let's talk weddings. specifically let's talk wedding dresses.
i grew up fantasizing about wedding gowns. my sister and i used to buy bridal magazines with some regularity. we'd pour over them, dog-earing the dresses we liked, drooling over diamonds, dreaming of the day when we could deck ourselves out like the models in the magazines. we weren't totally without a critical eye. we frequently made fun of mermaid dresses and models who looked like they were sick to their stomachs. but we generally bought into the bridal image: poufy, white, bead-bedecked froth accented with pearls and a diamond ring.
i went bridal gown shopping with my sister when she was engaged a little over ten years ago. it was fun watching her try dresses on. and i loved the dress she chose--simple a-line with a square neck and minimal pearl beading. but even then i had started telling my mother that i didn't want a traditional wedding. i had long since started making fun of the dresses i had fantasized about as a 13-year-old. and when i saw first hand all of the planning that went into my sister's wedding--well, as much as i liked the finished product (and it was a lovely wedding), i started threatening to elope.
tonight as i was flipping channels, i ran across say yes to the dress on TLC. and i got sucked in. except what was once fantasy is now more like horror. the fashionista in me still kind of enjoys seeing dresses. i do watch the academy awards mostly for the pre-show red carpet, after all. but so many wedding dresses are just style nightmares. and the practical, feminist, non-traditionalist me with my taste for simplicity--well, i can't help but be horrified. there's the prices--$5000 for a dress? really?! that's just nuts. and that's the low end of the budget, if this particular show is to be believed. and then there's the princess mentality. heaven forbid the bride not have her perfect day.
i understand that weddings are a big deal in our culture. i'm all for celebrating such an important occasion. and i think people should celebrate in whatever way they feel is appropriate. but i don't like traditional weddings. i don't like the emphasis being on the party rather than on the commitment being made. i don't like the tradition of the father giving the bride to her husband; it smacks of the past when women did not have a legal identity of their own. i don't like the expense. or the stress. and i don't like tradition for the sake of tradition.
but you know what i like the least? i really hate the way the fantasy dominated my youth. to such an extent that the failure to accomplish the dream has created serious emotional and psychological blocks for me as an adult. the assumption that i would grow up and marry was so deeply ingrained that i never doubted it as a child and young woman. but i have not lived the fantasy. and as it became more apparent that i would not have the fantasy, my self worth and confidence became proportionately less. i hate that. why should my sense of value be contingent on my being married? to my having the fantasy? that's ridiculous.
so here's what i fantasize of now: i fantasize of a world in which everyone, female and male, is valued for her- and himself. alone. because they are unique and individual and have wonderful things to offer the world. and if they are fortunate enough to find another individual whom they love, then we will celebrate that union. because it is a beautiful thing for two people to love each other and commit for a lifetime. but it is also a beautiful thing for one person to live a full, rewarding life. and that should be celebrated, too.