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Category Archives: Marriage/Wedding

Text And The Single Girl

Every few years someone develops a treatment and possible cure for heterosexual female singlehood. This is also known more commonly (at family gatherings) as ‘why you’re not married.’ Somebody, usually a woman, looking for fame and fabulous prizes, develops a method and/or writes a book that will help you find a man. Not necessarily a good man, but damn it, a man. The strategies (which can be yours if you act now) are in one of two camps; ‘the 5-10 step strategy’ in landing a husband OR the ‘this is what’s wrong with you and why you can’t’ land a husband. Both of these approaches are based upon the theory that husbands are to be sought and to be enticed into matrimony. ‘Hold the rotary phone!’ you say? This is the 21st century! Women own homes, and have babies alone. Husbands have never been more socially or financially unnecessary.

But people wouldn’t be buying these books or the media wouldn’t be covering these stories if there weren’t an interest. While it would be thrilling to think there is parallel target marketing happening for men, the truth is there isn’t. Centuries have passed and single women are still being told that “what gentlemen say and what they thinks is two different things (and I ain’t noticed Mr. Ashley asking for to marry you.”) In other words; play the game and win the prize. The latest game focuses on the ‘be available to all men at all times and hope that someone will consider you the one‘ approach. Don’t expect to ever be asked out on a date or even called (he only texts), just always be available. That text at 2:00 AM? Answer it! Won’t it make for a cute bedtime story for your children some day? Go home with the guy who seems harmless enough. You never know where it might lead (except that you do, that’s why you’re going home with him.)

There is nothing wrong with enjoying the company of men (clothed or unclothed) but the very idea that the way to a committed lifetime partnership is by having zero standards or expectations is absurd. Is there a guy that you’d like to know better? Is he not making any actual moves towards a date? ASK HIM OUT! You are not locked in a tower and and needing to lower your hair extensions. You live in the same world as he does. Ask him out: for a specific date and time. (FYI: “You wanna go out sometime” doesn’t mean anything and will not result in a date.) If you’d rather not have your communications solely via text, then don’t answer the text, instead call him back and hear his voice. You needn’t be scary or stalky about it; a simple “I’m a lousy texter” should do the trick.

Getting to know new people and (YES) dating is supposed to be fun. There is nothing fun about accepting whatever male attention scraps are dropped in your path. People want to feel special and appreciated; those are the first steps to romance. Unless that 2:00 AM text is originating from space or contains the message; “Just landed in Rome and realized I can’t live another moment without you” it’s not going to make you feel too special or appreciated. Ask for what you want, behave the way you wish others would behave, and you might just create the life you were always meant to live.

 
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Posted by on October 25, 2012 in Cultural Critique, Marriage/Wedding

 

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Kramer vs Kramer vs Consumerism

There are films that never lose their emotional wallop, despite how many times you’ve seen them. Steel Magnolias, The Color Purple, Stella Dallas and An Affair To Remember come to mind. There is no element of surprise in the viewing; in fact the memorized dialogue and outcome are part of the pleasure. But the way in which the stories are crafted pull the viewer in for the punch. Of course there are reasons to revisit a dramatic film besides an opportunity to use tissues and visine. Films can tell us an awful lot about how we lived or thought. A film is fantasy of course, but it is a reflection of a director, screenwriter or producer’s viewpoint. Attitudes portrayed about gender, race, sexuality and religion are often an accurate reflection of the time. A film shot in the early 1970s will not only look very early 1970s but sound it too. Women might be referred to as “girls” or “honey,” bottoms might be patted. Generally, if non-white actors appear it’s to make a point. The storyline probably has nothing to do with any of these details, but the details are telling nonetheless.

