Fear mongering & you’ll seeeee

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My First Xmas Present of 2013
Photo courtesy of Stewart Butterfield

Can we talk about the stories that we tell each other about life transitions? It seems as though, during wedding planning (and, as I'm learning, childbearing — and as I suspect most big life transitions) we tell each other a lot of scary stories.

I mean, of course people want to share their experiences with each other. But all too often this storytelling slips into fear mongering. It's sort of a pre-emptive commiseration — an anticipatory sing-song of Oh, you'll seeeee…. It's our way of telling each other, “I had this experience, and I'm assuming my experience is universal and you'll have the exact same one. And mine was like this, so yours will be too — and then we can roll our eyes and bond over how awful it was together.” We all love a common enemy, and all too often in pursuit of this shared experience, we project our challenges onto others.

Oh, you'll seeeee… people say once you announce your engagement…
“It's going to be so high drama and hard and you're going to be forced to do all these things you don't want to.” And maybe it will be hard and high drama — but it doesn't have to be. If you chose to side step the drama (“Actually we're planning to skip place settings completely and let people sit where they want, so I'm not worried at all”) people then seem aghast. “But, you can't do that,” they say. “You can't just skip place settings!” I think what goes unsaid is You HAVE to worry! It's what we're going to bond over, because bonding over hardship is awesome!

Certainly I experienced some of this in my own wedding planning — friends who told me, “Just accept it: you WILL be a bridezilla at some point.” And I think I had exactly one moment, when our 10 minute ceremony walk-through got interrupted by some guests arriving early. I bugged out for a minute and then calmed back down. Oh wait! There was one other, when I wanted to get everyone out on the front lawn for toasts during the Golden Hour. That's why we're holding champagne bottles instead of glasses in the photos. NO TIME TO POUR DRINKS!

But a cumulative 5 minutes of freaking out was hardly the inevitable bridezilla prediction I'd gotten, and in fact now I've spent five years trying to get people to STOP FREAKING OUT ABOUT THEIR WEDDINGS. Recognize the challenges and meet them front on, but with compassion and intention and minimized drama. Stop telling stories about how awful it all is — it doesn't help anyone. Don't white wash the challenges, but stop projecting that the challenges you experienced will going to be everyone else's challenges.

The wedding fear mongering is just one of the stories we tell. The expectations of marriage after the wedding are often heavily weighted. “Marriage is a lot of hard work,” people confide with furrowed brows.

“You'll never have sex again,” they wink.

“You'll stop hanging out with your single friends,” they sigh.

“My stupid hubs!” they laugh. “YOU know how husbands are. Stupid, stupid husbands.”

They whisper about cheating and boredom and bed death. And certainly these things can happen if you fall asleep on your life and just start going through the motions. But if you pay attention and go into with a lot of intent and questioning your own assumptions about why you're supposed to do anything … it just doesn't have to be that way.

I'm learning this about another phase with the fear mongering around pregnancy, childbearing, and babies. I've never heard more sing-songy You'll seeeeee!s than I have when talking to people about becoming a mother. I've witnessed the other end of the spectrum too — people chided when they opt NOT to have children, told “Oh, you'll change your mind about having kids. You'll seeeee…”

Certainly I've seen it in other parts of my life — my career, my home, my education, etc etc etc. You'll seeeeeee, people have always told me. And maybe because I'm a brat and want to prove them wrong, or maybe just because I live my life differently, or maybe just because I've been blessed and lucky … I've found myself NOT seeing.

My husband being an irritating ball and chain that takes “work”? I didn't seeeeee. Ignoring my dog because I had a baby? No, I don't seeeee. Spending a lifetime locked in a meaningless job? No, I don't seeeee. I don't want to be naive, but when it comes to having to accept other people's visions as what I seeeeee … I don't want to seeeeee.

It seems that in our effort to find shared experiences, we turn to each other and tell awful stories about how hard it all is. And you know what? Sometimes it IS hard. Sometimes the wedding plans fall apart and relationships fall apart and it feels like our life is falling apart.

But rather than tell the horror stories, why not share the lessons? Learn as much as you can and share the positivity of what you learned, rather than the shared grumping about didn't work.

