Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Happiest Day of Your Life

Today, I was talking to a very good friend of mine who is about to give birth any day now. She told me that she had gotten a super cute hair cut today and she joked that she was now well prepared for the baby to arrive. The baby should try and be born tonight because her hair would look hot.

"That's important," I remarked. "Got to look good for the post-birth pics."

We continued in this vein until I suggested that she might want to get a Brazilian bikini wax for the big day.

Shockingly, she did not think that was a good idea.

"Come on!" I insisted. "Where's your commitment to looking good on THE MOST IMPORTANT DAY OF YOUR LIFE?"

And that's when I realized why the day your first child is born isn't the most important day of your life. It can't be. Because come on. There's a whole industry around looking good for this MOST IMPORTANT DAY, and even as masochistic as we women can be, most of us aren't going to agree to some waxing at 39 weeks.


I've always idly wondered why people say in the same breath that "You don't know love until you know what it is to love your child," (something that has always bugged the crap out of me, btw) and that your wedding is the most important day of your life. Wouldn't the day your love escalated to this whole higher plane of being, wouldn't that be the most important day of your life? I'm not saying weddings can't be transformational; I believe they can be. But I also know for some people their wedding was not a transformational experience. On the other hand, I have never heard anyone say that having a child didn't completely change their lives.

But my joking conversation with my friend reminded me why there's this cognitive dissonance, why there must be this cognitive dissonance if we want to get all sinister about it. Of course your wedding has to be the most important, the happiest, the best day of your life. Because it's just SO much easier to sell beauty treatments to a bride than a lady who's nine months pregnant.

Up until this conversation with my friend, I hadn't given much thought to the wedding being the happiest day of my life. Maybe it's weird, maybe it's normal, but most of my focus since I'd gotten engaged has been on two things:

1) My marriage and my family and my future life
2) The practical planning of a wedding

And I've found that the wedding day itself has sort of fallen into one or the other or both of those categories. For example, the ceremony, which is a combined intercultural ceremony, is in some ways a practical planning issue AND it's a reflection of what we want our marriage and future life to look like. It's a ceremony that combines a whole slew of traditions from our two cultures because that's what I want from my life. On the other hand, picking a photographer was more about the practical planning of a wedding. For those things I just wear my theatre producer hat. I want to do research, think about it, make a decision, and move on to the next task at hand.

So, honestly, I haven't been thinking too much about the wedding as this ethereal, transformative experience. I have never contemplated it's importance as a day, nor have I thought about how to make it the "happiest day of my life." I haven't pondered the significance of the day really. I guess I figure that the day will arrive and I'll ... wing it?

But the conversation with my friend had me thinking about it. Thinking about the happiest days of my life and whether my wedding would be one of them.

And I realized something.

First of all, up until now, I wouldn't say that any major "milestone event" days have been among the happiest days in my life. My high school graduation? A vague memory of sitting through some boring speeches. Ditto for college graduation. And it's not that I don't appreciate the weight of those accomplishments, but the days themselves? Meh.

Birthdays? I've had a couple really, really good ones. My friends and I still talk about my 21st birthday, four of us at a fancy restaurant in Chicago, my friend Honda stealing sips of wine out of Miss V's glass because she was still underage. By and large, my birthdays have been been happy days, but not especially so. Not memorably so.

I will definitely say that one of the best days of my life was a night in New York when an enormous group of us crowded into a Chinese restaurant where we were given a private room with a Karaoke machine. I know I can't convey the full magic of "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep Night" but you know it was magical because everyone there that night will say it was.

And that's when I start to realize the utter hopelessness of the project. How can I compare something like a graduation to a night at a Chinese restaurant? And how could I compare either to the many happy days I've had traveling? How would it compare to the happiness I felt on the day the last Harry Potter book came out? Or those first few dates with my fiance where everything seemed possible but nothing certain?

Now, you might be thinking, this is ridiculous. Surely your WEDDING DAY is a happier day than the day you read a children's book, albeit a best-selling children's book. And I will respond:

Is it?

I mean I don't know. My wedding is in the future, so I don't know. Maybe it will feel like a higher plane of happiness, one that I previously couldn't even conceptualize, that I didn't even realize existed.

But I suspect not.

I think my wedding day will be fucking awesome. I will be marrying the person I love and I will be doing it in front of my community of friends and family and also there will be cake and booze. I am pretty sure it will be a happy day.

But will it be my happiest day? Meh.

I'd like to think that there are different kinds of happiness, just as there are different kinds of love. Lots of things make me happy: reading a book, traveling, gossiping with close friends, sleeping, doing a really good job at work, etc, etc, etc. But I don't get the same KIND of happiness reading a book as I do drinking wine with friends. One isn't better than the other; they're just different.

I submit to you that this need we people have to quantify and organize our lives ... it's just crap. Do I love my fiance better than anyone else? No, probably not. But I do love him differently than anyone else, and I think that's what matters.

I can't tell you my favorite book, nor my favorite color, nor what I like to eat most of all. I can't say that I would prefer drinking wine with friends to reading a good book, nor can I say the reverse.

