Over the past 10 months I've grown pretty accustomed to the whole bride-to-be bit. I use a glass painted with engagement rings at wedding functions, flip through wedding magazines in waiting rooms, and fawn over details on the invites and our website. I manage registries and update addresses on guest lists. But there is one aspect of this process, one little part, that I just can't seem to process. I can't get used to the fact that come January 21 at approximately 4:52 p.m., I will go from Fiance to Wife.
Do you remember in college freshman orientation (or camp or sorority meeting or insert-activity-that-requires-annoying-group-bonding-activities-here) when you had to write a bunch of proper nouns all over a piece of paper that described you? Daughter, sister, student, athlete, champion beer pong player . . . you get the idea. After writing a big mess of words you had to cross them off one by one until left with just one word that was, supposedly, your most important identity. The point of the activity was to get down to your core values and reveal who you truly are as a person. That activity was hard enough when I was 18 and hardly had a care in the world besides whether or not the cute boy across the table was looking at me or not. I wonder what would happen if I did that exercise post-wedding. What happens when you throw in a new identity, adding a new title to the mix? What happens to my sheet of paper when the word Wife suddenly sits among the others?
No matter how old I get or how many friends of mine become one, the word Wife (yes, with a capital W) just doesn't sit well with me. It sounds too old, too stuffy, and too frumpy. It conjures images of me holding a rolling pin with an apple pie in the oven while laundry dries on a clothesline outside. I have a screaming baby on my hip while I vacuum the living room in my pearls and heels around the plastic-covered furniture. Stereotype after stereotype, even though I know better, swirl through my mind. And this is the new identity that's supposed to trump the others?
A simple Google search of the term "wife" (I suggest you switch your filter settings to high before attempting this, eek) explains quite a bit. On the first page alone I found the following: "11 Don't-Tell-the-Wife Secrets All Men Keep," "Wife Pranks," "The Secret to Keeping Him Faithful," and a disgustingly large number of articles referencing whether or not ones husband is cheating on them. Really? That's how Wife is perceived? Well, no wonder I have a phobia. And what I recently discovered is that many other women feel the same way. So let's figure this out together, shall we?
And yes, this is was one of the first Google "wife" images. How lovely!
Tim and I have been working to reconcile my relationship with the dreaded W word. Luckily I've been blessed with a supportive and incredibly patient fiance. I approached the problem the way I approach most questions in life . . . with the internet! I spent countless hours looking for wedding blogs that talked about more than mason jars and burlap. After some digging, I came upon my absolute favorite wedding blog. A Practical Wedding not only has fantastic wedding planning advice, but has an entire section of the site dedicated to "reclaiming" the word wife. The posts here are honest, blunt, and at the end of the day, encouraging and hopeful. This recent post sums up what I hope marriage will be like for me and Tim (however we'll probably be a little more awkward. Shocking). The community (and it really is a community) on A Practical Wedding focuses on empowering women to own their new married identities in a healthy and optimistic way through online dialogue.
And what does the Wife mean to the wives in my life? None of them are hosting tupperware parties or ironing while pouring their husbands a Scotch (that I know of). When I look at the wives in my life I see some incredible things. I see my coworker, who loves her husband so much that she talks about him with the passion that you only see in romance movies. I see my newlywed friends, who can't stop talking about the unwavering support, understanding, and respect that they have with their new husbands. There's the women who have seen their relationships through moves, travels, adventures, and children. They all talk about a partnership that they never could have imagined before marriage. And of course there's my mother and mother-in-law-to-be who have been married for 30+ years and are still going strong.
I recently heard someone say in reference to wedding planning, "when you make the rules you can have whatever you want." Unknowingly, Tim and I have been living by that phrase for our entire relationship. That doesn't have to stop when we get married. Come January 21, I will have a new title to add to the many proper nouns on my sheet of paper. Sure, Wife is still a little bit scary. But I'm going to make my own rules about the word Wife and have it mean exactly what I want, just like all of the other words that define me. Luckily I have a couple of role models and successful wives to guide me and help me mold the term to fit me and Tim, just like it should. When I look at it that way, Wife stops sounding like a stereotype and starts to sound just like me.
**Hey! Are you following me on Twitter yet? @MSPBrideElisa**