Snarking and bitching feels awesome for a while — I totally get it. Four years ago, my job involved writing a celebrity fashion blog called “Carpet Burn” that was all about insulting red carpet attire. But snarking just doesn't really get you anywhere. So that outfit's ugly. So that's stupid. So that's not quite your taste or your values or your nature. Who cares? Time spent bitching could be time making yourself smarter and stronger and more awesome.

So, here's to each of us vowing that once we've gone through one of life's big, rocky transitions (whether it be wedding, graduation, marriage, career shift, lifestyle earthquakes of all sorts) we'll turn to those around us and tell the stories of what we learned and how we grew. Here's hoping we'll offer each other encouragement and support instead of fear and snark.

Comments on Fear mongering & you’ll seeeee

  1. Thank you for posting this, Ariel. : )
    I got a lot of, "Oh, you'll see, everything will change once you're married" comments before the wedding, and since I had to come up slowly on the idea of getting married in the first place, it kind of freaked me out. I didn't want our relationship to change! It was awesome as is. Well, turned out, getting married for us only means we have better jewelry, new nice stuff, and use "husband" or "wife" when talking to a third party. That's it. We are still us, and our relationship is still awesome.

  2. Great post! I've been reading OBT posts and wondering when my parents are going to tell me I "have" to do something, or when my BMs will turn into nightmares, or when FH will be a closed-up-useless jerk, but it really just hasn't happened, which made me confused but very happy that it really is fear mongering, not universal experience. My parents remain as offbeat as I am, my BMs(and brothers) are bad ass and supportive, and FH is a crafty, supportive, opinionated man. This New Year's I was re-reading 'Dharma Bums' and realized that people spend way too much time complaining and letting life (or asking it to) pile on crap, when it really isn't like that at all. You've got to get happiness out of everything and when shit happens you say "too bad" and fix it or move on, anything but put it in your pocket and carry around forever like a bit of lint.

  3. So happy you posted this! I was mad today because one of my mother's friend tweeted at me "Remember Megen, you are preparing not just for a wedding, but a marriage." I wanted to scream back at her "No shit Sherlock," but I held my tongue. This post makes me feel better 🙂

  4. I love this post. I agree 10,000 per cent! While I was odd enough to keep folks from suggesting my weddings to death when I was young, I did have bad experiences of people trying to tell me their labor horror stories while I was pregnant. I have two pieces of advice for expectant moms: #! – Don't listen to anybody's horror stories. Tell them to stop and if they won't, walk away! #2 – Best pregnancy tip I ever got – if you are working at a counter (kitchen, craft room, etc.), put one foot on a low step/big book. That will alleviate back pain.

    I'm older and wiser now, and it appears I am heading toward a worthwhile union! I've been single again for 11 years. I will not let anyone deprive me of the joy and pleasure our wedding day will bring for the both of us.

  5. This might be your best post ever. Seriously, I'm seek of these doom-harbinging know-it-alls. Since I got engaged, suddenly, everyone else just 'knows' everything about me and my life. Um, nope.

  6. I think you just posted the one thing that's missing from wedding blogs! And it's so true. I love my fiance! I don't expect to stop loving him less or to be snarky about our relationship after we say "I Do." Thank you!

    Along this same note as your Bridezilla quote. Most of my friends are floored that I actually enjoy planning my wedding. Choosing things that are us, and not just throwing down plastic to get a part of it over with. The "How's it going with the planning? You're not using The Knot?!?" with downward inflection…Like I'm supposed to dread it and follow the leader…um, hello?!?! I'm me, an individual marrying someone that is just as weird and individualistic as me. Since when is negative reinforcement for life's big changes ever a good idea? If not participating in the future, "You'll see's" of the world make me an OBB, than I'm totally fine with that.

  7. I love this post. I agree 10,000 per cent! While I was odd enough to keep folks from suggesting my weddings to death when I was young, I did have bad experiences of people trying to tell me their labor horror stories while I was pregnant. I have two pieces of advice for expectant moms: #! – Don't listen to anybody's horror stories. Tell them to stop and if they won't, walk away! #2 – Best pregnancy tip I ever got – if you are working at a counter (kitchen, craft room, etc.), put one foot on a low step/big book. That will alleviate back pain.

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