i went to my first friend wedding, the ceremony a reunion of sorts as both the bride and the groom have been close friends for years.
the pastor decided to start the ceremony by happily explaining the role of marriage as the union between a man and a woman. he followed this, five minutes later, by telling my friend that her role was to, in his words, "submit" to my other friend so that he may hold his role as head of the household.
he explained that when he says "submit" he means "submit" in the way that we're all supposed to submit to jesus. but that also he means that the bride is supposed to submit to the groom. even though the groom isn't jesus. only jesus is jesus. but the groom is like the jesus of the household.
i lost him somewhere along the way.
two weekends ago i was interviewed with my 90 year old great aunt for a documentary about picture brides, women who came to america in the early 1900s amid immigration laws that limited who could enter america from japan. my great-grandmother had been one.
after my aunt explained the story of her mother choosing between a man in brazil and my coal-mining great grandfather, how she left japan against her parents wishes, and how she was shocked to find herself in the middle of a rough utah mining town, the documentarian turned to me with a question.
how has the picture bride experience impacted the way you view marriage?
i mostly have not viewed marriage. at 25 and queer, marriage has largely been out of my worldview. with most of my relatives in the divorced club, marriage has never been a sensical route. I have never considered love or romance or longstanding relationships as part of my journey, but have instead thought towards the potential breakup and looming end to whatever fleeting happiness i have found with another person.
so this question compounded all that. how has the picture bride experience impacted the way I view marriage? marriage is traditionally a business transaction. marriage was created so that while the hunter-gatherer male went off to collect berries the wife could stay at home and cook and get pregnant now and then. marriage was created to assert manhood and dominance.
my friend, the groom, did not cry during the ceremony. he was composed, professional, happy. he seemed deep in thought, ready for the future. he walked down the aisle to applause, smiling with his new wife. it was not until later in the reception, during the mother/son dance, that things started to crack.
they danced slowly to something sentimental. the whole room watched in a dream state. he spoke with him mom the whole time, occasionally resting his chin on her shoulder. he wiped his eyes once, then twice, then again. his father watched happily.
this is the memory i will take away from the night.
perhaps though marriage was created for all those reasons above, what has sustained it is the human willingness to move past them. there will be no submission in my friends' marriage; i know this. but the connection they feel to their parents, their siblings, their future family...this is how i see their marriage growing stronger and more important and integral as time passes.
perhaps it is not about marriage itself, but rather how we allow our definitions of marriage to shift.