You Are Cordially Invited

In Committed, Elizabeth Gilbert shared how important having a wedding ceremony was to both her friends and family—particularly to Mimi, her niece. Mimi had a difficult time being told that she now had a new uncle without experiencing it for herself. She needed to witness this new “uncle’s” right of passage from a friend of her Aunt Elizabeth’s to an actual family member.

While weddings will always be significant to the couple they’re often even more operative for the community. The ceremony is what allows the community to process and accept the other person as the newest member of the family.

We’ve all felt it at some point or another, when we go to a wedding and we suddenly feel connected to this greater good that is happening before us. You find yourself not just happy for the bride and groom, but really rooting for them. When before, you barely even knew the soon-to-be spouse; now, you’ve chatted it up with grandma, cried during his dad’s toast and made out with the best man. Somewhere between the sober applause at the church and the slurring of “bye, bye Miss American Pie” while swaying arm in arm with every friend and family member at the wedding; you gave them your blessing.

Historically, the relationship between marriage and community has been equally beneficial. In Committed, Gilbert writes about a conversation she had with a woman named Ting. Ting was from Luang Probang, a city in Laos. She said marriages in her village last forever and divorce was very rare. Gilbert asked what happens then when a couple is struggling. Ting explained that the community pulls together to help the marriage. “Neighbors will toss out ideas and solutions, or even offer relief—such as taking in young children for a week or two while the couple works out their troubles without distractions.”

Perhaps I don’t need my family sitting around throwing out possible solutions to my relationship problems. I can only imagine how well that would go. However, if ever there were a time when it was okay to admit when you were having trouble in your marriage, today would be the antithesis. Most of the time when you hear a marriage is on the rocks, it’s because the couple is getting a divorce. Why do we let our family and friends witness our love on our wedding day, if we hide from them our pain?

Somewhere along the way, community lost its purpose. I think there seems to be a social stigma where talking about our relationship problems has been labled as “airing your dirty laundry”. Are we airing our dirty laundry when we seek emotional support from the closest people in our life? Isn’t that why we choose the friends we have to be a part of our inner circle, or why we have a wedding party?

Today, however, it seems we are less inclined to include our friends and family in our marriage, as we are to include them in our wedding. We continue to have weddings where we invite our loved ones to partake in this traditional ritual, all the while keeping them at bay when the real journey begins; forgetting the tradition of our community, the support of our family and the love of our friends. Even after all the rooting, the dancing and the tears. Even after we get their blessing.

It seems we have created a “reality” within our communities where only happiness is allowed to exist and struggle has been replaced with shame. How can marriage survive today if we only see each other’s marriages as bliss?

Buddha says, “life, by its nature, is difficult, flawed, and imperfect.” Perhaps we would have a lower divorce rate if it were okay to say, “we’re in a tough spot right now” without feeling like we have exposed our marriage to be judged by our friends or even worse that we might look less than perfect.

…and the community gathers around them to hear and to wish them well, on their behalf and its own. It gathers around them because it understands how necessary, how joyful, and how fearful this joining is…And so here, at the very heart of community life, we find not something to sell as in the public market but this momentous giving. If the community cannot protect this giving, it can protect nothing.
Wendell Berry, Sex, Economy, Freedom, and Community


Elvis Rocks Around the Clock: 12/12/12

elvis rocks around the clock

Today, people from all over the world; England, Australia, Sweden, Canada, Brazil even Luxemburg and the Netherlands are flocking to Las Vegas to be able to say, they got married  on 12/12/12. According to an article from the New York Times, 80 of the town’s chapels are preparing for an expected high volume of weddings. The Marriage License Bureau is going from five to nine windows and has staff working overtime. Chapels and venues have so far booked up to 15 times the usual amount for a Wednesday.

Thus far, the record breaking triple digit wedding day has been 07/07/07. For the four days leading up to it, Vegas issued 4,333 licenses, followed by 10/10/10, with 3,090 and 11/11/11, with 3,342. For an average month the total is around 7,500.

The next triple date to occur is in 89 years: 01/01/2101.

Normally, my advice to people when they head to vegas is, “play the odds.” However, this seems irrelevant, so instead I’ll go with an oldie but goodie,        “may the force be with you.”


Another Rush…

Chi Omega Sorority Class of 1908.  Sororities have evolved since then.

Together, Mike and I have been to fifteen weddings.  Now that Mike is 35-years-old, his single friends are dwindling. Everyone suspected he would be the first to get married. Among several circles of friends, we would be the last.

With each wedding comes more and more people asking when it is going to be our turn. Trying to match their excitement, my response is, “we’ll see” with a forced smile and a shoulder shrug. It’s inevitably awkward.  If I try and explain that I’m not sure I’m ready or that I just don’t know if the institution is for me, it’s not received well. Especially, in a wedding ceremony setting. I don’t want to sound negative, but it seems it’s the easiest category for married people to put me in.

Being at a wedding with the majority of the people married, feels like an upper class recruiting event. Maybe it’s the country club feel of the ceremony, but it seems as though it’s just a ploy to get the next couple to join.

