) made me uncomfortable. Bridal media makes me want to vomit. I hate hate HATE people's persistent inability to acknowledge that my name has not changed one iota and never will.

All I can suggest is that you think about why you're doing this and what's important to you both/what you're getting out of it, and focus on that. For us, it was a combination of getting to spend time with/take photos of our loved ones (we had a lot of tragedy this year, and the urge to pull people close was strong), and creating some sort of liminal ritual to mark the legal/social decision we had made to get married. It didn't stop me from overthinking seating arrangements or other stupid stuff, but it helped keep the noise to a minimum and I think it generally kept our heads screwed on straight through the process.

(Also, we did premarital counseling with a competent family practice LCSW and hired a no-nonsense day-of coordinator to run interference with everyone. Best money ever spent on both counts. We felt emotionally prepared for marriage, and all we had to do on the wedding day was turn up, not pass out, and eat. A++, would spend money on again.)

shantasybaby

@H.E. Ladypants YES about day-of coordinators!

cocokins

@H.E. Ladypants I know a friend who went to a wedding that was JUST a to-die-for 7 or 8 course meal. Like, no dancing, no stupid DJ saying stupid stuff, no embarassing "grandma's getting drunk, tee hee hee" moments. It was just a lovely ceremony followed by a sit-down meal that lasted for a couple of hours. She said it was divine.

lucy snowe

That stupid 27 Dresses with Katherine Heigl should have been this.

TheJacqueline

This is total perfection and it sums up my feelings on weddings and marriage more eloquently than I ever could.

Jia, you are a fucking star.

polka dots vs stripes

I want to be married to my partner so much, but there is so little about weddings I want to participate in/care about, it's hard for me to get excited about anything besides, well, the food and the vows, if we're being honest.

This is awesome Jia.

shantasybaby

@polka dots vs stripes Do you not drink or dance or like seeing your friends and family all together having fun celebrating your happiness? Those were the main things I liked about my wedding (in terms of the food, it's a cliche but I totally couldn't eat at my wedding, it wasn't exactly nerves but just overstimulated by all the emotions and stuff going on! I'm told our food was good, though!) I have known people who aren't party types or "center of attention" types, who had small weddings performed at City Hall (or in one case, by me in their backyard with only their son in attendance.)

I agree, this was great...I spent alot of time sussing out my feelings on getting married and making it work for me that I forget that there's still alot of things people question.

bowtiesarecool

@polka dots vs stripes Yeah, I felt the same way. We strongly considered eloping, but didn't because we ultimately wanted people there for the vows, so we had a pretty minimal wedding in the private room of a local restaurant. The food was good, we got a picture of the parents and grandma, everyone got to cry during the (5-minute, civil) ceremony, and we didn't have to do any of the stuff that I didn't want to do. I don't dance, so we didn't. I didn't want to pick colors or other people's clothes, so I didn't. I didn't want flowers or to throw bouquets/my underwear at our relatives, so we didn't have those things, either. It's amazing how much "traditional" stuff you can cut out of a wedding and still have people happily process it as "a wedding." And because I cared about so very little, if someone who was not me cared about something (and I was not strongly opposed), I just let them do it. We had surprise speeches and a completely unnecessary (but delicious) rehearsal dinner and one of those silly tiered cakes because other people wanted them, and didn't require me to do anything.

I also know people who eloped/went to the court house on their lunch breaks one day, and were also happy! So if it's important to y'all to be married, don't let the stupid wedding industrial complex get in your way.

polka dots vs stripes

@shantasybaby @bowtiesarecool I like drinking and dancing but not so much that I want to spend $20,000 on it. My favorite idea right now is brunch, with the ceremony and the food in the same place, and lots of hanging around my city with my friends (who, as a commenter said above, I'm very excited to have travel to see me instead of the other way around for once!) in a low-key weekend.

