3 September 2012
HERE COMES THE BRIDE
Cause of ambivalence:
If there is one thing I have felt ambivalent about it's you. The whole business and show that goes along with you is so over the top that I decided that the best place to get married is somewhere equally nuts! VEGAS BABY! ❤"
In a fake flower bed outside of a Vegas wedding chapel.
Since I was a little girl, I’ve always dreamed of getting married. As a child of divorce, I was determined to succeed where my parents had failed and prove to the world that people can fall in love and stay together forever. It wasn’t until I actually got engaged, that I realized how completely terrifying marriage is. While I loved my boyfriend and was devoted to him, the idea of being someone’s wife, along with the insanity of wedding preparations, became unexpectedly terrifying and absurd. Suddenly something I always thought I wanted was making me completely ambivalent.
It didn’t help that at the same time I was completing my MFA and reading about feminism which forced me to question everything I had always taken for granted, getting married being one of these things. In the 70s many feminist artists left their husband when they became truly devoted to feminism, because their newfound liberation and radical thinking made it impossible to be both a feminist and a wife. It made me wonder if I was being less of a feminist by getting married. One night I went to see feminist art icon Judy Chicago speak at a local museum. When I shyly asked her a question about art that related to my own work, she yelled at me to stop being so afraid and to do whatever the hell I want to do. An hour later, still in shock from having THE Judy Chicago yell at me, I was picking out bridesmaids dress patterns. It was such a huge shift, the back and forth between wedding stuff and feminism. Soon enough, I was completely dizzy and I couldn’t distinguish if I actually wanted to get married or if I just thought I was supposed to get married.
Another concern I had was how my new marital status would impact my professional status. I started to worry about the expectations and assumptions that would follow me once I put on that ring. Like it or not, in most workplaces, once a woman gets married people start expecting her to lose her professional drive and go baby crazy. In 2010, Sheryl Sandberg , COO of Facebook, gave a TED talk about how there are too few women leaders in the world, and offered her recommendations on how to fix the problem. Her talk centered on her belief that women just don’t have as much confidence as men in the workplace, and her advice to women was to “sit at the table,” “make your partner a real partner” and “don’t leave before you leave”. What she was actually doing is telling women to act more like the boys if they want to be invited into the club.
But what if I don’t want to act like the boys? And what if I don’t want to be a pearl-clad Mad Men style housewife either? The truth is that it’s not actually true that women can have it all, no matter what “successful” people like Sheryl Sandberg say. When you try to have it all, there is always something or someone that gets neglected and usually it is the woman’s job to decide what that will be and feel guilty about it. And that is the problem: the idea that there is one choice to be made and that any perfect ambitious woman can make the right one. There actually isn’t one right choice. Life is a series of little choices and constant re-evaluation of these choices. Yet, for women trying to ‘have it all’ there is little room for error. Maybe if it were socially acceptable to make mistakes and change our minds, we wouldn’t have to act like boys to succeed.
I think the trick is not to try to live up to anyone’s expectations and just do whatever you want. That’s what Judy Chicago was trying to tell me really: to just be gutsy enough to do whatever I wanted to do. In the movie !Women Art Revolution, Judith Baca said of many feminist artists in the 70s that they were : “choosing to focus on their work. Choosing perhaps not to be wives in the traditional sense.” Maybe, in some cases, it’s just the traditions that need to be changed and not the idea of marriage. What I stopped seeing once my socially induced fears took over the sane part of my brain, was that the man I was about to marry was totally ready to break all the stupid male-centered traditions with me, which is why I had agreed to marry him in the first place.
My way of breaking tradition from the very start of my marriage was to have the most ridiculous wedding ceremony ever. I decided to leave everyone and their expectations behind and flew to Vegas where my husband and I exchanged vows in front of a fake Vegas Elvis in a 50s style diner. Rhinestones and chest hair aside, it was probably one of the weirdest and most romantic things I have ever done. Typically enough, when I finally stopped caring about what everyone had to say, I was able to have the most insanely amazing wedding day ever. And while my Vegas wedding is not going to stop people from assuming things about the married version of me and is not going to stop the post-wedding baby inquiries, it at least gave me the courage to finally say: Bring it on Bitches.
Labels: MY AMBIVALENCE