Monday, September 28, 2009

UPDATE: Relational.

A woman I work with, Mother of Big Star and Little Star, said about planning her wedding that she reached a point when she looked at her mother and said to her, "Planning this wedding is ruining my relationship with you. I don't want the cost of having the wedding to be my relationship with my mother." This naturally produced a flood of tears and a shedding of baggage from both women, and they were able to plan an absolutely enormous wedding--that looked tremendously fun, judging from all the enormous photos in her home--and do so with their mother-daughter bond intact. I recall this story and I sigh. Heavily. I fear that perhaps my own mother-daughter bond was too far broken before all this palaver started, and that there is frankly no place for it to go but down the pipes.

Next chapter: as I have stuck to my guns about not inviting all of my family, my parents have posited that they will choose to cut the financial aid that they planned for us in order to sponsor a party of their own. The barbecue idea went over like a lead... anvil. So, if I really do choose not to invite my family to my wedding, they will cut their money in half.
Which, without any shifting or stretching or finagling from the home team, cuts our budget by a third.

Okay, so this isn't really about the money: a bit perhaps, but not completely. People get married all over the world, and all over this heinously expensive city, for less than 20k. (A few of you have done it, haven't you, dear Reader?) It'll take some work, and cause me/us more stress than either of us wanted, but it's not impossible. Between the crafty, hardworking community who loves us and supports us in this, and the crazy thick network of artists and artisans we know, we can absolutely pull this off, look good doin it, and throw a really wonderful thing. I think.

This is really about feeling absolutely manipulated by my parents. Again. It's not a new song, so there isn't any naive sense of violation, not a whole lot of tears shed in the name of "How could they do this to me?" As long as money has been a useful and relevant fact of my life, my parents have been using it to manipulate me one way or the other: what college I choose; what job I choose; how I invest it; what their monetary gifts get me, and what giving me money gets them. It's not new. One of my best girlfriends is wise to point out that perhaps my parents are just thinking practically and not thinking that they're being hurtful or manipulative, and that if this solution were couched or offered differently, it might be entirely reasonable.

Here is the place where I get stuck. My parents and I have different perceptions of the same problem. I think the problem is that we have to provide a way for my family to celebrate with me the joy of my new marriage. My parents think that they need to shower their siblings with an experience that cost copious amounts of money in order for us to celebrate, and in order for them to feel valued. I am learning that my parents don't really want to provide a forum to for me and mine to celebrate with our family: they want to spend a bunch of money on "their" family, so that they will know that they are valued. (Nevermind the fact that the only fancy family parties I've ever been to have been the ones thrown at the hands of my parents, and that every other family shindig has had casual and fun written all over it. The only "right" way to do this is with overpriced chicken patties and lasagna, and money wasted on things to decorate a nondescript banquet room.) I'm finding it hard to believe that this isn't a response to the kind of distance and independence I'm seeking from my family in planning this wedding. If my folks can't share planning their kind of reception with me, then dammit, they'll plan their own reception.

I have been wrestling, and I mean eight rounds-KY jelly-folding chair to the forehead-Iwillnotletyougountilyoublessme-wrestling, with what happens next. This choice, the choice to pull the rug out from under me and screw my future husband and me just so they can do it the way they want to, it feels like a game changer. I'm frankly a little stunned that my parents don't see it this way--although, this is how they've operated all my life, and it hasn't changed the game thus far. But I'm surprised that I'm the only one thinking about relational consequences in all of this. I don't know how to bounce back from it, and I don't know if I want to. I don't want to put distance between my father and me, but I don't know why I should let him get close to me if this is what happens. I want to pull my mother in on all the Hallmark rituals she's been fantasizing about since I was three, but why would I if she'll just abuse my vulnerability? I might have the skill to feign politeness and civility, but I feel completely disrespected in all of this. How does something like this not have relational repercussions?

I have learned this week that my parents worked really hard at loving me, and that they did with me the best they could. I have also learned that their best kinda sucked, that they fundamentally missed loving me the way I need to be loved. Instead they are loving me the way they need to be loved.

There is a lot for me to grieve in all of this, and I'm doing it. I'm grieving the loss of hope that my parents will ever be able to treat me with the kind of respect that I deserve, and that our relationship will ever be the thing I need it to be. I know, it's a really dark fact, but part of my struggle is my frustration with my parents being people other than whom I want them to be. I'm working really hard at giving that up. I'm grieving the loss of a chunk of money that I needed to help create for my fiance and me the wedding day that we wanted. I'm grieving the Hallmark fantasies I've been having since I was 12 about my parents and their roles in my wedding. I'm grieving the absence of elders in my life who love me with their time and affection, and not with their coin. I'm thinking a good deal about what I'm losing in all of this, and I'm not spending a lot of energy thinking about how to get it back.

But I think I have my eyes locked on the prize. He's sitting at the desk facing the opposite wall in a black t-shirt and sweat pants, reading last week's mail and paging through Ohio State highlights on I am not yet able to say that all of this bullshit will be worth it once we're married, but I am absolutely certain that nothing is going to stand in our way.


A Los Angeles Love said...

Money and weddings and relationships are horridly fragile when all thrown into the mix together. I'm so sorry you're going through this. If possible, I'd try not to be angry at them - they've been manipulating you all your life with money and they probably expect (via patterns) for you to cave now. They probably don't even see it as manipulation, but as standard parent-child interactions.

I've had much the same control issues with family and money. It's only now, that I really have let go of all monetary requests, expectations or hopes, that THEY'RE starting to give freely and without expectation. I don't think they have any clue the ways in which they've used money in the past to control my choices and so it's easier to just try and forgive/forget and focus on the fact that I'm alone here with J than wishing things were different.

And yes, a wedding in a big expensive city for under $20K is possible. And yes, planning said wedding without parental financial assistance is possible. And yes, there are ways to involve your mother within the limitations of your relationship and that still value the ritual of marriage. You can certainly grieve (and should) but try to believe that in the long term rejecting their money will probably have a positive impact on your relationship with them as equals and not as a daughter. It's a nice feeling, even if it took a very painful transition.

Keep your eyes on that prize, and good luck.

Laura said...

Hey Jess..... just wanted to say.... I love you!!!! Sending you big hugs and homemade apple pie with Coconut Bliss on top...

Mrs. How? said...

I am deeply stirred by this issue of money and family, but I don't feel like I can leave an intelligent comment on the matter at present. So all I am going to say now is that I had pretty much the wedding of my dreams in Chi-town for... oh, $600? And though perhaps not everyone is down for that particular style, I humbly offer my skills as a) mistress of discount shit, and b) problem-solver and strategist extraordinaire - in the service of your matrimonial endeavors. Let's shake off the strings of obligation and delight in the new possibilities that this challenge creates!