The other day Runaway Bride was on television. It's one of my most favorite Romantic Comedies. The part when Julia Roberts has to really figure out who she is, down to the minute detail of actually knowing how she likes her eggs cooked, has always been a favorite take-away for me in this movie. It was a good reminder that this is such an important task to accomplish, to know who you are, before getting into a serious relationship with someone.
Then I attended a talk by Jessica Vitak who was speaking about self-presentation on social media sites. Meaning, the reason Google Circles was invented, or similarly, why you have to think about posting on Facebook to ensure your post is both relevant and appropriate for your friends and you mother.
Anyway, Jessica mentioned weddings as the "real life" example of when this "context collapse" is often experienced for people off line. And, that got me to thinking about how hard it really is to plan a wedding. To merge not just two peoples lives and their two families, but also all of the other circles in people's lives: friends, co-workers, school mates, church groups, neighbors, etc.
And, that got me to thinking about how hard it really is to know who you are and for others to get to know our whole selves. For most people, it's very normal to present one aspect of yourself in one context and another aspect in another. It's in fact a very important part of socializing (i.e. you wouldn't want to present the same side of yourself to your coworkers necessarily that you do with your friends the night of Halloween). It's also one of the more intimate things about romantic relationships if you think about it- this is one of the few people in many people's lives that actually get to see multiple aspects of you in varying contexts.
Then couples plan a wedding and they are tasked with navigating two people's context collapse simultaneously. Makes perfect sense when you think about it in this light why Julia Robert's character would want to get married with no witnesses around her.
And when I think about LGBTQ couples, the barriers only increase. Are you out at work? Do your childhood neighbor's know you are in a same-sex relationships? What about the family friends or your Great Aunt Sue? What if you or your partner is trans or gender-queer? Do all of your social circles use the same pro-nouns? That really, the right to legally marry is only one barrier to many for lots of queer couples.
So really, when Richard Gere proposes to Julia Roberts, he's not kidding about the tough times.
"Look, I guarantee that we'll have tough times. And I guarantee that at some point, one or both of us will want to get out of this thing. But I also guarantee that if I don't ask you to be mine I'll regret it for the rest of my life. Because I know in my heart, you're the only one for me." ~Ike Graham