Am I the only person who is more than just a little perturbed by how weird most wedding speeches are? I’ve attended wedding after wedding where speeches consist of a strange but predictable formula; a list of previous accomplishments (academic, climbing the corporate ladder, being great at taking selfies or whatever the kids are doing these days) and of course an embarrassing story thrown in for some wholesome humour at the bride/groom’s expense. At one wedding I sat there, trying not to pick at the shiny poky things on my sari, and wondered “Why does this speech sound like a eulogy?”. Could it be that the bride’s friends and family were actually paying tribute to a part of the bride that was now dead? Was this newly married woman shedding her old “singledom” skin to expose the new marital one? No in fact, a more accurate question would be something along the line of “Does a caterpillar die when it turns into a butterfly?” Now, it’s not entirely gender based, but it got me thinking. It got me thinking about who I was before I got married and it got me wondering who people see me as now. Sadly, I know that in the eyes of many I had gone from being someone’s daughter to being someone’s wife.
Backtrack to a couple of months ago to when I had been asked to introduce myself in a work setting. Naturally I state my name and talk about the project I’m working on before making a characteristically unfunny self-depreciating joke and taking my seat again. Nothing out of the blue there, just Denira being an idiot. Anyway, as I sit someone mentions that I haven’t provided nearly enough information and I quickly think of some of salient points about the project I’m current working on. I’m busy preparing my “serious work voice” when the question “So are you married and do you have kids?” is directed towards me. Now there’s nothing wrong with wanting to know someone socially, it’s great when you feel that the people you work with see you as more than just a worker bee and actually understand that you’re human. So why did this question throw me? I guess more than anything, I never grew up dreaming that one day I’d have the title “Wife”. Sure, I thought I’d be married (to MacGuyver of course- a girl never forgets her first love) but I never assumed that this title would be the one that would overwrite every other one. Every other one that I had fought for, that I had worked hard for, that I had earned. My “wifedome” was not something I had earned, my husband’s love for sure, but I didn’t feel like I had earned the weight of the all-powerful slate cleaning title of “Wife”. I was stupid enough to assume that whether I was a wife or mother would have no bearing on other’s perception of me. But I guess as a woman in my thirties, there are certain moulds that I must fit into. And this is what gets me, it’s not like I don’t like being someone’s wife (the fact that that someone is the best human on earth is a strong plus), but that’s not all I am for goodness sake! I surely don’t go up to men I’ve just met and ask about their marital status’s or about how many offspring they’ve spawned. And it’s not because I don’t care or because I’m not curious, it’s just a far more acceptable opening line for a man than it is for a woman. And of course, an unmarried, childless woman over thirty has a far greater societal price to pay than a man does.
So, I can rant and rave and stop wearing my ring (although it’s so shinny!), I can create a few more enemies and blatantly tell people that it’s none of their business but I have a more sinister plan. I chose instead to talk to every young woman I know about “becoming a wife”, to tell them that I’m surprised that we still need to have these conversations. To tell them that they don’t need to change who they are once they’re married, to tell them not to buy into the antiquated thinking that becoming a wife is the pinnacle of a young woman’s life. To beg them to have better speeches written about them at their weddings, speeches that talk of all the great things they’re still to do, speeches that talk about how their husbands will be there supporting them in their path to glory. I plan to talk to every young man I know and urge them not to make the mistakes their fathers did. To tell them that we are all born to be more than our parents were, that we can only do that by breaking the shackles of bias and perceptions. It frustrates me that this should even be a conversation topic, that here I am in the year 2017, writing about the fact that women should be defined by more than their marital status or motherhood.