Women, Weddings, and WTF?

When I was ten years old, The Detroit News announced at my elementary school that it was holding a meeting for kids who were interested in becoming newspaper carriers. When I attended the meeting, I was very promptly told to leave, because I was a girl, and girls were not allowed to deliver newspapers.

The year was 1965, and that was the world I grew up in: a world where girls and women were not given opportunities and choices. We did what we were told we were allowed to do, and didn’t do what we were told we could not. Several years after this incident, when I was in junior high school, I was almost forced by my mother to take a typing class, because she told me that I needed to have a skill that would allow me to support myself. Although women were encouraged to become teachers and nurses, secretarial work was a sure-fire way for women to work if necessary, and my mother knew and accepted that.

I tried to raise my daughters differently, and to help them understand and accept that they could have, and should demand, a different world. So when my oldest daughter got engaged, my reaction was

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Yes, this picture is me at her April wedding, telling the story of why I was so dismayed when she got engaged. Dismayed because I felt that marriage was a betrayal of all of the things I had worked to change, and a dismissal of all the opportunities she had that I didn’t have.

So when Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, told the graduating class of Barnard College last month that her generation of women “blew it”, and that equality for women was now on their shoulders, I totally understood. It was the same reaction, more elegantly stated, that I had to my daughter’s engagement. I felt that women’s equality was her burden, and the burden of her fellow Gen-Y-ers, and that marriage was an obstacle, not an assistive device.

I am hoping for the day that she and other Millennials prove me wrong, because they are going to do exactly what Sheryl Sandberg told them to: they are going to lean in. Their husbands or significant others are going to help, so I don’t have to hold up a sign that says WTF? at anymore weddings.


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6 thoughts on “Women, Weddings, and WTF?”

  1. Joan’s daughter here. I was thinking about how to respond to this essay, but luckily I re-read Sandberg’s speech and she responded for me.

    “So it’s a bit counterintuitive, but the most important career decision you’re going to make is whether or not you have a life partner and who that partner is. If you pick someone who’s willing to share the burdens and the joys of your personal life, you’re going to go further.”

    Marriage is no longer the only option women have, nor does being a wife necessarily mean abandoning your career to run a household and raise a family. But thanks to generations of strife and sacrifice, it is a choice that women can make if they feel it is right. And for me, marrying someone who challenges and supports me on a daily basis to be stronger, smarter, more ambitious, and less afraid of my own successes and failures, that choice was a no-brainer.

  2. I told you that her words were more elegant than mine. Much more. Your quote was the point I was trying to convey in the very last paragraph. Thanks for making sure that message was a larger part of this, too.

  3. As always, you remain a “hero” to me.
    It is better to have a partner that is a reliable “wingman” that to have one of any other type.
    However,I believe it remains true, that behind every man, there are strong, reliable women . . . Likewise, behind every woman there are strong, reliable men.
    The trick is to keep those relationships reasonably transparent and emotionally “debt free”.
    I think that’s what I have learned.

  4. Thanks for your kind words and for reading, Sam. I will tell everyone that you are a Baby Boomer man, so your comments are welcome, but not necessarily indicative of the behavior of men of your generation. Yes, a crass generalization – but my experience tells me I might not be far off the mark. Hugs.

  5. You can still hold up a “WTF” sign at weddings — it will just mean “Where’s The Food?”.

    As a certified won’t-admit-he’s-sort-of-old coot, I am thrilled with the generation(s) coming behind me. I see young men and women who have choices and make the most of them. Married? Sure. Stay single? Sure. Live together? Sure. Kids? Yes/No — it’s all good. The big barometer for me is how the 20-something crowd does not see same sex marriage as an “issue” and can’t figure out why it is not legal already.

    Now, if everyone will choose not to text at the movies, I will be a happy fellow.

  6. Skip, I am SO with you on the movie texting thing. My second daughter complains about that more bitterly than I do, too.

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