Weddings, for as much as they are about brides and grooms, are about mothers and daughters.
As daughters we become locked in a power struggle with our mothers. I don’t mean over the band or the color of the tablecloths; I mean that we are suddenly asked to find a new balance in our relationship.
I knew when I got engaged that it would be a transition period in which my relationship with my mothers would be forced to change, to adapt. But like Carrie on “Sex in the City,” I couldn’t help but wonder: Where do are relationships end up at the end of all the planning, appointment-making and re-negotiating?
I asked a few girlfriends.
“I think the biggest thing is that during the wedding planning, and the actual wedding, was the first time I ever felt like my mother saw me as an adult woman and not a little girl,” my friend Ilana Goldberg, of Margate, said. This was said over and over again.
My future sister-in-law pointed me to an article in Tablet Magazine written by a woman who openly admits she did *not* see her 20-year-old daughter as an adult — but she learned to. I think I was the same way with my sister — pretty protective and kind of unfair — when she married at 21.
But about us older brides?
My FSIL married just at the end of grad school. “I'd been used to thinking of myself as an independent person (paying rent, making decisions, etc.), while my mom still thought of me as her baby in some ways,” she said. “In some ways, I think the shift in our relationship was her acknowledging how grown-up I was.”
My mom said, for her, it was odd, too. She knew I was fine, but until your daughter is married, you worry. You don’t mean to; you just do.
Perhaps its’s a societal thing, she said, that even if your daughter is self-sufficient — as I was before I met Joel — that it’s hard to see them as adults until they are married.
I wonder if it’s moms just wanting *someone* to take care of your kid — I know mothers of sons who worry, too.
But what surprised me was that in this whole process I started seeing myself as an adult.
I have realized that I’m competent. I don’t mean professionally competent. I mean life competent. I know that sounds stupid — but I’m used to being that kind of single-girl mess. You know: Her hair has all these wisps, she can never find her keys but she has cute clothes and a nice smile, so somehow it works. I guess it was nice to know if I wasn’t cruising on cute that I could get up early, make an appointment, manage vendors, herd bridesmaids, hold down a job and pay a mortgage.
OK, Joel helps — but that’s the point, isn’t it? Joel makes me an adult in the way neither gasoline nor a match is a fire — but together! Oh, man.
By being tested, I feel live I have somehow passed.
* * *
“It’s funny,” I said to reader Charlotte Dodds, of Linwood. “We’re about to do something so adult by getting married and we go running, screaming, ‘Mommy, help.’”
Charlotte laughed. She had, after all, planned her daughter’s wedding in little over two months: Her daughter got engaged Aug. 26, 2004, and married Nov. 2. It was an issue of practicality, Charlotte said. Her daughter was marrying a minister and if they didn’t get married before Christmas, they would have had to wait until after Easter. Better sooner than later, they figured.
Charlotte planned most of it.
She quickly called United Central Methodist Church and the Mays Landing Country Club — amazingly, they both had openings.
“If it’s meant to be, it’ll happen,” one of Charlotte’s friends chimed in at their church bazaar.
And it’s true — people pull off amazing feats to marry each other.
When my grandfather (a member of the U.S. Army) met my grandmother (a 16-year-old Japanese girl) it was illegal for him to marry her, but they managed. During slavery, African Americans were not allowed to marry — a cruel way to reinforce notions that slaves were not human — but couples did it anyway, solidifying the custom of jumping the broom, a way to marry anyway.
So cheers to love overcoming all (with the help of our mothers)!!!
* * *
Estelle Vester, “a bubbie-aged person” from Egg Harbor Township, wrote me with some wonderful advice and marriage blessings.
“My personal advise: 1. Always keep a sense of humor, 2. Respect each others' words and space, 3. Compromise, but not to the point of being stepped on, 4. Remain independent yet compatible,” she wrote.
She then wished me and Joel much “mazel,” which translates into “luck,” as in good luck or “mazel tov.”
Mazel tov to you and your family, Estelle. Thank you for your beautiful words!
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