by: Rebecca Taylor
“I want to marry you, Steve, but I cannot go against everything that I believe in, in order to do that,” said Beth Robbins sitting on a park bench next to her fiancé.
“Come on, Beth, why are you so against our parents announcing our engagement?”
“Because we can do it ourselves, we are adults, we don’t live in our parents homes, and they aren’t paying for the wedding. It is us; we made the decision to get married. I don’t want our announcement or our invitations to say, ‘John and Vivian Nordell are pleased to announce the wedding of their son Steven to Elizabeth, daughter of Andrew and Teresa Robbins.’”
“Would it be that big of a deal? No matter what the invitations or announcement say we will still love each other the same.”
“You don’t get it, I feel very strongly about being able to get ahead in life. Women are always portrayed as the weaker gender. I want to be thought of as Elizabeth Maria Robbins. I don’t want to go through life being thought of as Andrew and Teresa’s daughter or Steve Nordell’s wife. I am my parents’ daughter and I want to be your wife but I don’t want that to be the only reason people accept me. I want my accomplishments to have value. Even though the world revolves around familial associations, we are all our own people. I don’t want to be stifled by who my family is.”
“I’m not going to take away your voice, Beth; you are entitled to your opinions. I just want my parents to be happy.”
“You’re taking their side instead of mine, and while you are also entitled to your opinions, are you always going to side with them after we’re married? We need to have a united front on things, that’s the only way we’re going to have a successful wedding and marriage.”
“You’re going against all traditional weddings; most people are conventionalists unlike you.”
“Maybe there are more people than you think out there who believe what I do but are too afraid to actually do it. I want our wedding to be about you and me. I want us to announce the wedding; I want to walk down the aisle by myself.” We need to be equal; nobody is expecting you to be called Mrs. Steve Nordell, giving you away or expecting you to be a shadow of me.
“What does your father think about that?”
“He’s accepting it, I think he would have liked to walk me down the aisle but I do not believe it is necessary. I learned to walk before I was two; now I am twenty-six, and more than capable of doing it on my own. I also don’t want ‘who gives this woman’ as part of the marriage ceremony. It is old fashioned and chauvinist, nobody asks ‘who gives this man.’ I have my own life, I do not need anybody to give me away; it sounds like some old toy that needs discarding.”
Why do you have to be so stubborn, Beth, this is our wedding. It shouldn’t be so difficult to plan. Sometimes you and your feminist views get in the way of all simplicity.
“Having a traditional wedding won’t change who you are.”
“I don’t want to sacrifice who I am and what I believe, just so your family and probably some of mine get what they want. This isn’t about them. This is our wedding, yours and mine, as long as we agree nothing else matters.”
“I don’t see why we are complicating things for one day, wouldn’t it be easier to put aside your feminist views just for the day so that we can have a wedding where everyone involved is going to have a great time.”
“Maybe we don’t know each other well enough, I think we should put off our wedding plans; we can’t even decide how to announce it right now.”
“Beth, I’m sorry. We love each other; I don’t think we should wait. We can work this out.”
“How? You don’t understand how I feel. It is important that I feel valued. I want this wedding to be one of the most wonderful days of our lives. I want people to see our way of thinking; I don’t want my views to be debated on or the focus of the wedding. I just don’t want to regret not having the wedding I believe in just because some people think my ideas are ridiculous. I don’t know how we can be married if you can’t accept that. I’ve got some thinking to do, give me time, Steve, I’ll call you when I’m ready to talk about this,” and Beth got up, walked down the tree lined path toward the Boulevard that would take her home, her shoulder length blond hair blowing in the wind, her grey eyes sad. I’m doing the right thing, I have beliefs, and nobody should make me change them. I’m not an uncompromising person, but there are some things in life that I don’t think a person should waver on. I am a modern woman and will not be treated like a pouting child just because I know that I am right. If I do this wedding the way he wants me to, I will always feel like I sacrificed my values so we would not have to discuss the real issues. I may not fully resent him for it now but someday I would. What if I married him in the traditional way and someday we have a daughter and she wants to be free of the stereotypes which society have when it comes to women, how could I tell her that I believed the same things when I was her age but didn’t stand my ground, what kind of a role model would that make me?
Steve sat on the park bench for a few minutes, stunned, never had he thought that Beth would walk away just because he did not agree to her terms. I’m fighting the issue because I want Beth’s parents and mine to be happy, I don’t want them to be left out. It is traditional that the parents announce the engagement and that the father walks his daughter down the aisle. Somehow, I need to make her understand and I think I will have to get our parents involved, it’s the only way. I need to save this engagement and making her see reason is the best chance. Otherwise, who knows how long it will take to make her come around to my way of thinking.
