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Tag Archives: marriage

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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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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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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Speak Now Or Forever Hold Your Peace

Blame it on the stratospheric rise of the wedding industry, the etiquette business not keeping pace with technology or the parent as friend trend; whatever the cause there seems to be a need for modern day nuptial communication guidance.

I am not an etiquette expert.  I have produced and managed copious events, attended over 30 weddings and have been touched, tickled and traumatized by nuptial communications over the years.  There are many people touting newfangled etiquette advice.  Yes, dear reader, I have witnessed advice that gift registry information should be front and center at all times.  (Think: “letter to Santa”)

Weddings are a rite of passage fraught with meaning and sentimentality  Wedding planning usually emphasizes the party aspect of the wedding.  Yet, the most overlooked and defining aspect to wedding planning is communication.   Technology has turned us all into photographers and web designers, but technology is only a means to the end.  Even those intentionally eschewing technology and are only communicating through handcrafted invitations are well served to raise their marketing consciousness.

The number one rule to keep in mind is that an invitation is not a contract.  Gifts are lovely but are never a quid pro quo for being invited.  Inviting anyone to anything defines you as a host or hostess and you must behave as one.

Engagement

Let’s start at the very beginning, that’s a very good place to start.

Engagement Parties are not mandatory.  Their primary purpose is to introduce the two families of the intendeds to each other.  Gifts are a welcome addition but by no means necessary.   There should be no registry at this point.  Gifts should never be opened at the party itself.  An engagement party is not a child’s birthday party or a shower.

Speaking of showers….

No mention of gifts, gift registries, or web sites have any business being included with an invitation.  When invited guests R.S.V.P. they can ask their host about gifts.  Besides being gracious, this tactic will raise your R.S.V.P. rates!

The Wedding

The number one guiding factor of invitations is that they alert the guest as to the tenor of the event.  An engraved, raise lettered invitation on heavy stock paper in neutral colors screams “formal.”  A “cute” construction paper invitation in “cool” colors communicates “come as you are.”

The invitation package should include all relevant information for the guests.  Simply putting the web site address on the invitation is lazy and a cheap ploy to link people to your gift wish list.

If you are having multiple events (i.e., rehearsal dinner, brunch, etc.) include very specific relevant information in the wedding invitation.

Communications during any and all wedding centric events is crucial as well.  Remember that the most fundamental premise is to be a good host or hostess.  Your job is to ensure that your guests feel welcomed and are comfortable.  Part of how you address this is by communicating your intentions.  Some wedding couples choose to create a program to describe the relationships of the people included in the wedding party, or to describe religious rituals that will be part of the ceremony.  Other couples have the officiant describe to the guests what rituals will be performed.  Unless yours is a wedding in a very closed community, do not assume that your guests are familiar with your practices and consider by what means you’d like to communicate.
Keep in mind that what is not said is as important as what is said.  I have been to weddings at which the officiant used the blessed occasion to spout anti-homosexual rhetoric.  Twice.  And no one stopped him or corrected him.  I have been to a wedding at which the priest and the rabbi went into fierce oratory competition during the ceremony, going so far as to grab the microphone from each other.  Very holy.
No you can not control everyone’s behavior, but you can convey your intentions and vision to those who will be involved, prior to the event.  This is true with religious or civil officiants, caterers, bakers, etc.  There are those (cough: me) who gave a list to the band leader of verboten songs (i.e., chicken dance, electric slide, and yes, the horah.)  If you are adult enough to get married you are adult enough to ask for what you want.  Politely.
There is no question that receiving lines are awkward for everyone involved.  The wedding couple does need to address each and every one of their guests however.  This must be done as a couple, doing so individually does nothing to convince the guest that you two are destined for couple greatness!  Simply put, your job is to thank your guest for coming.  You needn’t do so with a cheap assembly line gift, simply a sincere in stereo thank you is sufficient.

Post Nuptials

Oh, if only it went with out saying that a prompt, personal, handwritten thank you note was in order.  Never is anything electronic acceptable.  Well, maybe if it’s a flat screen television.  If I hauled myself to your event, or sent a gift, you can lift a pen and a stamp.  Personal counts.  This is where actually speaking to all of your guests comes in handy.  “Thank you so much for coming to our wedding.  It was so lovely to see you and I was so happy that husband/wife had the pleasure of meeting you.  I can’t thank you enough for being part of what was such an important day for us.”  or a version that also thanks for a gift, or a version that only thanks for a gift.

