Marriage is between a man and a woman… and the church and the government and your mum

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I can’t help but notice that a lot of people are getting married lately. Every couple of weeks, I’m seeing white dresses and rings all over my Facebook feed. I’m also hearing a lot of wedding-related conversation.

I don’t hate the idea of marriage at all, and although the thought of planning a wedding fills me with cold dread, I can how it might be nice to do the deed at some point down the track.

I do have a problem with the traditional (and legislative) caveats that come with the ceremonial joining of two lives. Marriage and weddings have become a balancing act: please the church, please the state, please the family. It’s your special day, right?

 

Boy Meets Girl

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Or boy meets boy. Or girl meets girl. No, wait, scratch that. Marriage does not apply to those last two pairings. Silly me. To me, and people like me, the “gay marriage debate” is just us shooting confused looks at one another and meeting every opposing argument with, “Why is this even a fucking question?” A marriage involves two people who want to permanently join their lives together (legally, spiritually, perhaps physically through some kind of surgery…) and obviously have the intestinal fortitude to deal with all the bullshit that is part and parcel of taking that plunge. It’s pretty simple, really. In theory. In a vacuum. Ah, sweet love.

 

Going to the Chapel

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I haven’t been to very many weddings, but all of them have been religious (Catholic) ceremonies. To me, the ritual was dry and unromantic; it even disturbed me in places. (There’s something about verbally agreeing that your union will result in the production of offspring that seems pushy and overly involved. Can we leave my uterus out of this?)  Having said that, I completely respect a couple’s desire to include their faith in their union. After all, religion is a deeply personal experience. For the same reason, I am completely offended by the hijacking of marriage by any one religion. To suggest that a marriage is any less legitimate because it didn’t happen exactly according to some ancient custom is stupid. It’s also kind of offensive. It’s also technically wrong. After all, what’s a joining of two souls without a bit of legally binding paperwork?

 

All You Need is Love and $40.50 for a Certificate

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Nothing screams romance like registering your every move with your friendly government. I was pretty disappointed to find out that my birth certificate wasn’t a “Congrats for being the winning sperm” thing, but more like a livestock tracking system. You can get ‘married’ by a bilingual Eclectus Parrot in a hot air balloon over a volcano, but it doesn’t mean anything (in the eyes of the law) without that scrap of paper. Despite the fact that a separation of church and state is written into the Australian constitution (I know, we have one – crazy shit), the only real basis for not changing the Marriage Act to encompass the union of all couples is that, like, you know, it’s just not right. I mean, we’re not saying “according to the Bible”, but…

The Commonwealth shall not make any law… for imposing any religious observance.

Right. Of course. Shit. OK, so, it’s not about religion. It’s about… tradition! Upholding the cornerstones of our society or something. Changing things makes us feel weird.

Then again, if federal finances continue the way they are, marriage equality may be a quick cash flow solution for the government. I mean, that’s a lot more $40.50 payments…

 

Why Are You Crying?

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Every little girl dreams of her wedding day. That’s a thing, right? There’s some kind of borderline-creepy scrapbook that details everything from the dress to the typeface on the place cards, with some vague notion of a groom who’s, like, handsome or has ten Ferraris or something? Even the non-scrapbookers have been told since birth that the day of their marriage will be their special day.

“Why don’t you want your father to walk you down the aisle? Do you hate him? You’re his only daughter. He’s dreamed of this day,” sobs your mother when you tell her you’re thinking of keeping things low-key.

“You’re not inviting your second cousin and her six children? You’re practically Satan,” scolds your wife-to-be’s great-aunt.

“I’ll go, but I want things arranged so that I don’t have to see, hear, or smell my stupid bitch sister. Some kind of tagging in and out system would probably work, but it’s pretty inconvenient for me,” sniffs your Nan.

“We’re making the trip up just for your wedding. We’ll just stay in a hotel though, so don’t tell your mum we’re coming,” writes your uncle. (This one actually happens in my family. It would be kind of cool and secretive if it were something more juicy than “don’t tell your brother we met up for coffee today” – because he’s totally going to care.)

I’m genuinely surprised that more brides and grooms don’t start their vows with “Firstly, fuck all y’all”. Tradition is lovely if it means something to you. It’s fucking irritating if it only means something to two very pushy people in your extended family. The apparent rules around who to invite, where to seat them, what to feed them, and how to fork out thousands to do it are enough to give any marriage-participant a cold sore the size of a grape. And that’s what you want when you look back over your wedding photos: tired eyes, a forced smile, and a perpetually empty wine glass.

