I’m a woman. I’m a romantic. I’m supposed to be ‘into’ fashion and getting my hair done and floral design and registering for new small kitchen appliances and home decor. Planning a wedding is supposed to be something I enjoy. Right up my alley. And men? I mean…men don’t want to be involved with this stuff, right? They shouldn’t have to be, right? In fact, by ‘forcing’ a man to get involved planning a wedding, not only is it emasculating HIM, it’s taking away the very real joy the woman he plans to marry is obviously getting from doing all the work herself. Right?
I’ve written other posts about ‘women’s work’ and planning weddings definitely falls into that played out stereotypical category. It’s all about beauty and serving people and emotional labor and organization…all supposedly ‘feminine’ things. Men shouldn’t be involved and shouldn’t WANT to be involved, and most men aren’t. J was fairly involved for a groom 14 years ago, but he didn’t do much work compared to me, either. It’s *expected* that brides plan weddings. That brides know what they are doing, that brides want to do it, and frankly, there’s another harmful, and I believe incorrect image portrayed of brides that she doesn’t WANT anyone else involved. Not her friends. Not her mother or stepmother or future mother(s)-in-law or relatives. Not her prospective husband. If these people are involved, they are involved to do whatever the bride dictates. (Ever heard of the show Bridezillas?) I’m sure there are women who are this way (otherwise that show wouldn’t exist). But in my personal experience…I mean…I could have used some help I felt like I could count on. And I didn’t have any, really. My ‘friends’ aren’t people who really show up for me when I need them and neither are my family, but I knew I was still expected to put on a lovely and satisfactory show for them on my wedding day. I’ve never actually seen an episode of Bridezillas, but I can totally empathize with a bride freaking out because I mean…A LOT is expected of you and if you ‘mess up’ or fail to make the right accommodations for the right people, you get mocked and judged fairly harshly and it’s heavily implied if not outright stated that you’ve let a lot of people down. I never threw a temper tantrum, and I’m not condoning them for adults, clearly. I’m just saying…I can see where one would come from.
This year, J and I had a playful, flirty discussion about our wedding day the night before our anniversary. I asked him what he did that day before the actual ceremony. His basic (paraphrased) answer was, ‘I screwed off and tried not to be too nervous about it.’ Then he asked me what I did. I told him, I got up, after not really sleeping, because J didn’t sleep with me the night before our wedding, took a quick shower, went to the hall to meet the cake lady to set up the cake and decorations, went to lunch with the two ladies who DID show up to help me decorate some, which I barely ate, then came home and took the ‘real’ shower, did my hair, did my make-up, did an at-home manicure, made calls to make sure the caterer and DJ were still set to show up at the right place at the right time and the photographer wasn’t sick or anything and would be there for early pictures of us (separately, not together…that was for after the ceremony but before dinner) and to go over a run down of the shots I definitely wanted to get, and then got my dress and drove to church to dress with my maid of honor and make sure HER dress was alright and…
J looked devastated. Seriously. So I stopped talking and asked what was wrong. ‘Wow. I had no concept of what that day was like for you. Of how much you did for our wedding.’ He said he feels like he’s grown and changed a lot as a man in the past 14 years. That now, if we had a big event like that happening, he’d never expect me to…he’d never even LET me…carry that kind of a burden and shoulder all of that responsibility alone again. And he meant all of that. I could feel that sincerity.
I love that guy. For real. ❤
All that said, I believe I was not only expected to handle my wedding planning, but I was just generally raised to be more mature (and grow up faster), organized, and independent than my brother, and that I was raised to prioritize the needs of other people over my own, and to anticipate need and please other people, where he was not. Not because my parents stopped being the same people, or because my brother was extra special and I wasn’t, or vice versa, or because of some outside environmental or economic factor (although those may have played supporting roles). I don’t think it even had much to do with birth order or the ages our parents were when we were each born (although those are likely more of the supporting cast). I think a significant reason why…maybe the MAIN, MAJOR reason why…is because I’m a girl who grew into a woman, and he’s a boy who grew into a man. This has societal and personal roots for my parents, particularly my mom. I’m not implying she intentionally raised us with this bias, but it’s definitely pronounced, and I think it’s built in. And I don’t even think it was wholly ‘wrong’ of my parents to raise me the way they did; it’s kind of smart survival skills. Like…it’s not ‘wrong’ to teach someone self defense, because there are some unkind, menacing people out there who WILL attack you, even though I wish (along with lots of other folks, hopefully) that there weren’t.
