The Marriage Trap

woman-chainedMarriage has long been held up for little girls as an ultimate aspiration. Most media aimed at girls shows the charming prince riding off into the sunset with his new bride to live out their perfect marital happiness. Love stories are commonplace in children’s media and there’s always the implication of marriage if not an outright statement of it at the end. Marriage validates love and validates femininity and therefore validates women.

I never wanted the whole white picket fence and 2.3 children to go along with this mythical wedding, but something about marriage spoke to me and eventually, it sucked me in. Catholic sexual education that I grew up with made it quite clear. You got married and had babies or you went into a convent to marry Jesus. I molded myself to be a wife before I even realized what I was doing. I held up ideals for marriage in all of my relationships no matter how inappropriate it was.

I couldn’t separate marriage from sex or marriage from dating or marriage from anything else. My entire view of men revolved around a wedding ring to the point where I would size up total strangers as potential husbands. And no one was there to discourage me. It seemed only natural for a young woman to want to get married and no one questioned my reasons for it. But my reasons were not sound.

When I was younger, as much as I imagined marriage to be a partnership and a working relationship between two equals that had similar goals and values, I found myself banking on marrying someone who could fix me. I needed someone to make me feel safe, loved, cared for, and treasured because I didn’t feel that way on my own. I wanted someone to complete me because I wasn’t complete myself. And no one can be not only themselves but someone else as well.

When I got engaged I was so enamored with my new position as fiancee that I never really examined the man I was committing myself to. Our relationship went better when I didn’t analyze pesky things such as how I felt or what I thought. I was getting married and that’s all that mattered. I was going to have a husband and be a wife and who gave a shit who it was to?

Now I realize there was quite a lot wrong with my engagement and the relationship in general. But not only that, I realize just how distorted and skewed my entire view of marriage had become. I had made myself a possession. I was going to be a wife and as such I belonged to someone else. I had to devote myself to his needs and thoughts and feelings at the expense of my own. The only concern I allowed for myself was abject necessity for my own mental health. Beyond that, I belonged to him.

When I pulled away from the relationship, even before the breakup, I found my views shifting. Marriage suddenly didn’t seem like a fun, enlightened endeavor. It seemed like prison. It seemed like chaining myself to someone and giving up myself in exchange for a full-time carer position for someone else’s needs. As hard as I had worked to become the perfect wife, I found myself hating the position. Or at least, what I thought the position could be.

My dream of marriage was slowly destroying the person that I was becoming and then all I could think of doing was stopping it. But the idea of rejecting the very thing I had built so much of my life around didn’t go over well. I wanted to salvage the concept. But the truth was, what I had taken on marriage to mean was so toxic and dangerous that there could be no saving it. I needed to get rid of all of the damaging notions that I had ever filled my head with and start fresh.

Right now, I’m at a stand off with marriage. I still think of it fondly in a sense that one day, it’s a goal I will accomplish. 29 years of dreaming and being socially encouraged is too powerful to overcome, despite my experiences. But realistically, I know that I don’t need to get married and can live an amazing life without it. Even if I did get married, I might not even want it to be monogamous. There are more options floating in my head now than two people for death do they part.

In the end, I only feel terrified of making the same mistake again and committing myself to someone that only wants to take. I’ve always given so much. The notion of finding myself completely drained and left with nothing while someone will holds out their hands and demands more, once again, just exhausts me. Right now, the risk doesn’t seem worth the reward. Maybe marriage will be right for me again. Maybe one day I’ll figure out what marriage actually is. But right now, marriage is just a concept that I’ve seen on TV and it has no real dealing in my life.

Changing my last name

hellolabelWhen I got engaged, the topic of changing my name came up. My then fiance informed me that I would be changing my last name to his. But I had no intention of doing so. I’m not against changing my last name. I’m just not going to automatically change it to anything. For me to change my last name, the man’s last name has to be better than mine. And let’s face it, not many are.

My main point of contention with changing your name is that it’s so much work. You have to change your driver’s license, passport, employee ID, credit cards, and everything else that has your name on it. It can take months and a fair amount of money to get it all done. Who wants to go through that hassle? I hate paperwork on a good day. So clearly, I wouldn’t take a name change lightly.

Next, why would I change my perfectly good last name to something else if it wasn’t worth the change? I wouldn’t go through all of that to end up with a worse last name. That’s just not something that I’m going to do. Star LaBranche is a pretty bad ass name and I like it. You have to give me a much better alternative in order for me to change it.

