For most of my life I have been vocal about not wanting to get married. Extremely vocal. Marriage is only what you make it, it’s unnecessary, it’s got too much history in patriarchal structures, it costs too much. I’ve never felt any particular need to announce to the world in general that I’m in love and want to be with my partner since the one who needs to know that is actually my partner not everybody else. I still believe most of these things. I still think that marriage is unnecessarily prioritized in America, and that defining a romantic relationship as the basis of family is unnecessary. I still think that weddings are a scam to cost lots of people too much money and that marriage makes straight monogamy the building block of society.
But I’ve realized that I want to get married anyway. Kind of a lot.
I’m not immune to culture. I’m not immune to the messages that paint your wedding day as the most romantic day of your life, and that illustrate marriage as a beautiful commitment between two people. I’m not immune to the excitement and joy that other people feel around weddings and marriage, and I’m not immune to wanting a pretty dress and good food and dancing.
I’ve spent a lot of time feeling guilty about the part of me that’s been influenced by culture, the part that wants to femme it up and be swept off my feet on my wedding day. But feeling guilt about the ways in which culture has influenced you doesn’t help anyone. It doesn’t demolish the patriarchy, it’s just another way to tear yourself down for having feelings and being human. Instead, we should look at what we do with those feelings.
There are absolutely contexts in which we need to question and challenge the cultural messages that we’ve internalized. But there are also circumstances where those messages are fairly harmless (like the idea that you are supposed to say excuse me after you burp). When we think about the ways that culture influences us, we should be focused on the content of the message rather than the way it was transmitted.
So let’s say logically I still don’t totally see the point of marriage, but I also know that it would make me happy. What do I do? Now it’s possible that marriage could be just one of those things that some people like and other people don’t but that isn’t bad or wrong, like picking chocolate or vanilla. Or it’s possible that marriage actively hurts people, or upholds the patriarchy, or is heteronormative, or all sorts of other things.
When we see that we have these internalized preferences that probably do come in part from living in a sexist culture, we have to weigh the good that we get from choosing what makes us happy against the negatives that come from the choice. I personally have come down on the side of yes for marriage. I will continue to fight vocally for the institution to be made available to more people in more ways, to prioritize my non romantic relationships, to expand the definition of family in every way I can and push my relationship to be egalitarian and feminist.
But as someone who so rarely makes choices simply because I want to do them, it feels incredibly important to listen to my emotions on this one. And that’s ok.
So yeah, I want to get married and I don’t need any more reason than that.