Lately, I’ve been feeling like a lot of all the customs involved with “getting married” in America are nothing short of a big, pointless, hassle, consumerism at its most effective, emotionally-clad best. Internationally or unintentionally set in the way of well-intentioned brides to keep us from thinking deeply about the larger issues women face when preparing to enter the life- and identity-altering state of actually being married.
One of the deeper issues came up the other night, when my fiance and I ordered his wedding band, and the sales person asked me for my name for the ticket, which I gave, and then prompted me for my “future name,” to which I replied easily, “I’m not sure yet if I’m going to change my name or not,” to which she smiled and said, “I didn’t, and that was ten years ago!” She still had a ring in the appropriate digit to signify the status of married, so I took that to be a sign of approval and success for such a decision, and moved on, focusing on the pearls.
Then one glance over to my sweet fiancé’s poor face revealed what a heart-wrenching statement that off-handed comment was to him. I asked gently, “That really hurt your feelings, didn’t it?” And he admitted that yes, it felt like a blow that I was really, seriously, considering it. This was the first time I’d announced the idea to a stranger, in his presence, at least. So maybe he finally realized I was serious about it.
It was not well received among my inner circle of friends when I tested the idea at a friend’s wedding reception a month or so ago. “Why not?” “You’re crazy,” “What’s the point?” “What about your future children,” and “But, don’t you love him?” were some of the incredulous replies from my closest friends.
But, I’m not too concerned with what other people think – other than my fiancé, whose opinion out of love I choose to weigh with equal or more weight than my own. I’m a forward-thinking gal. One who’s got quite a bit of social capital, personal branding, and presence revolving around the little issue of my name. My name that is unique to me, a quality that many others with “common” names don’t quite get, that I have had to come to grips with anyway, that I have finally accepted and reveled in and embraced, publicly, to the world. My fiance’s last name, on the other hand, is one of the top 10 most common. So yeah, I’m considering keeping mine.
“I thought you were just going to keep writing under your maiden name, but take my name, you know, in life,” he said. Yes, that had been the working plan. About a year ago. A year in which a lot has changed for me. In which I have grown, learned to love my name, as difficult as it is to spell. In which I have struggled anyway with the already great divide between career and life for the modern career woman.
But also a year in which I’ve grown as an individual and a future life mate. In which I’ve tested the merits of compromise, of putting relationships, especially the most important ones, first, and found the choice to be wholly satisfying. In which I’ve chosen to accept the proposal to fully commit my life to that of another, no matter how big or small the issues, a commitment that I take very seriously and am excited to figure out how to operate within in just less than a month.
It’s not the person or the commitment, but rather the culture that puts this sort of identity-crushing expectation of a name change onto women that I have a hard time coming to grips with.
I wrestle with that, with planning for kids, with career plans, with expectations, with all the trappings of being a modern women that are more than minorly complicated when marriage comes into the equation.
By nature, I question all of it, because I know in doing so I will find my own way, whether it follows the beaten path or not. As a product of homeschool, it was proven to me that the unconventional choice, when made with everyone’s best interest in mind, can be incredibly effective.
But out of love, I also realize that in getting married, I’m choosing to commit not just one aspect of my identity to another person. I’m choosing to surrender all of who I am to someone who’s surrendering all of who they are to me. And I realize that the word “surrender” will be highly contested by other forward-thinking women and perhaps men. That’s fine. They don’t have to choose frame this commitment in the same light that I do. But to me, that is quite simply the ultimate description of what real love is. And here’s what it looks like.
After the exchange in the store, my fiancé sat silent for a moment, thinking. Then, he looked at me, with his eyes full of all the love that makes me know I can trust all of myself and my identity to him, and said, “Know what, it’s your name. And in the end, that’s not a decision I’ll ever have to face.” Stripping himself of his pride, of his blind acceptance of a cultural norm neither of us can fully rationalize, he loved me in that moment exactly in the way a forward-thinking gal deeply desires to be loved.
“I will leave it up to you.”
Having one of those days where you left your iPod at home and the day just seems to be dragging on? Tired of wishing you were with all the cool kids at SXSW instead of chained to your desk, waiting for Friday to come?
Times like these call for some musical inspiration. So here are five of my favorite musical destinations you will probably enjoy no matter what your musical taste (trust me, mine’s eclectic) to help you make it through the workday.
SXSW Radio – Stream “pop, jazz, country, blues, reggae, hip hop, electronica – every imaginable style of music, from nearly every continent” featured at SXSW, including highly anticipated newcomers like Baisa Bulat. I’m loving The Acorn, The Cribs, Sea Wolf, among others I’ve discovered so far.
Daytrotter – A wonderful site featuring three bands a week and 12 exclusive songs recorded live in their studio by bands you love or will love after you discover them there.
The Hood Internet – Get a delicious mashup of rap artists and hip indie bands featured weekly at this site. Laid back beats on top of hot rhymes? Who could ask for anything more. Great for the gym, too. Check out the “I’m a Flirt/Shoreline” mix for sure. It’s an oldie, but a goodie.
Stereogum – With a newly re design, this popular music blog features MP3s and videos for your listening and viewing pleasure, along with great reviews and news for when you have a few more minutes to spare – like on your lunch hour.