My mom knew from her own experience of no one taking care of her (my maternal grandmother at least once made my mom clean up her own vomit when she was sick…this was before she was 10)…because it’s a woman’s job to take care of everyone else…that no one was likely to take care of me either. My mom grew up with 3 sisters and 3 brothers. She and her sisters had to get jobs as early as age 12 if they wanted to spend any money on themselves, up to and including an extra milk at school lunch. They had to work for everything they got. They were expected to do housework and had domestic responsibilities, including taking care of younger siblings (and older ones too, if they were boys…my mom is 65 years old now and she still feels responsible for the health and care of her OLDER brother, as well as all of her younger siblings…not out of affection, or even sympathy really…out of duty). Her brothers all got given cars when they turned 16. None of them worked as teenagers and two out of three of them have NEVER held a steady job. When they wrecked cars, my grandparents continued to repair them and pay exorbitant insurance rates until finally the insurance company said they’d refuse to insure them if they kept the boys on the policy. When they got girls pregnant (none of them married girls before this happened…at least not for the first kid), my grandparents bailed them out and arranged marriages and watched the kids. They never babysat me unless it was my parents’ last resort. My parents both made that clear, and my maternal grandmother also made it clear she didn’t want to be watching me. (‘I’m DONE raising kids…’) But she watched my cousins…the ones my uncles fathered. And my cousins all tell fond memory filled stories of spending time with Gramma.
My mom didn’t get a wedding. She married my dad at the justice of the peace, because her parents didn’t want to put any effort into her. Sound familiar? So I think part of her parenting style was essentially that. Don’t do things for Jen because eventually, not only is no one going to be doing things for her, but she’s going to have to do these things for other people too. And weddings ARE just a frivolous waste of everyone’s time and effort and money.
I’m not totally rubbed the wrong way by how my mom approached raising me. Again…I like the person I’ve become. She was a part of that. It’s good knowing I CAN survive totally on my own, even taking care of other people besides me.
But Mom doing so much for my brother…not only as a kid, but as a grown man…not only for his wedding, but just IN GENERAL…kinda grates on me. Because it’s so *blatantly* sexist, and it’s so *obviously* repeating the example her own parents set that she claims to oppose and take issue with.
My brother has always been catered to and taken care of. Always. In really gendered ways. My brother had food cooked for him. My brother had his messes cleaned up for him. My brother had paperwork filled out for him; phone calls made for him; appointments set for him. I don’t think my brother has bought a stitch of clothing for himself in his *lifetime* other than like a keepsake concert t-shirt (and let’s be real…my parents probably at least partially subsidized that too). I got a job when I was 16, before I even had a valid solo driver’s license. My brother didn’t work…not even summers…until his junior year of college.
When my mom worked late when I was in middle school-college, I was home, and expected to handle everything domestic and school related alone not only for myself, but for my brother. Now, he was a little kid then. I know. It’s not like I think he should have been making pot roast for ME. But I was the one working and taking care of him, and he was the one being taken care of. In high school, my parents outright turned down an opportunity for me to go to a statewide academic program away from home during the summer months before my senior year because, ‘You have to be home to take care of your brother.’ My brother got to GO to that same academic program when HE was in high school. When I wanted to go out to ball games with friends in college, I could go…as long as I bought a ticket and managed to take my brother along with my friends. (I had great friends who were always cool with that…and we’re still friends…and they’re also still friends with…my little brother).
And it’s still set up that way in my family outside of my household with J and The Boy. If a sacrifice has to be made by *somebody* in our family? It’s ALWAYS me. And it’s always in favor of my brother.
My mom is doing a lot more planning for my brother’s wedding than she did planning mine not only because she has more free time (she’s retired…she was working when J and I got married…and she complained about needing to take a half a day off the Friday before we got married to make the rehearsal on time…not because she needed the money…she just liked being ‘needed’ at work), and because she’s always treated me more like a nuisance and a chore than a person she loved and valued, but also? Because he’s a guy. I was *supposed* to do all that work. I was supposed to know how to do it all without help and WANT to do it all, whereas…well…my brother is a helpless man that has to be taken care of. He doesn’t know how to do anything. He can’t call and reserve things for future dates by himself. He can’t choose…FLOWERS (omigosh! the emasculating impropriety!). He doesn’t know how to set up a computer program with the directions that came in the package to print out address labels. That’s ‘women’s work.’
Of course, my brother is totally capable of doing all this work. Most men are, just like most women. He doesn’t even find it emasculating. He’s not That Guy, despite practically being raised to be. (Yay for YOU, Little Bro! Seriously!) But he’s still NOT doing any of it. Because he doesn’t have to. Because my mom will gleefully do it for him. The same work she didn’t even offer to help ME with.
It’s bizarre where the ‘why I need feminism’ reasons pop up sometimes, but here we are. Watching from the outside as my mother plans my little brother’s wedding.
I hope if my brother has kids, he doesn’t set them up like: girls do work and take care of people; boys sit on their asses and get taken care of.
J and I consciously work on making sure The Boy knows how to do things for himself and *has expectations* to do things for himself. Even the Stuff Mom Always Does? The Boy knows *how* to do those things and he knows that someday, he’s going to be *expected* to do them. He knows I always do those things now because he’s in school all day and J’s at work, and we’re lucky enough that I don’t have to also work outside home like J. If I did, J would do more *without being managed and directed to*, and more would be expected of The Boy. And more will be expected of him as he gets older…as he gets out of school…as he becomes a man. Like…making doctor’s appointments and folding laundry and scrubbing bathrooms and cooking meals and buying groceries and clothes and…planning his wedding. Oh, I’ll help if my help is wanted or needed. But The Boy is going to be doing some work. At least as much as me. Hopefully at least as much as his future partner too.