On Symbolic Annihilation
originally published on A Practical Wedding
When I got engaged, one of my best girlfriends surprised me with a delicious stack of bridal magazines, lovingly wrapped in a pink paper bag and gold ribbon. We hugged in her San Francisco apartment, fog and sunlight beyond the windows, the Pacific a blue glimmer . We ate strawberry shortcake and watched trashy TV, flipping through glossy pages of cream and taffeta and sugar and lace. It was a lovely moment between two women who know each other’s worst and best, and who can revel in the fun of (finally!) getting hitched.
But there’s something odd–even cruel–about these magazines. There’s a phrase for it: symbolic annihilation. My fiancé, weeks later, pointed it out. “You know,” he said, “All the brides in these magazines are kinda…the same.”
True. They’re white, skinny, dewy, young, and rich. There’s no flies on that, to be sure; but, dear Martha, why refuse to testify to the truth about marriage, love, and beauty?
Brides are everything you can imagine. They look like the women you see at Macy’s, at the beach, drinking coffee at the next table. It’s worth repeating: women get married even when they aren’t thin. (Or white, or young, or rich.) Lots of them. Do we need to declare ourselves? Just because you don’t invite us into the fantasy of your magazines doesn’t mean we don’t exist.
Some of us are chubby, some are curvy, some are fat, some defy all categories. We’re dewy and juicy as summer-dawn strawberries. We’re rich as gelato. We’re skinny in fingertips and inches and the lines of our curves. We’re old like stones and young, too, with the living-giving succulence of fresh herbs and puffy rain clouds right here in our sunlit bodies, tucked in our soft arms and big feet and tender earlobes.
And, yes, we’re getting married.