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Weddings & Work & Worry

Weddings & Work & Worry

bridgetmartha's picture

In conjunction with the dilemma Sunshine and Hummingbird addressed on whether our perception of Monica and David's seeming dependence on Monica's parents is accurate or is only a result of how they are treated by those around them, I was deeply troubled by the presentation of their wedding.  Specifically, the officiant (?) of the wedding remarked, "I think the two mothers involved are very very progressive in their thinking...[they] have carved out that these kids need to have a life of their own." Although the mothers may very well have been progressive themselves, his comments indicate that he is not; he refers to Monica and David as kids in spite of the fact that they are grown adults (I'm not sure how old they were at the time of the wedding-Monica would have been a little under 35?). By infantilizing them, he gives the impression that they really are just kids whose desires and fantasies the adults are "humoring" by allowing them to play dress-up. This impression remained with me throughout the rest of the wedding scene and afterward as well.

To further complicate this presentation, in spite of the apparent freedom their mothers gave them by helping them get married, they activley inhibit other forms of independence by not letting Monica work. When taken together, I am especially troubled by the contradiction between the permission to wed and the denial of independence. They are both important ways that Monica and David might have agency in thier lives. However, whereas a marriage seems (at least to me) more symbolic--their moms' way of validating their relationship and love for each other as an acknowledged and legitimate feature in their lives--employment is very, very concrete in that it provides some measure of financial independence. Being denied access to her own financial independence/interdependence infantilizes Monica as both a woman sheltered from society and a person with an intellectual disability left dependent on family. And since they are thus left with only having agency in their romantic lives, the duo is further degraded through the message that the only life they are "permitted" to have is a romantic one.

Overall, this whole sequence left me feeling dazed and confused. I am frustrated by the double standards placed before Monica and David. Even though I recognize the reasons why their mothers didn't want them to work, I can't help but feel that they did more harm than good. They are only permitting them a sliver of freedom in their lives, sending the message that Monica and David should center their lives around each other and domestic skills since they can't work. On the flip side, any perceived freedom they might have received in getting married seems invalidated since their relationship is the one part of their lives that their mothers don't seem to feel the need to protect, presumably because their relationship is not legitimate (another very infantilizing notion) or because the marriage is not (circling back to my original topic, also very infantilizing).  Basically, I'm just feeling very troubled and conflicted. I'm certain that neither of these was the goal of the mothers. They are, after all, just trying to provide the best lives for their children in whatever way possible. But, on the opposite end of how much freedom is too much is how many limitations are too many? Is the life they are provding for Monica and David a fulfilling one? Is it fulfilling enough? 

On another tangent, I also was frustrated yet again by the presentation of marriage as a huge symbol for being able to lead a normative life. Instead of "permitting" Monica and David (and others with intellectual disabilities) to have an active role in society by getting married, how else can that role be created? How can we reinfoce that value and status in society shouldn't be dictated by marital status, and that, though marriage is a beautiful gesture, it shouldn't be seen as a goal to be attained in the quest for "fitting in" and having agency?

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