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Posts Tagged ‘getting married’

How to snag a husband — really?

In aging, behavior, education, life, love, women on March 14, 2014 at 12:24 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Our rings

Our rings

If there’s one obsession I will never really fathom, it’s rushing young women posthaste to the altar.

Let alone a long line of people — parents/friends/relatives/room-mates/newspaper columnists — shoving them there.

Can we say “heteronormativity?”

Sure we can!

The latest slugest over how to find a decent husband is “Marry Smart”, written by a female Princeton graduate, advising women to get married while they’re still in college, surrounded by — she insists — their best choices; i.e. smart, driven, likely affluent men, (or women.)

Nor, she asserts, will women ever again be as attractive. Even better, kids, get plastic surgery to fix all those jiggly/weird bits while you’re still (yes, really) in high school.

Here’s feminist blog Jezebel’s take on it:

Marry Smart, the retrograde pile of garbage that the ‘Princeton Mom’ has sandwiched between two pieces of cardboard and called a book, drops today. That means Susan Patton is currently making the media rounds, questioning the notion of date rape and insisting that she is “not a provocative person.”

…all copies of Marry Smart will be banned from our separatist compound, and our turkey baster parties are just lovely.

And from Salon:

just exaggerated parroting of dominant and destructive cultural norms, she has styled herself as a cartoon mouthpiece for these ideas.

For a different perspective, here’s part of the favorable review from the socially conservative Wall Street Journal:

Since men, even young college men, distinguish between the women they want to have casual sex with and the women they want to marry and have children with, Ms. Patton devotes much of her book to telling readers how to fall into the second category. Avoid the campus hookup scene—it’s a waste of precious time. Don’t binge-drink—you will do stupid things. Realistically assess your looks and act accordingly: If you are only a “six,” that handsome “ten” knows he can do better than you and is probably out of your league. Lose excess weight. Act like a lady. Don’t swear like a fishwife. Learn to cook. Don’t be a whiny, moody, spoiled, entitled princess (“hothouse tomato” is Ms. Patton’s term). Cultivate a generous spirit and a readiness to forgive. Don’t chase after “bad boys,” especially if they display traits such as drug abuse and physical violence. Don’t be a gold-digger (“earn your own fortune”).

So bizarre!

– Not every woman wants to marry, ever

– Not every woman wants to have children

– Many women are too busy learning, studying and planning their lives to put a ring on it after four years on campus

– Who’s to say your “best choice” is a fellow student?

I’d love to see a similarly finger-wagging book aimed at men, but I’m not holding my breath.

I had a great time at university, double-majoring in English and boys. It was a lot of fun, certainly for a young woman who had been viciously bullied for 2.5 years of high school, and doubted any man would find her attractive. Many did. That was a pleasant surprise, and I took advantage of it.

One of my beaux, whom I dated in my freshman year after meeting him the very first week of school, was a lovely man five years my senior, a fellow journalist. A decent and well-raised man, he made marital noises, but I was having none of it.

We later married others — both of whom left us when we were living in foreign countries where we’d followed them — and we have since re-married, each very happily, again.

I loved him dearly and we remain friends, decades later. But I knew, even at 20, this was not the man for me.

Yes, some people are delighted to marry very young, and it all works out.

It struck me as terrifyingly claustrophobic, even as I had several proposals from handsome, smart, hardworking men when I was in my 20s. I just didn’t want to get married that young, and married only when I was 35, to a handsome, smart, Ivy-educated, hardworking physician I had already known for five years.

A doct-uh!

Who walked out barely two years later and promptly re-married a co-worker.

Ooops.

It took me a long time to find a man who is an excellent husband.

Would Susan Patton have told me to marry him? Hell, no!

My husband, Jose. photo: Caitlin Kelly

My husband, Jose. photo: Caitlin Kelly

We come from different countries, races, religions and socioeconomic backgrounds. He attended state school on scholarship funds through his father’s church.

He’s a gem. But it took the loupe of mid-life appreciation to see that.