anniemac

@polka dots vs stripes I did this--a brunch with the ceremony in the same location. It was a lot of fun, and really great to have the rest of the day, after the reception, to hang with friends in a more casual atmosphere. My in-laws threw us a rehearsal dinner the night before, so I was able to see some folks then as well. I will say that the wedding ended up costing just as much as a dinner would have, so it was still very pricey. I have a big family, though, and I live in a major city. If you can limit the guest list and you live somewhere a bit cheaper, brunch might be a good way to save some dollars.

j-i-a

you guys, THANK YOU, i really appreciate these comments--it was hard for me to write this and feel confident in any way that i could in words reconcile my abstract aversion to marriage with my concrete bubble-joy every time i see my friends kiss at the altar, and the understanding that if i were in the rawlsian original position i'd probably say the best possible rule for women is "do whatever the fuck you want." but really thank you thank you

Bittersweet

@j-i-a The difference between how I see marriage and weddings portrayed in the media, and how I feel when loved ones stand up and pledge their love and commitment to each other, is baffling and ridiculous. Thanks for putting it in such lovely and honest words, Jia. Happy New Year!

Emily Scott Robinson@facebook

@j-i-a YOU KILLED IT. I cannot thank you enough for this article. The thing I love so much about it is that it's honest- it's vulnerable- it's human. It speaks to the entire spectrum of my psyche and experience watching good weddings/marriages, bad weddings/marriages, divorces, my own parents' relationship that I've vowed not to repeat, my feminist skepticism/anger (and hence cherry-picking wedding traditions I hate and others I don't give a f*ck about) and to the joyful and "to hell with it" leap I took in marrying my own husband. The last paragraph made me cry. You are an INCREDIBLE writer. Keep writing! This world needs your voice, mmkay? Thank you, thank you. Happy New Year.

Also, postscript about name change: I just tacked my husbands name onto my last name (which makes it insanely long) so that the Social Security Administration would still recognize me by all names. And I just use my various last names interchangeably, like a silly fairy who doesn't care that she confuses people. For some reason, I REALLY like this method.

lilliangish

@Emily Scott Robinson@facebook "And I just use my various last names interchangeably, like a silly fairy who doesn't care that she confuses people."

This is such a brilliant approach! I love it. The more confused the better anyway.

chickpeas akimbo

I don't know what I'd do if I got 18 wedding invitations in a year. Change my name, move to a different state, leave no forwarding address, and make new (already married?) friends, probably. My god.

I am truly and deeply happy for my married friends while maintaining a complete horror at the thought of ever being married. It's sort of like... I have friends who are heterosexual, and it seems to make them happy, so despite the fact that the thought of ever dating a male human ever again gives me the allovers, I certainly wish them all the best with the dicks and the body hair and whatnot.

muralgirl

This is great. I relate to it a whole lot. Marriage I get, at least as a means to an end, especially in the US. Weddings, not so much.

But my question is this: reasonable rent?? I happen to live in the same Midwestern college town, and for a comparable rent I could live in very, very close proximity to Manhattan. I think the rental market here is baffling and ridiculous. But I guess cohabiting would ease the burden a lot.

j-i-a

@muralgirl Ahhh you live in A2? Did we meet at Last Word that one time? The rent in this town does get totally stupid, but I live pretty far down Packard and you're definitely right - cohabiting is the real secret to my $avings

so what?

@muralgirl I thought the same thing. Having rented apartments in A2 for four years, I thought the rental rates were absolutely insane. I was luckily able to find some cheap(ish) places and with roommates never had to pay more than $450, but it's sooo hard to find those deals and takes months of searching and stress and ugh. I do not miss that.

Also, I lived in Ypsi for two years and commuted to school via AATA and saved sooo much money. The rent is way cheaper and the buses are great. Plus I got a lot of reading done on the commute, so it was really a win-win (for me, maybe not everyone).

