Monday, June 30, 2014

Weddings, Not Nearly As Objectionable As You Might Be Led to Believe

Being that we are now several days into June, with July almost upon us, wedding season has arrived with great abandon. Three invitations have arrived in my mailbox thus far, some elaborate, some simple. I’ve freshly returned from one, finding the experience quite charming, but at the same time feeling no reason to tarry very long, even in the company of seven separate homemade pies.

No need to wear out my welcome or engage in boring, but heartfelt conversation. I no longer consume alcohol, which would have been an option to pass the time some years ago, assuming I’d been able to find someone to drive me home. It was fortunate that three mutual friends of the bride were also in attendance. Otherwise, I’d have been a fish out of water.

I’ve begun by telling my own story, but I’d much rather relate someone else’s. I’m an observer, not an active participant. It has been my understanding that many, usually female feminists have intensely conflicted feelings about marriage. Several highly ambivalent, exceptionally conflicted columns written by feminist writers trickle out about this time of year.

Unsure about precisely how they feel about such a Patriarchal, oppressive ritual, while still straining to see its worth, they opt for a middle ground. The language written takes the familiar on-one-hand-but-on-another-hand argument common to such matters.

I’ve heard all of these arguments and have agreed with most of them. But even so, women keep wishing to plan and go through the wedding experience, regardless of how elaborate or simple they wish for them to be. Unwedded and uncoupled women still live vicariously through the life of the bride, waiting time for it to be their turn to purchase a wedding dress and repeat this same pattern.

Ritual aside, men see marriage as confirmation that they have finally reached full adulthood. I recognize that I’m not including analysis of same-sex weddings, which would require additional insight. The wedding I experienced yesterday was of the heterosexual variety.

I am friends with the bride, a person whose extreme kindness to me over several years makes her, in my eyes, a very good example upon which to live my own life. Regarding her choice of partner, she is different than many women would be. Her now-husband has a severe speech impediment and partial facial paralysis. He speaks with a strong lisp and some of his mannerisms leave him looking physically impaired. If you can look past those shortcomings, he’s an articulate, funny, warm guy, but it’s indeed sad to say that some women probably would not view him as husband material. 

Men aren’t usually solicited about their opinion regarding pending nuptials. For them, weddings seem to be ceremonies that are more endured than relished, but even so the act of reciting vows and putting on wedding rings has brought many men to tears. Not every man dodges marriage for life: feminist, male ally, or regular guy.

When it is my turn, I will gladly go through as much ceremony to which Friends ever resort. In the company of my family, my Quaker Meeting community, and a few close friends, I will stand before everyone. Quaker weddings focus most of the attention on the two people getting married, which is how I think it needs to be. There is no officiating minister, as Friends believe that God alone marries two people, not a priest or minister of any sort.  

This weekend, I was not the first to notice that the bride and groom both were well-matched with each other. Though no one can ever tell for certain, it would not surprise me if they stayed together for life. These sorts of optimistic thoughts are what make me attend weddings in the first place, even though it’s difficult for me to shed tears or get caught up in the moment.

I’ve been to one or two where I seriously questioned how well the couple had contemplated the matter of being together for life, which definitely created a great deal of cynicism in me.  Returning to the good side, I have no issue with marital vows and the general plans that have been given care and thoughtfulness by both the presumptive groom and the bride.

Nothing I observed yesterday would fit in a romantic comedy. There were no entirely unnecessary fights, no catty comments, no spontaneous detours in fast automobiles, no one left at the altar. Normal had to suffice. Two families who did not know each other very well hoped to make acquaintances and made awkward, tentative strides. In time, I’m sure they will grow closer. For now, their child or relative is married to another family’s child and relative. Feminist dogma seems a little hyperbolic when one confronts such yawning formality, such banality.

And while I was there, I thought about my parents’ own marriage. My mother was strongly influenced by the second-wavers, the so-called women’s libbers. But when her own wedding came around, she re-thought some of her original reservations. Her wedding to my father was a Spartan affair. Ten guests were in attendance, all close family. No catering. No bachelorette party. No wedding reception. They were both too poor for any of the trappings. Mom was 19 and still in college. My father was 24 and certainly wasn’t rich.

The wedding was held at the parents of the bride. I’m told that my father was so nervous prior to the ceremony that my grandmother gave him a Valium. Mom could never understand why he was calm and relaxed throughout the whole of the ceremony, when she was a nervous wreck. I have a copy of the pictures taken there, where I see two young people nervously, but eagerly asserting to form a new life for each other, one that would soon include three children.

It’s the same look I saw in the eyes of the recently married couple yesterday. Before I breathe my last, I’m sure I’ll see it again, and again. Nothing I viewed up close for myself gave me reason to give pause. Instead, I had reason to give thanks. In time, they have let it be known that they will be raising their first child. I’m glad it’s not me, but I’m grateful that it will be them.

"I am the Alpha and the Omega--the beginning and the end," says the Lord God. "I am the one who is, who always was, and who is still to come--the Almighty One."

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