At the cusp of a time when everyone is literally about to have a computer in their glasses, (because curses to every moment we go without a screen in front of our eyes), it's hard to determine anymore if life imitates the internet or the internet imitates life. What came first, the meme or the fad?
One such meme/fad amalgam to recently burp into existence is the dreadfully named "engagement season." You've probably seen the following "engagement season" photo by now, unearthed by Reddit solely for the purposes of mockery and which features the girl(s) who launched a thousand feminist think pieces.
I keep putting "engagement season" in quotations because until now I've refused to admit that it exists. When I saw that picture for the first time last week, I took a moment to pat myself on the back for having escaped that fate, and then went like this:
But apparently "engagement season" is a very real thing. And as I scratched my head with my bony, ring-less fingers and began to rue the day sorority girls were allowed off the mother ship, I realized they're not the ones responsible for this. Every Christmas since high school graduation, friends of mine have been getting engaged in droves. And I supported those engagements. I secretly perused their wedding websites and couples' blogs. I snuck peeks at their "Wedding Inspiration <3" Pinterest boards and compared them to my "Just In Case" board that I find myself tending to at low moments when not even a whole pizza can cleanse my soul.
Wedding a man is still one of the most celebrated achievements a woman can have.
Before my inner housewife could get too carried away, however, Valerie Alexander's Huffington Post piece laid out an incredible argument against the giant productions that weddings have become for a lot of women: "If some girl wasn't fulfilling her childhood fantasy of being a princess, holding court in the perfect gown with the perfect hair and perfect flowers, on a day dedicated solely to celebrating her ability to land a man, how much more effort would she put into finding the right mate, since the reward for doing so would be a lifetime together, rather than a coronation?"
That isn't to say that people in solid, loving relationships shouldn't be allowed to celebrate the shit out of those relationships with a big fancy wedding, but it is pointing out that it's too easy to focus only on the big day, rather than the work that goes into triumphing over the monotony — and double standards — of long-term relationships.
The viral photo is so jarring that when Huffington Post first published it, it was in the comedy section. But while we laugh at the photo, it's not always easy to control the matrimonial compulsion in ourselves. Wedding a man is still one of the most celebrated achievements a woman can have. What's worse is the fact that we place a strict timeline on these events; every girl in that photo looks barely a day over 20.
The other day I had a conversation with a friend obsessing over this very idea. She was concerned that if her relationship of two years ended, this would result in a year of rebounding, and — if another man even came along — three subsequent years of dating before the possibility of engagement. That would put her marrying age at 28. We shouldn't be thinking about relationships in these terms, but it's hard to fight these fears when you're surrounded by a culture that so actively promotes them.
Changing this mindset means undoing years spent perpetuating gender stereotypes. But until engagement season (no quotations, now that's closure) is quelled, get used to adding "having to feign interest in cheesy engagement stories" to your list of holiday nightmares. And for you women who might be so moved by the engagement season internet conversation that you've realized that you were putting the party before the man, here's Jamie Lynn Spears' new country song to get you through it.