We may not have a clue who’s our best match in our 20s, 30s or even our 40s.

How about you?

What advice — whatever your age — would you offer to a young woman hoping to find a good life partner?

Do we expect too much of marriage?

In aging, behavior, domestic life, family, life, love, men, women on February 18, 2014 at 12:41 am

By Caitlin Kelly

From The Economist:

Eli Finkel at Northwestern University in Chicago.. told a meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science this week that most married Americans expect their spouses to develop profound insights into the essential qualities of their other half, fulfilling their needs for esteem and self-actualisation. A spouse, these days, can be expected to be a confidant, lover, co-parent, breadwinner, activity partner and therapist. This, he concludes, makes being happily married harder than it was in the past.

I was struck, and touched, by how many of you “liked” my recent post about my 14 years (so far) of marriage with Jose.

ringsOur rings and wedding certificate

One commenter noted that I believe in work, that a happy marriage doesn’t just happen spontaneously. Maybe it does for some people.

In our case, our marriage is hard-won. We were both married before, very unhappily. We came to our relationship, as many of us do later in life, scarred, wary and battle-hardened, by life, by work, by disappointing relationships along the way.

It wasn’t a great start and we’ve benefited from several smart, insightful counselors along the way.

So, what do you think of this list? It does strike me as exhaustive, and possibly exhausting to fulfill.

— confidant, lover, co-parent, breadwinner, activity partner and therapist.

I don’t expect him to parent children (we have none). I do expect him to earn a living, but he is not the only breadwinner; we rely on my income as well. I don’t really look to him as an activity partner, much as I’d like to. I love going to movies. He hates it. I love theater and dance and museums. He’ll join me occasionally but he’s happier reading or relaxing at home after another hectic workweek. We’ve helped each other confront some of our issues, but I also have a therapist and her role is clear.

I’ve also learned the hard way that it takes two people to make a marriage.

Duh!

Actually, not really. You can hit every traditional milestone: a fancy wedding and sexy honeymoon and a big house and tons of kids — and still have a crappy, lonely, cringe-making life, wondering why on earth you took vows with this creep.

If both people aren’t in the same set of traces, pulling hard in the same general direction most days, I think your marriage is less likely to last.

I don’t actually feel like an oxen tilling the fields. But we all need backup!

Knowing that each of us is as fully committed to life’s dreary scutwork — laundry, groceries, scrubbing the toilet, getting the damn car inspected, collecting all our tax paperwork — as we are to one another’s deeper happiness helps a lot. Jose is not, thank God, lazy or messy or disorganized. (OK, I can be the last two, rarely the first.) He puts gas in the car. I wash the floors.

Sexy? Maybe not for some people. Someone taking responsibility is deeply attractive to me.

Shared values matter enormously.

One of the many self-help books I read while dating, (yes, I admit it!), offered what I thought was an interesting way to decide if someone new might prove to be a good fit romantically: PEPSI — whether we had a decent match in the following categories: Professional, Emotional, Physical, Spiritual and Intellectual.

From our first date, I knew we matched well on four of the five.

Offering your sweetie your absolutely undivided attention, preferably for an hour a day, (yes, it’s not easy; that’s the point!), is also huge. In an era of CPA — continuous partial attention — this is one of the greatest gifts we can still, and must, give one another.

But I think the single most important element of a marriage you want to last for decades is, paradoxically, remembering that your partner or spouse is a separate human being.

We each carry our own fears, hopes, dreams, goals and unresolved wounds. We each arrive at the altar — whether we marry at 20, 40 or 60 (possibly all three!) — as someone with a past. We all bring ghosts, angels and demons, some of which we have yet to even notice, acknowledge, tame or banish.

(Which is where good therapy can also strengthen your marriage, whether you go alone or together.)

I keep a photo of Jose, as a small baby in his onesie, his mother beaming beside him, nearby in a lovely frame. I treasure everything about this image: her joy, his delight, her optimism, their love.

photo(30)

Gregorita is so thoroughly delighted with him, even though he’s a surprise baby and she’s 50 and her husband is not in good health and they have little money.

