When Fi and were first engaged, the wife of one of Fi's college buddies- a woman I barely know- gave me a book. She said it changed her engagement process and hoped it would help me. This was May 2007. I read it, poked a round and appreciated it. Now, a mere 23 days until the wedding, I read it every chance I get.
The Conscious Bride: Women Unveil Their True Feelings About Getting Hitched
by Sheryl Paul
It is not the best written book in the world, but it speaks to me. Ms Paul breaks the book into 7 chapters that starts with the experience of engagement through the first year of marriage.
Ms Paul goes into great depth in the first couple chapters about how getting married is a right of passage but for some reason our culture lets brides (and grooms) go it alone. Historically, ones right of passage brought a community together. Think of such passages in your own life: baptism, graduations, etc. People came together. Well they do come together for a wedding to, but what Ms. Paul says is that the actual engagement period is a right of passage within itself.
What the book really does well is discuss the dark side of getting married. About how I am changing (like every bride before me) and how beautiful as that is, it is also painful and sad. I am aware now that one of the reasons I am not changing my name, is that it is my way of saying "yeah, so I'm in this union, but don't forget about me!". Some of you commented that changing your name was important to you- because you wanted that union, that association with your husband, rather than your parents. I get that totally, but I guess part of me isn't ready to let go of my parents...or perhaps I fear I may lose myself.
This book has really put a spotlight on this emotional rollercoaster I've been on, and helps me cope with these feelings. There middle chapters are dedicated to the separations (real or imagined, actual or metaphorical) that one goes through during this process. Ms Paul examines family, friends, fiance and self.
The first read through, I struggled with Ms Paul's' approach to marriage and her explanations. She is married and often talks bluntly about cutting ties with your parents and family. I scoffed. I'm not cutting ties, I'm building new ties with Fi's family. But the closer I get, the more I realize that it's not just me cutting these "ties" with my parents, it is society. And essentially I am. In less than a month I will forever be associated, tied to my husband first, before my parents.
A wonderful couple chapters "The Quest for Perfection" and "Has Everyone gone Mad?" have been therapeutic to read and re-read. In the "Quest" Ms Paul examines brides who strove for the perfect wedding only to fail, sometimes so drastically their marriages fell apart too. However, the tails of woe aren't shared in a Lifetime TV movie of the week, but rather for me as cautionary tales.
I particularly enjoyed "Mad" and have recently photocopied the appropriate pages and mailed them to my Mom and Dad. Again, using real bridal anecdotes I read about fathers who waited till right before walking their daughter's down the aisle to express sorrow and loss. So, I have tried during phone calls and emails to talk to my dad about the shift between us. He often says our relationship adapted when I moved 1000 miles away, we'll be fine,or he changes the topic to football. But my mom has let it slip that my dad has cried and he is emotional about the wedding. "Mad" also discusses blow-ups with mothers, siblings, friends, Fis, really everyone around us. I see in myself the need to push people away right now. To be alone, to be ME.
The final chapter discusses the newlywed stage and how the roles our mothers and grandmothers played are not our roles today. This is written quickly, but with enough advice for someone that if you hadn't divided the labor within your home, you could effectively. Surprisingly though, the women Ms Paul interviews for this section all admit to needing to nest and take care of their new husbands, even if they had lived together for years.
This book has at the very least provided me with some insight and at the most been like a bible to me. I find great comfort in this book. It has provided me the opportunity to stop thinking of escort cards and start thinking about what this wedding is really- a rite of passage. That this is another phase of my life.
Fi and I are solid, you know? And perhaps I am still being ignorant when I see our transition into married life as smooth and easy. I do know that it will be easier because of the work, the thinking and understanding I have gained from reading this book.