Monday, October 1, 2012

Around the Wedding Corner

Things change after your wedding. Maybe not to you, but to other people, more specifically to the way they view you. I'm astounded by how people's perception of me, as a woman, has changed since I donned my wedding band.

Us, with our truly adorable niece, Audrey, last Christmas. Before people started telling me how natural I looked with children.
I always thought that the madonna and the whore complex was reserved for the couches of psychotherapists and Sex and the City episodes. But the moment I said "I do", in the eyes of the world, I aged 10 years and went from a person for whom pregnancy would be a career-ruining disaster to a person whose sole purpose in life should be to procreate. With my husband. Of course.

The curious thing, is that I'm not sure he's experiencing anything similar, and by Caitlin Moran's strategy for detecting sexism (is it happening to the dudes?), I'm smelling a rat.  While I get unsolicited pamphlets on conception from my OBGYN and comments on how natural I look with other people's babies - did I not look natural with babies before? Is there something awkward about an unwed woman bonding with a small child? Good heavens! What have teen-aged baby-sitters been doing all this time? And most importantly, how did they miss the terror in my eyes? - the Grige is just sort of rolling along with business as usual, as far as I can tell.

Me with my niece Emma, perhaps we look comfortable because I've been living with her for six weeks?
Now, I was somewhat prepared for the baby thing. For people of a certain generation, I believe it's even excusable to assume that I must have family on the brain. I don't need those people to know that I actually know more about the best aeration process for boxed wine than my ovaries right now, they're not prepared for that information. But it's more than just the baby thing, and it's more than just the elderly among us.

Being introduced as someone's "wife' is a lot more loaded than you would think, especially when those people are 23 years old. I know that's not that much younger than me, but if you had told me at 23 where I would be at 25, I probably would have fainted on the spot. The good news it that it still means something important, socially, to be someone's wife. However, I get the impression that everyone was expecting a harried looking woman in her mid-30's wearing mom-jeans and waxing on about her last ovulation when they met me. I'm proud to say that I did not deliver, but all the "newness" does sort of make me feel like I should buy a whole new wardrobe, cut my hair off and start speaking in a British accent.

How can I be old? I still drink too much boxed wine and play the  Crocodile Hunter  board game!
I think the most confusing and challenging part of my situation is that I actually want all the things I'm supposed to want. The idea of having a baby does not terrify me. And eating dinner that I cooked every night with the Grige at our real dining room table in our fully furnished home like "adults" makes me happy. I am following the "perfect" blueprint for a woman's life - married by 25 to a smart, handsome man, first baby most likely around the time I'm 30 - life is on track by conventional standards. But that doesn't mean that I let someone else make those choices for me, or that they're anyone's business but the Grige's and mine (and now yours, of course).

It's challenging to feel like a feminist when my well-reasoned life choices are so in line with conventional standards. I could just let it all go and let people tell me how good I look with a baby in my arms and ask when the Grige and I are planning to start a family... But I don't think that I can. Because what if we were trying for a baby and it wasn't going so well? Or what if we decided that kids aren't the right choice for us because we'd rather travel? Of what if, god forbid, we have a baby and decide to do a bunch of traveling anyway? I don't want to spend every minute between now and menopause talking about my body with people who don't know me well enough to get the answers to those questions unsolicited.

Photo: Summer Jean Photography
As it turns out, I really, really like being a wife.

So I'm asking, since when did the window into our private family decisions become open for viewing and since when did marriage make me old? I'm thinking that having a giant wedding where we did a bunch of conventional stuff is probably buried in the answer, but I'm going to unpack that another time. 

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