Friday, February 28, 2014

Guest Post: I Got Married . . . And People Got Upset


Today's guest post comes from an anonymous guest who feels frustration over the response to her wedding. Is there a right way to get married? And who gets to decide?
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I should clarify that people didn't get upset by the fact that I got married or about whom I married. But apparently there is a right way to get married, and ours was not.

My partner and I had been together for almost exactly seven years until we got married three weeks ago. We both were absolutely committed to this relationship even without the legal piece of paper. I have been, for a very long time, uncomfortable with the institution marriage, and both my partner and I did not have great models in our parents' failed marriages. We just didn't see the need. Until we had to face the fact that I, a soon-to-be underemployed recent Ph.D. in English without permanent resident status in the U.S., would have to leave the country in a few months. I have lived in this country for the past 6 out of 7 years, but without a job offer and an academic department willing to sponsor a new visa, I was facing an existence of having to take a trip to Mexico every three months to keep re-entering the US as a tourist. (Not that a vacation every three months doesn't sound lovely, but on an adjunct salary it seemed rather unpractical ...). So it was a no-brainer for us that we would head to the courthouse and "legalize" our seven year relationship. And this is where hell broke loose.

Because, see, what I was unaware of is that there are rules about how to get married. And if you don't follow those rules, you are in trouble.



#1: You are supposed to announce your wedding plans way in advance, post about your plans on Facebook, and solicit and accept advice from everyone and their mother. We only told our parents, my grandmother, and our best friends. At virtually no point in my life did I ever make people expect that I was going to get married. I never got around to creating that wedding scrapbook that all women are supposed to have lying around somewhere. So why, I wonder, is it that a cousin of mine now vehemently refuses to speak with me? The cousin who made me her maid-of-honor for her elaborate two-country-wedding last summer (I know what you are thinking—why would she ask you of all people to be her maid of honor? Trust me, I was just as surprised). Why did an aunt of mine become upset that I hadn’t made a big announcement at my family’s Christmas party? Why did she feel the need to try and make my mom feel guilty about not spending two months-worth of her pension for a flight to the U.S.? Clearly, the idea that everyone should just get married whichever way works for them upset her. Something is going wrong here if we waste our energy on policing people like that (I mean, hello, at least I did get married—just imagine had I stayed in an extra-marital relationship forever .. unthinkable, I know).

#2: Apparently, I missed the memo telling me that my wedding day needs to be the most exciting and most important day of my life. If it is/was for you, that is wonderful. I truly mean that. I have attended a good number of wonderful and super fun weddings. It wasn't for us. I had to disappoint a lot of people by telling them that, no, signing a piece of paper did not miraculously make me feel substantially different. Here’s a little secret about myself: I hate being the center of attention. It often makes me so uncomfortable that sometimes I’m not even sure I like my own birthdays (last year, I was on an Italian island [for said cousin’s wedding…] and my partner was on an overnight kayaking trip. On my birthday, I was alone on the beach. It was a perfect birthday with books and drinks and no attention). Women today are still trained to think of their wedding as the most important accomplishment in their lives. For me, that’s when I got my Ph.D. True story:
When people congratulate me these days, 7 out of 10 times I think they are referring to my recent Ph.D. which makes for fun conversations: “Did you change names” … “No the title is still the same as on the prospectus” … “???”

#3: Weddings are only real if they are accompanied by a lavish party and other things that cost a LOT of money. Did you know that a U.S. couple on average spends over $28,000 on their wedding? $28,000!! And that, in many cases, does not even include the honeymoon. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that, as Jessica Valenti puts it in Full Frontal Feminism (2007), “young women are being taught that unless you have a Tiffany ring and a Vera Wang dress, your wedding and marriage are crap” (142). I first remember feeling very troubled by this pressure when watching an episode of TLC’s Say Yes to the Dress [I swear it was just that one time. I was at a conference and exhausted and needed a fix]. In said episode, a young woman decided to say “yes to a dress” for which her grandfather, who had promised to buy her the dress, had to sell his beloved Harley. I was outraged. I hope that man found another hobby fast.

