I don't know if you know this, but there are actually women out there who spend a considerable amount of their downtime thinking about what their wedding will be like one day. But get this—some of them don't even have boyfriends yet. LOL, FREAKS.
That is the gist of this well-intentioned but inadvertently patronizing piece at the NYT op-ed page called Blame the Princess: Chasing the Fairy-Tale Wedding. In it, we learn that ladies still be crazy about weddings. In 2014! Sad! Because Disney! We're still poisoned after all these years!
Author Abby Ellin writes:
… even though women may be leaning in, branching out, cracking glass ceilings and forging vibrant careers in multiple sectors, for many of them, it is their wedding day that heralds true success.
But what follows is not, say, a story about career-driven, ceiling-shattering ladies whose computer monitors are elevated by back issues of Brides. It's not even a story about highly accomplished women who, upon looking back, realized their wedding day was the biggest signifier of true success in their lives (LOL, and yet, possible).
Instead, the NYT published a story about two women in their early-to-mid twenties who have imagined and planned weddings without boyfriends or grooms. It's enough of a jumping point for the author to say: Aren't we all supposed to be over this whole wedding dream day thing? Because 2014? Because progress?
After introducing us to 24-year-old Sami Horneff, a NYC actress and tour guide who's been strategizing her big day since girlhood, Ellin tells us:
Ms. Horneff has no idea whom she will marry. She isn't even dating seriously at the moment. But that hasn't prevented her from plotting every detail of the day, from the color of the bridesmaids' dresses (champagne) to the floral arrangements (white and pink roses, along with white hydrangeas, lilies and orchids).
She is not alone. Never mind the bleak statistics on marriage (about 45 percent end in divorce). Many women still dream, feverishly, about their wedding, even those with no groom or boyfriend in sight. They pin photos of fantasy event spaces, dresses and flowers on Pinterest; they design their ideal engagement rings on sites like Ritani.com; they turn to MyKnot, Lover.ly and Project Wedding for ideas on invitations, gift registries and seating charts.
They know it all, except — oops! — whom their partner will be. But why let a small detail like that interfere with preparations?
Or why let broadmindedness get in the way of a good sweeping generalization?
It goes on.
Hey, did you know that a quarter of the people who read Brides magazine ARE NOT EVEN ENGAGED? Did you know more than a third of the people who went to the website TheKnot.com DID NOT EVEN HAVE A FIANCE? Did you know that a clinical psychologist named Sue Johnson "finds this mentality worrisome"? Sure, it's fine to want companionship, Johnson allows (thanks, Sue!), but all this emphasis on weddings and marriages? DANGEROUS. Says Johnson:
"In North America, we've made progress," she said. "Hillary Clinton might be the first female president, but a woman still wants this badge of legitimacy that she is wanted and desired by a man."
Imagine that: being a human on earth with a female president who also wants to be wanted and desired.
The idea that an increase in powerful female leadership would singlehandedly eradicate wedding mania is unrealistic, and in this case, slightly out of control. Weddings are not just some repressive female interest that will fade out like a bad perm once more Hillaries get ahead. We are all invested in the spectacle of weddings. Women and men and, hopefully, women and women and men and men, will continue to get married and probably act a little crazy about it for a long long time in their own crazy way.
It's not that the wedding-industrial complex hasn't gotten out of hand. It's not that men and women aren't both force-fed retrograde ideas about gender that limit us all. It's that I can't figure out why this is always laid exclusively at women's feet, as if it hasn't been grossly distorted, or as if men don't have their own dumb shit they get all hot and bothered about for no good reason.
Most of the cultural stuff I can point to about bridezillas and over-the-top wedding culture comes from reality TV (scripted), and the fact that so many shows are devoted to the bride, as Ellin notes, and not the groom, is definitely proof of something: sexist, lowest-common-denominator TV programming. The gap in accurate representation happens in film, also, where women make up a large percentage of the movie-going audience but are not viewed as worth being catered to in arenas outside of chick flicks.
This portrayal of wedding culture treats women like garbage. It edits them down into tiny, sniveling, high-pitched little romance- and status-obsessed man-hookers; temperamental, tantrum-throwing narcissists who are big giant babies about their big day. But, given enough airtime, men will act like babies about their weddings, too. Just give it a minute.
Or don't. The Times doesn't. They move on to the case of Paige Sassu, who is 25 and a middle school teacher in Manhattan but has actually been contemplating her wedding since her teens. That means for a good six years at least she's been thinking about it! She's practically paranoid, she's so into her idea for a perfect day:
Her Pinterest board "One Day ..." featured wedding dresses, flowers, bridesmaid gifts, cards, rings and table arrangements. Because she was afraid her friends might steal her ideas, she made her board private.
But Paige Sassu is exactly 90 percent less pathetic than Sami Hornoff, because at least she has the validation of a man's desire, though maybe not for long:
Although she now has a serious boyfriend whom she has been with for four years, he doesn't know the extent of her research.
Nor is he aware (or "was," should he read this article) that her mother has scouted actual wedding sites for her, and that together they search online for potential locations. "I tell him some things — like rings that I like, or possible wedding sites like this vineyard in Connecticut — but I don't want to freak him out," she said. "I don't think he wants to get married this year, so I don't want him to think, 'Oh, she already has everything planned and I'm totally not even thinking about it.' "
Guess who will either be single or married by this weekend?
I don't want to snark this to death, but really, the implication that it's outdated to still fantasize about your wedding misunderstands both weddings and fantasies. They are inherently silly little things, fantasies. I've booked entire travel packages to exotic locales up to the minute payment is required because I like imagining that shit. Yes, absolutely, these things fall along gender lines and women are the drivers of a big part of the wedding culture and the policers of etiquette. But it's going to take a helluva lot more than a few female CEOs and a female president to reverse it, and the idea of Hillary Clinton as our president isn't foolproof reasoning that we should.
Even the best-case scenario—in which all women have full equal participation in society on their terms—will always involve some women being a little obsessed with so-called trivial things. If you need proof of that, just look at the silly little interests of men.
The issue is how we value these things. Let's write op-eds about about how men make all the money and yet still spend hours upon hours for months and years of their actual lives collecting old cars, or drafting fantasy sports teams. I think it's because of the dangerous fairytales of athletes, poisoning their minds and making little boys think that the most important thing is winning. It's pathetic, right? Given those choices, I'd take the wedding.
Illustration by Tara Jacoby.