When I was fifteen, a friend of mine ordered a Disney Weddings Video (yes, I’m THAT old) and sent it to her boyfriend.
A few days later, this poor, unsuspecting sixteen year old boy, received his VHS manual on how to plan his perfect nuptials in The Magic Kingdom. He had so many choices; did he want Mickey to officiate? Would he be opting for the Ultimate Princess Package? Largely, I’m sure he was wondering: why on earth has my fifteen year old girlfriend sent me a wedding video?
“I want to get married,” she told me when we ordered it, “I know I do. Now he knows too.”
Imagine being that sure of yourself at such a young age. Imagine having the gall to send someone that. Was she crazy? Maybe? Is she getting married? Yes, actually. Though – not unsurprisingly – not to the same boyfriend.
Whilst I’m sure not many of us would have the crazy levels/strike of genius to be so direct at fifteen, a LOT of women have thought about getting married. Even if it’s to dismiss the idea completely as a patriarchal scam or an overpriced taffeta-strewn piece of nonsense; we’ve thought about it.
Perhaps it’s because, from an age far younger than that of my video-sending pal; we’ve been socially conditioned to associate a happy ending with a wedding. It’s little wonder my friend sent a Disney video when every single Disney film we had ever gorged ourselves on as children, contained a wedding as its resolution. Whatever problem the princess had at the beginning of the story; a mad step-mother, an inconvenient fish tail, a spinning-needle-induced-nap, all of them were neatly resolved with wedding bells and confetti.
Through all of these tales, we are oddly not rooting for the prince to find his bride – we imagine he will fall on his feet and enjoy the nepotism of his palace – but yearn, subconsciously or otherwise, for the leading lady to get her man. Because this is how we have been trained to view resolution. This is how we will achieve catharsis. The story – and indeed the woman herself – cannot be satisfied without it. There is no such thing as a happy ending if she’s still single.
This view of marriage as a fix-all for women in particular, has obviously been reinforced by centuries of ingrained social norms and has trickled down to us in no-less watered down a fashion. Sure, we will not be ostracised by our Jane Austen village as a spinster who could not snare so much as a local vicar’s proposal, but there’s certainly a vestige of that still remaining.
And now, for those women in long-term relationships, most probably in their late twenties or early thirties, there’s a creeping feeling beginning to take hold. Let’s call it The Disney Wedding Video Urge.
We roll our eyes at the idea that women are all desperate to be brides. That it is some fanciful desire to play dress up. To play at being ‘the princess.’ We dismiss this rhetoric as demeaning and patronising- that it is somehow “anti-feminist” to want to get married.
Yet, recently, I’ve seen many of my most hardened- cynical pals, as the years roll on and the proposal is not forthcoming, become angry, impatient princesses-in-waiting. This secret-not-so-secret yearning for that ring becomes a growing factor in their relationship. Gone is the desire to play-it-cool. Any one of these women would, I think, have ordered that Disney VHS.
One friend started her eight year relationship cool as anything. Marriage could not have been further from her mind. In the last year or two of their relationship, it became a dominating discussion. He knew her ring size – because she’d sent it to him. He knew what ring she wanted – because she’d sent it to him. He knew he had to propose before she turned 32 – because she came out and told him.
When she eventually got engaged this year, almost all of the congratulations cards were written directly to her, praising her for her patience.
I have dozens of friends who leave their laptops open on the page of the ring they want; a trick that has exploded during lockdown, with couples working from home together. Another friend of mine likes to test the theory that your smartphone is listening to everything you say; and is tailoring adverts to you accordingly. She frequently takes her boyfriend’s phone when he’s out of the room, and says ‘emerald cut’ and ‘Tiffany’s’ into it, with the clear-cut, pointed enunciation of a woman on the edge.
As the geological saying goes: no pressure, no diamond.
I say all this with a raised eyebrow and a touch of judgement, but I am no better. In the last year or so, I too felt the Princess-Gene triggered by something – maybe it was turning 30, maybe it was a global pandemic, who can tell? But suddenly, I realised that all the vague daydreams I had had about what my wedding would look like (OK, so not so much vague as already written down and Pinterested), were actually not a distant ‘grown-up’ happy ending far in the horizon, but something I was ready for. Then, not just ready for, something I was getting impatient for.
Instead of taking the sneaky route (although, much props to you ladies) I decided to talk to my boyfriend about it. Unlike the poor ambushed boyfriend of my school friend, he was not exactly shocked by this. Because of course, most of these women are not manifesting engagement fantasies alone, they know they are with the right person. Marriage, if not the actual ring, is already on the table.
Instead of pressuring him to propose (although I had the good sense to direct him to the ring style I wanted) I told him I was happy to take it into my own hands and propose myself. After all, I hadn’t waited to be handed anything else I wanted in life, why this? I’m a millennial. I think a ten minute Uber wait is too long. How am I expected to wait around for this?
But apparently, he’s keen to do it himself, at some unspecified future date. And so I join the ranks of the other crazy women I never thought I would become, and wait patiently. Here we all stand, in the final act of the socially-conditioned fairytale, waiting to be rescued from the evil stepmother of singlehood, waiting for the narrative to neatly conclude with wedding bells and confetti.
If all else fails, I guess I could always send him a Disney Weddings video.