31.8.10

Don't Ask

They say June is for brides (who 'they' are and why they say it is unclear, bit it's a saying - not unlike 'baby fishmouth').  It is also, therefore, for engagements, because weddings inspire weddings. At least that's how it seems.

Apparently, no one told my friends about this June thing, though, because they're all getting married in September. This September I'm invited to four weddings and 12 engagement parties. Obviously, I will not be attending all of these events.  The last of which I called tonight to send my regrets.  My friend, Rose is affianced to her longtime friend/short time boyfriend, Rick. Aw.

So I called Rose to wish her the best and say that I will not be able to come to her engagement party, and she told me the excessively detailed whole story of their engagement. I won't go into that here because honestly, I'm glad she's excited and happy and this post is not about the engagement itself.

The part where I had to hold my tongue was when she told me how he "asked for permission" from her father before he asked her to marry him. She thought it was sweet and romantic. I think it's creepy and outdated.

Wilbur and I have had this debate for years. He thinks it's okay and cute. As I said, I disagree.  In general, I think that marriage is, largely, outmoded (and yes, I'm married so let me finish), but it's part of an important emotional tradition so it has value. I think the whole asking-for-your-daughter's-hand-in-marriage is archaic and insulting.

Forget for a moment that this woman you're asking for has a mind and will and life of her own and isn't the prize cow at the fair, and consider that you're  telling her parents a piece of news that should be hers to tell. You're also setting up a set of expectations that shouldn't be there.

I had a friend who actually got engaged to a man I knew she had been planning to break up with because she didn't want to disappoint her parents who had, according to her boyfriend, given their heartiest blessing to the union. She did break it off long before any wedding took place, but still...  A lot of women feel a lot of pressure regarding marriage and family.  Don't add to the pressure by involving (probably) the most influential people in her life.

The decision to get married should be private. As should the option to say no. Imagine if you go to the father and then she says no.  Now you've added embarrassment to the equation.  Sure, most men feel fairly sure a woman will say yes before they ask, but there are plenty of times that this isn't true, too.  And now let's get back to the fact that she's a person with a mind of her own and not part of a property exchange. I'm not my father's to dispose of as he sees fit anymore than I am my husband's.

And the idea that they're talking about my future without my being in on it is insulting.  I know a lot of people feel differently about this and if you're okay with it, great. Maybe I took a few too many women's studies classes and read too much Sandy Bartky.  It's likely. And possibly I'm putting too much importance on this, but I feel like this is part of what promotes larger and more glaring instances of sexism by easing women into the idea that it's okay if someone else says what's good for you.

This idea dates to a time when in asking for a woman's hand, you were announcing your willingness to relieve her father of the burden of caring for her and asking what else the father would throw in as a thank-you for taking her off his hands.  It just doesn't sit well with me.  Any more than pronouncing people "man and wife".  Why is he still man, but I turn into "wife?"  But I digress...  I just don't like it.  We can make our own decisions (well most of us can) and unless you're dating jailbait, you don't need anyone else's permission.

Okay.  Tirade over.  We'll never speak of it again.

0 comments: