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Friday, June 18, 2004

Brides and Bridezillas

I'm going to a wedding this weekend, which is not unusual, considering that at my age everyone around me is newlywed, getting married soon or being asked constantly when they're getting married. It promises to be a lot fun, since these two are fun and laid-back types. But then again, the vast majority of the weddings I go to are cool and laid-back. Apparently, my experience with that is unusual, if the recent coinage of the term "Bridezilla" is any indication.
In Salon today, there's an article about a woman who feels that she was portrayed unfairly in a recent documentary about the periodically phenomenon. It sounds like she has a point, that they took a couple of really ordinary incidents and blew them out of proportion. God knows that when huge life changes are upon a person, she is most likely to express her stress by bitching about the details. I'm in the middle of buying a house and instead of expressing my ordinary fears about what it means to make this commitment to my relationship and to real estate, I just bitch about having to fax a gazillion documents. That doesn't make me a Housezilla and no one around me would suggest that I'm acting badly, just occasionally a little grumpy.
So, taking that into consideration and taking my experiences with my friends' weddings into consideration, I am inclined to think that the Bridezilla thing is just another ugly female stereotype. Marry the stereotype of women's shallow materialism with the stereotype of the hysterical woman who cannot handle even the most basic stress levels and you have a great new negative stereotype of the Bridezilla.
But.....My experience is probably not indicative of the larger picture by any stretch. I live in an insulated world that has been formed by modernism and feminism in a way that most of America probably hasn't. It raises eyebrows in my tiny little subculture if a woman does take her husband's name. But in the rest of the country, keeping your name raises eyebrows and gets the gossip mill cranked up as well. Here, eschewing overt materialism is the standard, and having big, lavish weddings would probably be considered tacky. Hell, I tend to be of the opinion that having attendants is just outlandish, and I know I'm not the only one. Of all the married couples that my boyfriend and I socialize with, I can only think of one that I know of that had attendants.
I have attended plenty of weddings outside of my insular circle of friends and outside of Austin, of course. And I've been to plenty that were HUGE with people and flowers and all sorts of stuff everywhere and the bride decked out in a big poofy white dress and just pure insanity. It amazes me and I can see how organizing some of these weddings might drive somebody insane. And I've heard the stories about meddling mothers and in-laws. Everyone has heard these stories and I just can't imagine why anyone would willfully decide to have a big wedding after hearing all of this. This Salon story hints at why someone might still take it on knowing that it will be a nightmare:

And yet ... this is the kind of behavior that the media encourages by pumping pages and airwaves full of bridal industry hot air, fostering the national obsession with the price tags and accoutrements of marriage. So it seems a low blow to record the resulting fits about inadequacy and brand the women throwing them as fire-breathing reptiles.

It's just a paragraph, but it's really the meat of the story. There is a lot of money put forward to convince women that having a huge wedding is essential, that your very femininity is on the line, that you will miss out on an essential part of womanhood if you skip the giant wedding. It's a wonder anyone wiggles out of the snare at all.
It's not just a low blow to set up a stereotype of the Bridezilla and then attack her. It's scape-goating. We project our collective anxieties about how materialism has polluted our romantic and family lives onto these brides. It is ridiculous that someone spends thousands of dollars on a wedding when they could better use that money to buy a house or set up a nest egg, but it's indicative of a society that has run up billions of dollars of credit card debt and most of it spent on crap.
All in all, I think the best way to deal with the whole wedding industry is to reject it, though I know my opinion is one that's not likely to gain much of a foothold in the larger society. I am heartened, though. While the cost of weddings seems to be escalating, there are plenty of women who are washing their hands of the entire thing, rejecting the notion that it's just not a wedding without the dress or the bridesmaids or the flowers or any of the other things that cause you to just hemorrhage cash.

43 Comments:

Blogger Elayne said...

Well spotted, Amanda! I'd never considered the word to be a sexist put-down, just more stupid reality-TV jargon, but what you say makes a lot of sense. I've never heard any talk of "Groomzillas!"

6/18/2004

 
Blogger Eric V said...

Well , it's hard to be a Groomzilla when all that is expected of you is to show up , wear a nice rented tux, and try not to drink yourself into impotence or start hitting on the bridesmaids.

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