Blind women get married too

Guest post by Elsa Sjunneson
Photo of Elsa aka Snarkbat by Stephanie Jones Photography
Photo of Elsa aka Snarkbat by Stephanie Jones Photography

I am completely blind in my right eye. I'm super nearsighted in the left. Not allowed to drive, no depth perception, limited peripheral vision, and calcium deposits in the right eye that cause me migraines if I don't wear a scleral shell. To the left is what my eye looks like when I wear the clear shell that I have. It is my preferred way of going about things. I do have a painted shell, it makes my eye match my other one, but after twenty-five years of having mismatched eyes, matching feels weird and untrue to myself.

I carry a white cane. It helps me to warn sighted people that I can't see them, since I lack all the things I mentioned above. Furthermore, it has made my life better. I can look around and not stare at the ground. The cane has changed my life.

So what does this have to do with weddings? It has everything to do with my wedding.

Families can have a specific picture in their head of what a bride will look like; people on the street will even have images in their head. I am not that picture. It is no one's fault though, it's the fault of the Wedding Industrial Complex. The WIC likes to project the image of a bride to be one specific thing, possibly so that we all try to look like their models. Which would be why I've always envisioned myself as having an “offbeat” wedding.

I am not wearing a veil, because I know that it would prevent me from using what peripheral vision I DO have. I am not wearing a white dress, because I would not be able to see the detail on my own dress. I am walking down the aisle by myself because the idea of a bunch of people on either side of me and one person really close to me makes me very nervous.

And this doesn't really get across with some people.

Within three days of becoming engaged, I had already been told that I shouldn't wear my glasses, because they're not bridal. I was told my cane wasn't bridal. I was told my eye (featured above) was not bridal.

And I realized that if I was going to be “bridal” in their eyes, I was going to have to change who I am. I am proudly disabled. I am the blind woman who moved across the country by herself to live in New York City. I am the blind woman who has done sword fighting and parkour. I am the blind woman who loves to lindy hop on a crowded dance floor — and I will not change to meet what the Wedding Industry believes is bridal.

When I was told that I shouldn't carry my cane, my fiance's comment was this:

Him: I think you would look very pretty walking down the aisle with your cane.
Me: But it'll be a flat aisle, right?
Him: Actually, I was thinking speed bumps and broken glass!

My glasses are a part of my face. And he loves my face. So they stay, too. 🙂

When a vendor commented that they weren't comfortable with a guide dog (even though I don't have one), or when another venue told me that they were impressed with my typing skills and asked if I was the “helper” for the bride, we chose not to hire these people because they were not supportive of who I am, or who we are as a couple. I am so glad that my fiance chooses to combat my frustrations with laughter, and to support the decision to never give our money to someone who doesn't get the fact that blind women get married too.

So, what did I do about the cane, you might ask? Well, a very dear friend of mine Michael Angelus Salerno made me this cane:

This is the Steampunk White Cane aka, “The Steamcane.” And lord help anyone who tells me it's not “bridal.” I will carry it with pride on my wedding day.

Updated to add: be sure to check out Elsa's wedding profile!

Comments on Blind women get married too

  1. Can I just say that you are AWESOME!?!??!?!
    And I do hope that you carry your beautifully-awesome cane on many many days after your wedding!

    • I carried it in my MA graduation ceremony about 2 weeks ago, to all steampunk events, and will carry it for as long as it holds out.

      I am even carrying it at all the events this weekend at Burlesque Hall of Fame. Because that’s how I scan. (Scanning being a term for the use of a white cane.)

      • Firstly: you are awesome! Secondly, I got my BA in women’s studies two weeks ago and CONGRATS on your MA! Totally awesome, so jealous!! <3

  2. How is a white cane not bridal? It’s white, it’s carried by a bride, sounds pretty bridal to me. 😀

    Although any excuse for steam punk is good in my book and that cane looks fantastic. Will you be using it after the wedding too?

  3. You refer to your cane as a “thwacky stick of destruction”. That right there makes you one of my favorite people ever. And boo to those who don’t think your choices are “bridal”! You’re the bride; therefore, what you decide to do is bridal. End of conversation.

  4. This is such an awesome post! I’m sure your wedding is going to be incredible – and I’ll add my name to the list of people who hopes it gets profiled! Snarkbat, you rule 🙂

  5. “My glasses are a part of my face. And he loves my face. So they stay, too.”

    I wish I had read your story before I had to have my knock-down, drag-out fight with my mom about my “unbridal” glasses. To her, they were just a thing getting in the way of my otherwise pretty face. To me, they’re as much a part of me as my brown hair or weird dimple–why the heck would I change those things?!

    As far as I’m concerned, changing things about yourself to the point where you can’t fully enjoy or experience your wedding isn’t very bridal.

    And holy sh!tbombs–that is an amazing cane!

    • Show your mom the post.

      I think sometimes families forget that glasses aren’t actually cosmetic.

      And wear the glasses, I’m sure you’ll be beautiful on your wedding day. <3

    • Or show your mom this link: http://offbeatbride.com/tag/brides-in-glasses. I wore my glasses on my wedding day, because they are part of me! My husband requested I would take them of for one or two pictures (on most of them, I wear them) and we both agree now that those are absolutely the worst pictures of our wedding!
      Good luck!

    • I really don’t get this attitude that brides shouldn’t wear glasses, especially coming from family members.

      My brother has worn glasses since he was 6 and now I can’t imagine him without them. When he does take them off he looks strange, it’s almost like if he’d suddenly dyed his hair or when he cut all his dreadlocks off after having them for years.

      Just as people say they want to look like themselves I don’t see why your family wouldn’t want you to look like you. (And y’know…be able to see.)

      All I can think is it really is a case of the WIC and general media (because honestly I think TV, movies etc. have as much to do with this stereotypical image of a bride as anything) getting one specific image of a ‘bride’ so ingrained in the public conciousness that it completely overrides the image of “my friend/family member who happens to be getting married today”.

    • I was thinking that a wedding would be a PERFECT excuse to go out and get a brand freaking new, super stylish, banging pair of fancy glasses (ones that are just a little bit “more” than your everyday glasses.) Or a pair of prescription steampunk goggles, or benjamin franklin style specs, or whatever trips you out!

  6. The wic always pushes white as the only bridal color, so how can a white eye be anything but? If anything, you should be considered more bridal than those of us who only hit up the dress, becauseyou’ve got more white engrained in the ensemble than I could ever hope to achieve, just by being you.
    It’s so awesome that you have such a ROCKINGLY supportive partner!
    Rock on!

  7. Add me to the lovefest! Snarkbat, you ROCK! (And Lindy hop, too – as a fellow swing dancer, I salute you!) Go on with your bad self and know that a whole boatload of people are cheering you on (and dying for pictures!).

    • You (and everyone else) will have to wait until after April 28th 2012.

      As will I. Dammit, can’t I marry him already!? There will be so much swing dancing at the wedding!

  8. Wow. I just have to say THANK YOU to everyone. The outpouring of support is AMAZING.

    But let me remind you, you too can stick to your guns as much as I am! Be steadfast to who you are!

    So much love for everyone who has already commented and who might comment later!

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