Friday, August 28, 2009

A Comparative Free Write: The Wedding Industry vs. The Baby Industry

Crossposted at Feministe

Lately, my thoughts have been swirling around one comparative question:

What’s worse – the wedding industry or the baby industry?

Recovering my 2004 journal, the year I was engaged, I see loopy sketches of my fiancée with the word “love” underneath and short poems exploring life and commitment. To describe my decision to marry marriage I used phrases like “a symphony of mystery” and “frisson of pleasure.” Not too far from my blotchy sketches are wrinkled, tear-stained pages. I see I made a separate column called “hate” and I named every detail of the wedding process, the whole parade and folly of rings, illusion, disingenuous sales pitches and vendors, showers and parties, and the endless charade of enjoying it all.

[October 2004: Today I nearly passed out when trying on veils. It looked so ridiculous and false on me. The room was screeching with white-dressed bodies barking orders to whoever would listen. I had to sit down and breathe between my legs. I have to see myself when I look in the mirror. I have to see me. On my time. I have to see myself in this.]
I was never a bride.

I was just a person in love, ready to move forward.

I had choices and I did it. I got married AND had a wedding. The coming together of two radically different cultures, races, and expectations was one of the most stressful experiences of my life. Both families had religious backgrounds, so tradition had some role to play in the process and compromising on what was authentic and what was for show was a long, tedious process of discussion and frustration.

But I did it.

That transition from single to married was healthily marred with grief and mourning. Facing the profound changes in relationships, responsibility, lifestyle, and geography weren’t celebratory, they were somber and I took them seriously.

However, one of the things that that irked me the most was the response so many had when I shared I was getting married: “Oh, EVERYONE’S getting married!” That miffed me. And I would always say to my friends and confidants, “Yeah, but I’m not everybody. This is a big deal in MY life and I am trying to share this with you. This is me, not the whole world.”

In that time period of my life, I remember thinking that the blanket of the wedding industry and the superfluous toppings of details and colors erased me and my reality. It erased the very real and tangible truth that I had fallen in love and decided to commit to one person. That imminent torque in my identity was my focus. And love. Love was my primary lifeline.

It was rare to find an understanding person in those 9 months of engagement. No one likes to hear of hesitancy, fear, and doubt that can exist outside the vacuum of saying Yes to marriage. It wasn’t about the relationship I had built with him that was sturdy and grounded. It was about the internal conversion of accepting full and unpredictable responsibility that came with building a future with another person. It was about facing the fears of possible failure, adultery, death, dependency, sharing, and betrayal.

I was never a bride.

I was just an honest person, a writer.

And here I am again, faced with another 9 month transition and the roller coaster begins again.

It’s like falling in love again. My partner and I have been brought even closer because of this choice. The only time I truly feel at peace is when we lay on our sides and talk about how uncertain the future is, how our expectations are creeping in our consciousness even when we try to keep them at bay, how this person coming to us will be nothing like what we think or imagine. We laugh at our crazy inadequacies to be in control. We laugh at the idea of making a will when we don’t have much, financially or materialistically, to pass on. We struggle through naming guardians in case my partner and I die. We smoothed through bumpy parts of our interracial marriage. Now we will have an multi-cultured/-racial/-everything child.

And then there’s the baby industry and circus…Listening to advice I don’t necessarily need or want. Dealing with colors and decorating a room. Registering. Showers. Ooohing and ahhing over bellies instead of diamonds.

Within weeks of knowing I was pregnant, truckloads of magazines and websites found me despite my non-disclosing nature. The amount of THINGS I am told that I need exhausts me.

[August 2009: “A baby wipes warmer? Do I look like the type of person to warm up my own toilet paper?!”]

There was something eerily similar, I noticed, to the wedding industry.

[August 2004: “A ring is a beautiful symbol, but why an engagement ring? I’d be fine with just the wedding band.”]

A life-changing event, a shift in identity, another choice made in a hopefully egalitarian

manner…and the isolation sits in.

“Oh, EVERYONE’s pregnant these days.”

“Yeah, but I’m not everybody. This is a big deal in MY life and I am trying to share this with you.”

How is it that more people are interested in what kind of crib I will need than how my writing schedule will alter? How is it that more people are interested in the date of the ultrasound that will announce gender than the date I get a nuchal translucency screening that tests for Down Syndrome? When I do articulate feelings, why are my worries and fears minimized to a scattering of pulp when I muse aloud about my career, my ability to move and travel, the unknown, unpredictable future and that, yes, I am choosing this, AND, yes, am still scared?

Why do people equate decision making with the quality of unshakeable certainty? And why do we strategize to circumvent fear? Why is it endlessly equivalent to second thoughts, wanting to retreat or rewind time?

Is it so unthinkable to posit that fear is the intuitive threshold to responsibility and acknowledging the parts of ourselves that are afraid takes more strength than pretending or that I don’t see how enormous this choice is? Could fear be reframed to be more of a guide than a disdained guest in our bodies?

Married, pregnant female seeks presence and companionship, not advice. Experienced and gentle minds to converse with and a community that loves honesty and facing unprecedented transformation are desirous. Above all, seeks wisdom, not distractions.


  1. yes! exactly how I feel now that I am six months into pregnancy. No one is asking how I will manage a full time job and breastfeeding but they want to know how I am "designing" the baby's room. It's v. frustrating.

  2. Melissa9:20 AM

    I'm 30 weeks pregnant and I totally understand. I've been asked about the theme for the baby's room (I'm suppose to have a theme?!?!) and what I've brought (almost nothing). But these are the same people who don't ask about how I'm doing, how I'm adjusting.

    I am lucky to have some great friends who do ask the important questions. These women are wonderful and don't sugar coat the truth. Babies are wonderful but they are also hard and scary.

    I worry about screwing up motherhood. If I mess this up it's another person I'm hurting, a vulnerable child. My mother died young, and I see my stepmother more often as an example of what I don't want to do - hence my fear. And to top it off, I still want a professional life and some people see that as very selfish - generally the same people who ask about the room's theme.

    Sorry for the rant - but you hit a nerve with me.

  3. "How is it that more people are interested in what kind of crib I will need than how my writing schedule will alter?" Well, I find the latter much more interesting!

    As Melissa hinted at, it could be that the folks obsessed with the type of crib and who think wondering about balancing ones professional interests with motherhood is selfish are possibly projecting their own guilt at not doing enough (in their own opinion) of one aspect or the other.

    "Is it so unthinkable to posit that fear is the intuitive threshold to responsibility"

    No, IMO. I had fear every day of my pregnancy (part of the context was multiple miscarriage history) and for the few months after (premature baby, insomnia, and general fear of fucking up). Some of it was hormonal, some of it was first-baby jitters and post-partum anxiety, but I think a lot of it was working through how to do this in a way that felt right.


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