This was originally posted at Feministing, but I wanted to re-publish here because 1) I’m proud of it an 2) it reminds me why I’m only doing comments by pre-approval on this site.
I wasn’t planning on writing much else about getting married because I figured folks were getting sick of hearing all about it. (If I’m tired of hearing about it, I can’t imagine how others feel!) But over the last few days I’ve seen coverage of my wedding/marriage online – from Salon to Playboy to The Nation – with responses ranging from the congratulatory to the cruel. So I feel like I have to jump in.
When I first wrote about getting married the title of my post was, “Does the personal always have to be political? (And can’t it ever be private?),” because one of the biggest issues I was struggling with was how to have a personal life that was well…personal. I was trying to figure out if it was possible to be public in some regards, while still maintaining a modicum of privacy. Apparently the answer is no.
There’s something incredibly invasive about having strangers comment on and conjecture about your marriage – whether it’s making ridiculously false assumptions (I must have paid to have my wedding featured in the NYT?!) or intimating that I’m a hypocrite for being critical of weddings while still having one.
I write about my life publicly, so I expect public feedback and criticism. But the level of nastiness I’ve seen recently, coupled with the complete disregard for the fact that I am an actual person with feelings – not a symbol of feminism, or fodder to make a political point – but a person, has made me realize that I’ve been naÃ¯ve.
I’ve always felt that putting yourself out there – even if it means being more vulnerable – was a terrific way to show the nuance and complexity of feminism. And that making yourself more accessible was a way to make the sometimes-dense ideas of feminism more relatable. I knew this would make for a dangerous line to walk – that opening yourself up also means opening yourself up to hatefulness. And over the last five years that I’ve been blogging, that hatefulness has come through. But wonderful, amazing, supportive people have always counteracted it – and that made it worthwhile. But looking back, when I realize that some of the most important and joyful moments in my life have been poisoned by the cruelness of people I don’t even know…well, it just gives me pause.
When I wrote about Andrew and I planning a wedding, I wasn’t doing so to make some grand statement about what feminists should do when they get married. Or to suggest that my wedding was going to be The Most Feminist Wedding Ever. I wrote about it as an individual, as a person, who was trying to negotiate her beliefs with a traditionally sexist institution and the consumerist party-planning that surrounds weddings.
Yes, I was featured in the NY Times Vows column – a section usually reserved for muckity mucks with society-type parents and jobs at banks and such. And you know what? I was stoked about it. Not only because I thought it would be cool for a fairly traditional column to cover a feminist wedding, but also because – hey, neat, my wedding will be in the NY Times! (Not to mention, the class thing does make a difference to me. To my immediate and extended family – working class folks from Queens – this was an incredibly big deal.) Did I hope that the column would talk more about our ceremony instead of creating a feminist-finally-gets-hitched narrative? Of course. But it is what it is, and anyone who thinks a Vows column could accurately represent what Andrew and I are about is being deliberately obtuse.
And really, if I would have gotten married at City Hall and banned the NYT from coming to the wedding when they asked – would that have made me a more “pure” feminist? What if I would have worn a red dress instead of gray? Had a potluck instead of a catered meal? There is no one right way to do a “feminist” wedding (if you even believe that such a thing exists). So we focused on what mattered to us most.
Our ceremony, officiated by a friend, opened with words about how the heart of marriage – equality and partnership – is broken by the laws that keep everyone from accessing the institution. Andrew and I believe in eating locally – so all of the food and wine was from farmers in the Hudson Valley; nothing came from more than 100 miles away. We had a kick-ass jazz and swing band because Andrew was a part of the swing-dance scene in CA when he was younger. We all rented an old stone house – the house we’d get married in – for the weekend so our families and close friends could be together and celebrate, and so we could be reminded about what family and community means to us. We had our closest friends do readings to honor our relationships with them. We had a “declaration of consent,” from our guests because we believe a marriage needs the support of a community. We scattered little Moo cards around that let our guests know that we’d donated to an organization supporting same-sex marriage in lieu of buying favors. We had a bouquet toss to all of the single dudes at the wedding (Lori‘s man caught it!). I bought a non-white dress.
We wanted to make the wedding representative of the institution we’d like marriage to be, and I think we did a good job. Does any of this change the fact that marriage is a historically sexist institution or make it okay that millions of people are denied the right to be married? Of course not. But it made the celebration one that made sense to us, one that re-imagined what marriage as an institution should be about – love, equal partnership and community. (And seriously, to the some of the more conservative relatives at our wedding, hearing these sort of things at a wedding absolutely made an impact.)
And you know what? The wedding really was beautiful. Not because of where it was or because of the flowers (though I did love them!), and not because of the dress. It was beautiful because the thought Andrew and I put into what this day meant to us showed through – it felt like a ceremony and a celebration that represented who we are and who we hope to be together. But most importantly, it was beautiful because the people who matter to us most – our family and our friends – were there to support us and share their love with us. And it’s those people, our community, that I think about today, when I’m feeling so jaded about people’s basic goodness that the idea of writing another word on the internet feels impossible. And to them, I say, truly – thank you.
To everyone else, I’m not writing this to discourage discourse around marriage and weddings – on the contrary; one of the reasons I wrote about my wedding to begin with was to have that conversation. So talk about marriage – dissect and deconstruct away! But please – please – remember that I’m a person, not an example.