Happily Ever After?
From a very early age, it is instilled in us ladies that the most important day in our lives is the day we get married. We are taught that everything that leads up to this is relatively meaningless until this single, perfect day, when everything is about the bride. The burden to both be and appear perfect, and for the wedding to, as well, because it reflects so much upon her, is enormous.
So, of course someone is going to be stressed out if there is a day coming up when she is not only going to be the center of attention for the whole day but that she has these insanely high, Disney-like expectations for this one particular day in her life.
Part of this idea is rooted in the deeply patriarchal and old-fashioned belief that women will always be most useful and acceptable as wives and mothers. Even though we don’t live in a time when most women can stay at home with the children that they are expected to have; still, there’s this perception that their jobs are less important than their husbands and that it’s a shame the women have to go out into the workplace and dirty their hands.
Romantic comedies end either when a couple gets together or when they get married, not after the first argument they have over who is going to do the dishes. After the final joke and kiss, the credits roll, romantic perfection encapsulated in 90 minutes. Of course, we all know that these movies don’t remotely reflect reality. They’re distractions from our real-life problems. Nevertheless, we absorb so much of what we see. No matter how intelligent or wise we think we are, it is impossible not to internalize at least some of the ideas and expectations that repeatedly bombard us on a daily basis.
Men have certain unfair expectations held of them, too–most of which are hinged on the idea of ambition and financial success. This isn’t right, either. Men are more than their bank account balances, more than their job title, more than their capacity to earn. However, the stress on men to succeed as breadwinner and perform their best at work is incrementally gratifying. Moving up in a company is often described as “climbing the ladder.” It’s not as if there is a target hit, and after that, the most important thing that has ever happened to you already happened, likely, at a fairly young age.
After a woman gets married, the next milestones she has to look forward to are being a mother, which she may not even want, and then being a grandmother, something she has minimal control over.