Weddings are mired in long-standing tradition. And sometimes what seems pretty charming and quaint actually comes from a history much darker. Perhaps the best-known example being the exchanging of property that occurs when a father walks his daughter down the aisle, from the days of arranged marriage and marriages that required the exchanging of goods, goats, or money.
I wouldn’t exactly call myself a feminist, but I was raised in the midst of a long line of women who worked hard, had their shit figured out, and didn’t take much baloney from anyone– men or women. It is no surprise that I chose female friends who are the same. So, as we plan our wedding, I often face conflicting values (or, more accurately the two faces of the Wedding Industry tell me I should be feeling conflicted) and I have had to really think hard about which traditions are important and for what reason, and which are not. And it all makes me think very much about the women in my life. So here is a letter to my leading ladies.
To My Leading Ladies,
As I head toward my wedding day and start to define what it will mean for me to be a wife, I cannot help but think of you. You who are married, you who are divorced; you who are single, you who are awaiting (patiently or not!) your own diamond, which materially will feel so much smaller than the commitment and love it represents. You who have broken glass ceilings, you who have raised children, and perhaps especially you who have done both.
I admire the way you have decided you don’t have to choose– or even balance– femininity and earning respect; you can have both. I listened when you talked about standing up for yourself in your marriage, in a friendship, or at work. I noticed the times you stood up for other women and empowered them to make real and positive change when they needed it. But I also rejoiced when you were excited with me over prom and the first time I called to tell you I had a boyfriend.
I heard you when you reminded me that above all, I have to be myself. I heard you when you told me I was smart or beautiful, especially on days I didn’t believe it. I heard you when you warned me that I could get hurt, have my heart broken, make a big mistake. Thanks for folding me in your love when I didn’t listen the first time. Or the second. And on the third, for actioning whatever is your personal version of “walloping me upside the head.”
It is because of the stories you have shared over holiday meals, coffee, margaritas, long-distance phone calls, and emails that I understand who I am as a woman today and who I will be as a wife. It is your guidance that has shown me that equal partnerships come with give and take, mutual respect, and a dash of “oh lord, that man drive me crazy.”
Thank you for being you even when, no especially when, that you was scared, was emotional, was raw, was rude, was having a bad day, was feeling fat. Thank you for being real with me, for overcoming with me, and for navigating problems– actual or make-believe– with me. Thank you for giving of yourself graciously and with authenticity.
For those a generation or two ahead of me: the way you battled stereotypes and injustice means women my age don’t have to. We will never thank you often enough or loud enough for that. For those in their 20s and 30s, just realizing our place in this very big world and carving out our sphere of influence: may we continue our journeys with peace and happiness, youthful abandon, a healthy dose of gratitude, respect for others, and respect for ourselves.
From every bit of me, I love you.
17 Wedding Wednesdays to go! The wedding is exactly 4 months from today!