12 November 2011

50. Weddings

Dear weddings,

More than six years ago, I started writing you a letter that began, "I hate you, even when I like the people involved." Today, I am amending that to say that now that I'm married, I still think you suck. Now to be completely fair, what really sucks is the wedding-industrial complex, but I know of no good way to separate you out from that godawful mess, weddings, and so I get the howling fantods every time people insist on referring to the way I got married as a wedding because a big part of the whole point for me was that it wasn't. We went down to the New York City Clerk's Office for a $35 license one day, then returned for a $25 ceremony and certificate of marriage registration the next ("It's like buying a gun," said the man I now call Spouse-y McHusbandpants, "there's a waiting period.") Nobody had to spend any money on clothes or jewelry, although we did take our witness out to tea afterwards (nom, and thanks Greg!) My parents, whom I'll mention again later in this letter, were more than a little delighted and amused to hear that they'd already paid for a reception by leaving behind a bottle of champagne we didn't get around to drinking at a different celebration. Pop, boom, done! Yay.

So that was my so-called wedding, an unexpected side benefit of which was that I now look at the aforementioned industrial complex with relief and a little bit of indifference along with the same old pure white-hot loathing, because at least I am off the hook for that stuff, hoo fricken ray. (I mean, we'll get around to rings one of these days — personally I'm hoping to hold out till we can afford to forge our own, because seriously, when the hell else am I going to have an excuse to try amateur goldsmithing? — but I'm in no hurry, especially what with my student loan payments starting next year.) I haven't had a chance to test my post-marriage reactions to wedding invitations, but I'm hoping they'll be a little more "off the hook, woo!" and less fight-or-flighty-y... we'll see. I suspect I will still dread the big ritualized social occasion aspect of them even if and when there are no more laws against same-sex marriage to fill me with rage.

But back to you, weddings, and what I wrote to you more than six years ago, some of which eventually spun off into letters to your invitations and the laws that make it so you're just a symbolic gesture even in the few U.S. states that allow you to be legally binding for all couples (side note: yay for finally living in a state with equal marriage for the first time in my life, and especially for timing things so I only had to feel guilty about being unequal-married for about 40 hours). I'm pretty much still on board with most of what I had to say back then, like: I hate that people take you so personally that there's no good way I can say "I don't want to go to your wedding but I'd love to celebrate your partnership some other time in a non-wedding context," and that the aforementioned statement is all too often taken as a personal insult. I hate how you make people so stupid as to become simultaneously self-centered and excessively concerned with the opinions of others. I hate how people can't seem to get it into their heads that just about everything about you is optional — that for the legal part of marriage they can just go to city hall, for the social part they can do whatever they want from big hot ridiculousness to telling no one to anything in between (posting on Facebook! emails, or cards if you're fancy, inviting loved ones to celebrate whenever the opportunity arises! whatever!), and there's plenty of priesty types who'd be happy to assist with the religious part if they're so inclined, with or without making it into a big stupid production. Dammit. (The part about Facebook is a 2011 addition, I'll admit, but it's pretty much in the same spirit I had when dinosaurs roamed the Earth.)

More than anything, however, I still agree with this line from my original "Dear Weddings" letter:
I guess what I really don't like is listening to people whine about the terrible hardships of privilege.
Seriously, I wrote, if the law is gracious enough to allow you to get married, and your church thinks your relationship is hunky-dory, then bully for you. (Today I would also add congratulations if your family and friends wish you and your partner the best.) I guess I felt guilty about writing: "But if you're going to whine about the pomp and circumstance, then shut up and be glad that you can afford any of it, and think twice about whether that's really what you want to be spending time and money and mental energy on," because I followed it with the low-self-esteem-y line, "God, I am such a bitch." Maybe I'm just a bigger bitch now than ever, but I don't think I'm being too unreasonable here. Instead, I am searching for a polite and loving way to send some extra bonus "shut up" messages to everyone who is somehow offended that I didn't have a wedding, much less that they weren't invited, because seriously, if I had wanted to suffer through party planning to stand around awkwardly for hours while hitting people up for presents and asking for blessings, I could have had a non-legal commitment ceremony any time in the past ten years. I didn't, because — again — that was not the point.

Much closer to the point is that anecdote about my parents which I foreshadowed earlier. They used to jokingly promise that if I skipped having a big wedding and eloped instead, they'd help me put a down payment on a house. I took this message to heart so much that I got things out of order and bought (and later sold) a house with my partner while skipping out on elopement for years. All of which felt really good. So does having health insurance. But that's a privilege that should be a right for another letter.


Started 18 January 2005, published 12 November 2011, last updated 6 June 2014.