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Sunday, July 11, 2010

Yay Tradition! ...Wait, what?

Over the past year or so I've done my fair share of reading wedding blogs, forums, and other sites dealing with this massive industry.  Lately I've realized, now that I'm already married, I don't read them for new and awesome ideas anymore.  Why do I keep going back?  Probably because wedding forums are about more than the new way to present a guest book or the best earrings to wear with your dress -- they're also about relationships, the bread and butter of marriage.

I find people fascinating, particularly when it comes to cultural/societal norms and how these norms change over time. (I was a Sociology minor, what can I say!)  I love to examine human behavior, and it is so interesting (to me at least!) how sometimes these behaviors clash between the traditional and non-traditional.
I'm an avid reader of Weddingbee (by avid I mean daily, even now, 57 days after the wedding!) and I recently came across a post written by a woman under the moniker of Miss Octopus (the post can be found here).  At first, I mulled through her words, nodding to myself and understanding her frustration.  In a nutshell, Miss Octopus wrote that she enjoys the control that she is normally able to establish over her life, but when it came to getting engaged, she realized she literally had no control over the situation since traditionally, it is the man's responsibility to propose to the woman, and she wanted a traditional proposal.

At that point in time, I didn't really have much to add -- I kept on reading other posts by other Bees as is my usual routine.  But today, I stumbled upon a particular post on the Weddingbee forums (found here) and it really got the gears turning in my head.  Why exactly do we (as in women) feel so compelled to honor this tradition?

I am not going to lie -- I was most definitely in this same position in the months before Mr. L's proposal.  I saw other friends getting engaged, and I was upset.  Every time I read that someone on Facebook had gotten engaged (and it happened a LOT!), I'd mention it to him, and we'd end up in an argument.  It wasn't exactly pretty.  But this post isn't about my behavior, Miss Octopus's behavior, or anyone else's.  I'm merely asking the question, why?

I like to think that in the past few decades, women have moved forward and made lots of progress in the department of independence.  It's normal now (and actually preferred!) that a woman be strong, secure, and independent in her life, particularly in the area of employment.  However, things remain pretty shady when it comes to relationships.

The wedding world is filled with an incredible amount of rather strict traditions that demand a proper way of "getting married."  For instance, as I was catching up with two old friends at dinner tonight, the topic of engagements came up.  One of my friends is on the verge of getting married, with her boyfriend already saying they are engaged, but at the moment she lacks an engagement ring and a "real" proposal.  We agreed with her that the ring and the proposal together are very important steps her boyfriend needed to make happen if they were going to take this commitment seriously.  This situation is remarkably similar to Miss Octopus's, and it goes back to a woman waiting for a man to assert control over said woman's life.  Why do we do this?

Honestly, why can't the woman proposing to the man be a viable option?  To a lot of guys (my husband included), the thought of a woman proposing is quite laughable.  There was a point in our relationship where I seriously asked Mr. L what he would do if I honest-to-God proposed to him (this was during the few months I was a little nuts before he actually did propose, but I was completely serious about the proposition).  He looked at me like I was crazy and laughed it off.  Why is this laughable?  Why can't a woman proposing to a man be a serious consideration?

Take me seriously, dangit!
I will admit that I say this with a bit of generalization.  It would help to explain more about the area in which I live -- the South.  Oh yes, the Bible Belt.  Specific "traditional" traditions and guidelines and rules that absolutely must be abided by.  Obviously, one of these traditions include the man taking the reigns of the proposal, so I am surrounded by people who are incredibly strict about honoring these particular traditions, whether they realize it or not.

I suppose we can chalk it up to our "traditional" attitudes not yet catching up with our "liberal" lifestyles.  We've made so many advancements in so many areas of a woman's world and opened up completely new doors that didn't exist before.  But we're now dealing with a lag of human attitude -- people simply don't change their beliefs as quickly as society changes and develops.

I just hope that relatively soon, people will change their attitudes on this topic, because quite honestly I don't like this it one bit.  I don't like the way it reduces women to "crazies" who freak out about engagements and marriage when they feel like they aren't getting commitment due to a lack of proposal.  I don't like the way it generalizes that women are overly emotional and therefore irrational.  Miss Octopus wrote, "I mean, in my defense, I had been fully 100% on board and waiting for marriage for nearly a year at that point, but for God’s sake. Would you want to propose to someone who cried, and hassled, and (cringe, again) yelled at you about it? Would anyone?"

The consensus in the comments of her post made me realize how widespread these feelings of craziness are among women of the "almost engaged" variety, and honestly, how sad it is.  Women should be able to take control of this area of their lives, regardless of what tradition states is appropriate or inappropriate, instead of waiting on their boyfriends to get around to it.  I hope a new tradition of a person of any gender proposing in a relationship will begin.  And I applaud not only all of the women who have taken the initiative and proposed to their significant others, but also all of the men happily willing to accept those proposals as reality, and all of the loved ones who honored the commitment and rejoiced in the couple's happiness.

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