You might remember the film; Kramer vs Kramer. (For those who don’t; it was a cutting-edge tale of divorce and custody starring Dustin Hoffman and Meryl Streep, set in New York City.) The emotional wallop of the film doesn’t diminish with time. Much of what will rip you to shreds is the incredible performance of (8 year-old) Justin Henry. You’d have to be made of stone to not crumble at the raw hurt and anger on his face. Meryl Streep’s eyes do most of her talking. She has perhaps twenty lines and expresses pages and pages of dialogue with her eyes. The viewer understands everything about these people and their anguish. But there is also (now) a story on the periphery of that story. The year is 1979 and times were decidedly different. The family is middle class (daddy works in advertising.) They are educated people living in a two-bedroom high-rise apartment uptown. The child attends a neighborhood school and they frequent Central Park. Sounds rather timeless, no? It’s what you don’t see that is so telling. The family (before they weren’t one) is living comfortably on one salary. There is no car, there is no private school and there is no luxury. The child’s bedroom has been hand-painted with clouds by the creatively frustrated mother. (In 1979 this was considered somewhat decadent.) However, there is no Pottery Barn kid’s furniture or matching bedding and window treatment. There are some books, some toys, and later a framed photo of mommy. The chaos that ensues with mommy’s departure is linked to the time period. There are no babysitters or nannies on call or even in existence. (Nannies were still for the posh or the British.) Daddy must master grocery shopping and food preparation as take-away was not ubiquitous and children did not dine out. Luckily for daddy there are no play-dates (there is only play) and there are no enrichment programs or team sports for a first-grader.

Now no one would suggest that the late 1970s were halcyon times. The demise of the marriage in question hinged on the fact that the wife felt marginalized. She left her husband and child to “find herself” (aka get some analysis and a job.) But had the marriage worked, and had she felt able to go out and get a job, their lifestyle wouldn’t be that much different. There’d be an after-school babysitter no doubt. But the minimalistic consumption wouldn’t alter. Sure, she might need some work clothes, but shopping wasn’t a legitimate hobby in the 1970s. New appliances would’ve only been purchased if every attempt at repair had been exhausted. There were no strollers being sold for the same price as a moped. In short, they would have had more money and more time (not running from expenditure to expenditure) than they would today. Something to contemplate while watching the film and choking back the tears

 

 

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We Are Family

There are many ways to make a family and some of them involve legality. The broadest definition of a family is that of more than one person committed to building a life together. You can imagine the many variations that live within that parameter; parentless siblings, romantically connected adults, friends, one adult and children, generations of the biologically related. Within those examples are even more variations; adopted siblings, romantically connected adults of varying genders, religions, races, ages, abilities, one adult and adopted children, donor/surrogate children, foster children. Generations of the biologically related can include any or all of the categories just mentioned. That’s a whole lot of variation.

Yet for all of our ‘we are the world”liness we are not all that comfortable with uniqueness. It’s not necessarily a shortcoming on our part. We can only process so much information. We are wired to take in information quickly and make instantaneous decisions (‘is that a friendly lion coming toward our cave or a hostile hungry lion?’) We have room for subtlety and idiosyncrasy with our friends and family; but the world at large is just too large. So we look for categories, boxes, and classifications to avoid a mind that would thrill a hoarder. And it wouldn’t matter a smidge until something goes awry.

When a family breaks up there can be a lot of rubble. If the latter part of the 20th century taught us anything; it’s that families can dissolve. For better or worse (pun intended) and for the most part, people no longer need each other for survival. However, through the beauty of human nature; new families can be created. Complicated? Not really, or not until the 5th grade teacher assigns the archaic “family tree” assignment to her class. Family is what you make it and its level of fluidity is what you choose.

Lovely sentiment but what about those step-children left behind in the prior marriage? What of your child’s step-grandparent who is now not? Who gets invited to what? Who gets to see photos or updates? What if the ex-spouse has remarried and there are new steps? Do they get invited? The first step is to drop the label maker. I’m not going to get all Carol Brady and suggest that the only steps in this house are the ones in the living room. But I will offer that when it comes to determining what and who is important to us; labels only obscure. What matters is how you feel, how the children feel and how a new spouse/partner feels (and NOT necessarily in that order.) What we want for our children is for them to have the love of as many people as they possibly can. We want them to have consistent and reliable relationships with people who are not necessarily related to them. It’s one way they grow strong roots. If there has been heinous behavior (i.e., violence, or criminality) by any ex-family member it should be taken into consideration. But overall whatever works for everyone* most involved is just plain okely dokely. (By “everyone” I do not mean the child(ren) are allowed to insist their parents behave as if they never split up and spend all holidays and recitals as a unit.)

