Two Grandparents and a Patriarchy

I’m a feminist.

Manbeast and I have never had a specific conversation about whether or not he identifies under the ‘feminist’ tag, but he believes in equal rights and is becoming more and more socially aware, which I think is an important thing and good on him and stuff.

So I’m a feminist and I flip-flop pretty hardcore between being ‘ultra-femmy girly girl’ and ‘slovenly subhuman creature.’ I wear make-up and I refuse to do dishes and if you tell me that my high-heels are oppressive I will stab you with a stiletto*… unless I’m wearing wedges that day.

I’m also insanely close to my grandparents. They didn’t raise me or anything, but they’ve always been important figures in my life, I tend to get on with them better than my real parents, they let me eat dessert, and I lived with them on and off when I was in undergrad. Then I moved overseas, and back, and then to the literal other side of the United States and I haven’t seen my grandparents in over a year.

We miss each other.

They are big fans of Manbeast.

They are big fans of attending my wedding and judging any and every unconventional choice that I make.

They are in their late eighties.

Their health is failing.

And I’m scared.

When I popped the question (“can we fast track getting married for the sake of my grandparents?”), it didn’t really come out of nowhere. Marriage as a thing that would happen had been discussed several times. So we knew it was a thing that would happen, but that was it. Now we know its a thing that will happen in the relatively near future. Look at all that concrete planning I’m doing!

Even at this abstract stage of planning, where I know it’s going to happen and it’s going to happen as soon as feasible I find myself in a sticky situation I never expected to be in.

I’m a feminist and I’ve dreamed about my wedding since I was a very young girl.

I’m a feminist and I started a wedding Pinterest board.

I’m a feminist and I want to walk down and aisle in a pretty dress at a pretty venue and eat a pretty cake. I also am working really hard not to buy into the idea that I need all the shiny things and I read A Practical Wedding religiously, as if one website will be enough to ground my premature fits on insanity.

But the time I’ve had to start thinking on this as a serious reality has confused me more. I’ve always wanted a wedding. Do I care about marriage as an unequal and flawed social institution? I guess I don’t, not the way I care about eating a fancy cake, anyways. Manbeast and I haven’t made any binding legal commitments to each other (unless you count our apartment lease). I have friends who are in relationships that are committed, friends who want to spend the rest of their lives with their partner, friends who are heterosexual, who just don’t want to partake in the ritual of marriage for any number of reasons: They’re uncomfortable with the inequality, the socially ingrained sexism, they don’t feel the government has any place in their relationship, they resent the pedestal society places married relationships on.

I’m with them, I’m totally with them. My relationship is valid and serious and we are 100% committed in sickness and in health… which means we pretty much have to enter a legally binding marriage because we both have medical conditions that could throw us into the ER at any moment and we can’t afford (literally) to be without insurance. Even if I did not want to placate my ailing grandmother, we can’t take the risk that one of us could be underemployed and uninsured simply because our status isn’t official. And it sucks that “getting insurance married” is something we may have to do before the year is up. And it pisses me off that laws can dictate what should be a deeply personal commitment and make it all about receiving benefits. If it pisses me off this much, I can’t even imagine how GLBT+ couples feel.

Then there’s the fact that I feel like I’m betraying feminism by wanting the glitz and glam. All I need for a good marriage is Manbeast. But for a wedding? I want the shimmeriest, bluest, cakiest reception possible! I feel like caring about that is wrong though, especially when I consider how annoyed I get by so much of the pageantry surrounding these events. I’m going to judge people who subscribe to traditional wedding ideas, people who get ‘be my bridesmaid?’ cupcakes made instead of just asking people, but I’m on etsy looking to see if anyone would be able to make a custom kissing fish cake topper.

I don’t think I should want that. I should be rallying for equality and eschew Pinterest because it’s so ridiculously heteronormative (and also really heavy on Jude-Christian marriage ideals… it’s not a very progressive site).

“You shouldn’t worry so much about this,” a friend said. “You’re aware of these things, it’s not like you’re blindly subscribing to the patriarchy, you’re allowed to enjoy feminine things without guilt.”

“You’re right,” I said. “I guess I just have to admit that sometimes the patriarchy has shiny things, and I get to enjoy them.”

Some links for your consideration:

An Alaskan Senator is now Pro-Gay Marriage because it’s an institution that needs saving, even if we have to turn to the gays to get it saved

An article that drops some statistics on marriage decline

Just Googling ‘the atlantic marriage’ brings up some interesting articles

And old news, but if you’re really committed for life, having to renew every seven years shouldn’t be a big deal

*Hilariously, the job that I wear extra supportive sneakers for helped give me patellar tendinitis, and now I can’t wear heels.

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One thought on “Two Grandparents and a Patriarchy

  1. My wife is a serious feminist (as am I) who worked as a manager in a male-dominated industry and was a single mother/sole breadwinner for years. She could wire our house and knows more about cars than I do, but loves to cook and garden. And because of an accident years ago, she can’t wear heels–but misses them mightily.

    The key is flexibility for both men and women (or both partners, in a same-sex union), and as long as you and Manbeast have come to terms with the balance (whatever that is, for you), there’s no real right or wrong, in our view.

    And it must be working for us. We’re still gloriously happy after 32 years, and I’m doing a blog of love songs to surprise her on our next anniversary. (Yes, feminists of both genders can enjoy sappy love songs.) There’s also a page for readers’ songs/stories, so if you and/or Manbeast have a song, I’d love to include it: http://lovesongs4joanna.wordpress.com/

    Congrats to you on great relationships with Manbeast and your grandparents.

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