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

To tie in weddings, is life in Ann Arbor really how it is depicted in 'Five-Year Engagement'??

muralgirl

@j-i-a That wasn't me, sadly!

muralgirl

@so what? I thought about doing that. I probably should have. I thought being so far from everything/one and dependent on the bus would be a problem, but I'm a hermit anyway, so I doubt it would have mattered. And it might have forced me to stay in my office most days and get more work done!

j-i-a

@Rock and Roll Ken Doll afraid to watch that movie because my boyfriend is already beardy and i'm in the english department so i assume all the rest of it will come true if i do

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@j-i-a
At a Halloween party this year, I asked the same question to another Ann Arbor resident. He said he hadn't seen it but that some people told him it was kind of accurate. Then later in the conversation he mentioned that he was trying to accumulate a lot of newsprint. When I asked why, he said it's because he's building a pizza oven in his back yard. Hah!

LilRedCorvette

I have officially entered The Age of [Peer] Marriage (I know, it'll get worse before it gets better) and...this was great. Just great. Oh, Jia, nice job.

mochi

"She pushed her feminist agenda way too far into grading our essays". LOLOLOLOLOL.

chnellociraptor

Ahhhhhh this is so good and refreshing and interesting and Jia you are SUCH A GOOD WRITER WTF?!?!?

chnellociraptor

@chnellociraptor Also Cosmo whyyyyyyyyyy.

j-i-a

@chnellociraptor lol HELP

"What follows is a self-indulgent critique of the institution of marriage, the tradition of weddings, and the women who want to become wives. Though it's difficult to draw one conclusion from her arguments, which make hairpin (yes, went there) turns at nearly every paragraph..."

meowmischen

@j-i-a That Cosmo piece, just, what? Jazz's tweet FTW.

RachelTheC

A beautiful wedding in Marfa, TX is what made me want to get married. If you're gonna convert, it'll be at there.

angermonkey

@RachelTheC Having grown up in Texas, the idea of Marfa as a fashionable, artsy destination BLOWS MY DAMN MIND. When/how did this happen???

It will always be the weird little town of my youth, all chicken fried steak and weird lights on the mountains.

RachelTheC

@RachelTheC being from central Texas, anything west was just cactai, mountain hippies, and Mexico as far as I knew. From what gathered, marfa's become a pretty cheap town to do artsy stuff if you drop out of Sul Ross university in Alpine...

Rookie (not the magazine) (not that there's anything wrong with that)

Really liked this. Jia, I like your fun pieces and your smart pieces and your pieces that are both, but the introspection in this one was just ace.

whatsamacaron

I don't comment very often but this is just such a wonderful piece. Thank you for writing about this in such a thoughtful, articulate, beautiful way. This is the reason I come to the Hairpin!

SUz Aqueous AnNe@facebook

Marriage and weddings didn't make sense to me until I really thought, for the first time, about the idea of marriage as a sacrament. I say that as a non-Catholic person, a Quaker. The part about it that makes deep sense to me is that to make this thing, partnership, be the beautiful thing it can be, it needs support - from people around the couple, from magic, and from faith.

RaspberryCake

I liked this. I'm getting married next year and its been a little surprising having to field the name-change questions. I'm not keeping my name--I didn't have loving parents, and my biological grandpa ran out on my loving, beautiful grandma, so the name means nothing to me.

If my last name were my Grandma's maiden name then maybe, but my last name has always felt like a lie. As an adult I started using my first and middle name on social media, as that is who I identify as. Adding my future husbands name to my identity feels thrilling--like I am finally realizing the loving family I have always wanted. We are a unit, and a community, and s support network, and it makes me so happy. Being able to throw out the old name that only reminded me of a bad past makes me feel so excited.

At any rate, we're eloping in a private, special place to both of us. Instead of me walking towards him, we are going to hold hands and walk towards the officiant together, as equals. We've been together for 4 years so this isn't a case where we are starting our lives together, we're just continuing our lives together.

