I have never been happier than the day I got married.
There are few moments in my life when I’ve felt such overwhelming bliss. Once was when I got an acceptance letter to my first choice university. Another was when I got accepted to The Tempest’s Fall Editorial Fellowship. I also feel tear-jerking happiness every time I get the chance to eat free food at an event on campus.
But nothing, and I mean nothing, could have prepared me for the permanent smile that would be plastered on my face on my wedding day – even when things didn’t go as planned.
On our honeymoon, my now-husband and I could do nothing but talk about how perfect the day was. It had been ages since our families had all been in the same room together. We laughed about the case of the missing samosas and cried over the father-daughter dance.
Yet, despite the incredible day, we couldn’t help but find one thing that stood out as not-so-perfect; the constant affirmation from family and friends that gender roles would dominate our relationship going forward.
My husband was constantly given advice like, “Just pretend you’re listening to keep the peace,” or, “Just let her win fights if you don’t want to sleep on the couch.”
Whereas I was told, “The best way to his heart is through his stomach!”
Comments like these are sexist because they perpetuate the idea that men and women need to occupy specific gender roles to have a so-called “normal” relationship. They usually describe women as being nurturing caregivers who compromise endlessly for the good of their family, and men as dogs who don’t listen and can’t care for themselves, but it’s all good because they bring home milk and bread every other day, and know how to toss a ball.
It may seem harmless at first – just a little bit of teasing for the bride and groom on their big day – but in reality, it’s suffocating.
Since I was young I was told that women and men are different. My teachers, religious leaders, and even my parents pushed the narrative that this difference was unchangeable; it’s just down to nature and it’s what makes men and women perfect for one another.
And even though I never gave in to it (the black sheep of the family), the constant pressure to conform was nauseating. I felt trapped in a tug-of-war between the romantic relationships I wanted and the romantic relationships I was doomed to have.
But the relationship I have with my husband is different. In fact, it’s everything I could have ever wanted. Even though we were both raised to follow toxic relationship standards, we treat each other with so much love and understanding that it feels like we are re-teaching one another how to love again. It’s the reason why we like to say that we raised one another.
So with my family knowing this, and being there to witness it in our relationship over the years, it hurt me when I saw them placing us in the same old patriarchal relationship mold on our wedding day. It felt like despite the kind of work we do as feminists – unraveling patriarchal violence, whether that’s here at The Tempest, in protests, or in positions of power – we lose the day we get married.
Did this make me love my wedding day less? No, it didn’t. But it did make me stop and think about the way we choose to promote marriage as the highest level of achievement a woman can have despite its disappointments. We’re trained from birth to think of ourselves as the ultimate sacrifice for our families and the man we’ll eventually marry.
I don’t believe anything could have prepared me for the kind of happiness I would feel on my wedding day. It was everything I could have ever hoped for. But I believe we are capable of doing more to undo the Wedding Industrial Complex than just spending less money.