Hitched: The Reluctant Groom

“Grooms get in free!”

That’s the generous offer from Austin Monthly, my local glossy society rag, for its “Couture, Cakes and Cufflinks,” uh, “Bridal Bash.” There’s nothing particularly unusual about this kind of shill party, and that’s what makes it particularly offensive. It’s every disgusting wedding narrative rolled into one day-long event that women are actually expected to pay to attend.

There’s so much to hate about mainstream wedding culture — the consumerism, the gender policing, the fucking consumerism, the body-shaming, did I mention the consumerism? — but perhaps the wedding-related narrative that pisses me off more than any other is the idea that men are incapable of being interested in weddings and must be coddled and babied so that their delicate wedding-hating sensibilities are not offended.

Apparently the men of Austin are so addled by the idea of marriage that they need a separate “Cufflink Lounge,” where they can “relax, play pool and more,” away from all that awful gross icky nasty wedding things ewwwwwww! I presume there are Axe-scented smelling salts at the ready in case some guy sees a slice of white cake and faints. 

Everyone knows that men can only be manipulated and cajoled into marriage at length by nagging harpy bitches, as this is one of the patriarchy’s most enduring and successful narratives used to keep women from getting too uppity. Patriarchy tells women they’re only valuable when men find them attractive. Patriarchy tells men they’re valuable when they score the big home run or nail down that account or or scratch their balls. So when men deign to wed, they’re doing women a huge favor.

This is a game women cannot win. We get mocked and shamed for being anxious to find a husband and mocked and shamed for being excited about wedding-related things, which are apparently so fundamentally embarrassing that men can’t even be expected to participate beyond grudgingly showing up, and only then if there’s sports and beer. On the other hand, women also get mocked and shamed for staying single (so pathetic!) or not committing to a man, in which case they are lonely sluts.

What a deeply awful way to view something that I think people of any and all genders would say is very awesome: falling in love with someone you want to spend your life with. Perpetuating the reluctant-groom narrative (say, via “cute” crap like this stupid f**king cake topper) isn’t only damaging to women, but damaging to all people who deserve to live without cultural pressure to conform based on their in-pant equipment.

The gross part is that the “joke” of the reluctant groom, at its fundamental level, is about making fun of silly women who think they actually hold any power at all. It’s actually terribly, terribly cruel. Culturally speaking, men don’t have to get married unless they want to, because their value as bachelors is as high as it is as husbands. So how adorable is it when those little ladies get to play in their little wedding sandbox and pretend to drag their husband down the aisle? It’s a joke, but instead of challenging norms as a truly funny, subversive joke does, it just reinforces the way things already are.

If men actually were forced into marriage against their will, it wouldn’t be a cute cake topper, because nobody would put a rape joke on top of their wedding cake. Funny thing is, I can think of a group of people who, for pretty much the entirety of human history, have been denied agency and as a result, sold or coerced into marriages as a way to solidify political gains, make money and secure property, and guess the f**k what, guys? That group isn’t “men.” It’s women. After all, the question “Who gives this woman in marriage?” isn’t rooted in tender father-daughter tradition. It’s a sales transaction.

So while something like a “Cufflink Lounge” or grooms-get-in-free (to say nothing of the heterosexist ignorance there) may on the surface seem harmless and silly, it’s part of a long tradition of what we in the business refer to as “sexist horseshit.” Yes, that’s a technical term.

Why say “Couples admission is $15,” or “Two-for-one admission tickets are $15,” when with grooms-get-in-free you get the double benefit of alienating same-sex couples, which may have no groom or all grooms, and reminding women that it’s their sole responsibility to do all the wedding work?

Why? Because the wedding industrial complex is a shame-based economy. If folks are encouraged to do what they’re comfortable with and can afford without feeling policed about what they “should” be doing, vendors lose money. 

Rarely is the shaming explicit, however. Something breezy like “grooms get in free” easily conveys the idea that women should be doing the heavy lifting, without being heavy-handed. And check out this ad copy for what I presume is supposed to be unique or personalized wedding ideas from Austin Monthly:

“Every wedding has similar elements, such as the white dress, the bouquet toss and the multitiered cake. But these newlyweds decided to make their big days distinctive with personalized themes and accents.”

What better way to make people aware of the fact that there are things they absolutely must be doing or else than to act like there’s actually just no way they wouldn’t be doing them? Hegemony y’all, I found it. 

Welp, Patrick and I aren’t having a bouquet toss or a multitiered cake, so I guess whatever we’re doing on April 21st, 2012 isn’t really a wedding, especially since Patrick, not me, is the one in charge of most of our wedding planning. And if there’s something particularly masculine about not wanting to pay money for the opportunity to be sold something you don’t need and, if you decided you wanted it, you could easily find it online for  cheaper, I can’t figure it. Because that strikes me as less masculine, than completely reasonable, because who the hell wants to price tablecloths for six hours, seriously?

Really, if anyone in a partnership won’t step up and help with wedding planning without being nagged, coddled or badgered, that person isn’t “male.” That person is “an asshole.”

Contact the author of this post at [email protected] Follow me on Twitter at @AndreaGrimes.