She cherished him, but she died decades ago.

Now it’s my turn.

Here’s a post from Psychology Today, by a man happily married for 43 years, with his five tips for a satisfying marriage.

What do you expect from your husband, wife or partner?

Is it too much — or not enough?

The milestone-free life

In aging, behavior, children, culture, domestic life, family, life, love, women on February 16, 2014 at 1:26 am

By Caitlin Kelly

20131129145522

“There’s a thin line between pleasing yourself and pleasing somebody else”– Indigo Girls

Here’s a great post from blogger Infinite Satori. Her thoughts on milestones — and ignoring them:

Get married in your mid 20s, buy a house in your late 20s, have a baby in your late 20s and early 30s, and the timeline moves along. That’s what they say right? The reality is you don’t have to get married, you don’t even have to have a baby if you truly don’t want to. Before I explain this any further, please know that I am not against any of these. Because I would love to have at least one child one day and if I, one day, decide that marriage is for me it would be because I found the right one who I connect with in all levels. Spiritually, emotionally, physically, mentally, everything. And more importantly, that it feels right to me. To my heart. To my soul. My point is, it’s very important to listen to what you inner voice is telling you. And if it’s telling you that kids aren’t for you, that marriage isn’t for you, listen to it.

You are probably meant for a different path in life, one that stays true to your purpose here on this planet. Don’t get married because your parents want you to, or because you’re in a long-term relationship and you might as well tie the knot, or have a baby because you’re a woman and that’s what you’re suppose to do, or because you’ve hit that “milestone” and you feel like you need to, or because you need a man to make you happy, or because your peers are all getting married and you don’t want to be left out. You don’t have to hit these societal milestones and timelines and you sure don’t have to plan your life around it most especially if you don’t want to. Create your own life.

Hell, yeah!

Most the women my age are now grandmothers or great-grandmothers, owners of multiple homes, thrilled with their expanding, multi-generational families’ achievements, running a business or enjoying a big fat corporate salary and title. Or they never had to work, having “married well.”

Few of these women, as I have and continue to do, stare into the sky at passing airplanes and still wish I was on one — heading to…who knows where? Somewhere new, somewhere to be tested, to not speak the language, somewhere I need to carry and read a map.

I feel completely out of step with them.

My life never really followed a tidy, laid-out trajectory. I attended university, and graduated, (after much prodding. I love learning, but didn’t enjoy a huge school, University of Toronto, where undergrads just didn’t matter much.) I never wanted an advanced degree so that was the end of that — until I studied interior design in my mid-30s. But after my marriage blew up, I didn’t finish my certificate.

I’ve always pitied people who feel the wrath or contempt from their peers or family for not doing what everyone expects them to — instead of creating and following their own path.

My parents never pressured me to marry, (young or at any age), or have kids or “settle down” or buy property or “grow up.” Thank God.

They wanted me, still, to enjoy life and travel and do the very best work I’m capable of. To be useful and kind to others. My maternal grandmother was married a bunch of times and my father has four kids with four different women, so “normal” doesn’t fit our family too well.

I freelanced as a journalist right out of college, (instead of desperately seeking a full-time job; luckily I had no student debt and Canada’s healthcare system covers everyone, job or no job.) I won a fellowship to Europe for eight months when I was 25, and only took my first staff job after that, at 26. I left after 2.5 years and went to a Montreal newspaper, stayed 1.5 years and followed my first husband to New Hampshire.

I married him late, when I was 35 — and was (sadly but somewhat relievedly) divorced two years later. I was single for six years, then met the man I’ve been with ever since.

Neither of us had children nor a desire to have any.

But when you don’t have children, nor even nieces or nephews, (none that we are close to, now adults anyway), life becomes weirdly shapeless. Nor have we attended others peoples’ kids’ birthdays, christenings, bar and bat mitzvahs, weddings and baby showers. I would have loved to, but we were rarely included.

