What is it about a wedding ring that makes me all wistful and sad and stupid? It's just a symbol after all, and one that is misleading and complicated to boot. I know, intellectually, that marriage is a challenging situation to put oneself in, that it is not all romance and mutual admiration. I know how ugly divorces usually are. I know that I value my independence as an unmarried gal.
My cousin got married last weekend and I was asked to be in the ceremony as a bride's maid. My goofy little cousin, who used to be a crazed little imp of a kid, stood up in a church next to a lovely young woman and promised to love and take care of her 'till death do they part. They are both in their mid-twenties and they sure look like a couple that is going to last. Watching them standing up there in front of the world and proclaiming their commitment to each other was quite humbling, really.
A little background: When I was in high school, I watched my parents go through a divorce after twenty years of marriage. I know that when they got married, they intended it to last for the rest of their lives. They meant it when they took those vows in a church before god and their families. Somewhere along the line, though, they both changed, grew up, grew apart. It happens. The whole thing was long and painful. It definitely affected my outlook on marriage. I thought, as a young woman, that if you could marry someone in your twenties and end up hardly knowing them in your forties, what was the point? How can you really be sure this is the one person you want to be with for the rest of your life? So much changes over the years. This seemed like a huge gamble to me.
Fast forward to my late twenties and I'm starting to think that the ring is not that scary. As a matter of fact, I'm kind of wanting one. This is such a contradiction to my identity as a strong individual, though. Isn't this what feminism has been trying to get girls to understand, that we don't have to get married? Haven't we been fighting for a world where a woman does not have to have a husband to be counted as a real citizen? We are just starting to break the glass ceiling in corporate America and to elect more women to positions in government. I don't need a man to make me worthwhile. I am my own woman, damn it! Aren't I?
I stood there last weekend, in my pink bride's maid dress, with my pink flowers and my pink cheeks feeling more than a little confused. Maybe it's just the natural human need for companionship that makes me romanticize getting married. Then again, I was probably conditioned as a child by Barbie and Disney movies to think that I need a prince charming to be happy. I know I sat around with my little playmates and planned out my wedding with the rest of them. We would fantasize about what our dress would look like and practice walking down 'the aisle' with a white napkin fastened on our heads with a plastic hair band. We would take turns being the bride's maids and one poor kid always had to be the groom. If you were lucky, you could get your friend's brother. Otherwise one of us girls had to do it. The groom was always a secondary element in these little play-acting games. Maybe we just liked to play dress-up. Maybe that's all a wedding is, anyway. It's the actual 'marriage' part of it that's daunting.
I'm very happy for my cousin and his new wife. I hope they spend the next fifty plus years together and live happily ever after. I wonder what it is, though, that makes them so sure that this is the one. Is it just that they are young? Am I just jaded and scared? I suppose I won't truly know if marriage is for me until or unless I walk down the aisle myself one day. Until then, it remains a tantalizing mystery, but one that I hope I get a shot at solving someday.
Oh, and by the way...I caught the bride's bouquet at the reception. What does that mean?!