I put my electric frying pan away this morning and sat down and started writing.
Back in 1980, I made a bad decision and married a man who was not nice. I knew it when I did it. It was an immature decision that lead to humiliation, punching and divorce. But this story is not really about that chapter in my life.
It is about weddings, marriage, love, vows, faith and my electric frying pan.
A friend of a certain age, my age, just decided to get married. What a leap of faith. I admire that. My friend is a good-hearted, solid, caring, thinking person of above-average intelligence. She and her intended have children and grandkids. Like most of us, they are working their way through life trying to be happy and do the right things.
So they decided to get married and all at once, in about 5 minutes, things started to go awry. It was no big deal and nothing bad happened but things got a little off. What I liked was her reaction. She told me she was considering buying three sweatshirts – one that says bride, one that says groom, one that says minister and go stand by a tree and get married. I loved this.
Because I really don’t like big, ornate weddings. For me. I understand many people love them. I understand many little girls, and big girls too, dream of this day when they will perform this ritual in the long white dress.
But here is how it has always looked in my mind.
She dons the long, virginal, white dress with the veil over her head – like a cow going to slaughter – and is led down a long, white aisle by one man and is handed over to another man. I remember when I was a little girl and my friends used to put towels over their heads like veils and play bride. I would like to add here that I never did that. Even as a small child I knew this was not for me. I was just trying to figure out if I could have a baby without getting married. This was the 60’s after all. And I wanted to be a mother. A real mother, not a mother to a life-size, rubber, baby doll with a hole in its painted pink lips into which one forced water and then squeezed it out the hole in the hiney.
She stood in the back of the church clutching her father’s arm. She said Dad I don’t think I can do this. Move your ass he said. And they walked.
The bride, the groom, their families pay an inordinate amount of money for a party that lasts for part of one day. This money could be used to make a down payment on a house or a condo. To buy a car. To pay off student loans. Or to spend months in France and Italy. It could be given to charity – there are so many needy people in this world.
And a lot of the time, this party does not make a lot of people happy. The in-laws want to control the “bride’s day”. The girlfriends don’t like the dress because they feel it makes them look like Little Bo Peep. Not a lot of Little Bo Peep these days, but lots of unattractive because many are squeezed into tight, strapless gowns with fat back and tattoos showing. And oftentimes, boobs way too big for strapless. The girls need a home. And the pressure to spend enough on a gift or give enough cash to pay for your attendance at this “wedding” is just not a good thing. When did going to a wedding become paying for yourself to go to a party? A long time ago now I’m afraid.
(And to my friends – please do not not invite me to your kids weddings now. I love your children and I can go with the flow. I am a card-carrying, dues-paying member of this civilized society and I want to be there.)
And since the majority of marriages end in divorce, this huge ceremony seems to me not a realistic way to spend one’s time, emotional energy, money.
And this ritual is so impersonal. For what is more personal than standing up with someone you love and looking them in the eye and promising to try. I do not like the word vows. Merriam-Webster defines vows as “a solemn promise or assertion; specifically : one by which a person is bound to an act, service, or condition”. This circus that a marriage ceremony has become is everything but personal.
Marriage today is not the same as marriage 50 or 100 or 200 or 500 years ago. Not all of us need a man, or a mate for that matter, to have a life. Marriage was invented back in the day when two people were needed to keep a family/household going. People had to grow their food. They had to plant and weed and harvest. They had milk to the cows and feed the chickens and slop the hogs. Food prep took all day. Someone had to watch the kids while someone worked the crops. There was canning to be done. Meat had to be slaughtered and dried. And plucked and skinned. Now we have Stop & Shop.
For should not marriage or whatever word we use to describe it be a grown and mature union? Where you stand up and look your partner/beloved in the eye and say something like this.
I love you. Against all odds, I will try to do that forever. Even on the days when I want to bop you. During our bad days, I will try to remember our good times. I hope you will help me with this. I will try to have a sense of humor every single day because what other thing helps us get by more than that. I hope you will help me remember that. I promise that I will try to count to 10 before I open my mouth when you annoy me. I promise I will try to look straight into your eyes every morning and remember why I stood here and said these words. I hope when I draw my last breath or you draw yours, the thing we both know is that every day we tried to love each other best.
This exchange of verbal hope is personal. Private. Real. This does not require an audience. It does not need big expensive gifts. It does not need a piece of paper. It does not need a minister. It does not need a $5000 dress. It does not need arguments with your mother and your new in-laws. It does not need sunny weather. It does not need an expensive vacation. It does not need a new house. It does not need a long white dress. It does not need a $45,000 budget. It does not need a $20,000 budget. It does not need a $1000 budget.
So back when I got married in 1980, there were I think five people in attendance besides the bride, groom and the minister – none of whom were dressed in sweatshirts. The bride wore a knee-length yellow dress with white trim and some nice shoes. The groom wore a pair of dress pants and a nice shirt.
The marriage didn’t last. It was over in the blink of an eye.
At this time, I know 4 people, two couples – all people between the ages of 50 and 70 who are planning on getting married. And the mathematical joy of it all – one for the first time, one for the second, one for the third, and one for the fourth. Do I think they’re all nuts? Yup. Do I envy them their faith? Yup. Their hope? Yup. Their optimism in the face of all evidence to the contrary? Yup. Do I hope they are truly happy together and that when they draw their last breath, the thing they both know is that every day they tried to love each other best? Yup.
One of those five in attendance at that small wedding in Florida 32 years ago was a woman whom I loved very much. We are still in touch through the magic of Facebook. I think it would be safe to say we probably do not agree on much political or religious. I’ll double-check with her but I know the answer. And I didn’t want a big wedding. But I wanted to try. And she wanted to be there when I said I would. I was naïve. I thought it might be forever. My friend gave me an electric frying pan for a wedding present. Back when we gave we each other things to help “set up house”. Or usually apartment. She gave me a gift I wanted and a gift she could afford.
P.S. If you’re looking for an electric frying pan that will last forever, go with West Bend.