And I can't tell you what the happiest day of my life is. I can't even tell you the top ten.

I submit to you that we should stop thinking of our wedding as the happiest day of our lives. But we also shouldn't feel pressed to find another day that was happier. We just shouldn't worry about quantifying our days in such a manner. Instead of quantifying our past and future, maybe we just need to enjoy the present.

And that is my fortune cookie way of saying that I don't give a shit if my wedding isn't the happiest day of my life. As long as I actually end up MARRIED to my fiance it'll be happy enough for me.

9 comments:

Amelie said...

If the wedding day were the happiest of all, it would only go downhill from then on... so no. But fucking awesome sounds good, I certainly think mine was :)

And, just because you mentioned it, some women who are getting a C-section actually do the whole bikini wax thing beforehand. Because you have to get those hairs out of the way...

EcoGeoFemme said...

Great post! I'm really loving your thoughts on weddings.

I think back when women got married young and moved straight from the parents' house to a home with the husband, perhaps this sentiment rang more true. It would have been a much bigger shift than the changes that come with marriage for people like us (older, independent). I think it used to be a coming of age, whereas for me it's more of a financial and emotional thing.

I agree that there's not much to it for me other than a fantastic party where we celebrate our commitment with those we love most. It's more about community building than a day of personal importance.

Satchel and Tea said...

I got married 15 years ago, and it was definitely one of the best days of my life. But that wasn't because the rest of my life was downhill or anything. There have been plenty of other great days. But I love that my wedding day was one of them.

What made it so great for all of us was how relaxed Greg and I were, how once the day started we just HAD FUN. If something happened (like the ushers couldn't get the candles lit), we just laughed it off. Years later people would tell us that it was one of the most fun weddings they went to because it was so clear how much fun Greg and I were having.

So no, I don't think that your wedding day has to be the best day of your whole life. But it's sweet to me that mine is right up there on my list. And it taught me a big lesson that I've carried with me since; just go with it. Just have fun. Plan all you can, be as anal as you want before the big event (whatever that event might be), but when it all starts to roll, just climb on board, let go, and have a ball.

Jennie said...

I wish I had a wax before giving birth just because its hard to find time to shave once the baby is here.
Also, I agree with what you said about happiness but I must say that I was married 7 years ago and it was one of my happiest days. I'll likely never throw a party that big again. It was great having all my favorite people in the same place.

Alex said...

My wedding day was really great and we made sure that we included all the stuff that we liked to make it special for us, on our terms, not what everyone else says defines a 'good wedding'.

That said, I think in western society there is way too much focus on the wedding and not enough on the 20 to 80 years that follow. Some people seem to totally forget about actually building a relationship that will last that long because they are so focussed on getting the bridesmaids dresses to match the groomsmen's ties :-(

Our wedding was fairly budget but it was exactly what I wanted. Spending too much money would have made it too stressful for me and it wouldn't have been enjoyable at all.

Have a great day! But there will more to come in the future too! Having my kids was way more overwhelming and irreversible than getting married! I was happy when they were born, but I am happier now when I watch them run around together or hear my daughter tell me her funny stories.

I don#t know what point I'm trying to make - maybe you don't know how happy you are until afterward? or that the happiness is imbued afterward, retrospectively once the full meaning has become apparent.

Cath@VWXYNot? said...

What Jennie said: when you have lots of different groups of friends, and half of them are scattered all over the world, bringing them all together in one place on one day is a recipe for the best party ever! The only downside was that we had to be the first ones to leave!

Jenn said...

If your wedding day or the birth of your first child are the runners up for "Happiest Day" - then I am doomed to never have one and I might as well kill myself. Seriously, right?

Afterall - when most of my heterosexual or homosexual friends pairbond and proceed toward marriage - they pretty much dump me as a friend since I don't seem to be apparently upholding their values (ie, marriage). Even worse once they have kids - I have had people actually tell me (in writing even) that they don't hang out with me because they are interested in hanging out with stable couples as friends, people who share their values about marriage & family.

Being a fat middle aged spinster does have its drawbacks.

So - what counts as 'happiest day' for me? Personally, I never had the idea that there would be one that I had to build up to and to look forward to enjoying. I try to live my life as happily as I can.

I don't want children (never have) and I don't need a "life" partner. Apparently friends who believe both of those things weren't ever really my friends and like Amelie says - if it all goes down hill after your "big day" - what fun is that?

I always figured that if I got married, I wanted to do it like my maternal grandparents, Depression Style. My grandmother wore a dress her sister made, they went to the Justice of the Peace, my granddad's employer chauffeured them in his Model-A Ford, and folks gathered at my great grandmother's house for punch and cake. No renting of venues, crazy meal planning, flowers, over the top dresses. It's a milestone but it's not one that you should be paying for the rest of your marriage (financially speaking).

Anyhoo - sorry I haven't been keeping up with blog land - congrats on the engagement & lowering cholesterol! Anytime you want to come over for tea, I have 12 linear feet of cookbooks (mostly vegan) and we can talk recipes. Also found you on Twitter... :)

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