Thursday, March 7, 2013

Shocker: There's Backlash to the Backlash Against Monster Weddings!

Guess what you guys?

An Ironic, Low-Key, Unconventional Wedding Is Still a Wedding

So if you thought you were going to exchange your vows at your favorite In-N-Out with frie rings and call it a "friendship for life" ceremony, you're wrong. The Atlantic just said so

Here's a mini recap of this long article about the fact that there are "women who do want in on the institution [of marriage], but who find this somehow embarrassing."

The market for discreet nuptial rings points to a wave of ambivalence operating counter to bridezilladom, the phenomenon of brides-to-be obsessing over every detail of what they view as the biggest day of their lives. It is just one sign of a discomfort on the part of certain women who have heteronormative desires (an opposite-sex partner, a document acknowledging the relationship, a dress...) with what these desires say about them.  

Read: Some girls want to get married without all the David Tutera treatment. 

Fauxbivalent anxieties center around engagement rings, so often perceived as the ultimate symbol of wedding narcissism. The rings elicit squeals, but also anti-squeals. Fauxbivalence is central to the strangely compelling Jezebel posts about engagement jewelry. The comment threads can turn into contests over whose ring strays furthest from Tiffany. "I recently got engaged and my fiance got me a beautiful ring - 3 uncut diamonds (ethically sourced) set in silver :)," writes one. Rustic and ethical is good, heirloom and non-diamond better: Writes another: "My engagement ring was a really simple ruby and gold ring that belonged to my husband's grandmother. My wedding ring is a titanium band that matches my husband's. We bought them as a pair from an Etsy vendor who makes their own jewelry." Etsy, of course. But one can do better! Writes another, seemingly in earnest: "I'd take a blueberry ring pop and wear the little plastic piece forever." 

Read: People are competitive about everything. Also, #humblebrag. Also, FAUXBIVALENT?!?! - hahahahahahahahaha!

It's easy to see why many women would have qualms about the Wedding Industrial Complex. The symbolism of a wedding can feel not merely anti-feminist but out-of-date, relics of a time when a woman's wedding day was the decisive moment in her life. Who could forget the New York Times story on the feeding-tube bride?

Read: Some people went way too far, and it ruined it for the rest of us? I'm actually unclear on this. 

Much fauxbivalence results from situations in which a woman wants not just marriage, but some of the not-so-progressive-seeming trappings. If you see yourself as the kind of person who wouldn't want a white dress, say, you may find yourself explaining—to yourself, to friends, or to a mass audience—why you went with one. 

Read: People care VERY much what other people think of their decisions, especially surrounding their wedding day. Also, one more time, Fauxbivalance?! Hahahahahahahaha!

But fauxbivalence has the potential to be just as alienating and even snobbish as bridezilladom. What first led me to coin the term was an essay by a young woman who married her live-in boyfriend for health-insurance purposes. Certain details (the ironic dive-bar "'reception,'" in quotes in the original) suggest that the author and her husband did want to get married, but that this felt too bourgeois: My coworkers from the suburbs had been hard-pressed to find anything to talk to me about, but now they were fawning all over me. Buried in their generic 'congratulations!' were little epiphanies—they'd finally found a way to relate to me. 

Read: Some people lead counter culture lives, and they're really proud of that. We used to call these people hippies, then we called them hipsters, now we can just call them Atlantic Magazine subjects. I'm letting the F-word go this time.

But the pressure to be different can be its own conformity. This itself has class implications. As Bourdieu has told us, taste is wrapped up in socioeconomic class. Weddings are expensive, ergo the rich must be the ones going all-out. But it's like a hatred of McMansions. If spending less (and the tasteful choice isn't always the less expensive) is about seeming more intellectual or old-money, then it, too, is a form of showing off.  

Read: You can't win. Elope.

I sympathize with much of fauxbivalence, and welcome a counterweight to the extremes in the other direction. As excited as I was to marry my now-husband, planning a wedding—let alone going into debt for one—is not something that ever interested me, so I appreciate those who insist that one is no less married for choosing City Hall.  

No hidden context here. I just wanted to include this paragraph to point out that I KNEW she was getting married, in an unconventional way, of course.  

Fauxbivalence loses me, however, when it amounts to a refusal to accept a basic fact about weddings...they acknowledge the universal in the particular...Every relationship is unique, but a wedding is a way of momentarily setting aside that uniqueness and accepting that what you're experiencing—the public sanctioning of an intimate relationship.... Even if you do not own a North Face or a pair of Uggs, you have not invented some radical new way for two human beings to relate to each other. If what you want is what most everyone else does, better to support those with less conventional desires than to pretend that your own are one of a kind. Rather than playing up the subtle distinction between your alternative, low-key wedding and that of a suburban princess, you might be an ally to those who don't wish to get married at all, or who do but cannot in their jurisdiction. 

Read: Everyone is different, but marriage is beautiful regardless, so stop being so weirdly competitive about it. Let's all acknowledge that we're going to have a total meltdown if our hair doesn't look just right, whether our wedding cost 100 or 100 million dollars.  

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