My little brother is getting married this summer. So planning is really ramping up now that we’re stomping right through spring.
Regular readers of my work have probably surmised that my relationship with my family is complicated and sometimes not the best it could be; about how we’re very different people that seem to have wildly differing core value systems and thought processes. And all of you have to know about the social anxiety. The constant feelings that I’m a burden; that all my decisions are wrong; that no one wants to be around me or be my friend or show up for me or help me, so I’m on my own. And you might have also picked up on the feminist leanings I have. The condensed version of that is…feminine identifying people and masculine identifying people and every person who falls somewhere on that spectrum (which is everyone) should be treated with respect and be afforded the same types of opportunities and privileges and assistance.
I’m going to compare my brother’s wedding to mine on all three of those levels. They’ll overlap some, but each piece is going to get its own post.
Today’s is my relationship with my parents vs. my brother’s relationship with my parents, using the backdrops of our respective weddings.
OK. When J and I got engaged almost 15 years ago (WOW), both of my parents were still working full time, and they hadn’t financially supported me in any way, other than buying me some holiday gifts and the occasional dinner at a restaurant in over 4 years. I bought a new car and a house without a cosigner by myself and never asked them for money. When I bought said house, my father said the following things to me:
“You used to be smart. This is the dumbest thing you’ve ever done. We are not going to pay your mortgage or your electric bill or any of that. Don’t think you’re moving back in here when you fail.”
Lest you think my mom was more supportive, I got a lot of passive aggression from her too. “I don’t see why you can’t just keep living in an apartment…” (My parents lived in an apartment until I was in the 8th grade, and seemed like they longed to go back every day since they moved into their first house…why wasn’t paying rent good enough for me? It was good enough for THEM. THEY wished they were still renting… My folks aren’t people who love having responsibilities or things to take care of.)
I bought my own appliances and decor and most of my furniture, or I took obviously used and worn hand-me-downs (NOT from my parents).
So when I met J, they were financially secure, I was financially independent (even without J), I hadn’t asked them for any kind of practical support for years, and I knew damn well not to ask for much, because I would NOT be well received. They weren’t really happy about me getting married. Not because they didn’t like J (they do). But because they realized they had obligation to show up for things and pay bills. I was getting married, and now that required *effort* be put into me. They complained about wedding planning if it ever even came up. They normally just avoided the subject. J and I considered eloping, but we both had some older relatives that we wanted to see us get married; that was important to US, and we knew it would be important to THEM. THEY’D be happy for us. So I scrimped. I shopped cheap caterers and cheap DJ’s and cheap cake bakers. I got a friend of mine from work to be our photographer. J and I only had 1 attendant each. It was less expensive and more convenient for everyone we planned to invite for us to get married at a church I didn’t belong to, so I changed which church I belonged to. J doesn’t even believe in God, but he went to 4 weeks of Pre Cana so we could get married at that church…the one that would be convenient for everyone else. My dress with the alterations cost less than $300. We paid more than 50% of our own wedding expenses and for our entire honeymoon. J paid for the entire rehearsal dinner himself. We planned everything…EVERYTHING…ourselves. My parents never made a phone call. They did write a couple checks. But we made sure to make the financial contribution they had to make as small as it could be without offending anybody by leaving them off the guest list. I think we did pretty well on a shoestring budget with no offer of actual help and not a whole bunch of financial support from our parents.
My brother and his fiance are getting married at a church 2.5 hours or more of a drive away from literally everyone they are inviting. They are inviting a whole lot more non-family members than J and I did. No one attends church there. No one lives in or even near the town. It’s just a church she kind of liked going to for a little while when she was a teenager. It doesn’t have a working elevator, so they are limited to one floor (they didn’t change their plans). My mom has been involved with literally every step of the planning process and paid for a lot of things, including the flowers to decorate the church (which I designed), parts of the bridal gown (which I stored in my upstairs closet for several months), and she’s planning the bridal shower basically solo (on a day when J and The Boy and I will be out of town…of course). Even though she’s the mother of the groom, who is stereotypically supposed to be less involved in wedding planning. She didn’t do a fraction of these things for me when she was the mother of the bride. And made it clear *to my face* that she found the responsibilities and obligations she did have really distasteful and a big hassle/waste of time and effort.
When my brother moved out with his fiance in late September last year, my parents rented the moving truck (I had to get my friends to bring my shit to my house I bought in the back of pick up trucks and uncovered trailers). J drove it. We all helped my brother and his fiance move…on the weekend of my 40th birthday. Yes, really.
My parents gave my brother and his fiance their leather living room set and a flat screen television and bought new for themselves. They bought a washer and dryer for them (and until the day my brother moved out DID his laundry for him…AND his fiance…who didn’t even live there). When my brother wrecked a car they gave him, my mom gave him her car (which was under a year old) and bought herself a new one. If *I* wrecked a car when I was living there? You had better believe she would not have given me a new car. They paid that car off for him and until last week (last WEEK!…more than 6 months after he moved out) had him on their insurance.
Yes…my parents are arguably in a better financial position now (though they are on a fixed income…they’re both retired). Yes…my brother is the baby. But still. Pretty sharp differences. I know it sounds like I’m jealous of my brother here, but that’s not really it. I love my life the way it is now, and I like the person I am, and I don’t begrudge my brother financial support and help planning his wedding. I’m not exactly envious or resentful of the attention and time and effort he’s getting, but…it’s hard to not notice the contrast. In the way he’s treated by my parents and in the way he and his fiance, and my parents, think of and treat other people versus the way J and I think of and treat other people. When we planned our wedding, we planned our celebration to be inclusive and considerate of our parents and our guests, and my parents still made me feel like I was being really selfish a lot of the time. It seems at times to me like my brother planned his wedding to be as inconvenient and off-putting to as many people in his life as possible, and yet…my parents are all-in behind him, 100%. I can only guess why these distinctions between my brother and I exist, but it can’t really be disputed that they DO exist.