Life can be messy, chaotic and at times horrific. Having people who love you and feel obligated to take you in is what makes it all manageable. Yes, the broader we define something the more complex it gets. And no, there isn’t a greeting card to send on Mother’s Day to the woman who is now partnered with your ex-step-parent. But that’s a good thing isn’t it? Do any of us (in our heart of hearts) want to think of ourselves as able to be reduced to a mass market sentiment?

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2012 in Childhood, Marriage/Wedding, Well-Being

 

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Wedding Announcement Theory: 101

It has been said that for some, wedding announcements are comparable to sport pages. What little I know of sport or its dedicated sections, I suspect there is a similarity in the density of statistics in both narratives. If you have any interest in human behavior or family dynamics; wedding announcements are a treasure trove, Hours can simply slip away as you theorize how people live and love. Areas of theoretic discipline are usually divided into; “how did parents of ‘x’ professional background raise a child of ‘y’ professional inclinations?”, “spouse #1 family background is diametrically opposite spouse #2 family background; what will their Thanksgivings be like?”, “both spouses are artists without benefit of employment; how do they live?” There is enough rich content in the average Sunday style supplement, that a hard-core wedding theorist would never waste time reading the generic couples. Rarely is there intrigue (that makes into the social section of the newspaper) about couples from old families or from rarefied locations. The real sport is in theorizing around breaking of traditions and expectations.

The tradition itself of wedding announcements is not that old and has evolved in a surprisingly timely fashion. Stepparents are now included in the details as are the qualifications of the officiant. (As anyone without benefit of any certification can ‘perform’ a wedding ceremony, it is always interesting to read the qualifying statements that follow an officiant’s name:) “George Jetson, the groom’s father’s friend from college, but not the first college he attended and didn’t do so well, but that other one, received his ordination from ‘doyouhaveawitness.com’ and performed the marriage along with the couple’s two myna birds (from a previous marriage)”

Scattered throughout the announcements are also “announca-stories”; little vignettes meant to inspire or placate someone important. These announca-stories are by and large rather dull, but periodically there is some actual data woven into the narrative. There is a subcategory of announcement analysis known as the ‘where’s Waldo” pursuit. Hidden (clearly not very well) is a word or two of snark. The adept ‘where’s Waldo” theorist can easily spot a cleverly worded but poorly masked; “they met when the groom took a cigarette break from his wife’s deathbed” or a “shortly after they announced their engagement they began divorce proceedings from their previous spouses” For the theorist it is interesting to note what passes as appropriate social column content.

These days there is a whole new addition to the topical additions to the wedding announcement: credits. No, not the usual “so and so got married, please buy her book” or “so and so got married, please visit his web business.” No, no, no. The credits I reference are those of the parents. “The bride’s father is an author” has been replaced with “The bride’s father has published the following books; …” No doubt the announcement will soon include ISBN and hyperlinks. A year or two ago you might have read; “The bride’s father is an actor.” Today it isn’t unusual to have his roles listed. The same resume shout-outs occur for parents’ cottage industries and web businesses. What intrigues me is how these announcements come to be. Maybe there’s a public relations intern involved, maybe not. But how does the subject of product placement even come up? Is it at the engagement party? Is it part of the wedding costs negotiations? Is it never discussed but passive aggressively achieved through “Don’t worry son/daughter of mine, I will take care of the announcement?” Doubtful. People are far too conscious of their public life to leave something like that to a parent. Surely there are difficult conversations that have always occurred around the content of the announcement. “How do we gloss over daddy’s current incarceration?” “Does that green card marriage need to be mentioned; and hey what ever happened to that $10,000 anyway?” “So he’s not actually divorced yet? Not a problem, they myna birds need never know.” It’s fascinating to consider that the “putting the best face on the family” has morphed into parental professional press releases. Of course it’s a big deal for a parent to marry off a child. Of course there’s much reason to puff up a bit. But what exactly is the point of a resume or vita in one’s child’s wedding announcement? Do casting directors scan the announcements? Has anyone ever bought a book or service because it was mentioned in a wedding announcement?

