The New York Times, ever concerned about the plight of the three people it takes to make a Style Section trend story, has identified a disturbing new tendency among women to … plan their weddings. But wait for it: they’re not just planning their weddings, they’re doing it on the Internet and they’re doing it while single.
The horrors, they are horrifying. Time to muster the judgment and disdain appropriate to the situation: these pathetic cases are wasting their sad-ass time, and their real human relationships are suffering for it, because using the Internet means shunning all human contact, only going outside once a week to get a gallon of milk and a bag of cat food.
The nightmare is this: people, but mostly women because obviously, are using Pinterest to bookmark stuff they’d like to have at or incorporate into their weddings, and some of the women doing this are not even engaged. As a result, they are probably unable to be functional human beings and need swift, clinical intervention or at least a stern Jezebel post telling them how “sad” they are.
There’s no way, of course, that it’s just that “pinning” something to a Pinterest board just takes all of two seconds and it’s nice to look at a bunch of pretty pictures. Can’t be that a consumer-driven culture of capitalism encourages people to lust after unattainable lifestyles and all their attendant accoutrement, with Pinterest making it especially easy to organize one’s various market-defined cravings into convenient, aesthetically pleasing categories. No, obviously this is a national crisis brought on solely by women who are too stupid to know what’s good for them. Ladies, ignore that Wedding Industrial Complex behind the curtain!
Fretting about women using the Internet to create fantasy wedding tableaux is part of a long and storied tradition, one in which individual women’s choices are scrutinized and criticized in lieu of actually addressing the very real systemic issues that influence those choices.
From the Times piece: “Single women, it would seem, have dreamed of their weddings as long as fairy tales have existed.”
Yes, it would seem that way to someone who knows fuck-all, who can’t be bothered to do the bare minimum of critical thinking required to realize that “single women” as a vast swathe of humanity, don’t all do any one thing en masse, and that they certainly haven’t been uniformly dreaming of weddings — since roughly, what, the Middle Ages? —thanks to the hard work of the brothers Grimm.
Oh, those single women, though! They’re just so silly, attempting to live in a world that tells them they’re worthless if they’re not married, that they’re career-driven harpies with misplaced priorities if their first and only goal in life isn’t to find a man, stat! On the flipside, the smell of desperation is so unbecoming, isn’t it?
This is the ever-moving, ill-defined line that women are always walking, always on one side or the other, open to criticism from any angle for a step out of place. Nevermind that it’s the existence of the line itself that’s fucked up.
We talk about the “mommy wars” pitting women against other women, instead of discussing workplace harassment, or the fact that women still get paid three-quarters of what men earn for the same amount of work. Instead of asking whether the male-dominated comedy business might maybe skew in favor of dudes, we wonder whether women are even funny in the first place.
In yet more serious terms, we call black women “welfare queens” who raise hordes of burgeoning criminals, but somehow ignore the racial implications of the war on drugs, or the prison industrial complex that incarcerates black men at alarming rates, tearing families (and would-be families) asunder before they’ve even got their footing.
So of course, there’s a wrong way to be interested in the number one thing women are supposed to be interested in: weddings.
Please allow me, in this moment, to put all of the blame for this dumb Internet wedding planning outrage firmly on the Wedding Industrial Complex.
Because y’all know modern weddings are made-up. I know you know this. The designer dress, the cover band, the diamond ring? It’s all an elaborate plot devised by some people who want to sell you some shit so you fit in with your peer group. Yes, weddings can be super fun and awesome, cover bands and designer dresses and all; they are also an industry.
I’m not being polemical; it’s actual recorded historical fact. Want to know why women get diamond engagement rings? Because DeBeers wanted to sell a bunch of fucking diamonds.
I am not a whit worried about individual single women who create wedding Pinterest boards, at any stage of their relationships or lack thereof. I don’t really care if they’ve been logging on to TheKnot.com to look at flower arrangements. It’s what people do in a world that tells us we should buy some more shit and we’ll be happy. (To those of you reading this and thinking, “I’ve never been wooed by the mass marketing machine, I’m above all that, I got married in a secret fairy cave for 50 cents,” congratulations, you’re the greatest people who ever lived, you can stop reading now.)