NPR All Songs Considered – With wonderful interviews from some of the hippest musicians out there, live music and more, this show is worth the weekly listen.
Dance at your desk. (Don’t worry if anyone’s looking.) Love work more.
It’s conversations like this that make me miss writing at this blog on a regular basis. So without further ado, I’m back. And I’ve got lots to say, so spread the word, and join the conversation. Let’s talk about Gen Y.
Rebecca brought up an interesting debate at Modite yesterday. Her position: Helicopter Parenting is good. Of course, it’s not as pat as that, so check out her post to read her reasoning. I think she touches on some good points, and the term “helicopter parents” may be a matter of semantics and over hyped by the media as she suggests, but I have to say, the worst-case types of helicopter parenting that have been hyped by whomever are alive and well, and as a Gen Yer myself, I’ve experienced it on the other side of the interview table. And it’s not pretty when it crosses the line from motherly advice to parental predominance. To me, that’s the issue at hand.
There are so many examples of helicopter parenting that I’ve witnessed in the job process, I have to say that it’s not a good thing. For example, my team once had a candidate turn down a job offer because their parent got too involved in their job search and told them they thought they should make a higher starting salary (even though they had little experience in the field) - it took that person six more months to find a job (and probably a lower salary than we offered) because they blindly followed the advice of a helicopter parent.
Gen Y and the Problem with Boundaries
I think that listening to parental advice is well and good, but I have also witnessed first hand that there is a large segment of Gen Y that struggles with drawing the line with their parents and emerging as independent adults. Because helicopter parent or no, the issue is really with Gen Y. It’s with individuals. And it’s about boundaries.
Boundaries are critical because they give us freedom. Here is an illustration I love: put someone on top of a 50-story building without any railing, and as the wind blows and the building sways, they will flock to the center of it. Put up some railing, and they will go to the edge, peer over, and have the freedom to explore the entirety of the roof.
For Gen Y, boundaries are critical because they enable us to explore the entirety of what it means to be an adult.
I have to say – I didn’t think a lot about boundaries in the context of the parent-child relationship until my pre-marital counseling this weekend. But it makes complete sense, especially applied to this issue.
Essentially, there are three types of parent-child relationships, and two of them are dangerous if they continue on into adulthood.
1. Child-child – In this type of parent-child relationship, parents want to be best friends with their kids, so they don’t set boundaries, and they don’t do a good job of modeling to their kids what it looks like to be an adult. In the context of helicopter parenting, this can become pretty dangerous, because your parents may be intimately involved in the day-to-day decisions of your life, but they won’t be able to provide you with the wisdom of adulthood that you need – because they want to preserve that friendship first and foremost, and they may help you make decisions that seem cool, but are poor ones. This looks like something that happened to a friend of mine, whose parents advised her to get a variable rate 100% loan on her house a few years back, so she could get more house for her money (which was probably what she wanted to hear at the time), but now my friend is stuck in the middle of a mortgage crisis with a rising payment she can’t meet.
2. Adult-child – In this relationship, the parents become so dependent on their kids when they reach adulthood, the kids can’t have boundaries because the parents become so needy: the children take on the role of adult (like they should) but the parents start to play the role of child. This happens a lot of times when parents go through crises in their own life, like the divorce of his parents that our marriage counselor described bringing this issue to the forefront of his life. When things like this happen, parents tend to become obsessed with the lives of their children and often push aside boundaries even if that had existed previously – often because they need something to fill their own lives with, or to distract them from their own issues. So they will give you advice, and tons of it, but if they’re playing the child role in the relationship, is it really advice you should follow? Of course, you should always love and support your parents, no matter what is going on in their lives, but even in order to do that, it’s important to have boundaries in place and preserve them.
3. Adult-adult – This is the healthy type of relationship that adult children can have with their parents. Sometimes, it’s up to Gen Y to set the stage for this and assert their adulthood by setting boundaries with their parents. Especially parents tend to helicopter. When Gen Y takes responsibility and sets boundaries with their own parents so that both are acting on the level of adults, this is the setting where “helicopter parenting” as Rebecca describes it works. And it’s really nothing more than Gen Y acting like grown ups, listening to the advice of their parents, and then weighing it as an adult and deciding from there whether or not to take it. Sometimes, this means you take it. Sometimes, it means you don’t.
But so many Gen Yers I know do not have these boundaries in place, or the ability NOT to listen to their parents when it’s neccessary - and that’s where it gets dangerous. If you can’t function without parental input, then you’re not in an adult-adult relationship, and helicoptering can really set you back. It can paralyze you with indecision, like one friend I know, who can hardly go on a job interview without deep parental advisory sessions prior to it. Or, it can ruin your relationship with your parents, like many who never learned to set boundaries and now just refuse to speak with their parents.
Whether or not helicopter parenting is a good thing simply just depends. It depends on your relationship wih your parents. It depends on your responsibility to be an adult and set boundaries with them. And it depends on whether or not you can think for yourself.
If you’ve got those things in place, then helicopter parenting is not just a good thing, it’s really not a thing at all.