A few weeks ago, a cousin I have not spoken to for about a decade invited me to his wedding in Hawaii. I knew almost right away that I would decline the invitation. Yet, I felt guilty about saying no. I talked with one of my best friends about it a few hours after receiving the invitation which helped me feel better, and I decided to donate $30 to my cousin’s honeymoon fund instead. Still, his ask and my reaction to it lingered with me.
I felt a small drop of guilt for a few hours after I made up my mind to say no even though I had several strong reasons not to attend. With my residency schedule and my upcoming move to Philly, I don’t really have time to fly to a wedding for someone I’ve never felt close to, much less fly all the way to Hawaii. Financially, a trip to Hawaii plus lodging would eat up a significant portion of my budget, again for someone I may have had two five minute individual conversations with in my entire life. While I understand I’m blood family with this person and I wish him and all his loved ones the best, I guess it just struck me as interesting to even receive this invitation when on an emotional level we’re not connected at all.
I think this situation seems interesting to me because it feels so socially constructed. I spend most of my money on rent, takeout, books, travel to see friends, and mutual aid. It feels odd to me that I would give money to a romantic partnership just because I have a blood relationship with one of the two romantic partners, who I haven’t even spoken to for years and years. Like, why not spend $30 celebrating someone and their best friend who sustained a platonic connection that’s given them emotional support and intimacy years? Why not spend $30 to honor someone who’s reached a milestone in learning how to love themselves on an internal level, regardless of what society or other people think of them? Why not spend $30 to celebrate someone who got a job or a hobby that aligns with their values? So many remarkable life events happen outside of an instagrammable set of wedding photos.
I consider both the legislative or legal ramifications of amatonormativity as well as its public portrayal and consequences. Like, of course people who are not romantically partnered should get all the same benefits that married people do, whether they’re people who prioritize friendships or people who are unpartnered platonically or romantically. Though in this moment I think more about the public perceptions of marriage, like how so many people post about when they get married though so few post about their divorces, even when a lot of people get divorced. I’m not out here rooting for divorce unilaterally – though there shouldn’t be any shame in ending any type of relationship that isn’t working out – rather, I find it problematic that we glorify romance above so many other forms of connection.
In preparing to write this post, I had the thought that I *could* hold a ceremony for my best friends and I if I really wanted to. No one is stopping me, and I’m sure I could work hard to make it a great time. Both of my best friends have at one point or another expressed interest in this idea, that we can throw a party to celebrate and to flex our glorious platonic bond on people.
But then, I realized I don’t really want to throw a party, at least not right now. The boring reason: I don’t like thinking about logistics nor do I really enjoy parties. I’d much rather stay in and reflect on feelings and social issues and which book to read next. On a more personal level, I don’t need anyone else, be it a person or an institution, to validate the love I have for my closest friends and the love they have for me. While I think friendship should receive more structural support and representation, I can validate my loving relationships with my best friends through my journaling, blogging, and the substantial yet sometimes simple day-to-day tasks that allow any healthy relationship to thrive.
Over the past few months I’ve felt a little lost at times. I’m in a period of transition on top of transition: I moved to a new city last year and I’m moving to a new city later this year, and I switched to a new job last year and I’m switching to another new job later this year. Multiple times a week, though, I remind myself to slow down, breathe, and remember that I’m loved by my friends and I’m loved by me. I can set the job tasks and the logistics of moving aside for a while, because I already have all of this love to sustain me.
How do you feel about weddings and marriage? What messages have you received about these events and institutions? I am starting to plan my move (just booked apartment tours for a few months from now) so plz send luck, strength, and vibes for the downfall of the white supremacist patriarchy. Until next post!
9 responses to “30 Dollars”
I love this post so much. I think your situation with your cousin’s wedding is a common one for Asian Americans, where we deal with heteronormative expectations as well as familial obligations/ideas of long-standing tradition and honor. I remember when my husband and I first talked about getting married, we weren’t sure if my parents would be on board, so we planned and budgeted for our ideal wedding; it would be something small, maybe 50 people, at a small garden venue in Richmond. Surprisingly, my parents did approve (as long as we got married after we graduated), but they had a certain list of expectations (it must be at a proper venue, with a sit-down portion, dinner must be catered and must be a multi-course menu, there must be an open bar, etc). Our planned wedding of 50 swelled to 150 attending, with over 200 invitations sent out, most of them to distant family members on my side who “must be invited otherwise they’d be offended”. It really stressed me out and even though we tried our best to insert moments that were small and meaningful to us, our wedding as a whole felt like it was more for my family than for us. We were intensely relieved when we got to leave the wedding, and then drive up to a national park for a week and not talk to anyone.
I also think I have a similar experience with you because of our moms – I value my chosen family/my friends so intensely, but I always felt like I was pushing back on social norms by loving them so intensely, yet not romantically. My mom would always chastise me and tell me that eventually all my friends would leave me, but only my family would still be there to care for me, using that to excuse her abuse because it was done out of “love”. But there’s so much to glorify and love in my friendships, and I’ve been lucky that a lot of my friends are from when I was younger; there’s so much to be said about growing with your friends through different seasons of life, and still finding ways to connect and care for each other. And while maybe it’s not mainstream celebrated, I know there’s a lot of ways that my friends and I celebrate our bonds. Pre-pandemic, my best friends and I would take a trip for a weekend or week, using the time to explore somewhere new and come back to our Airbnb at the end of the day to cook dinner and read books or watch movies (my favorite kind of celebration). One of my friend groups is planning a weekend retreat at an airbnb so they can do cosplay photoshoots and also trade books. Another one of my friend groups tries to gather together at one person’s house for a “fest”, where we all game and cook together. I love and cherish these plans of joy and connection so much.
