I have never believed in marriage. In fact, marriage has always been a bad word to me, as it was always a negative force in my own life. My parents never had a wedding. They got married at the courthouse and hid it from my mother’s parents for as long as they were able. There were never any photos or romantic stories of flowers and colors and dresses, just cynical musings about my mother’s white pantsuit and my father’s indifference. When I think of my parents’ marriage, I think of screaming and thrown objects and packing for my grandparents’ house after a particularly bad fight. Marriage was never the best thing for my family; in fact, we celebrate its conclusion. My parents’ divorce was finalized on my grandparents’ wedding anniversary, and we celebrate both with equal elation. Although we have never fulfilled our wish of having an official divorce cake, my mother and I send texts to each other every September 17th: “Happy Divorce Day!”
As I studied more history and sociology and got more plugged into the activist scene, marriage took on even more of a negative association. Marriage is an invention of the patriarchy in which a woman’s father trades her virginity for three goats, and anyone who is familiar with my poetry knows how much I love to smash the social construction of virginity. You get married and your life is over. You take your husband’s last name, and your entire identity is subsumed within his. “Mr. and Mrs. John Smith.” You literally become your husband. From Disney movies to ever more elaborate wedding announcements, our culture constantly reminds us that women are not complete unless they are legally attached to a man.
With all my disdain for marriage, I am a person with a deep need for security and stability. I always knew this about myself, but the more “adulting” I do, the more I realize this is the case. I am an introvert; rather than spending time in large groups, I like to have a couple close friends and a close partner. I like having someone to go home to. Someone who knows where my keys are when I don’t and makes sure I don’t sleep through all my alarms. The idea of a lifelong stable partner is comforting to me. For the first time, I am in a relationship with someone I can envision as the father of my children. The fanfare, the fantasy, and the ever-growing number of engagement and bridal shower and wedding photos on Facebook make it even more tempting.
My conflicting feelings about marriage beg the question: to marry, or not to marry? I am in love with my boyfriend, but I am cynical enough to know that things happen and people change. I worry about doing it too young, with the inevitable prospect of job changes and traveling and big moves. And there is pressure from millenial activist circles to reject the institution of marriage and live in rebellious domestically partnered sin; if you buy in, you’re a sellout. So what is a virginity-hating, patriarchy-smashing feminist to do?
After a lot of tossing and turning over the m-word, I’m thinking I’ll eventually take the plunge. Monogamy and lifelong partnership is not for everyone, but I think it might be for me. But if I’m going to do it, I have to do it in a way that relieves my feminist conscience. And this means getting to do some really cool things, from a nontraditional ethical engagement ring to perhaps even being the one to propose. Keeping my last name. A gothic death-themed wedding (“Till Death Do Us Part”). Red and black colors, with a red dress, not a white one, because everyone knows it’s too late for purity. Traditional Palestinian wedding songs. Slam poetry vows. The wedding and the reception all in the same place. Sidekicks instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen. Perhaps a flower boy; f*&% the gender binary. If I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it loud and rebellious with two middle fingers as I dance down the aisle (by myself). Because tax breaks are fun, and because marriage doesn’t have to be a defining moment in a woman’s life. It can just be an invitation to join her along her wild, unpredictable journey.