A note on visual communication

Photos of yourself no doubt make you happy.  They are not a form of communication and should be used ever so sparingly (like your monogram.)  Narcissism is a slippery slope.

 
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Posted by on October 5, 2011 in Marriage/Wedding

 

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But You Say It’s Time We Moved In Together

The institution of marriage, in America, is becoming less popular.  This shift is occurring as wedding hype is escalating and equal marriage is gaining ground.  Interesting, eh?

Several European cultures have long eschewed legal marriage for cohabitation (presumably, an arrangement which more Americans are embracing.)  Cohabitation is so popular in the United Kingdom that I have heard Brits often substitute the word “partner” for “spouse” when discussing their legally wed better half.  Of course, Europeans cohabitate differently than we do.  While American are serial monogamists, moving from committed relationship to committed relationship, Europeans (by and large) treat their cohabitation as it were marriage and are in it for the long haul.  Of course, they have laws and policies which support this paradigm.  I’m not certain which came first; habit or attitude.

The American change in marital statistics is intriguing, as it seems to have happened in somewhat of a cultural vacuum.  “The number of unmarried Americans has reached a historic high, as the census also found that 30 percent of Americans have never been married, the largest percentage in the past 60 years.”  Sixty years.  In other words, since 1951.  Think of all the phenomenal cultural shifts that have occurred since 1950 (kinda mind blowing.)  Yet, the decline in marriage is happening now.  Why?  Some might point to a celebrity culture which embraces “all the benefits of marriage without the pesky commitment of marriage” lifestyle.  But I would debate that one; perhaps with the ghosts of Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy or Lillian Hellman and Dashiell Hammett.  Yes, there were many many more examples, but can you think of any couples more romantic and brimming with glamor?

I am going to go out on a (trembling precarious) limb here and posit that there is a direct link to the decline in American marriages and to the development delay of our most recent crop of young adults.

Since the dawn of time, children have been looking longingly towards the cave door.  Thousands of generations ago, adolescents were grumbling; “when I have my own fire, I’m gonna do it totally different man.”  Children have embraced their primal genetically preordained imperative to flee, until very very recently.  The result of the last twenty (plus) years of children ruled households, has resulted in (surprise!) childhood seeming far more attractive than adulthood.  Hence, the 28 year old in your basement.

Most of us grew up in a time before children’s: clothing stores, hair salons, furniture stores, and restaurants.  Seriously, where DO these kids get the cash?  There was a bold thick line between the adult world and the world in which we (as children) inhabited.  Parents’ lives ruled the household, and the schedule of the children was integrated into the household (versus setting the entire tone of the household.)  Besides the risk of raising a generation of Veruca Salts, the inherent danger in a child-centric upbringing is that it makes the adult world look pretty shabby in comparison.  If you have all the benefits of adulthood as a child (dinner, theatre, vacations, authority, power) why venture into the demanding world of adulthood?  Is it any wonder that college students are calling/texting their parents everyday?  Who the hell wants to dive into a world in which you will be ruled by children?  Am I the only one who found Lord of the Flies to be the scariest book ever?!

Which bring us to foregoing marriage, while living together, perhaps buying property and even having children.  It’s all the benefits of marriage without the scary grown-up commitment (cue Veruca Salt.)  My objection to these arrangements is purely based on legal (lack of) protection for all parties involved.  And to be perfectly honest, I always find it abhorrent to see people sleepwalking though life.  I find it hard to believe that most adults involved in non-legal relationships involving children are really being their best selves.

No one is offering predictions on where these marriage trends are going.  If the decline is in fact the start of a major cultural shift, it will be interesting to watch what occurs when the children of the cohabitants come of age.  Will they be the generation who, presumably raised in a child-centric household by adults not fully buying into the notion of adulthood, become the Eisenhower generation?  Or will marriage become as quaint and anachronistic as “coming out parties?”   Will it be left to the LGBT community to redefine marriage and make it relevant for the mid-twenty-first century?  Whatever the future of marriage, my hope is that our laws and policies catch up to those of our friends across the pond.  Children should have all the protections of the institution of marriage regardless of current cultural fashion.

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2011 in Marriage/Wedding

 

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