#4: It’s all about romance. Well, #3 clearly established that that’s not the case at all. In addition to capitalist pressure, romance is just not the main focus in many people’s reality. It’s a luxury. Every day, couples get married for reasons regarding health insurance, taxes, and a long list of legal issues. Are their marriages worth less? I hardly think so.

I have more to say on how people reacted when they learned that I wasn’t going to change my name, that I didn’t want an engagement ring (so much to say here), that we are not planning on having children, and that for our “honeymoon” we are thinking of taking a tent and our mountain bikes to Yellowstone National Park. But I think I’m done for today.

Our experience really showed me the extreme influence patriarchal social norms have on how we are trained to be men and women. If there is such a thing as pregnancy brain, there definitely is a phenomenon that should be called "wedding brain." Imagine what we could do with the money and brain power spent on traditional weddings. I like the idea of feminist weddings. If you haven’t seen the Bones episode in which Bones awesomely proclaims, after her father walked her down the aisle, that “this is not one man ceremonially handing over a woman to another man as though she’s property,” you should. But it just wasn't for us. I agree with Valenti that “[r]ejecting normative romantic expectations . . . is revolutionary” (134). So whatever works for you—go for it!

At least one person told us that they were sorry that we had to marry “this way” just because of immigration. You know, if it hadn’t been for my residence status, there likely would not have been a wedding and if there had been one, I sure hope it would have turned out exactly the same.

Photo: Wonderlane

9 comments:

  1. Just wanted to say that I couldn't agree more with this, and have really been enjoying www.apracticalwedding.com for the last few years because they explore and break down all of these issues and more!

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  2. My wedding day was not how it looked in pictures. The pretty facade hid one very stressed, super-crabby (not in the least bit romantic) bride. If I could take it back, I would have got married in a park with a few friends. I am so happy to see this post. We should all celebrate our freedom to do what we want, despite (in spite of?) others' expectations. So congrats, not on the ""perfect" wedding, but rather on continuing to be happy with the person who supports that happiness, however it is defined.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Kelli Gardner BellMarch 3, 2014 at 10:13 AM

    When my future inlaws (could have been the groom as they never said any of this stuff to me) started insisting on things I could have cared less about, I went full force Emily Post on them. Ya want traditional? Ya got it x 1K!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Simple weddings are the best! We decided to skip the bigger wedding after a few months of planning and stress. We had a simple ceremony on Leap Day so we only have an anniversary every 4 years. We took everyone out to dinner afterwards, bought my husband a new suit so he could wear it to the wedding and job interviews later, bought my 7 year old son a matching suit and two dresses for me. I messed up one while trying to alter it to fit me right. The second one I just ordered in the proper size. It was around $800 total.

    As a child my dream wedding was a drive through wedding chapel in Vegas with two Elvis impersonators as witnesses. We couldn't afford a trip to Vegas when we got married but maybe when our second anniversary comes in 2016 we can do it then.

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  5. My husband and I had to get married before we moved to China. We didn't invite or tell anyone, even our parents, until it was over. I was a little sad at the time that I was not going to get my big, peacock-Chinese fusion wedding, and for a long time we thought about still doing the big she-bang later on, but now I say fuck it. We are married, how we got there isn't important. I'm not about to spend 5, 10, or 20,000 dollars on a "wedding" that happened 4 years ago. We have more important things to spend our money on, like our daughter's adoption.

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  6. oh wow, I guess I hadn't realized how fortunate I am that nobody at all gave me grief or ever questioned that my hubs and I got married in the courthouse and only my parents attended, and that we both wore jeans. It wasn't romantic at all, purely practical, really, but our love and relationship is the romantic part. we always figured we'd have a little, outdoor, potluck type wedding someday. we probably still will just for fun and pictures, but it's also not a reality that my hub's family can afford a plane ticket here from South America. That's so funny about the name change of your thesis haha. I think there is something to congratulate about legalizing a relationship in that it formalizes the commitment, generally in front of your most loved ones, but yes - your PhD - that is a HUGE congrats to you!

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  7. I got married in a drive-thru in Vegas. Rock on, sister.

    ReplyDelete
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Comments are welcome and encouraged. I appreciate debate and have no problem hearing from people who disagree. This is a space where people can question and discuss. That said, I will delete comments that contain name-calling or bigotry. If it would get you kicked out of a dinner party, don't say it here. Use your manners.