Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Turning "The List" on Its Head (or Upside Down, Inside Out, or Whatever Else Works for You)

A couple weeks ago, I finally got around to watching Marley and Me. (As a side note, it caused a lot of existential angst, which you can read on my personal blog.)

But it also got me thinking about the concept of The List. In the movie, Jennifer Aniston's character has a life list: engagement, wedding, husband, house, baby--CHECK.

The idea of the list bothered me. I wasn't entirely sure why (especially because everything on this list is something I want in my own life).

Then I was reading some really reflective and introspective stuff about lesbian conception over at Hullo! Bonjour! Her post about why she wants to have children helped clarify why I hate The List.

She quoted this passage from New Essential:
Queer families started from scratch are intentional families. That means our children are wanted children, children brought into this world from the great love we have to share with them. Anytime you are confronted with internal doubt or external questioning about whether or not you have the right to parent, remember that your child is a much planned, deeply loved and wanted child. That is the greatest gift that anyone can give to their child.

It's the word "intentional" that got me. I am a fan of the intentional. On the one hand, it is my greatest weakness (think less spontaneous, more controlling, generally more worried), but on the other hand, it is my greatest strength.

I believe that if we just follow society's script (engagement, wedding, husband*, house, baby) we miss out on the amazing opportunity to be authentic, to find what fits right for us.

If we just follow the script to plan society's wedding, for example, we run the risk of turning into plastic versions of ourselves with plastered, fake smiles, all while screaming "I just want to go on my honeymoon!" inside the private confines of our heads.

As a new script emerges from the Pretty DIY Wedding Industry, we run the risk of running ourselves ragged as we try to create the most photo-worthy invitations and favors and guest book and table cards and the list goes on and on.

It's the not The List that is the problem; the problem is when we blindly follow the list. I think the trick is to separate each item out and analyze it. We have to decide for ourselves whether we want to Follow It, Modify It, or Reject It. The choice is ours. It really is. And I believe that authenticity and living your happiest life resides in that choice.

* I apologize for resorting to a heterosexist term. I feel like the concept of "The List" is inherently heterosexist, which is why some LGBT individuals struggle to fully to embrace or express their authentic selves.

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Angie said...

I think when we take the Pretty DIY Wedding Industry and The List literally is where we get into trouble. I think it's our responsibility to pick those things apart and make it work for us.

What gets my blood boiling is when The List and the Pretty DIY Wedding Industry is passed off as the only option, the only way to do things, which is a bunch of ca-ca.

Sarah said...

Hear, hear.

Or, to spin off Angie's comment-- what gets my blood boiling is when The List and/or the Pretty DIY Wedding Industry is passed off as the best option.

I have a friend who did a very traditional, very standard wedding at a hotel, with your traditional "chicken or beef" and regular favors and everything that is often disparaged in Pretty DIY Wedding Industry. But you know what? Both were happy with everything! And they had so much going on in their lives that it was much easier for them to hand the entire wedding off an event planner at a hotel and have them plan it all rather that DIY and personalize everything. And at the end of the day, they were married! And isn't that the point?

It won't win any awards, and it won't be featured on Offbeat Bride, and I highly doubt there are any pictures of the groomsmen's Converse shoes and striped socks, but it was a beautiful wedding.

Andrea said...

A note on your "*" at the bottom. I do think The List is inherently heterosexist, but I'm not sure your conclusion falls out of that. I've talked to some LGBT individuals who, like the passage you quoted, actually more easily find themselves on an intentional path (as opposed to struggling to express their authentic selves). Because there isn't a default List sitting there waiting to be checked off, every decision is an intentional one. You don't "just do things", because there isn't a default set of things to "just do". And for some people, that's very freeing. Without set rules about putting together a wedding, changing your name, being a wife/husband, having babies, etc etc, it's easier to define your own path. Not saying that nobody struggles, as everyone does, but I've always liked the idea that despite all the hardships faced by LGBT people, sometimes they get to forge their own path without as much slack on "why didn't you do it this way?"

Jill @ Marriage of Convenience said...

I love the comment about the Pretty DIY Wedding. I'm trying to have a wedding that is neither a) costly or b) especially DIY/crafty. I know that too much DIY would frustrate me and ruin my wedding experience (and my fiance's, because I would be super grumpy and unpleasant).

Unfortunately, there aren't too many blogs devoted to cheaper weddings without going the "DIY everything" route. So thanks for addressing this.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this. MOST of our friends graduated college, got married, bought a house, had a baby, then 2 babies. I struggle with this because of the once-a-year catch-up get togethers where everyone is just there to see who is doing what. My husband (of 5.5 years) and I were always asked what next--people try to figure us out. But we have LOVED our experiences and have lived, gained so much, helped people, have daily purpose & intent. We JUST bought our first home, have traveled, have 4.5 educational degrees between the two of us, no kids but are trying. Point is, your message reitterated to me that we are okay. But each month (over the past year) that my period comes and our friends continuiously announce they are pregnant again my heart is crushed. I sometimes feel behind and insecure because we don't have the home, 2.5 kids,etc. My partner then brings me back to earth and quickly reminds me we chose our route & need to be confident it was right for us--which it has been. We have done so much in so little time, made each place we have lived a little better and lived along the way. THE list may work for some, but our list is longer by not having the goal of checking a box. Thanks again for keeping it real.

Lizzie [TenThouBride] said...

I totally agree with Angie. I fall into the terrible habit of judging women who I always say were born to be housewives. I went to a private University before transferring and every girl there, so it seemed, was just there for her M.R.S. Girls were dropping out of school like flies when they were proposed to and I felt like I was in a bad Stepford Wives reenactment.

But the truth is, that being a wife and a mother is something some women just want for themselves. I have to think, How dare I judge them when my career-minded, non-traditional lifestyle might be weird to them too.

Point: There's too much judging in general. What do I care if someone else wants a checklist for their life. I can only worry about myself, and I'm along for the ride.

Great post, sorry about the novel response.

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