The Apathetic Bride

As a child, I was not especially girly. This might come as a shock to my frequent readers, considering Jake and I just recently had an argument as to whether or not glitter can be my second favorite color. Spoiler alert: he’s wrong.

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Perhaps I’m simply overcompensating in adulthood, because when I was little, I was bound and determined to be a tomboy. I “hated” baby dolls, Barbies, dresses, and the color pink, because naturally you couldn’t like Disney princesses and climbing trees. Regardless, I loved my Water Baby, because it didn’t feel like a doll, but a real baby and I wanted my play to be as realistic as possible… which is precisely why I stuck my baby in the microwave to heat up the water, after my mother refused to refill it. While my mothering instincts might have left something to be desired, it wasn’t for lack of interest. Just like most other little girls, I felt that biological drive and genuine desire to be a mom.

I suppose my first romantic fantasy had the same lead as that of every other 90s girl: Jack Dawson. Of course, it took me a bit longer to realize that Cal Hockley was the real hero of Titanic, but all the same… at age 10, I began to dream, innocently (put your dress back on, Rose, you just met this man), of falling in love. Despite this, it would be another six years before I even considered my own wedding, and as an assignment in a marriage and family class, at that. Now, before you go mocking my undergraduate degree of family and consumer science education (or home-ec), I’d like to clarify that this was a budgeting and planning exercise. Weddings just happened to be on topic with the course, as we calculated the cost of catering and venues and attire. While I’m sure this was fun (and a little harmful) for the girls who grew up fantasizing about their dream weddings, for me, it was just… illogical.

Teacher: “You have to include boutonnieres for the men.”
Me: “Why? You can have a wedding without those.”

Even when I planned my first wedding, I just couldn’t muster up the energy to care about this entirely unnecessary party. In hindsight, I’ve considered the possibility that this was simply because I was getting married for all the wrong reasons, and there may be some merit to that. On the day of my wedding, I remember trying to picture my life five years later and thinking that I couldn’t see myself married then… that maybe this was the wrong path… that it was too late to do anything about it. Few believe me when I tell them this, since I didn’t actually say it at the time, so they insist that the only reason I don’t care about my pending party is because I’ve already had a wedding. Y’all, I swear on the Deathly Hallows that the next time someone implies that my second marriage counts less than the one I entered before I could legally drink, Imma cut a bitch.

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Weddings have just never been my thing. On our first date, I told Jake as much… and he was baffled as to why. In every other way, this man is a stereotypical country boy. He loves hunting, fishing, drinking, football, and taxidermy. He has such a thick southern accent, that he sounds like a racist cartoon character. The man’s a downright parody of himself… and he loves weddings, so much so, that he’s attended at least fifteen over the years and has been in half of them. Jake thinks it’s absolutely worth it to spend $9,000 on a party. I’m marrying Katherine Heigl from 27 Dresses and I’m… Sheldon Cooper.

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Hate is a really strong word for how I feel about weddings. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I don’t mind the idea of looking back on a big celebration to declare my lifelong commitment to Jake, in front of all of our friends and family. It certainly means a lot more at 29 than it did at 19, to me and to the audience. I’d do it just to make Jake happy. It’s just… I want to be a wife, not a bride. I don’t need or really even want all the fuss, especially when the tradition and industry surrounding weddings… kind of sucks.

Weddings and wedding planning are typically very sexist. It takes a lot to tickle my feminist bone, but I resent that I’m supposed to plan this shindig, just because I brought the vagina to the party. I want to go to the caterer, who Jake told me was shocked that I’d “let” him decide the menu without me there to hold his hand, and remind her that it’s 2017. I love Jake’s mom, but I think it’s completely unfair that she and everyone else think my father should pay for an elaborate party that his adult daughter doesn’t really even want. It’s not because it’s my second wedding, either. It’s because I bring in $50,000 a year and I don’t need my father to inventory his livestock so he can pay some man to take me off his hands, because women are such a burden. If we want a party, we can pay for a party.

To be clear, it’s not any one person being sexist. It’s the wedding industry. Societally, we talk sooooo big about female empowerment and some pretend sisterhood where I owe more to a random woman than a random man, because somehow equality (?), but the second a woman gets engaged, all of that goes out the window. I’m criticized for my own traditional relationship and gender role (my boss once joked that I was “gender conforming”), which effect only me, but now it’s not only okay for me to ask my dad to pay a literal dowry, but mandatory. No longer are the sparkle and the glitz and the bright colors grounds for mockery, but celebrated… by the jewelry and bridal stores, who want my money. If I say I want to maintain a certain body image for Jake, I’m doing a disservice to all womankind, but my wedding is in three months, so it’s just assumed I’m on a diet of laxatives and self-loathing, to look good for everyone else. The idea that I’m not allowed to be traditional and feminine (aside from the language), unless it’s wedding season, is utter bullshit… and a marketing ploy.

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Zetus lapetus, are weddings expensive. After my first and only wedding dress shopping trip, last summer, I’ve refused to go on another. I was thrilled when my bridesmaids chose their own dress online and ordered it sight unseen. As for my dress…. well, I’m getting married in three months and I don’t even know what I’m going to wear. I’m not really that concerned about it, either, because I’ve been shopping online and all the dresses look the same. It’s my first communion all over again. For realz, y’all, the only difference I can even see half the time is price. The same white, A-line, floor length, strapless dress, either runs for $800 or $2,300 and no one is going to remember it, either way. In fact, none of the stores even make anything as low key as the lacey, tea length, sleeved dress I had in mind. They’re so well stocked in taffeta and tulle, I’m never sure if I’m looking at bridal gowns or pageant dresses… and I’m not even going to pretend I’ve ever had that much grace and poise.

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I’m sure I’ll order the dress I’ve had my eye on from Etsy in two weeks, and if I don’t… so what? I can find something on Modcloth in the last month if I must. It’s a dress I’ll wear one time and it’s likely I’ll only vaguely remember doing so, because that’s the thing no one tells brides: they’ll be so stressed and wired the day of their wedding, that when it’s all said and done, it’ll be a fog of memory. They’ll have looked forward to the day their entire lives, shed tears of frustration over ridiculous arguments during the planning, spent thousands of dollars on flowers and centerpieces and videography and all those other things I refuse to purchase… and it’ll still be a haze. The only people who’ve ever truly enjoyed a wedding are guests, and so I maintain my apathetic stance: I don’t care and if it’s my day, why can’t I bring my pets?

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♫ “The name I made, I’ll trade for his. The only trouble is…” ♫

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As a former 23-year-old divorcée, I always come back to the same issue: would I ever change my name for a man again? I live in the Midwest, y’all. This shit ain’t optional. You get married and you change your name… especially when you’ve repeatedly said the words “If he’s not a better shot than I am, he’s not really a man.” I’m a traditional gal… who’s been FUCKED OVER.

The day I finalized my divorce, I went directly from the judge’s office to trek over a tri-county area changing my name on every single piece of documentation I had from my social security card, to my driver’s license, to my student ID’s and my passport. It was emotionally and physically exhausting. It was also totally worth it to reclaim a piece of myself after becoming someone I not only didn’t recognize, but didn’t want to recognize. One year before I finalized, I had to decide whether or not to put my married name on my diploma and graduation  announcements. I chose my maiden name. How’s that for a sign your marriage is shot to shit? Today, the only documentation with my married name on it is my teaching certificate and that won’t be the case once I take the test to be certified in school library and have it reprinted. I’m just too cheap to do it before then.

It’s ironic that the very thing that has made me so he’d-better-open-my-door-and-pick-up-the-check traditional is also the thing that’s made me want to keep my daddy’s name until the day I die. A man who refused to work, lied, cheated, stole, manipulated, and abused has made me want to be with someone hard-working, honest, loyal, moral, forthright, and caring. It’s also made me want to forever retain that sense of self I got back on February 17, 2011.

My Gramma is this hilarious and adorable contradiction of a feminist from her day. She thinks it’s ridiculous for a man to do the dishes while his wife lazes on the couch, but that the reverse is acceptable. Contrarily, her thoughts on name-changing are as follows:

“Why does a woman have to change her name? Why can’t he change his own danged name if it’s so important?”

I don’t want a man to take my name. That’s weird. Why do I have to take his, though? I know that some people say it seems like you don’t have faith in the marriage if you don’t take his name and you know what? They’re half right. I don’t have faith in ‘Til Death Do Us Part. People grow and change and become unhappy. Maybe we will get divorced one day. However, that’s not why I wouldn’t want to take his name. Getting a divorce is such a pain in the ass that changing a name is just one stone in a crumbling tower, particularly when you’re older and have assets and children. Keeping your maiden name is not going to save you trouble. That’s bad reasoning.

