16 February 2005

10. Wedding Invitations

Dear Wedding Invitations,

You stress me out so hard. I mean, it's bad enough when you're an invitation to a wedding that I clearly don't want to go to, because it's hyper-formal, tons of nested envelopes requesting the pleasure of a reply, return address is someone's parents and not the couple (I don't care if it's proper etiquette, it's archaic and downright creepy to pretend like the people getting married aren't consenting adults capable of announcing their own commitment celebration, and if the party's so huge they need their parents to help foot the bill, that's another sign that I don't want to play). Some of you have obvious scary church stuff warning me to stay away; I don't need to go to any more weddings where the bride promises to obey her husband and be his appendage instead of her own person, and God blesses it six ways from Tuesday. Invitations like those are bad in their own way, but at least they're fairly easy to deal with, because I can just be snarky about them and be happy I don't have to go.

On bad days, I think all wedding invitations should say something like:
In case you don't get enough daily reminders of heterosexual privilege, here's a big huge party to celebrate just that! If you're extra-lucky, it'll be super-formal AND in a church, for all the bonus alienation points! And maybe if you're a girl you'll be invited to buy a big ugly dress that's no good for any other occasion, just so you can be part of the scenery! 
Come, pretend like this archaic ceremony and adjustment of legal status also changes something about this couple's relationship to each other, even if they've clearly already made these promises and commitments in private! They're having a party so you can witness their vows, but do they celebrate the fact that you're participating or do they pretend that it's just between them and maybe their God? The only way to find out is to come to the party, grin and bear it, and suffer through heterosexual supremacy hell!
I suppose, wedding invitations, you could say that on bad days, I don't much like you at all.

But then some of you are the occasional good wedding invitations, coming from dear close friends whose love I truly want to celebrate, invitations that aren't hyper-formal or churchy or addressed from anyone's parents and maybe even straight-out answer the questions I'm not allowed to ask, like "Why are you getting married when you already love each other and live together and everyone who knows and loves you is happy about it? Is there a legal need? Couldn't you just have a party and a preacher person if that's your thing? Do you really have to deal with the law? Couldn't you at least put it off until the law's a little less sad and messed up?" Good wedding invitations are the ones that really hurt. Because despite all of my discomfort and disgruntlement with weddings, which in turn make me twitchy because they all too often reflect the most glaring and horrific flaws in the institution of marriage, at the end of the day I still have the best friends in the world and if anyone can change both marriage and weddings for the better, it's them. I don't have the strength or the stubbornness to subscribe to a system I hate and change it from within, but I can wish my friends the very best in doing just that, just like I wish them the very best in everything else they do. And so the good wedding invitations break my heart even more than the bad ones make me sick to my stomach, because I want to raise my glass in salute to all the happy couples that I love, but I wish it were easier to do so in a way that makes it clear I'm drinking to them and only them, and not to any church or state that blesses their couplehood while refusing to recognize other committed relationships.

And so my stomach churns and my blood pressure rises every time I read one of you, wedding invitations. I've only just started to recognize these feelings as the fight or flight response, and the more I care about the people involved, the worse it is. And sometimes it's just alienation at the reminder that I'm completely from-another-planet out of touch with what feels like most people's opinions about weddings and marriage, but sometimes it's an all-out battle between the parts of me that rejoice and thrive at seeing friends and especially friends who love each other awesomely, versus the parts of me that die inside when I bite my tongue through the part of the ceremony that asks if it's right for the couple to wed, the part that makes me want to get up and beg "Just don't sign the papers! You can be partnered without reinforcing the hateful, wrong laws!" But I digress.


I think these thoughts and feel these feelings every time I encounter one of you, wedding invitations, but there's almost no one I can tell about them, and there's almost invariably somebody who's going to take it really personally whenever I mention this stuff in the wrong place or at the wrong time. If I'm lucky, it's just the people who most recently sent me an invitation, which makes me wish I could be writing this letter in like 1984, before anyone I knew was getting married. And so I'm writing this letter, addressing you instead of the people who send you, because I am a giant coward, and you couldn't read this even if I found a way to send it.


Started 18 January 2005, posted 16 February 2005, last updated 16 May 2005.

This letter is dedicated to Mark and Sara Betnel, because on very rare and lucky occasions sometimes I don't have to be a coward. "What more can you share than your whole self, your whole life, all the nights and all the days?" (Ursula K. LeGuin, The Dispossessed.)