It reminds me of when I was a freshman in college and all the girls were deciding whether or not to join a sorority. One of them approached me in the most friendly manner asking what I thought about rushing. I mistakenly responded honestly because I thought she sincerely wanted to know. As I confided in my new friend, her face began to change. I wanted to retract, but it was too late, I said the wrong answer.

It went something like this…

“So, how do you feel about rushing a sorority? Have you given it any thought yet? I really like your shirt!” Says girl who seems like she wants to be my friend. “Well, kind of. I mean, I don’t have any friends. But there are all these rules to follow and I just moved out of my parents to finally not have any rules. And I don’t want to exclude anyone because they aren’t in my sorority. Ya know? I don’t want to be categorized.” Potential friend is starring at me with a confused look. “Oh, okay.” Potential friend drops any interest in me and walks away. (I continue to wear same shirt every day to attract new “potential friend”. I’m wearing it now.)

It seems to be a similar situation when people ask me, “Are you two next?” It’s a simple question. They have good intentions, perhaps just to have a conversation, but I’ve realized not joining in on the romance or the ideology of marriage seems to make people uncomfortable. So, instead, I have to pretend I’m just as excited about it as they are in order not to offend them by once again, giving the wrong answer. Because, the thing is, it’s not just a question with a “yes” or “no” response, it’s a loaded question that has a whole belief system, a way of life, behind it and by not choosing that same way is not choosing them. When really it has nothing to do with them, I actually think they’re lovely. I was just answering the question.

Marriage is a great institution, but I’m not ready for an institution. ~Mae West

Can we be frexes?

In the Huffington Post today, is an article titled, Of Course Exes are Allowed at the Wedding. Jade Walker writes that she is not only friends with her past ex-boyfriends, she had one as a witness at her wedding. Her reasoning being that she once enjoyed this person for who he was as a person and just because the romance died doesn’t mean the friendship has to. “The reason is simple: If I’ve spent months or years loving someone, I see no good reason to throw away a prized friendship just because our romance fizzled.”

I used to be like Walker. I’ve had two serious boyfriends in the past. I told each of them at the at the time we were dating, he was invited to my wedding and to my funeral. There’s so much intimacy shared in just the friendship aspect of a relationship, it made sense to have this person be part of these significant stages in my life. In a way, they helped me achieve the “significance” by contributing directly or indirectly to who I am.

Unfortunately, as I’ve grown and changed, I don’t think it’s as cut and dry anymore.

Walker says she has a clear understanding between someone in the “friend-zone” and someone in the “dating-zone”. She says some people blend the two, but because she never has, she is able to continue the friendships of her past lovers as they are now in the “friend-zone”.

I wish it were that simple but I’d like to think I’m ‘the one who got away’. Even if this were in no way shape or form to being close to the truth. It’s my truth. Which means, there’s no way an authentic friendship could be maintained.

Walker says, “I’ve been able to create a unique and wonderful circle of friends, many of whom just happen to have seen me naked at one point in time.”

It’s not so much for me that they just happen to see me naked, it’s the fact that we most likely had unremitting, sometimes awkward, sometimes mind-blowing, sex. And we will never do it again. I could see it now, sitting across from each other with our new “significant others” enjoying a nice spaghetti dinner pretending we never bawled our eyes out if front of each other, or spent days at a time in the bedroom only to come up for air and a quick bite to eat. “Kari, could you pass me the salt?” says ex-boyfriend.  “Oh, the salt? Like the salt you poured on my wound when we were drunk and you were mean to me in front of your friends and made me cry myself to sleep? That salt?” I’d say. And then I’d just smile and say “only kidding” and everyone would laugh.

Or, perhaps we could all four go to a movie, and if there’s a sex scene, we could take turns between picturing each other and picturing our present partners.  Then, maybe we’d remember the time we decided to take naked pictures of each other. Would it be rude to ask if he still has them? Maybe I’ll wait ’til the movie is over when we are all sharing a nice banana split. It will be when I’m eating the banana. Mike won’t mind, he knows ex-boyfriend is now in my “friend-zone”.

And just for kicks, let’s just say Mike didn’t care that I was friends with my exes. There’s no way their wives would be hunky dory with their husbands palling around with his shockingly stunning, perfectly shaped ass, non-saggy boobed, ex-girlfriend who isn’t married…okay, maybe I went a little overboard, but the last two are 100% true. (My boobs aren’t saggy, but that’s another post yet to be written: Kari Laskowski, the Late Bloomer.)

Walker ends her article with a list of questions to ask your partner. She claims if you had trust between you and your partner, being friends with your ex wouldn’t  be a problem.

If you agree with her or not, they are still questions worth asking. Perhaps, if only to strengthen your relationship.

Here are her questions:

Do you trust your mate to never stray?

Do you trust yourself?

Have you discussed your sexual pasts and preferences openly and honestly?

Are you upset that your mate has had other lovers despite the fact that you knew he/she wasn’t a virgin when you met?

Have you made peace with your past, or do you dwell in “what might have been”? Has your mate?

Are you an unforgiving person or more open-hearted and open-minded?

I guess what makes this difficult for me is what I loved most about the men in my past was how they made me feel. They held me in a special place- which is where Mike holds me now. So, I’m good wishing them the best and making room for new friends who can compliment my life without complicating it.

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