(We have, sadly, attended wakes and funerals for the parents and partners of friends, honored and proud to do so.)

This makes our lives a milestone-free cycle — work, sleep, play, repeat.

Bizarre, really, when you scan the greeting card section of the drugstore and see the endless iterations of affection and progress most people officially celebrate all through their lives.

Not having children also really forces you to consider and examine — pardon the grandiosity of the word — your legacy.

You haven’t passed along your genes, or your sofa, to anyone.

No one will cherish our carefully-curated stuff 30 or 50 years from now, at least no one related to us.

We’re still stymied making out our wills, deciding who (who?) to leave our eventual estates and assets to: church, charities, friends, almas mater…

Do you feel compelled to hit specific milestones?

What if you don’t?

The new bridezilla — show me the dough or I’ll shame you on social media

In behavior, domestic life, family, life, love, Money, news, Style, urban life, women on October 20, 2013 at 2:50 am

By Caitlin Kelly

Wedding

Wedding (Photo credit: teresachin2007)

Here’s a seriously depressing story from The Globe & Mail about bridezillas’ latest depths of greed and entitlement:

Earlier this month, a bride whipped out her phone and texted one of her guests: The newlywed woman was still waiting on a money-stuffed card and congenially reminded her guest that she’d attended “for free.” The guest, a childhood friend saddled with student loans, fired back with a refreshing smackdown. “If you cannot afford a wedding, then do not have one,” she wrote in a letter. “Do not dare make your friends/family feel financially responsible for your decisions/parties/extravagances.” The guest taped a penny to the letter, then bid farewell to their friendship.

It’s the third nasty blowup of this kind since summer, all leaked by the guests and highly publicized. In July, another wedding guest revealed a Facebook message she’d received from a bride dissatisfied with the gift of $100 from the guest and her partner: “We were very much short on paying off the reception,” read the complaint. And before that in June, two guests from Hamilton got blasted for their admittedly unusual wedding gift, a wicker basket brimming with pasta and Marshmallow Fluff. The bride didn’t mince words in subsequent texts and Facebook messages to the pair: “I lost out on $200 covering you and your date’s plate,” she wrote, later adding, “Weddings are to make money for your future not to pay for people’s meals. Do more research.”

There are few occasions more id-revealing than weddings. God help us.

I used to be really good friends with  a woman I’ll call J. We were besties, I thought, for life. Hah!

I threw her a wedding shower, at a point in my life when spending even $100 to welcome 15 of her friends — only one of whom I knew — was a real financial strain. When she arrived the first words out of her mouth weren’t, “How lovely. Thank you!” but “What time will this be over? I need to let my fiance know what time to pick me up.”

Nice.

Then she held a destination wedding on a Caribbean island far from New York, where we live. Another $1,000+? Nope.

Another friend kept having showers and parties, like the dinner inviting a group of her friends, (many high-earning or married) to a midtown restaurant full of Wall Street guys eating $40 steaks. Women at the table ordered many bottles of wine and the bill arrived — my portion (!) was $100, an absolute fortune for me at the time. Every shower required another gift. By the time I attended her wedding I couldn’t afford another thing.

Enough!

I’ve been married twice; the first time my family gave us some money for the wedding. I married again in 2011, in Toronto, and it was all on us. We managed to make it charming, stylish and affordable.

We loved our gifts, but, apart from the actual ceremony, considered the day a large party. I don’t ask my friends over and present them with a bill for dinner…

People in a marquee enjoying a wedding feast.

People in a marquee enjoying a wedding feast. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

What do you make of this notion that wedding guests need to cough up — or else?

Has it happened to you?

Have you done it?

Just give me the ring, already!

In behavior, culture, domestic life, life, love, men, Money, women on March 23, 2013 at 1:40 am
Promotional art by Frank King (c. 1941), highl...