Anyways, all this to say that I love the expressions of joy and love that friendships can (and should!) have. I’m also a big proponent for people having celebrations, and inviting people to join in their celebrating via a registry or donation (weddings and babies are great, don’t get me wrong, but did you move? Did you finish grad school? Do you feel like you made a big step in your mental health journey? Drop the wishlist or venmo link!!)
Anyways, sending my love and celebrating you – what a time of transition and change for you!
Yessss thanks for this thoughtful comment. It’s interesting to read about how your parents in the end wanted that traditional (conservative? amatonormative? culturally customed? a mixture of these or none?) ceremony. Richmond is so cute btw!
I’m glad you’re sharing your perspective about family and friendship. That sucks that your mother would chastise you. I will say that I feel fortunate that my grandmother and even my mother in a sense role modeled having strong female friendships while I grew up; one of my favorite childhood memories is recalling how when I would play, my grandmother would sit on the couch and talk with her female friends in Vietnamese. I feel like that really normalized social support outside of the heteronormative nuclear family which I carry with me to this day.
I like the many examples you share here; it sounds in a way like even if friendship isn’t the center of the world (e.g., not living with friends or moving for friends etc.) that they can still play an important part in one’s life. I appreciate your warm words for my transition and how you’ve been here for me through many many years and ups and downs!
It seems strange that your cousin would send you an invitation. I don’t know if it’s just a courtesy to let you know. At worst, it’s a way to generate a gift… sigh. But hopefully that’s not the case. What I think you need is not a sugar daddy (cuz you know…) but a sugar free daddy to take care of these kind of expenses.
I hope you find a decent place in your apartment tour. I’m sure they can get pretty stressful. Do you have some contacts there that can provide you with information on which neighbourhoods are better suited for you? (e.g. shopping, bookstores, running trails, tennis, ice cream parlours, restaurants…).
p.s. that pad thai looks good!
Sending you lots of warmth and encouragement.
Yes that’s a smart point, it could have been courtesy for sure. I would be down for a queer man of color with financial means to pay all my living expenses as long as I’m not expected to compromise myself in return. (:
Thank you so much! Yes I have some tours scheduled for late March that I’m excited for. Trying to also honor that there will be some mess in the process and we’ll just see how it goes. I hope your weekend is going well.
Just curious – do you have any contacts in the city you’re moving to?
I appreciate you calling out the social constructs relating to heteronormative familial expectations that are the reason behind this otherwise confusing and questionable invitation. Reading your introspection on how society favors romantic relationships over friendships and other platonic relationships left me feeling disgusted over this whole reality but at the same time I feel glad to see you valuing your friendships in your own ways.
I hope you will take care as you experience the personal and professional transitions, and I am wishing you the affection and care of those close to you!
Thank you so much for this validating comment! I totally hear that feeling of disgust and I’ve been there myself. Re: friends, I will say that it’s taken time and I think when I was younger I also felt disappointed by not having closer friends. But then I met the people who fit with me later on in life and now we’re golden. And, there are times when I’m still trying to figure out who’s a solid fit or not. Anyway, I appreciate your well wishes and sending warmth and compassion back to you. (:
I’m glad you have your super friends to help you through this time, and yes, it is a lot of transitions in one short space of time, esp for those of us who like to PLAN and KNOW WHAT’S GOING ON. But you will get there and then you can settle for a while.
Weddings and family invitations are tricky, aren’t they, esp when there are family issues. I had to not go to my uncle’s funeral this month, a) it was in a place hard to get to without a car, b) I didn’t know if my parents would be there and if they were there would have been a Scene. Fortunately my Cousin Phil, who is that person who holds all the ribbons of family together, went, reported back and saved an Order of Service for me (which he sent on with my birthday card – at least the card was in a separate envelope inside but hm, it turned out). My parents weren’t there, in the end, although a piece by my father was read out (and Phil updated me on, yes, father’s cancer treatment, about which I knew the bare minimum (he had/has cancer), I know you won’t be shocked by the information exchange economy that’s used to try to control so can say that here).
Whew, so I’m thinking of it more from a family dynamics perspective than an amatanormative one, though I take all your points too of course. Interesting on divorce: in my experience people (OK, women) either throw a huge party to celebrate it or, like my dear best friend, are so quietly horrified and ashamed they hate to even mention it. Maybe it divides by who instigated it, I don’t know. On marriage and friends, I don’t have any wedding anniv cards from husband on display (though I keep them) but I have that lovely card (see Facebook last year) my bestie sent me (“Excellent friend, would recommend”) up on my shelves in my office.
And best of apartment hunting luck. You can do this!
Okay yes this is super validating thank you so much, I do like to plan and to know what is going on! And I can sit with that and also feel some pride in how I’m coping with this situation that inevitably requires some loss of control and capacity to plan.
I’m grateful that you’re sharing some of how this family situation played out. Information exchange economy is an interesting and apt way to phrase it. I’m glad you’re role modeling taking proactive steps to cope with potential family stress and normalizing that at times it’s OK to not want to show up to things because of family stress and that isn’t negative, especially when we live in a society that sometimes urges us to attend family events no matter what or assumes that family is a positive thing.
Love this notion of friends throwing divorce parties, I want in on that! Maybe when I get closer to my mid-30s. Yay for your lovely card from your friend. (: