Operation Dissertation versus Wedding Planning

A SYTYCB entry
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Being neither a sister-wife nor a Kardashian, it is with no small amount of trepidation that I view this whole wedding thing.  It is difficult for me to reconcile my feminism with weddings for all the obvious reasons, most of which have to do with how to “negotiate my beliefs with a traditionally sexist institution,” as Feministing’s Jessica Valenti aptly puts it in her seminal blog post. 

 It is also hard for me to purge myself of the sinking feeling that getting married signifies the end of “my” story.  I remember thinking, even at the age of 5, that it was a damn shame that Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, and all their princess counterparts had their stories effectively end after marriage; though the books and the cartoon movies I watched then were clear that all these princesses lived “happily ever after,” I couldn’t, even at that age, reconcile myself with the fact that marriage meant that their adventures were over.  I also remember being a militant and obnoxious baby-feminist clad in my “I love my Vagina” t-shirt during university and talking at 3 am with best friend AKE about the senselessness of wedding traditions; “why bother getting married?” we huffed in the middle of drinking tepid cups of English breakfast tea and eating chicken souvlaki pitas from the Pita Pit, “why not have renewable marriage contracts where you decide to be together for a set period of time and then renegotiate after?”  We then made a pact that the minute one of us got married, we would each make sure to dress in mourning clothes, put coal on our cheeks, and play a dirge during the festivities.  (AKE, if you’re reading this, I give you full permission to do this during the wedding. I’ll even supply the coal).

 Thus, when my significant other – MOTL (My One True Love) – unexpectedly proposed, I said yes because it was MOTL, not because I’ve had visions of myself clad in tulle. The reality that the two of us are getting married to formalize our relationship and to show our commitment to each other doesn’t make it any easier for me to reconcile myself to the idea of weddings and matrimony.  Every once in awhile, I run across articles saying that women who are married are considered negatively in the job market, which makes me petrified.  I’ve also read several studies over the years that show, among many findings, that women’s quality of life decrease after marriage and the proportion of household tasks that they do gets higher.  And of course, there are examples of failed or struggling marriages that abound everywhere, which make me think, well, how do I know that MOTL and I are the exception to the rule?

 All these random ‘facts,’ I tell MOTL, in a somewhat accusatory manner.  MOTL, to his credit, patiently rebuts my concerns (a running theme in our relationship it seems) and remains staunch in his conviction that the two of us will be okay.  And I believe him.  Despite the admonitions of well-meaning lawyer friends, who have insisted that the two of us sign pre-nuptial agreements because “most marriages fail” and despite the criticisms of friends like BL, who reacted with detached disapproval when I told her about my decision to get married because of her disdain for the institution, I know that I want to marry MOTL.  It carries a lot of symbolic weight and signals our commitment to each other.  Although I get and, in many ways, agree with how ‘marriage’ as a concept is outdated and unnecessary in light of the fact that many of the benefits marriage confers are also given to couples in civil partnerships, for me, I would like the opportunity to publicly affirm my commitment.

 But just when I am getting my head wrapped around the idea of marriage, then comes wedding planning, which is made triply difficult because I am also currently gestating a dissertation.  In fact, truth be told, my dissertation – my baby who I’ve been carrying for 6 whole years – is my priority over anything else.  It is difficult to conceive of planning anything else when my entire existence is devoted to making sure my baby/dissertation gets to the stage where I am confident that she will live.  The last thing I want is to have a miscarriage when I am so close to the finish line. (Ok, end of analogy).  Trying to nurture a fledgling academic career while planning a wedding is difficult, as the movie the 5 Year Engagement, shows precisely; when MOTL and I watched it, there were far too many instances when we would exchange glances inside the dark theater and laugh in commiseration.

 Also, can I be honest for a second?  The wedding industry sucks.  It is a parasitic cesspool of gross misogyny whose sole intent seems to be to bleed as much money out of you.  In the few times I’ve gone wedding dress shopping, I have been body-shamed more times that I care to remember; I have been told that my figure was too “boxy,” that I was “fat,” and that I was “too dark to wear white.”  Attempts to negotiate with wedding venues have also fallen flat because prices seem to magically increase upon viewing the proposed contracts.  Salespeople seem to renege on what was verbally agreed on when visiting venues when it comes to the signing stage.  Emails of inquiry with wedding photographers have stunned both us.  One email from a photographer/videographer demanding that his team stay at “no less than a 4 star hotel” during the event, in addition to an extra $1,500 on top of the $6000 he normally charges because ours is a destination wedding, made me and MOTL snicker because this man seems to fancy himself the Scorsese of wedding productions.  The pictures we’ve seen of standard couple photos are also, well, so eager to promote the couple’s “love” that it just seems distasteful.  Why the heck would I want to have a photo-shoot while wearing period outfits/posing with teddy bears/skipping on the sandy surf and have these photos compiled in a leather bound ‘book’ that I can then apparently show my grandchildren; if my grandchildren are anything like me and MOTL (which is to say, judgmental and snide), my grandchildren will likely see this as a ridiculous waste of time and money and wonder why the two of us indulged in such a narcissistic exercise.

 What’s worse is reading wedding articles designed to force couples into thinking about how to make their day ‘unique’ and ‘special.’  Though I agree that writing your own vows makes it more personal and more meaningful, I can’t help but jeer when watching videos where the following vows are said with the utmost sincerity:

1.     Bride: “Every girl’s dream is to find a prince but today I am a princess who just found her frog.  He may not be the best looking guy but he has a good heart.”

2.     Bride: “Together, we make a shawarma.  You are the white sauce to my meat.”

 The plan then is to see whether Operation Dissertation can continue unabated while also organizing the wedding.  Thankfully, I have family and friends who seem eager to shoulder a lot of the legwork, which means that snarky, feminist me is excused from being subjected to a lot of these contrivances.  Is that a cop-out?  Oh most definitely.  Once I’ve reconciled myself to the idea that for me and MOTL, weddings are every bit a celebration for our families as they are for us, then I’ve become more than happy to devolve responsibility.  That’s the only way I can keep Operation Dissertation going.

Disclaimer: This post was written by a Feministing Community user and does not necessarily reflect the views of any Feministing columnist, editor, or executive director.

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