So fine, some women — who even knows if it’s 10 or 10,000, the New York Times talked to, like, three — gaze lovingly at wedding shit they may or may not ever need. My dad subscribes to Corvette magazine despite the fact that he’s in no way in a position to buy one. I’m on a Lululemon mailing list because I think it’s fun to look at prettily designed $70 yoga mats and $100 stretchy pants. I know I can’t afford them.
Before I shut down my Pinterest account (sorry, I think Pinterest is kind of boring and I don’t get the appeal, despite all evidence to the contrary, i.e. my vagina) I had pins of molecular gastronomy recipes and about 10 kinds of aerodynamic, self-cleaning litter boxes. Guess how many aerodynamic, self-cleaning litter boxes I have today? Zero self-cleaning litter boxes, in which my cats do no poops from the no scraps of the zero molecular gastronomy recipes I actually made.
Women aren’t sad or pathetic for not single-handedly disavowing and dismantling an ever-growing consumer culture that feeds on and magnifies every possible human insecurity. Wedding planners, magazines, websites, venues and vendors, not to mention the Disney Princess empire, have all kinds of money, time and stupid buzzwords invested in making sure no one deviates from the plan. What’s sad isn’t the fact that people buy shit, and long to buy shit, in a capitalist society; what’s sad is that people are making money, fuckloads of it, by making promises they know their products can’t keep.
What we need is more media literacy, more feminism, more patriarchy-smashing, more teaching women and girls that their worth is not found in one party they throw, the wedding favors they select, or the one person they legally bind themselves to. And we need way less of this: “Spending a significant portion of your time planning a wedding without being in love isn’t as much delusional as it is sad.”
Can individual decisions amount to aggregate social change? Of course. That’s why I’d encourage my female friends not to change their names when they get married. That’s why I root for guys who stay home with the kids and do their share of housework. And that’s why I’d advise anyone who’s tempted to fawn over imaginary weddings not to do so — whatever else, it’s simply impractical to plan in advance for something that involves the significant input of someone you’ve never met. Encouraging someone to make a socially conscious decision is a much more empowering, affirming tactic than telling them they’re just sad or delusional if they don’t.
I’m not interested in shaming anyone into feminism. I don’t want to guilt people into being more thoughtful consumers. I’m not going to judge people when they don’t have the time, energy or inclination to take down the Wedding Industrial Complex single-handedly; there are plenty of social ills I’m not curing all by myself all day long. We choose our battles because we can’t fight all the battles.
But if facing down the Wedding Industrial Complex is something you’re in a position to try out (and I have to tell you, it is a remarkably satisfying pursuit), I absolutely encourage everybody — not just women, because step one in all of this is to stop acting like women are the only people in the world who can or should care about weddings —to think twice, four times, 10 times, about spending tens of thousands of dollars on a wedding, or imagining themselves doing so.
Single people aren’t lusting after wedding crap in a vacuum — someone’s out there actually paying $15,000 to release a flock of white doves. Someone’s agreeing to appear on “Say Yes To The Dress.” Someone’s renting out the top floor of a skyscraper for his open-bar reception. And single women and men — not to mention children! — are going to those weddings, and the cycle builds and builds, whipping everything into an ever more materialistic, party-focused, marriage-ignorant froth.
I’m sure there are a few people for whom a bride or groom is little more than a wedding accessory, not much different than finding the right seasonal appetizer or quirky centerpiece. But I don’t think those people are legion, and I certainly don’t think everyone who fantasizes about a future wedding is just looking for the right placeholder at the altar.
I think, more often, people who love each other and who really want to marry each other feel like they can’t do it without ticking off every box on The Knot’s wedding checklist. And that shit isn’t only on single women making Pinterest pages. That shit’s on all of us, married and single, every time we watch “Bridezillas,” buy bridal princess dress-up clothes for our daughters or tell grown men they’re only worth as much as the biggest diamond solitaire ring they can afford.
Contact the author of this post at Andrea.Grimes@Gmail.com.