He gave me a heads up a year before he asked me to marry him just so I could get used to the idea, the guy knows me so well. When he did ask me, I was really surprised by my reaction. I just sobbed and sobbed like I was purging something bad out of my system--like I was getting rid of something deep and unconscious and icky that I had thought about myself which was at once forcefully proved wrong. You would think that after therapy, a thriving goal oriented life, and a long term relationship that I would feel loveable--but the symbolism of the ring on my finger totally engulfed me in a way that it shouldn't have but did anyway. I felt really safe, and all this black sludge of self doubt just melted out of me.

superfluous consonants

oh goodness yes. there was the very traditional proposal (but with a non-diamond!) that i wasn't expecting and we hadn't discussed (though he was right to know I'd say yes) and the mostly-traditional wedding (i was walked down the aisle and traded between men--though i'm so terrible at being looked at i probably wouldn't have gone at all by myself). we thought a lot about it and ended up with an event we loved, full of our favorite people and snacks and minimal princessing (my outfit was an inexplicably white bridesmaid's dress). i did NOT change my name, for which i am grateful every day, but i did end up giving our son his name only, for which i am disappointed with myself and still, six months later, consider changing. ugh, the patriarchy is hard.

bowtiesarecool

@superfluous consonants ugh, the patriarchy is hard.

I feel like so many things we talk about can get boiled down to this. Word.

nomorecheese

Jia, you are awesome. I friggin love everything you write. This too.

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

Thanks, Jia. Makes me think of that Ellen Willis essay (I think from 'No More Nice Girls'), written in the mid-'80s, where she muses about how only a decade prior feminists were theorizing particular alternatives to marriage and the nuclear family, but how far away that seemed to her, despite the passage of not that many years. Seems even farther away now.

FYI, in 2008 I got invited to 13 weddings and attended 12.

cuminafterall

About this: "I understand easily why a man would want a wife; it's harder to for me to grasp why a woman would want to be one."

I got married this year, so I guess I am a wife, insofar as it means "female-identified, legally and socially recognized life partner of another human." That's all I signed up for, that's what it means to me. I wish that was all it meant to the world at large. The only thing I can do is claim that meaning for myself and construct/practice an egalitarian relationship with my husband. Luckily he's on board with that, though it's harder than I thought it would be.

angermonkey

@cuminafterall This. Nothing magically changed after we got married (and we were together 8 years before that happened.) Nobody gave me an apron and told me to quit my job and have a roast on the table by 6. Nobody made him become Don Draper. Maybe it helps that we're childfree by choice? I don't know why the words "husband" and "wife" get so... loaded?

I wonder sometimes if this is why marriages fail: people think that there will be some amazing transformation in either of you. I have never, in my experience, seen that to be the case.

supernintendochalmers

What a lovely piece. I've been dating my boyfriend about as long as you've been dating yours and am getting the same gross pressure, as if there's an expiration date on my forehead or something. I feel the same way as you do about most of it, especially the tenacity of the sexist traditions. It's hard for me to understand why most of my smart, feminist friends still want a man to propose to them with a ring in hand (and of course, they'll take his name or his name will come last in their hyphenates). I know it's a personal decision, but why are so many women still making that choice in 2013?

apolsasam

Well, I think a lot of brides would absolutely do this. - Sandra Dyche

Rock and Roll Ken Doll

@apolsasam
Local wife earns real equivalent of $21/hour in long-running scheme to exchange sex for room, board, and societal approval!

Lorly

I have never understood why women change their names. We are no longer chattel of our fathers or husbands, and this tradition must be re-examined. No one asked my husband if he intended to change his name to mine, but I was and am constantly asked why I didn't change my name. It makes no difference if I share a name with my husband, and I certainly don't care if people think we're not married. Also, no one asked my husband if he was going to hyphenate his name and add mine. This practice strikes me as ridiculous and cumbersome.

I also hope that we stop using the term "maiden name." The word maiden implies the false notion that we come into marriage "pure" until our husband takes our virginity. The correct term is "family name" and I wish women would start using it. I have practiced the following simple sentence in reply to the question, "Why didn't you change your name." It is "I preferred to keep my family name." If the questioner persists, I will ask why they DID change their name. They never have a logical answer.