It wasn’t long before Steve was sitting in his parents’ living room discussing the wedding.
“Weddings are very stressful on the bride, trying to make every detail perfect,” said Vivian Nordell.
“I want a simple wedding and I don’t care about the little details like the flowers or the colour of the napkins. Beth and I can’t agree on the concept of the wedding. Traditional is the easiest way, it’s been done so many times before. She wants to have a feminist wedding, where we announce the wedding, her father doesn’t walk her down the aisle and no ‘who takes this woman’, and I don’t know how the minister will announce us at the end of the wedding because she doesn’t want to be defined by her familial connections.”
“What does that mean?” asked John Nordell. “Do you mean she isn’t going to take our last name?”
“I guess so; Beth claims traditional weddings are chauvinist.”
“I had a traditional wedding; it doesn’t mean I can’t think for myself. I like the family inclusion in weddings, it is an opportunity to meet the in-laws and get to know our future daughter better.”
“Beth was very moody this morning, when she is in feminism mode, she isn’t the same lovable woman that I want to marry.”
“Are you sure you know her well enough?” asked John.
“We went out for two years before I asked her to marry me, how much better am I supposed to get to know her?”
“You can know some people for a lifetime and never really know who they are,” replied Vivian.
“When you were engaged, did everyone just get along or were there all kinds of debates about things?”
“There were many problems along the way, the flower fiasco, and the number of guests to invite. The worst was the menu. Your father’s mother wanted to use china dishes and have an elegant sit down meal. My parents thought that we should have a buffet with paper plates, save having someone do dishes when the reception was taking place.”
“What did you do in the end?”
“Sit down meal with paper plates,” laughed John, “it’s funny thinking about all the silly little fights we had with our in-laws and each other back then, but at the time it felt like the world could end or that the wedding was never going to take place.”
“So, you think that Beth and I will be able to make ours happen too.”
“Yes, you just have to stand tall and fight for what you believe in.”
“She’s going to do the same thing,” answered Steve running his hand through his chocolate coloured hair.
“You have to reach middle ground just like we did with the meal and plates,” said Vivian.
“How much can I compromise, she wants a wedding that people will think is a mockery. You said yourself how much you were looking forward to announcing the wedding.”
“Of course we’re looking forward to announcing it, you’re our only child. This is our only opportunity at having a wedding of this magnitude in the family.”
Steve sighed; he could hear Beth’s words echoing in his ears, “this isn’t about them. This is our wedding, yours and mine, as long as we agree nothing else matters” It’s our wedding, what about what I think. I’ve dreamed of the moment your father walks you down the aisle to me for almost as long as I’ve known you, why deny me the chance to see him smiling, you on his arm. I don’t know what to tell you, Beth, I don’t want to back down. If we could only agree on this, the rest should be easy. The ceremony is the most important part because it ties us together for the rest of our lives.
On the third day, Beth was sitting in the mess hall of the fire station where she worked as a firefighter, instead of eating her fingers drummed loudly against the veneer tabletop.
“Hey, Beth, what’s bothering you?” asked one of her coworkers Frank.
“You probably wouldn’t understand.”
“Try me, I’m a good listener.”
“It’s the wedding plans, Steve and I can’t seem to agree on anything. I haven’t talked to him in three days.”
“Take it from a married man; you won’t solve anything by not talking.”
“I just don’t know what to say to him to make him understand my point of view. I don’t want a traditional marriage, I want an equal partnership and having a customary wedding isn’t going to allow us to do that.”
“Can you compromise?”
“I’d like to but he doesn’t want to see things my way. By having a contemporary wedding, we won’t sacrifice anything. I am a modern woman; I don’t like old-fashioned thinking, as a liberated woman I want to walk myself down the aisle, forego the ‘who takes this woman,’ keep my last name and not be introduced as Mrs. Steve Nordell.”
“Those are different views, Beth, and you have been with this department for four years, we have gotten to know and respect you and your modern thinking but maybe Steve isn’t used to the new way some women think.”
“He knows that I have views about certain things where women’s rights are concerned but mostly he’s worried about me hurting his and my parents’ feelings. My parents have known my views for many years and while sometimes sceptical have come to accept them; his parents will have to live with it.”
“What is your opinion on men opening doors for you?” asked another firefighter Joe.
“Opening doors for someone is common courtesy, nobody wants a door slammed in their face, but holding the door open is not gender exclusive. Opening the car door on the other hand, I don’t understand it. I am capable of doing that for myself.”