There’s a feminist issue here that I will, naturally, address. Part of the name change can be taken as a woman taking on a new identity as a married woman while the man remains the same. There’s also the fact that in the past, the woman would take on her husband’s name as a show that she is now his property. The children would also have his name because they belong to him. While I can see this point, I don’t personally feel that it has much effect on me. No one is going to think that my husband owns me because I took his last name.

By now it’s just tradition and a way to make things easier for people. You’ve met Mr. Smith and don’t know his wife’s name? Call her Mrs. Smith. How simple is that? Although it meant something different in the past, I would in no way feel that I was declaring myself property if I took a guy’s particularly awesome last name.

It really just boils down to personal choice. Do you want your husband’s last name? Then go for it and have a ball. Are you really lazy like me and don’t want to go through all of that hassle and paperwork? Then carry on your own last name with pride.

And now, for funsies, here are a list of last names that I, right now, am willing to change my name to.

Ex-boyfriend’s last name: Chastant.
Guy I’ve been seeing’s last name: Jester
Dude whose credit card I once swiped at work: Story

That’s the list right now. It might change in the future, but as of this moment, that’s pretty much it.

Handwritten wedding vows

10-wedding-vows

Part I

When it came time to think about all things wedding, we decided to write our own vows. I thought this was a brilliant idea! I love to write, we’re both creative people and why the hell not? We were never planning on having a dignified church wedding with me pledging to obey my new husband in them. So we got all excited about writing our own vows.

Then I sat down to brainstorm and nothing. I had tons of ideas, but most of them were terrible. I couldn’t even decide what direction I wanted to take the vows in. Did I want them funny? Did I want them serious? Did I want to make them abstract? Did I want to make them silly?

Serious didn’t seem right. I can be serious on paper, but the entire point of the vows is to read them in front of everyone at your wedding, including your fiance. Abstract sounded nice, but I tend to sometimes get too out there and if no one else knows what the hell I’m talking about, then what’s the point of that? Funny seemed to be the way to go. But how funny and in what way funny?

I remembered seeing an episode of Bridezillas where Bridezilla Tasha started out her vows by naming everything they didn’t have in common, including that her fiance was old and he ate a lot more than she did. She also read her vows off of her phone. Classy. I knew I didn’t want to do something like that.

The thought crossed my mind to write my vows in cat language (mews and meows) and read that as we joke about that often and call each other kitty as a term of endearment. But seriously, I would end up on some World’s Dumbest clip show, forever immortalized as the bride that meowed her vows. And let’s just say that I want my wedding to be memorable, but not THAT memorable.

In a desperate effort, I googled wedding vows. I wanted to see what other people had written and, as I feared, the vows weren’t perfectly tailored to our relationship and nothing seemed exceedingly relevant. Imagine that.

On one hand, I think I’m being a little too critical. I’m sure no matter what I write, he won’t refuse to marry me because of it. However, this is a huge deal and as a writer, the task is pretty daunting. This is one thing that I don’t want to screw up.

We’ve now been engaged for 4 years and I’m no closer to actually writing my vows. I still occasionally think about them, but with no wedding date planned, I don’t exactly have a deadline. Not that having a deadline helps me to write better or faster. I’m hoping that one day, the perfect theme or frame for my vows will just come to me. Until then, this is the longest case of writer’s block that I have ever had.

Part II

I wrote the first part when I was engaged. Now that we’re broken up, I’ve gained new insight into our relationship and one of my new insights was why I was having so much trouble writing my vows. I always thought it was strange that someone as creative and expressive as I am was stumped when it came to such an important topic. I thought that maybe I was intimidated by the importance of it. I thought that maybe I had writer’s block about this certain topic. But the truth is very different.

I couldn’t write my vows because I wasn’t inspired. Our relationship didn’t stir any emotions in me. I had nothing to say about it in all seriousness. My brain diverged to pure silliness (meowing the vows) because I had nothing of real note to say.

There’s no secret that I write about everything. In all but one of my past relationships, I’ve wrote poetry about it. Whether the good parts of the relationship moved me or the bad parts, I put words on paper to express how I felt about it. The only relationship I didn’t do this with was the one previous to my last relationship. I felt nothing for him and I knew it. There was no deep-seated, passionate emotion for me to express. Even after we broke up, I wrote nothing about him. He used me and betrayed me, but I had no feelings towards him to put into words.

The fact that I had nothing to write about this relationship, should have been a huge red flag. But like so many other red flags in that relationship, I rationalized it, minimized it and ignored it. They say that hindsight is 20/20, but the truth of the matter is that the person you marry should make you feel emotions so amazing that you have to put it into words. Never settle for someone that doesn’t move you to write poetry.