*

My mum gets this, thank god (or the God-Abbott coalition). She tells me that as long as I’m happy, she doesn’t care if, when, or how I get married. I assume there are practical limits on this; human sacrifice hasn’t been a family ritual for at least a decade.

Your marriage should be like your sex life: how you do it is between you and your partner. If other people want to come and applaud, they can do so from a safe distance, on the condition that they offer no suggestions.

“But, you know, missionary is traditional…”

TB

Day One-Hundred-and-Seven: I’ve made my peace with Valentines Day

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Nothing says romance like a teddy riding a Hummer

My drive to the spice shop today (because you know, nothing says ‘I love you’ like chilli) took me past a florist. It was the usual thing. Nobody really notices there’s a florist there until it’s Valentines Day. Then you can’t get at that place for love or money (or love and money, as it were). And these guys were theming it hard. Apart from the fantastic signage pictured above, they had red streamers hanging from the awnings, teddy bears in the window, balloons-a-plenty, and a big sign reminding everyone who hadn’t yet realised that it is ‘Valentines Day! Roses $40208325805 a dozen!’

Ok, so maybe the roses weren’t that expensive, but when you can use hyperbole if not on V-Day? I love you so much I wanna punch a kitten in the face!

It’s one of those occasions where ordinarily-carefree men scramble in desperation to find a gift that says, “I love you. Like, more than usual. But this ain’t no birthday/anniversary”, and ordinarily-tough women turn to mush over a pink stuffed animal.

Yeah, I’ve always had a problem with Valentines Day.

When I was sixteen, I formed a club with one of my best friends. We called it ‘Fuck Love’. Pretty succinct. It had its own Myspace and everything. I don’t think either of us had really given up on the idea of love, but we were the two singletons in our group of four, and it made days like V-Day a bit more bearable. We’d listen to our friends describe their (what I realise now were totally juvenile, high-school) relationships and roll our eyes at each other over the table. “Fuck love,” we’d chant when the stories got too much.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the idea of celebrating love. I love love. It’s the best. Now that I’m in it, I can’t imagine life without it (lame lame lame). It’s just the expectations and pressure that this one day seems to put on people.

It’s a make-or-break day for relationships new and old. First V-Day together? Be afraid. You wanna get this right. But not go so far that your partner expects similar or grander things every year. Don’t use the diamond ring card, for example, unless you have a shit-ton of money and your girl/guy doesn’t feel that bending her/his fingers is particularly necessary (if you’re really that rich, it probably isn’t).

Those in longer-term partnerships might be starting to get into the comfortable stage (which I don’t subscribe to really – yes, I’m comfortable, but I also still want to jump your bones), and will see V-Day as some kind of chance to reinvigorate their passion. Or something. Either you both forget (we did until yesterday), one of you goes to more effort than the other, or the pressure to be romantic is so great you give yourself stomach ulcers.

There’s another option, of course: Use the day as a reminder to do romantic things, catch up with friends/family, and just appreciate your relationships a little more. Don’t put your partner in the doghouse if they don’t tell you they love you on Valentines Day; put them there if they don’t tell you every day. If you want to take your partner out to dinner, and send roses to them at work, that’s also fine. But do it because you want to, not because you have to. Put some thought into what little thing will say, “Hey, you there! I love you.”

For me, the little thing will be having a special meal ready for my boyfriend when he gets home from work (hence the trip to the spice shop). It’s picking up some things we need and grabbing a treat to share with him later. It’s spending time chatting and giggling and kissing. (Not to gross you out, but we’re that kissing couple. One of my friends timed us once, and said in a social situation it was roughly every thirty seconds that our faces drifted towards one another.)

So, to the guy I saw walking out of the florist carrying a bunch of roses and a look of sheer panic, chill out dude. Give her the roses, tell her you love her, and then bust out that copy of season four of Game of Thrones that you somehow managed to illegally obtain and had to kill, like, six armed guards to get (hint hint).

 

All my love,

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TB

Day Forty: We need to stop fashion-judging each other

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They say that life begins at forty. I’m not sure who they are, but I’m hoping that a fortieth day is just as auspicious as a fortieth year. And if my life is to begin again today, I want to get a little confessing out of the way.

With graduation and Christmas party season coming up, I’ve suddenly found myself in the unenviable position of chief outfit planner (for myself). You may already be familiar with how I feel about fashion, but this is much more than choosing a dress; this is a full-blown shoes-bag-makeup-nailpolish-hair-jewelry red alert. The way I see it, dressing up for the party season can make me feel one of two ways: shit hot or just shit.

