S got married three weeks ago.
Why did you choose to get married?
First, I believe deeply in the institution of marriage. I think people making commitments to their partners in ways that are socially recognized, serious, and have real cultural barriers to exit is good for most individuals involved and good for society at large. Second, I love my partner deeply, and plan on spending the rest of our lives building a life, family, home, and community together, come hell or high water, and marriage seems like the appropriate way to declare that intention to the world. Third, I was sick of having to explain/defend/apologize for being religious Jews scandalously living together with her Rabbi partner before marriage, and wanted to be unremarkable so we could all just move on and talk about something else. Forth, I wanted the social cache of being married rather than ‘just’ living together – it forces our families of origin, people we interact with socially, institutions, employers, and the government to accept that we really are a family. More than all that, it was just something I really really wanted in my irrational gut, even though my partner didn’t, and even though I didn’t expect it to change much of anything about our relationship. I’m sure it has something to do with growing up among failed marriages, and maybe something to do with being religious, but I have warm fuzzies around the idea of being a kallah and a wife and having my partner be my husband that I can’t really explain or justify. To me, being his wife means that this is the real deal, full stop. No more talking about whether or not we want to be together- just enjoying it and talking about how to make it work, because (baring really bad stuff) breaking up is off the table. As long as I can remember, I’ve hoped that I would get married and knew that having a successful marriage would be an important priority in my life.
What do you see the role of a wedding to be?
The wedding was about declaring publicly something we decided privately a long time ago – that we love each other a tremendous amount and share a lot of values and goals, and want to try and build a life on that, and are committed to sticking with it for the long run. And it’s about recognizing that this is a really big fucking deal, and not something that we should just let slide by, unnoticed, and become the status quo. It’s huge, and miraculous, and deserves to be celebrated in a big way. So the wedding was about surrounding ourselves with people we love and celebrating the hell out of the fact that we found each other by being insanely happy for a day.
Was there anything about being engaged/wedding planning that you found remarkable or surprising?
Being engaged was really, really, really, really hard. We both have complicated families, and they made our lives miserable for a solid year. It was really painful to be constantly butting horns with them. It felt like every unimportant detail became a power struggle over the idea that we (their mid-twenties and early-thirties children) were allowed to be independent adults. So while I had expected it to be bad, what with the tensions about family, religion, money, aesthetics, etc. all rolled into one event, it was worse than I had feared. I guess the up side of this is that the process of planning the wedding really forced my partner and I to confront some issues about money, religion, priorities, and our relationships with our families that needed talking about. But basically, everything about wedding planning sucked. I was never one of those brides who got dewy eyed about flower arrangements – to me it just felt like a shit-ton of work that needed doing, paired with a lot of people yelling at me. The upside is that now that it’s over, its been a tremendous joy to discover free time and sanity again.
The other thing that was surprising (although it probably shouldn’t have been) was the deep sexism of the wedding industry. All our vendors acted like I, obviously, would be the main contact and the one really making the decisions, not my partner, because, duh, grooms don’t care. One acquaintance even gave him the advice that all he had to do for our wedding was show up, brush his teeth, and not get in the way of the day being all about me. Grr, that shit made me so angry! I wanted the day to be all about US. And I certainly wasn’t going to do more than my share of the work. Why, when our partnership looks nothing like that, would we want our wedding to? Why do all sorts of people who are generally pretty egalitarian suddenly revert to 1952 when it comes to weddings? The silver lining to this was that my partner got to experience what it’s like being a woman in a sexist space, in the sense that we would go into meetings, and everyone would ignore everything he said. So that was kind of interesting for him to experience, and me to watch him experience.
How do you feel about the word “wife”?
Love it. To me it means pride – when he says “This is my wife, S” he’s declaring to the world that he’s associated with me in a powerful way. It makes me smile every time he says it, just as I love calling him my husband. Wifey, however, makes me want to barf. So of course he’s been saying it, just to bug me. Perhaps it will circle around to being cute. Also, since this is my husband’s second marriage, wife means that now I’m as important as her in the historical record. Before, she was his ex-wife, and I was just a girlfriend. Now, I’m his wife. Somehow that evens the score a bit in my fucked up emotional calculus.
Relatedly, in Hebrew, the word for husband is the same word as the word for owner, and for person who penetrates. Good times. So I’ve been calling him “my man” , which is more parallel to the Hebrew for wife, which is basically “my woman”, in liturgical and Hebrew speaking contexts. It’s been received with some confusion, but I’m liking it.
What decision did you make about your name? Why?
Keeping it. I kinda wanted to change it. I had warm fuzzies about the idea of us all having the same last name, having grown up in a home with more last names than people (actually). I even had some secret warm fuzzies, of which I was deeply embarrassed, about having his last name. And I wasn’t particularly attached to mine. I’m ideologically opposed to the idea that women should have to take their husbands names, even if my emotions really weren’t getting on board, and I didn’t want to participate in normalizing that. And unfortunately, the combo of my first and his last name is basically the Jewish Jane Doe. Also, his ex-wife took his name and kept it after the divorce, and I irrationally felt I couldn’t do what she did. I tried to convince him to take mine, which is way cooler, but he has published papers and gotten a graduate degree with his current name, so it didn’t make logistical sense. Most importantly, my partner felt really strongly against me taking his name. He was really committed to the idea that the fact that we were getting married didn’t change the fact that we were two individual people, and he wanted that to be expressed by us both keeping our original names. So it seemed kind of weird for me to take his name against his will, although he couldn’t have stopped me, I suppose. In the end, I debated for months, and still hadn’t made up my mind when we got to the front of the line at City Hall and so did nothing. Lord knows what we’ll do if we’re blessed with children.
What do you expect marriage to be like? Are you expecting your relationship with your partner to change?
I’m certainly expecting that our relationship will continue to grow, and evolve, and deepen as the years go by. Some of that change was catalyzed by the difficult experience of planning and the joyful experience of having a wedding together, but much much more of it will simply be caused by the passing of time and the living of life, I expect.