Promotional art by Frank King (c. 1941), highlighting Skeezix’s marriage proposal to Nina Clock. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s a scary/sad trend — spending shitloads of coin on a wedding proposal to make sure that:

1) it’s seen by millions of strangers on social media;

2) it makes you Famous;

3) it makes your proposal so much better than all your BFFs;

4) it’s something you’ll never forget.

(H/T to Small Dog Syndrome.)

Having been the recipient of a few marriage proposals, here’s my wisdom on the matter:

Don’t waste a ton of cash on the proposal. Weddings are expensive. Honeymoons are expensive. Kids and housing and student loans are expensive. Is this truly the best use of your limited funds? (Billionaires and trustafarians, fire when ready.)

If you’re buying an engagement ring, make sure it’s something she’ll love wearing. Both my engagement rings are unusual, and neither is a single diamond in a raised setting. Not my style! Both are pave, and super-comfortable. Is she sporty? Girly? Super-traditional? Crazy about vintage? (And if so, which styles?)

Don’t propose at the bottom of a hotel escalator. That was proposal Number One from Husband No. 1. I said no, because — really? He tried again in a restaurant about 10 minutes later. No. Then on a street corner in Hanover, NH. The final one was, (cue Rocky theme), on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, with a gorgeous ring we had finally chosen on a visit to Boston.

Think twice about the whole bended-knee, in-public thing. For every woman who loves that much attention, some of us hate it. This is a major moment, not a made-for-TV drama! (And what if she says no?)

Even though she’s crying, don’t assume why. I did weep when HN1 proposed, but, (spoiler alert), because I didn’t want to get married to him right away. Maybe, (I realized with a mixture of confusion, guilt and terror), ever. The ring was so damn nice!

If your sweetie says she really doesn’t want an engagement ring, think long and hard before you heave a sigh or relief and blow that cash on something else. She might not like diamonds, (especially conflict diamonds), but she might really welcome something lovely as a memento of this important moment. Earrings? A pendant?

An engagement ring doesn’t have to mean a trip to Kay Jewelers or Tiffany. My first one came from a fancy Boston jeweler, but my second was an estate piece I found at Saks; it looks like an Art Deco ring and would have cost double if it were new, or that old. It might be a family heirloom or something you design or find on Etsy.

Classic "one-knee" proposal, ca. 1815

Classic “one-knee” proposal, ca. 1815 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Pick your moment/location carefully. Jose, my second husband, could not have done it better when he chose to pop the question. We emerged from midnight church service one Christmas Eve and it had just started to snow. He knew that two of my worst-ever memories had both happened on Christmas Eve and he wanted to “re-brand” that night with something happier. And so he did!

Have you proposed or been proposed to?

Did you enjoy it?

But it’s exactly what we wanted! How did you know?

In behavior, domestic life, family, life, love on July 22, 2012 at 12:40 am
Wedding Gift

Wedding Gift (Photo credit: INIJIE)

It’s summer and, in North America anyway, it’s wedding season!

If you’re getting married any time soon, be sure to practice this phrase.

Because you will get some seriously weird shit as wedding gifts.

If your wedding gifts are given in cash, score! No such luck for me.

Here’s a blog post about the 10 items couples should register for, but never do…

Every time I watch the movie “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” and see the couple get a house — a house?! — as their wedding gift from her Dad, I wonder what that would be like. (My Dad gave me a knife set for the first wedding and a set of sterling salt and pepper dishes for my second.)

We recently got a belated wedding gift from a friend we see fairly rarely. He gave us…a gong. So cool!

Jose and I are now competing to see who gets to ring it first/most/most often and under what circumstances:

– come to bed, at once!

– you’re snoring. Off to the sofa!

– breakfast/lunch/dinner is served

– time to drive me to the train station

Unlike a toaster/blender/vase, you’re fairly unlikely to get multiple gongs. Maybe not even one.

My favorite nuptial gifts, (from both of my weddings) have included:

-- a pair of binoculars

– a picnic basket

– a mini-blender

– a drawing of several nautical knots (get it?)