We may never know the answers to these questions. What we do know is that another category of theory must be added to the wedding announcement school of analysis. Still in the incubator phase we will bestow upon it the placeholder: “scrapbooks full of me in the background” theory.

 

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Going To The Chapel

It’s wedding season!  If you’re lucky you will have received an invitation by now.  Yes, I said lucky.  How can attending a wedding not be enjoyable?  Even the worst weddings are fun, perhaps not in the moment, but certainly in the tales you’ll tell later.  That wedding that took place outside, with no awning, in the blazing sun, in August?  You know, the one where they served cream of mushroom soup?  It makes for a good story, no?  How about the rural taxidermy spectacular at which you played “count the back tats” with your date?  Good times.  Without them would you have ever truly appreciated the Windows on the World pageantry, or the backyard exchange of vows under a weeping willow?

Weddings are a good time not just because you might get to dance and mingle with people you know or like, but also because they are a peek into people’s character.  An invited peek at that!  Posh, homemade, sentimental, calculated, they are all “beautiful reflections of his/her love’s affection.”  A wedding tells us scads about the couple’s heart’s desires.  It used to be that weddings mostly told us about the desires of the bride’s mother.  But times have changed.  People remarry, marry later, marry within the same gender, marry outside of their faith, and marry with children.  More and more, couples are redefining the steadfast guidelines of weddings.

Does a father need to walk a 45-year-old daughter down the aisle to “give her away?”  What if there is no daughter?  What if she’s been given away before?  What if she has two daddies?  Or more.  Does a bride need to cover her face with a veil?  Is a veil even relevant?  Luckily, before we needed to reexamine the tastefulness of throwing rice (symbolizing fertility) to couples in their sixties, the avian lovers made us find something else to throw.  Tossing your wedding remains (i.e., garters, bouquets) to your less fortunate friends is (mercifully) rare these days.  We can assume this is the case because a) no one can remember what a sad little piece of lace wrapped elastic is doing on a woman’s leg and/or b) lining up single friends to receive your cast-offs is not nice.  (Wouldn’t it be much more in the spirit of love and community, to have both partners invite all their exes and hope for love connections amongst the guests?)

Weddings are archaic and traditions are always slow to change.  There was a brief mini-bubble in the late 1960s/early 1970s when younger people married on mountaintops with an officiant sporting some beads and a ponytail.  But by the mid-1970s the Tricia Nixon wedding was back in style.  The shift in wedding style we are seeing today seems far more lasting.  By virtue of who is marrying, weddings are becoming more personal in design.  There will always be couples that prefer to follow a playbook (cue Wagner, Corinthians reading, candle lighting, receiving line, and we’re out.)  We will give these couples the benefit of the doubt and not suggest they haven’t thought a whit about their wedding, marriage or each other, we will instead call them traditionalists.  But they now seem to be in the minority.  Older couples (in this context “older” means 30+) have hopefully formed many friendships and important relationships throughout their lives.  Their wedding might reflect those in some way.  When different faiths and backgrounds merge, the results can be a beautiful integration of customs.

No one is forced to editorialize wedding traditions more than a couple of the same gender.  Who walks down the aisle?  Who sits where?  Who dances with whom?  The beauty of this process is that it often results in a “why in the world would we do THAT?” conversation.  A conversation that every couple should be having about every assumption at every juncture.  This all bodes quite well for the future.  More thoughtfulness is always a good thing.  Going through life attuned and conscious has a wonderful effect on the world.

As I sip my champagne, careful not to spill on my silk, I will toast to this ritual that by its definition is steeped in hope.  I will feel grateful for the opportunity to learn more about what makes the couple happy and how they feel about each other.  And I will dance, if not to actual music, than in my mind.  I will celebrate presence, consciousness, and of course, love.

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Marriage/Wedding

 

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