Wedding Wednesday- What does it mean to get married anyway?

by - Wednesday, February 29, 2012

 So this is a blog that I keep meaning to write on wedding Wednesday, but then I feel as if it is too hard to articulate so I just keep putting it off with discussions of shoe color and hairstyles and any other number of things that won't matter in a year, but really are fun to think about now. I have been thinking a lot about the stakes of getting married and especially how it fits in with my politics and the possibilities of my career. The last few weeks, as the rumblings of the election get louder and all the crazies keep heading out to be ugly and hateful in the name of a Christ I don't recognize, I worry that my getting married is suggesting things about who I am and what I will accept that I really don't want to suggest ever. I'm a feminist, and I know that I am essentially entering into an institution with a societal history and perception of patriarchial dominance (I also study in such an institution among other things... but you know what I mean).  I worry that even if you can make your marriage look like what you want on the inside, it will always carry that baggage externally.

I should stop now and say that things with the Boy are good as always, and that any reservations I have about marriage are about the institution and what kind of baggage has been tacked on to it, not my relationship. I am really proud and excited to be with a person who I know sees me as an equal, who genuinely values parts of my character that I value, and would never ask me to be the submissive partner. I don't feel any pressure from him to don an apron and cook him breakfast (despite the fact that I have gotten 3 aprons since I got engaged), and I think he actually likes me better when I am biting someone's head off or finding real solutions to problems. This is the way it has always been, and I have confidence that our mutual respect and collaboration will continue or, trust me, I just wouldn't get married.

The interesting thing is that now that we've gotten engaged, and even more so when we get married, I think people perceive me in a different way. I think there are groups of people who didn't know what to make of me before or who felt in some way threatened by me (especially middle aged men... man, I really bothered some of them), who now seem just a little too excited I am getting married. Some of my female friends can relax, because they know I am just like them. Like now I am easily categorizable again. I also sense a lessened level of respect from some of my peers (of course, most people are really happy for us), and I don't think that the drop is necessarily unwarranted. I think when you study things like feminist and queer art, entering into a more traditional living situation yourself probably marks you in a way as an outsider looking in, rather than someone speaking from the inside. I think this is inevitable, and I honestly have no idea what to do about it. Even if I don't feel like my relationship compromises my understanding, I know I enjoy privileges and benefits from being in a seemingly heteronormative relationship.

I don't think anyone really needs to recount all of the ways weddings really don't do either gender any justice- the girl comes out dressed up like a frilly virginal present delivered by her patriarichal mailman who "gives her away" She takes her husband's name (I debate a lot about this issue in my head... we may have thought of a solution I am cool with, but we are keeping it to ourselves, because having things that are nobody else's business seems like an important step in the whole thing) so the bride can signify "who she belongs to." Then there is the always-dreaded (no, for serious, who thinks this is fun?)bouquet toss, where every woman reveals that if she is single, she must just want a husband (no matter how much people harassed her onto the floor). I would point out that the guys don't fare much better in this case and are supposed to run for the garter, which to me seems gross, not to mention more sweaty than sexy. Almost all of these things won't be in our wedding, but I am wearing a white (ish) dress and doing some sort of name swapping.

My worry is that there is such a specific idea of what a woman is supposed to be, what roles she takes, and what paths she uses; I worry that by getting married, I am actually revealing that to be true. That I can take my little bit of non-academic energy and obsess over table colors and beauty regimens seems weirdly cliche even to myself, even if I have had fun. I also have concerns about the expectations of compromise for the future- I've noticed the "when are you planning on having kids" and "how are you going to make that work with school etc" questions have started to roll in, but only in my direction, and that annoys me.

Of course, I don't have any solution to any of this, because the bottom line is that it may just be the risk I take by getting married.  Maybe I should vociferously pretend to not enjoy the planning, but the truth is I usually enjoy pretty much everything I do. If I didn't, I really just wouldn't do it. In a way, I feel like unapologetically enjoying it for my own specific desires and responsibilities is the most feminist way to handle the situation. I do truly believe everyone should have the right to make any choice they need to, and this is mine, so the goal is to own it, while remaining conscious of the underlying rhetoric I might be espousing. Maybe I will have to prove myself again once we are on the other side of this. I figure that the almost entire lack of change to the outside world might be the best testament to the fact that I have not traded in my Lucy Lippard for Phylis Schafly or something.

 I love tradition, because I am sentimental like that, but I am not tying myself to anything that my beliefs can't sustain, so sometimes you just have to mix up the old with your version of the new. That's why I like that we will see each other before the wedding. I also love that we aren't having gender-specific vows and I am hoping to write out as much of the heteronormative plot from our wedding (because everyone should be able to get married if that is what they want to do. It's ridiculous that this is still not the case everywhere!). I want to keep thinking about this as I go, because I don't think people talk about this very much. I tried to read about it online and they told me I had the bridal blues, but that isn't true! Women thinking critically about their choices doesn't sound like some pre-wedding hysteria to me. I think it is normal to question and know what you are getting into, beyond just the commitment between you and your partner. Clearly, I am still working this out in my head, but I will let you know when I have come up with the answer!

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