LaLoba

@Lorly

1. Because your husband needs to feel like he has claimed you as property in order to feel secure

2. Because we (men) don't care how you feel about your family. If you love your daddy so much, marry him.

^ Notions expressed (straight up - I'm not directly quoting because this is from memory, but this isn't a cutting re-phrasing to expose hidden meaning, those quotes are pretty close) best-selling American advice manual for training good females, that I also allude to in the below comment.

shantasybaby

@Lorly I am not so hard on name-changers. Certainly, it has a lot of baggage and doesn't make logical sense. And I haven't changed mine although I am wishy washy about it and claim that I will some day if I feel like filling out the paper work. Most of us pick and choose which patriarchy-rooted things we can tolerate because most of us don't have the time or energy to fight everything.

LaLoba

It's disturbing to me that these ideas - ideas simply rooted in believing in individual choice, freedom, desire, and taste - are so shocking, and so refreshing. They're elegantly expressed and it's a lovely essay, so what disturbs me is that these ideas are so rarely expressed that all these like-minded folks feel the need to say "FINALLY."

I shouldn't be shocked that this essay is refreshing, and also that this essay troubles those who thrive on the capital market of selling female worth in bottles and lace bindings, especially because

1) I live on Earth, in what others perceive as a strictly female body

2) I just read that fucking entire Steve Harvey book

real

Ninifuni 18 Brides in a Year.

BeenThere

My wife and I just celebrated our 23rd anniversary. We are done raising children and are now guiding young adults. I offer the following advice to help alleviate some of the stress people feel about weddings and marriage. First, make your wedding your own. You will always cherish the unique things you did to make your day special. If others want to be in control (e.g. purse strings), cut the strings. You may have to adjust your expectations but you will be happier with the results. Second, do not succumb to media, family pressure. Thank people for their input and do your own thing. This day belongs to you and your partner. Period. Lastly, the main focus should be on the pledge you are making to your life partner (your love and fidelity). If the main focus is on the reception, perhaps marriage is not for you at this time. Throw a party instead. The best advice I can give is to spend more time thinking about and planning for your marriage. Do your best to love unconditionally. Both parties should enter into marriage with the mindset of servant-leadership and never forget it. The foundation upon which to build a life together is faith (in God and each other). Best wishes to all. Enjoy the day and your life with your beloved.

ZMang

Dear Jia,
When the most important person in a marriage is given the least consideration at the beginning, middle and, sadly, the end of a marriage - it is no wonder that attacks on the perceived purpose of marriage are considered justifiable attacks on the truth & beauty of marriage itself.

When the common perception of an absolute truth is that it is more difficult to find than the Yeti, when in fact it can be as commonplace as flowers in spring, it naturally brings about the gathering of the villagers. The villagers with their pitchforks come out in force to burn the scapegoat at the stake. The entire force of a generation, sadly in the dark on the true purpose and meaning of a marriage, comes to bear on ensuring a good bonfire.

There I am happy to join the revelers if there is hope that in the dying embers of that fire, the light of truth will shine out from the emptiness that is felt when a sham burning of substance-less ceremonials leaves no one entirely satisfied. That all the celebrants have done is burn down what they justifiably despised about weddings of any age, but haven't so much as harmed a single hair of the real thing.

St. Augustine said, "Only He who made man makes man happy". Replace the word "man" in that quote with "marriage". Does that ring true to anyone anymore? His and other voices are now those of fools in a desert land crying out to a world of revelers who think being left alone to do whatever they'd like is the definition of freedom. But, I am foolish enough to stand in the company of these fools, foolish enough to speak my mind with sadness, foolish enough to think that true freedom comes from enslavement to the truth.

I do remain filled with hope that someone may hear and listen. I beg you - seek the Truth. Someone made an eternal promise many centuries ago that you will find it. I encourage the revelers as the warmth of that raging fire turns to cold emptiness, to seek out for themselves the truth & beauty of marriage and more. I pray for a good spring.

In Christ
An anonymous fool.

organic-masks

Amazing, absolutely incredible :) oldwivestail

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