Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Til Death Parts Us

The other day, as my parents were getting ready to go to a wedding, my mom was writing a check as a gift. She made it out the the bride with the husband's last name and my dad asked if she was certain she was changing her name. My mom responded that it was almost definite because the bride's parents were traditional.

Wedding traditions drive me crazy.

So much of weddings and marriage is about what people are supposed to do, regardless of the origin of the tradition, and regardless of what it means. The father gives the bride away and nobody stops to think about the historical link in which a woman passed from being the property of her father to the property of her new husband; nobody stops to think about the implications for a woman's autonomy of this step in the ceremony. The bride is expected to take on her husband's last name - because that's what people do - without giving a second thought to the name and identity she is giving up. That is not to say I have a problem with a bride taking the groom's last name if there is a reason for it, but it is stupid to do so just to conform.

At this point in the conversation I mentioned that I didn't think I wanted to give up my name, and that perhaps my husband could take my name, or we could make up a new name together. My dad laughed. To make up a new name, to create a new identity for the new couple one becomes after a legal marriage, was ludicrous to him. "I've never heard of such a thing!" Yes well, it is not such a strange idea in the circles I run in. Circles that question tradition and never act simply to conform. Circles that think critically about the why behind their actions. Circles that do nothing blindly. These are my circles that I wish I could extend to include everybody because everybody deserves autonomy and choice, and the right to choose how their relationship should run its course.

My attention was recently brought to a zine about women who are not married and who do not want to be. I think this highlights an important point: people get married for many different reasons and they do not get married for just as many reasons. Too often marriage is simply seen as the final goal of a relationship, and any relationship that does not end in marriage is in some way a failure. Furthermore, any marriage which ends is seen as a failure on both parties because they were not able to stay together until "death do us part." People change constantly, and it is ridiculous to think two people can remain good for each other for their entire lives. If they happen to change compatibly and remain happy, good for them - but it is unlikely and society's view on marriage needs to change to recognize this fact. I could write longer, because my ideas tend to want to write for much longer than a blog post, but instead I'll leave you with that miniature snippet on my views on marriage.

Marriage is not unnecessary because there are multiple financial, social, political, and legal benefits to marriage. That being said, aspects of marriage have to change because the institution is flawed, as is society's viewpoint.

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