The thing is, now that I have my name back, I’m not just a person I appreciate being. I’m creating a professional reputation for myself. It’s tentative and small at the moment, but once I get a librarian position, I’ll be known in libraries by my maiden name. If I meet a nice, somewhat traditional man and change my name, then the amazing fundraiser I put on in the summer of 2014 won’t have my name attached to it anymore. That’s a lot of accreditation to toss out with the birdseed. Do I want to do that?

I’m not going to lie. I’m jaded about marriage, at this point. Recently, I casually declared that there was no love before 1970. There was only Stockholm Syndrome. Maybe I’ll find the guy who gets my sense of humor, makes me feel secure, and does so with a diamond the size of a cow’s eye – because my last wedding ring was surprise fake – and that’ll clear up some of those doubts. In regards to my career, though? I’m not sure any amount of faith and love will tempt me toward that concession. Maybe I can hyphenate so the new name is still recognizable. Weirdly, when this issue comes up, I think of Xander and Anya’s duet in the Buffy the Vampire Slayer Musical, which I’m proud to say I can still sing word for word, because I was an awesome teenager:

♫ “The name I made, I’ll trade for his. The only trouble is…” ♫

…um… no. I don’t think I will.

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Your ONLY marriage? Why didn’t I think of that?

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Everyone I graduated high school with is doing one of two things according to Facebook: getting divorced or getting married.

The ones getting divorced aren’t talking about it. They’re changing their last names and you’re to draw your own conclusions. Either that or they’ve accidentally posted “… is no longer listed as married” long before telling their family that he’s moved out and the paperwork has been filed. Oops. Color me sheepish.

Then there’s my amalgum of a Facebook Friend who is getting married and more and more frequently posting the above photo and its ilk. Yeah. I said ilk. Fucking deal with it, Gail.

I’m not a wedding person, Facebook Friend. I never have been. I didn’t care about my wedding, so I really don’t give a crap about other people’s weddings. They’re extravagant and no one knows anyone else there and I have to shave my legs and buy a gift. If you’re old enough and financially stable enough to get married, why the hell am I buying you a toaster? My wedding advice for stressed out crying brides:

“Just remember. No matter what happens… it’s just a stupid wedding.”

However, Facebook friend, my qualm is not with weddings. You want to spend thousands of dollars on a party and months talking about it on social networking sites? Fine. It’s your thousands and I can hide you from my newsfeed. I may not like weddings…

… but I hate the above photo.

Show me one blushing bride who didn’t think it was going to last forever. I dare you.

We all want our first marriage to be our only marriage. None of us walk down that aisle to Pearl Jam’s Better Man. We all have a picture of the future with the person standing next to us and every single one of those visions is happy.

You know what, though? It takes two people to make a marriage… and sometimes one of those people is batshit fucking crazy.

Sometimes you come home to a suspicious house fire and all of your pets dead on the lawn.

Sometimes your husband tells you he’s sexually attracted to little girls.

Sometimes he shakes your baby.

Sometimes he hits you.

Sometimes you wake up with a pillow over your face.

Sometimes he rapes you.

Sometimes he steals from you and your family.

Sometimes he develops a drug problem.

Sometimes he abuses your pets.

Sometimes he won’t work.

Sometimes he cheats…

… and there’s nothing you can do about it, because you can’t control another person. Every one of those references is from me or someone I graduated with that’s confided in me. We didn’t get divorced because we didn’t want it badly enough. We didn’t get divorced because we didn’t try. I was willing to stay with a man I didn’t believe had a soul, because I made a committment until the boys who will forever own a piece of my heart helped me realize how bad it had gotten. When I filed for divorce, I fucking broke.

So, my dear Facebook Friend, it’s nice that you’ve never been hurt that much. I hope you never are… because it will tear you apart in ways that will never heal. I wouldn’t wish my marriage on anyone. I’m glad you’re looking forward to the future and I am truly thrilled you’re happy. Perhaps, you could manage such happiness without shitting on the rest of us, though? Because, to suggest that you’re a regular trailblazer for wanting your first marriage to be your only marriage (and that’s what this photo is doing or it wouldn’t be significant) implies that a lack of determination or respect for the union ended all of those other marriages. In which case, fuck you.

It takes two people to make a marriage… and until you’re one of them, you don’t know what heartaches haven’t been posted on Facebook.

Come to think of it… yeah. You’re right, Facebook friend. Maybe I do want my first marriage to be my only marriage.