As a woman (and probably still if I was a guy), I really can’t help but compare myself to everyone around me. When I’m getting ready for a function, I’m typically thinking something like:

Is this too dressy? Maybe I should wear duller lipstick. God, my legs look like hotdogs emerging from a tighly-wrapped napkin. To bra or not to bra? Am I going to need to sit down/bend over/go to the toilet at any point tonight?

It gets worse as I head to the venue:

I definitely went too slutty. Will anyone else even be wearing heels? I hope nobody notices that my shoes are a different shade of red to my bag. Is that a stain? Fuck. Is it too late to call up and feign illness?

Finally, it’s all anxious thoughts to panic stations as I walk/stumble into the party:

SHITSHITSHITSHIT–oh, is that Meg? She looks nice. Better than me. SHIT. OK, two other people are wearing heels, but they’re both about five foot even with towering wedges. This was not a lipstick event. So sweaty. Try not to get armpits on dress. Where’s the bar? God, why isn’t my eyesight better. Where are my damn friends? Is that guy ever gonna peel his beady little eyes away from my chest?

 

Over the years, I’ve slowly developed a technique where I convince myself that nobody cares what I wear. This is both reassuring and depressing, given the amount of effort I put into presenting myself nicely. If fashion is an expression of personality, then surely I can turn up nipple tassels and harem pants and people will respect me for being confident. Right? It’s that or have me forcibly removed. It depends on the gender and sexual orientation of the party organiser, I suppose. There are plenty of other ways to make yourself feel better about your outfit, but the trap that I want to stop falling into is the old “well, at least I look better than her“.

We’ve all been there. You’re watching TV, or standing in a public place, or reading a celebrity magazine, and you see a woman. She might be famous, or just a stranger on the street. She’s dressed in a what you assume is supposed to be a ‘cute’ mini dress and sky-high heels. She’s really skinny but she does not have the legs to pull off a mini dress. To be fair, her legs are long-ish, but you can see the cellulite rippling on her thighs, and she definitely shouldn’t have tried to get away with not shaving today. Your breasts aren’t as enormous as hers, but at least yours are neat and tidy, and they don’t spill out of every outfit you wear and shout “Hello, world! I’m looking for some action!” She’s got really long, thick hair, but it’s totally ruined by the fact that she’s let someone do a tragic balayage job on it. She’s obviously had a lot of experience with a makeup brush, because her face is done flawlessly, but if you’re being honest, you think it’s way too much, and makes her look totally fake. Her clutch is Chanel, which makes you green with envy, but when you look at her feet, you giggle, because you remember seeing the same pair of shoes in Spendless last week.

You walk away feeling much better about yourself.

The thing is, we’re all out in the open ocean trying to avoid the crushing jaws of body image, fashion, and social anxiety. The problem with comparing yourself to another is that you’re holding a fellow water-treader under the water and using their bloated corpse to float yourself back to land. “Take her!” you’re shouting to the great gnashing monster circling you in the waves. “She doesn’t even know how to colour-block!”

Peer-sacrifice works for a while. Your self-confidence is bolstered by knowing that the blood in the water isn’t yours. The sharks are momentarily kept at bay by your inflatable ego. But it doesn’t last. Soon enough, you’re drowning in doubt again, and struggling to keep your head above the swirling eddies of panic. You look around, and the only thing you can see is other swimmers pushing their companions under. Soon enough, you’re almost completely alone. The current is no less strong; the sharks are no less rabid; your outfit is no more fashionable. Before, you could have held hands with those around you and shared your buoyancy; now you can only paddle meekly and hope that you’ll go unnoticed. You hear the splash behind you too late, and the hand is pushing you down before you can even turn to look at your attacker.

Nice dress. Shame about the horse face, you hear before the blackness takes over.

 

Dark ocean analogies aside, I do think that fashion can be fun and rewarding. I love to see an outfit come together, and to parade my efforts around in front of my boyfriend, but leaving the house opens me up to all the uncertainty and criticism of the wider community. Some people will think that I’m behind the trend; some will think my choices are boring; some will think they’re too radical; some will just want to see what’s underneath, no matter what I happen to be wearing. (Next time you’re out, try to pick which people are mentally undressing you. It’s surprisingly easy.) The point is that fashion sense is subjective. The most trendy people I’ve seen aren’t the ones who have everything in the latest Sportsgirl catalogue, they’re the ones who dress for their shape, understand a classic piece, and have the attitude to pull it off.

Thus, I henceforth solemnly swear not to tear down other people’s clothing choices just to make myself feel better.

Unless they’re this lady:

ImageIt’s, ummmm, a lovely shade of pink?

 

TB