– a gorgeous wide, deep bowl perfect for pasta or parties

– a gift certificate to one of our area’s loveliest restaurants; (this from a couple who live nowhere near us, who did their homework)

Don’t wait too long to select or send your wedding gift. One friend waited almost two full years after attending my first wedding.

Her gift arrived just in time for…my divorce.

And here’s a website where you can actually get a refund if this happens to you, oh generous gift-giver!

What’s the best wedding gift you received?

Or gave?

The worst?

Our Affordable Indie Wedding — Heaven!

In domestic life, family, life, love, Style, women on September 21, 2011 at 11:58 pm

We're married!

Not every bride gets to describe her wedding day as perfect, but ours was.

Here are some details of our fab day in Toronto, my hometown, Sept. 17. and how we achieved such a terrific result on a fairly tight budget.

Here’s a link to a 24-image slideshow of the day. (Why am I laughing so hard just before I walk down the aisle? The church is right next to a petting zoo — and we’re hearing cows moo!)

Jose and I decided to marry on very short notice — about eight weeks — so we had a tough budget, short time-line and international details to wrangle. Both of us being divorced after our own first marriages, and in two different states, we had to hire a lawyer in Toronto to handle all our Ontario government-required paperwork and keep a close eye on the process.

I knew I wanted to marry at the church on Centre Island, St.-Andrew-by-the-Lake. Like our home church in Irvington, NY, it’s small and intimate, with gorgeous stained glass, a wooden floor and a powerful sense of history, built in 1888 for families summering on the island, a short ferry ride from the foot of Toronto.

We were having only 24 guests, so we needed and wanted a space, indoors and out, that would be charming, quirky, historic, intimate and welcoming. Set in the middle of parkland, surrounded by water, shaded by ancient weeping willows, this was the perfect spot.

The minister, Michael Marshall, was also a lucky, perfect fit for our personalities. He’s also a chaplain at the Hospital for Sick Children, and has five grown children of his own. Our family is creative and driven — photographers, journalist, film director — and he handled us beautifully.

A last-minute challenge– no speakers in the church! Jose bought a set at the Apple store and they worked beautifully, the sound filling the small church with the music we had chosen and burned at home on a CD: 30 minutes of settling in tunes (from kd lang, a Canadian, to the classic hymn “Jerusalem”), my processional (Dona Nobis Pacem, [give us peace] sung a capella), our register-signing music (a guitar piece by Sor) and our recessional (You are the Sunshine of My Life by Stevie Wonder.)

I wore a Ghost dress I bought a decade ago in L.A., a gift from Jose (the “old”), a silk overblouse bought recently at a sample sale in NYC from Opening Ceremony; brand-new, insanely expensive Manolo Blahnik slingbacks I bought impulsively in Toronto the week before the ceremony (“new”). My “borrowed” was a vintage hankie from a friend and my “blue” a tiny enamel and gold heart my Mom gave me when I was eight, both of which I tucked into my bra.

My mother, far away in a nursing home, was not going to be with us, so this carried extra meaning for me.

Jose wore a black suit he owned, and new/antique mother-of-pearl cufflinks I gave him.

We had no maid-of-honor or best man or attendants, but family and friends were very much a part of it all. My sister-in-law Sheena made brownies for after the service; my brother Robinson, who is ten years younger than I, handled the music and our friends Marcia, Merrill and Peter all did readings.  My friend from freshman year at University of Toronto, Marion, came all the way from Kamloops, B.C. and helped me create the table arrangements — a bowl of fresh flowers for head table and sparkly branches down the middle of the main table, all of which I bought, either in NY (we drove north) or bought in Toronto.

We cut costs by:

being decisive and flexible; not having a limo/DJ/attendants/fancy rehearsal dinner (Chinese food instead), having help from friends and family, supplying my own table decorations, not having champagne, having a cash bar (for about 40 minutes) and keeping the guest list short, as the room we chose could only hold 30 people in all.

