As I made my way to the cash registers at the grocery store, I caught sight of the magazine racks stocked with different bridal magazines. It made me think about how we women are bombarded by the idea of a traditional “white” wedding, whether it’s on tv shows or magazines or music videos. A cultural institution as pervasive as marriage is bound to be problematic, especially in the context of a patriarchal society. But what if, as a feminist, you still want to get married?
Last month, my youngest sister tied the knot. A few weekends later, my boyfriend and I flew to Las Vegas for my brother’s wedding. Coincidentally, that same weekend Radioguy and I celebrated the fifth anniversary of our first date. On top of that, several of my friends are either getting married or just got married. All of this talk about marriage had me thinking about my own relationship, not because I feel pressured to get married (or maybe I do, I’ll let you be the judge of that) but because of the nature of my own relationship with Radioguy.
A little over five years ago Radioguy and I started corresponding online. I still remember getting his email in my inbox, checking out his Myspace (yes, THAT Myspace) profile, thinking “this is the kind of person I could be friends with!” and emailing one of my best friends to ask her what she thought. She knew I’d been on the dating scene for a while and that until a week before l I had been on an online dating website. However, she also knew I was done: I had gone on several dates with several guys, some of whom were weird, some of whom were nice, and some of whom never called/emailed again. But my friend encouraged me to email Radioguy back, and I did.
From the beginning we broke a lot of rules of modern dating. We spent a lot of time with each other from Day 1. He called me the day after our date, and we went on a second date almost immediately. We became official without really talking about becoming official. I started dropping off my stuff at his place with no warning, and he didn’t say a thing. We spent Thanksgiving together with each other’s families in New York City two months after we started dating. We fit a lot into those first few months, and felt comfortable with it. I must confess that I knew early in our relationship that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with Radioguy, but dismissed the thought because–wait for it–I thought that was irrational.
In the first two years of our relationship we never really talked about marriage in depth. I wouldn’t talk about it, but I did think about it. A lot. I’d tell myself, “it would be nice, but not necessary.” Radioguy and I both believed in living together before getting married. So, we lived together, we had careers, we had lives together and apart. I thought to myself, “I don’t need him to put a ring on my finger to know he loves me.” I felt very smug that we were living together and not married; the academic in me refused to believe that my life would only make sense if I got married. That is not what I wanted to be. That’s not who I was supposed to be, at least.
I did a lot of rationalizing.
But deep down I wanted a ring. I wanted a wedding. I wanted to call him my husband. It felt like a dirty little secret, something I wasn’t supposed to want or think about. That’s probably why it took me so long to actually admit it to him…and to myself.
In the past five years we’ve had our ups and downs, very much like a married couple (and I talked about the downs at Small Strokes Big Oaks). After our “hiatus” we decided to get back together and patch things up. It took us a while to even think again about getting married, but eventually it came back into the picture.
Radioguy and I never really talked about getting married before our daughter was born. I now recognize that part of the reason we didn’t want to discuss it was because getting married would mean we’d have to make concessions in our careers, the big thing that mattered to both of us. We’d have to find a happy medium, and neither of us at the time knew what that looked like. But after Miss E was born, we discussed it. I said out loud, perhaps for the first time ever, “I want to marry you.” I couldn’t reconcile the free-thinking feminist with the woman who talked about how she wanted to get married. But I was finally honest and true to my feelings.
Since then, Radioguy and I have seriously talked about getting married. We both agree we want to marry each other and that we won’t wait another five years to do that. We both are vocal about our desire to have a very small, private ceremony. We’ve joked about what song I will play when I walk down the aisle. But we’ve also been very candid about what we can and cannot afford right now. At this point we’re not getting married for appearances; we’ve been living together for years. We’re not getting married because we have a child; cat’s out of the bag. We’re getting married because we want to make it official to each other and we want to celebrate that union. So we will save and we will wait.
I will continue to dream about my wedding to Radioguy because it is something I want. I decided to marry him, I never felt obligated to do so. Ultimately this is what feminism, for me, is about.