“You fought your way into the hearts and minds of this department, and while not everyone was sure about having a woman on the team because of physical standards and maybe some outdated ideas, you proved your weight around here. I have no doubt that someday you could make fire chief,” said Frank
“I’d just like to get married first; I can wait thirty years or so to make fire chief. I’d like to be a training officer or a firefighter instructor first. I would love to inspire more women to think about it as a choice of career.”
“If you want it, you’ll do it, tonight when the shift is over, talk to Steve, you’re both too stubborn for your own good, and if you don’t talk about it now, you may not be married when you’re ninety.”
“Very funny, Joe,” said Beth, “I’ll talk to Steve tonight and see if we can’t get everything sorted out. Thank you.”
“I hope it works, your finger drumming isn’t one of your most becoming qualities,” replied Frank.
Before Beth could respond, the fire bell rang and everyone in the station raced to get ready for whatever was ahead.
That evening as she left the station, Beth called Steve on her cell phone and left him a message to meet her at her apartment as soon as he got a chance. He arrived forty‑five minutes later with a take-out order of Chinese food.
“Steve,” said Beth giving him a hug, “I’ve missed you.”
“I missed you too, let’s sit down, and talk. I promise to listen to all of your opinions and no matter what we decide on, we’ll do it together.”
“Deal,” said Beth going into the kitchen to get some plates and cutlery for the meal. Then, she and Steve sat down at the kitchen table, food containers spread out in front of them and started eating and talking.
“We have to reach a compromise. These last three days without you were miserable. I never want us to be apart. We need to stick together, for ever and always,” said Steve.
“There’s something we agree on, I’m all for those vows being part of our marriage ceremony.”
“If your father is okay with not walking you down the aisle I can accept it and we don’t need a ‘who gives this woman,’ you’re right it is kind of sexist. It can just be our names on the engagement notice and invitations; I think I can convince my parents that they will still have an important part in the ceremony.”
“Of course, they will I want them there front and center, they’re our parents, I just want us to make plans without help, it’s our day.”
“You don’t want to be defined by me, what exactly do you mean by that?”
“It means I won’t be taking your name when we marry. I want to be Elizabeth Robbins forever, if someone happens to call me Mrs. Nordell once in a while, I’m not going to have a fit but that isn’t what I want to be called. I am my own person.”
“I guess I can accept that, as long as you understand that in everyday life when people are trying to determine family connections, we will be associated together and I will be called John and Vivian’s son, you will be called my wife and your parents’ daughter.”
“I’m okay with that as long that isn’t who I am always defined as; I don’t like it when who you are related to is all people remember. While we are going to be together for the rest of our lives, we will have combined and separate lives. Our birth names are our roots.”
“That’s fine with me, but what will happen when we have children?”
“I don’t know, we’ll figure it out, I don’t want our children to feel like they are stuck with having a write a really long name because we couldn’t decide on which name to choose. I suppose they’ll have your last name unless we choose short first and middle names and then they could have both or maybe Robbins could be a middle name like Sara Robbins Nordell.”
“That sounds pretty. We’ll have to think about that but first we need to get married.”
“First we have to plan the wedding. Would you be okay with the minister says, now I present the union of Steven Nordell and Elizabeth Robbins instead of Mr. and Mrs. Steven Nordell.”
“But it sounds so good,” answered Steve reaching out to touch Beth’s hand.
“It does to you but how would you feel if they said and now Mrs. and Mr. Elizabeth Robbins?”
“I guess I get your point.”
“Our love makes us one, a union,” said Beth, “But we are not one person, we are individuals joining together to make a life and I want that to be how we perceive our marriage, no false pretences. We are equal and need to share responsibilities fifty-fifty, that includes inside and outside work. As we do it, we can figure it out so that one of us isn’t always stuck doing the chores while the other enjoys themselves. If we work together we can both benefit.”
“You mean you don’t want to be stuck washing the dishes, while I watch a movie?”
“I’m just teasing, Beth, of course we’ll work together.”
“That’s good because I want to watch movies too, curled up in your arms. Besides, we’re going to have a dishwasher.”
They both laughed, their once sad and anxious eyes now smiling. Eight months later at St. Gabrielle’s Church, Steve Nordell waited at the front of the church wearing a tuxedo for Beth Robbins to walk herself down the aisle wearing a beautiful white dress that made her glow. The ceremony was perfect, the wording had been carefully chosen by the minister and the wedding party. The happy couple had struck out on their own for their celebration and gone against the norm.