Tuesday, February 24, 2009

When wedding bells ring too soon

by Franki Butler

While I’m generally a woman of strong opinions, I simply don’t know what to think about this story:

On one hand, I’m not going to begrudge a nine year-old leukemia patient anything she wants. If the girl wants a wedding, by gosh let her have a wedding. On the other, I’ve got to question the adult involvement. I’m going to assume that Jayla just wanted the pretty dress and the party and the opportunity to be closer to her best friend because, frankly, she’s nine and I doubt she’s really embraced the full concept of marriage. We even hear the minister say “Do you take José to be your friend forever,” as opposed to the traditional vows (good gracious, I hope they weren’t using traditional vows). But what about the grown-ups? What about this big production they’ve created? The ratio of adults to children in many of these shots was the opposite of what I would expect for what is, essentially, a children’s party. How much of this is a child’s dream to have a big fancy wedding, and how much of this is her parents’ desire to see their little girl walk down the aisle?

And my biggest question, what about the groom? We see him only briefly in the video and we don’t get to hear him speak at all. How does the little boy feel about this? Is he as on board as Jayla, or is this marriage strictly a female-motivated endeavor?

As I stated previously, I’m certainly not going to begrudge a dying girl her last wish. I am, however, slightly uncomfortable with the fact that such highly gendered ideas of commitment have been programmed so young – or that’s the way it seems from the video at least. There is little in the idea of marriage to attract a nine year-old girl, other than the idea hammered into us by society that every girl should want to be bride and start planning her wedding while still in the cradle. The story doesn’t bother me nearly as much as what the story represents. While I understand a child’s instinct to play house, I can’t help but feel a bit wrong about elementary-aged children’s involvement in such an adult enterprise.

That said, my hopes and prayers are with the Cooper family. My fingers are crossed that both children will beat the odds and find the opportunity for a real wedding, much further in the future.


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