Say no to counterfeit dresses

counterfeits-3You don’t have to tell me that weddings are crazy expensive and it’s enough to cause a sane person to go a little bonkers. While there are some good places to cut costs, like not hiring fire breathers or wearing six dresses at a 5-hour event, but one way that brides have found, is by ordering your wedding dress from an online company offering beautiful bridal gowns at insane prices. But instead of receiving a beautiful, expertly-tailored wedding gown, brides receive dresses that they wouldn’t wear to Wal-Mart and no way to get their money back.

It’s no secret that wedding dresses are pricey. Dresses featured on the show Say Yes to the Dress start at $1,200 and the most expensive one I’ve seen was $27,000. So yes, purchasing a wedding gown, a dress that you will wear exactly once, is no small price. One flip through a bridal magazine will introduce you to hundreds of gowns, the vast majority of them probably out of your price range. So brides take their dress searches online.

Companies like Light in the Box, out of China, and other foreign sellers set up accounts on places like eBay, Etsy, and get themselves listed in bridal gown search results, all offering the same beautiful dress you just saw on a website for $1ok for prices that can go as low as $50. These companies will even use promotional photos of the actual gown that designers are selling, then send you an interior copy that sometimes just resembles the actual dress.

Other times the dresses are the wrong color. They are poorly made. Sometimes very poorly made. They are made from inferior quality materials. And that’s just the beginning. Sometimes it’s difficult to get your money back for the items and a lot of the times they try to give a partial refund or charge restocking fees or just don’t bother to email you back.

Another problem with this is that the designers are having their dresses duplicated without getting compensation for the original design. This amounts to theft. It’s one thing to take a photo of a dress you like into a seamstress and tell her what you like about the dress, how you want to alter it, and making your own creation from an idea that you got out of a magazine, but this takes the exact design and sometimes even uses the designer’s copyrighted photographs, and gives no credit to the person who worked hard to design the dress.

But don’t despair, brides who can’t afford to buy a dress you’ll wear once for what could be a down payment on a car. It’s possible to have the dress of your dreams and not break the bank. In addition to bridal stores like David’s Bridal and Alfred Angelo, who sell high-quality dresses that are still affordable, there are sites where you can buy pre-owned gowns at hugely discounted prices. Some of them haven’t even been worn. Pre-Owned Wedding Dresses, Once Wed, Wore it Once and BravoBride all sell used designer dresses for much cheaper than you could ever find a store.

So don’t buy a knock off gown. It’s not worth it to go through so much and put up money for something that is going to be inferior quality and not appropriate for your wedding day. Go with a pre-owned dress or something a little bit more affordable to begin with. When planning a wedding, there are so many things that you will need to spend money on. Don’t try to outsmart the world by getting one of these stolen designs made. Your day is going to be beautiful and your dress needs to be authentic and stunning too.

Letter to my Future Husband

LTMFH1NB: I wrote this in college as a Myspace blog (that dates it pretty much right there) but never published it. I just recently rediscovered it, tucked away in a folder. I figured it was interesting enough to post. Even as I changed as a person in the last few years, I was sure of what I wanted in a relationship and that still hasn’t changed.

 

My future husband,

I don’t know if you actually exist, pessimist though I maybe, it seems that the older I get, the more discouraged I am that I’m going to be able to find someone who can meet my expectations (not to mention tolerate living with me). Some people think that I hate men, which is very untrue. I give everyone a fair chance until they disappoint or hurt me and it seems that men always tend to do more quickly and more effectively than any female that I’ve met. When I think about it, I give men more than a fair chance, because under my jaded and cynical exterior, I long to be loved in return and find the security of being wrapped in someone’s arms.

But if you exist, I know that you’ll appreciate my honesty. I can never seem to be subtle enough for men, I can never correctly lead them on, make them engage in a chase, and fulfill that prehistoric urge to hunt and trap. If I like someone, they know it, if I’m upset, it shows. If you give to me, I’ll reciprocate. If you pull away from me, I’ll pull closer because I’m so scared of losing something so precious. I will be honest and loyal and dedicated, because I expect no less from you.

Despite all of my experiences I still find myself hopelessly wishing for the impossible; for someone who will truly love me, for someone who will appreciate me fully, someone who won’t try to change me or control me, someone who will laugh with me and comfort me when I cry. Someone who can see me at my worst and not run away. Above all, I wish for someone who will not disappoint me. Who will show up, who will not lie, who will stand by me when everything comes crashing to the ground.

I long for someone who will understand me. Not just a piece of me, or a section of my interests, but everything. And what they don’t understand, they appreciate instead of trying to change it or ignoring it. I am who I am, both the good and the bad. I will never ask anything from you that I am not prepared to give myself, and I will always say what I mean. So please, return the favor.

Love,

Star