Our two best decisions: holding the ceremony at 5:00 p.m (sunset was 7:00 p.m.,) knowing how well the light would illuminate the church, park and city skyline at that time of day and spending 2.5 hours meeting the minister four days before the service to get to know one another. The former guaranteed spectacular images with dramatic shadows and the latter meant we felt relaxed and at ease with our officiant.

Costs:

Legal fees $800 (Dad paid)

Invitations $200

Cake  $150 (Dad paid)

Table decorations $100 (place cards, fresh flowers, branches)

Marriage license $140

Speakers $150

Minister’s honorarium $100

Church rental $700

Wedding favors, which were home-made credentials: $100

Water taxis $400

Bus rental: $400

Reception: sit-down three-course meal (including wine, taxes, gratuity) $2100

Cake: $150

Flowers: Bouquet and two boutonnieres $100

Photographer: $1,500

Food and prosecco after the ceremony $150

Hotel: three nights for us and for our photographer, a friend who came from Rochester, NY $1500

$5,600

plus: our rings, gas and tolls to get from NY to Toronto, Jose’s’ gift to me (diamond earrings!)


For the deeply curious, here are some links:

Hotel: Intercontinental, downtown

Invitations: Wedding Divas, an online site; (this style is the one we ordered)

Church: St.Andrew-by-the-Lake, Centre Island, Toronto

Florist: Pistil Flowers, Toronto

Photographer: Marie deJesus, Rochester, NY

Reception: Grace Restaurant, Toronto

What Exactly Is A Wife?

In behavior, culture, domestic life, family, life, love, women, work on September 19, 2011 at 1:28 pm
Bride before ceremony

Image by PeterJBellis via Flickr

I’m a new noun!

The word husband is also a verb, which I really like — to till, or cultivate. A good marriage is a living thing that demands attention and care.

Wonder why there’s no equivalent verb for being a wife…

Becoming someone’s wife means a lot of things. You might cover parts of your body with henna or scars. You might have to show everyone the blood-stained sheet after your wedding night to prove you had been a virgin beforehand. You might move into your in-laws’ home and become their virtual slave.

For a feminist and someone who had been divorced for 17 years, it’s an odd feeling to be a wife again. It feels good! I realized it was a piece of myself I was holding in abeyance.  I’ve finally heaved a sigh of relief to have closed a door that remained open; we’d been engaged for eight years.

Three older women friends from church, congratulating us both, said they all knew it was me — and it was — who had been the reluctant one, not Jose, which most people (sexists!) assumed it must be. My first marriage, which lasted barely two years after five together beforehand, did mean leaving behind my career, family and friends in Canada to start again, at 30, in New York in a recession. It was terribly hard and lonely.

When I joined Jose at the altar two days ago, I was meeting an old, dear friend of eleven years, a man whose character I know and trust, a fellow journalist — not the glittering but controlling doctor I married the first time. This time, I already had a career in the U.S., my own identity certain, my accomplishments sufficient to capture that most valuable of real estate, a New York Times wedding announcement.

I also wanted to arrive at the altar feeling terrific about myself, after a rough few years. And this year has been a wonderful ride: “Malled” published, its sitcom script awaiting CBS’ approval for a pilot, offers of chances to consult, new magazine clients. I finally felt like the old me again. Now I could become a full(er) partner.

When you marry, or remarry at 54, that walk to the altar feels very different than it did for me at 35. If you have kids (we do not), they’re grown up and may have kids of their own. You’ve lost friends to premature death; we lost 12 in two horrible years. You’re facing your own health issues or those of aging parents.

My mother, glowing and thrilled in a yellow silk dress last time, is now in a nursing home with dementia and did not attend. My stepmother, with whom I always had a tough relationship, has been dead for four years. My Dad, healthy and strong at 82, looked fab in a bow-tie and double-breasted navy blazer, his new partner Mary, in a saffron yellow silk jacket — just back from Hong Kong and the marriage of her daughter.

Intimacy and constancy are, for me anyway, more precious than ever.

Canadian journalist Ann Kingston examined the world of wife-dom in her 2005 book.

