Monday, January 19, 2015

You Don't Need A Coming-Out Party! You're A Man!

Back in June 2013 on these pages, I lamented an imbalance in young fantasies: why do we have so many young ladies who love being princesses without an equivalent number with princely or knightly dreams? Although I was mildly relieved to see some more knight costumes at Savers this past Halloween, I have since learned the problem is even worse than I considered.

In Japan, a lady can now have a groom-optional wedding, according to several sources including the UK Sunday Express, which reports:
Travel company Cera Travel in Kyoto, a city in southern Japan, has launched "Solo Weddings", which they claim are perfect for women looking for the thrill and romance of a wedding, without actually having to tie the knot.

The two-day trip offers singletons a chance to enjoy all the fun and glamour of the special day, including spending their wedding night in a fancy hotel.
And wait, there's more: you can even have a stand-in disposable groom for the pictures. I read this and immediately flashed back to a 2012 commencement speech from Wellesley High School English teacher David McCullough, Jr., who said in part:
So here we are... commencement... life’s great forward-looking ceremony. (And don’t say, “What about weddings?” Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective. Weddings are bride-centric pageantry. Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there. No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession. No being given away. No identity-changing pronouncement. And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos? Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy. Left to men, weddings would be, after limits-testing procrastination, spontaneous, almost inadvertent... during halftime... on the way to the refrigerator. And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced. A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.)
You ever notice we don't have magazines called Modern Groom or Grooms? We don't have a Groomzillas or Say Yes To The Tux cable show. The entire wedding industry caters to one side of the nuptials.

When I first made that observation on Facebook, a friend observed we've been having these kinds of groomless ceremonies for years: they're called Quinceañeras. Fifteen-year-old girls in Hispanic families celebrate becoming a lady by dressing up like brides, going through a mass and a reception with a court of honor instead of bridesmaids and groomsmen, eating and dancing the night away. In keeping with historic tradition, it's strictly a female rite of passage. What about the boys? In the book Once Upon a Quinceañera, author Julia Alvarez gives us a traditional mindset that boys are born men, but girls turn into women at 15. That's the silliest statement about maturity I've heard since someone warned me coffee would stunt my growth.

You can argue debutante balls are essentially the same thing multiplied, even though they have a noble purpose. Historically, they have introduced marriage-eligible ladies to society, and in our current times, they honor young ladies with a commitment to service. Yet I don't see the equivalent for the young servant-hearted gentlemen seeking marriage. Yes, I know gentlemen do have a role in debutante balls, but they're the functional equivalent of asterisks. Who's presenting them to society?

This disparity angers me. It plays right into the stereotype that young men don't want or need a moment of glamor or regality in their lives. We assume they don't need to be built up, honored, prayed for, lavished, bowed or curtsied to. They don't need a ceremony where their family and friends share how much they are loved and valued, and how their beloved expect great things from them in adulthood. They don't need a coronation like the ladies because they're guys, and guys don't ask to be coronated -- not even on their own wedding days!

Or do they? As many of you know, Jewish boys celebrate becoming men at 13 with a Bar Mitzvah. (Girls get a Bat Mitzvah at 12 or 13.) It is both a rite of passage and a time to party. Christians are adapting this tradition into what is known as a Bar Barakah, and your humble servant was honoured to be part of one in November of 2012.

A Tucson family invited me to lead several historic dances as part of the party following the ceremony of blessing and a dinner. As I wrote in my journal:
The most memorable moment wasn't the dinner or the dancing, it was watching [the young boy's] parents and his sister get up one at a time and tell him how much they loved him and challenged him to live his life for GOD. Seeing it emotionally drained me, as it did [the honoree] and several others. I don't think there was a dry eye in the room at one point.
That included the climax of the ceremony, where the boy crossed from one side of a model bridge he helped build to the other where his friends and family were waiting to hug him.

We still have a way to go before we see male Quinceañeras or male debutante balls. But also I hear some guys get "15" parties, so I sense demand will drive supply. Why should the young ladies have all the fun? I hope we'll someday see prince parties or balls featuring young noblemen, honored as people of maturity and worth, ready for a commitment -- maybe to a young lady, maybe to something else, but ready nonetheless.

But if it gets to the point of bride-optional weddings... uh, that's just tacky.

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