Here’s a recent essay about the issue from the Canadian national newspaper, The Globe and Mail:

The marriage is happy, the husband fantastic. But the word “wife” remains itchy and ill fitting. When my husband’s work took us to a foreign country for a year, his colleagues tried to make sense of my presence. Neither employee nor local, I was an appendage, and experienced a shrinking each time I was branded as such. “Oh, you’re the wife,” the colleagues would say, followed by a smile of tolerance, even kindness, but never excitement. “Wife” eclipsed all of my other identities: Writer! Runner! Mother! Parking-ticket fighter! No further investigation was required: Wife was my beginning and end, alpha and omega.

What does being a wife mean to you?

The Perfect Wedding Dress

In behavior, culture, design, domestic life, family, Fashion, Style, women on June 4, 2011 at 12:55 pm
Cover of "Royal Wedding"

Cover of Royal Wedding

So…did you love the dress?

Anyone of us willing to ‘fess up to watching the recent Royal Wedding (hello, Grace Kelly!), knows that all eyes were on the prize — not the Prince, the dress.

As brides everywhere gear up for their spring and summer weddings, you can almost hear a chorus of shrieks and sighs over the color, style, fit, price and comfort level of that most iconic of garments, the wedding dress.

I was married May 31, 1992 in a gorgeous 1833 chapel on the Hudson River, in a day of record rainfall, wearing a dress made in about 1905, beige and white and black cotton, with a crisp cotton petticoat underneath. I loved my dress, which cost a big $300, as it was charming, comfortable, flattering and distinctive.

The marriage? Not so much. He was gone by our second anniversary and re-married within the year to a woman who attended the ceremony. Ouch!

There are few garments a woman will ever wear so subject to incredible public scrutiny and judgment, let alone meant to to carry her gracefully through such a  momentous transition.

I loved this true story about a wedding dress that traveled the world, from Florida to Massachusetts to New Zealand and back twice.

And this collection of moving personal essays , published in 2007 in Canada, about women and their dresses.

My next trip up the aisle, which I’ll get to eventually (after 11 years with the sweetie), I have no idea what to wear.

What did you wear on your wedding day?

Did you love it?

Gentlemen, what did your wife wear?

Why I’m Not Married — Right Now

In behavior, men, news, women on November 24, 2010 at 2:52 pm
Bride and groom, California

Image via Wikipedia

Why get married? Some people have decided it’s just not worth it, prompting a national frenzy of hand-wringing.

This very long, statistics-laden piece from Time examines who still marries and who, increasingly, does not.

The conclusion, for those in a hurry, are that those with higher educations and incomes stand a better chance of marrying and staying married, partly because they’ve learned how to compromise and negotiate.

I was married for two miserable years, ages 35 to 37. I didn’t even get to my second anniversary because my ex-husband walked out and re-married a colleague from his office within a year. But, to be factual — and which echoes the statistics on who initiates most divorces — it was my unwillingness to limp along inside a dead shell of  a relationship that also propelled him out the door and into her waiting arms.

I’ve been living with my fiance for 11 years, engaged for — can’t remember! — six or seven of those years. He is more eager to marry than I, partly because his first marriage ended a decade before mine started. I’m getting there, slowly.

How, if at all, would a legally recognized union change us? Not clear. We own a home together, have signed all our assets over to one another in case of death and have no kids.

Just because someone takes vows with you wearing fancy clothes in front of a lot of people doesn’t mean they will live them.

I think many people are hungry for love, for attention, for some sort of financial and emotional security. And marriage holds out that tantalizing promise.

But promises are broken every day, as the divorce rate makes clear. I wonder, truly, how well many couples know one another before booking a hall and cooing over dresses and cakes. After eleven years, I am still learning about my sweetie, and vice versa.

Despite our pretty clear and long-standing commitments to one another, we’re often asked: ” So, when are you getting married?”

Which I find odd and, however well-meant, intrusive.

Are you married?

Do you wish you were?

Do you think everyone should marry?

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