Posted by: Martin Scherer | 31/05/2011

Why do women cry at weddings

Watching The Royal Wedding in a half-crowded working class bar, I witnessed the curious phenomenon of women crying. Why? A wedding is a joyous public celebration of two people’s love and forever commitment to each other. Why cry?

A ‘Man from Mars’ would dismiss the inexplicable behaviour of alien ‘Women from Venus’, but I’ve never accepted that nonsense. I’m curious and being a social scientist, I have a right to be. As the moment for ‘I do’ approached, crass calls came from some guys at the bar, “Go for it Willy’, or ‘Run Willy, run’. Women retorted ‘Shss’. The climax built like a romantic film. Was Kate or William about to run out of the church? Women’s attention was not on Kate but Prince William. Would he / wouldn’t he?

When William said “I do.”, one women shed a tear, which turned to a flood, quickly comforted by female friends. That tear spread like a flu virus to three or four other women, each comforted by understanding women. Men turned back to bar.

I watched on. A couple of guys stood looking doubtful. Should he put his big strong arm about the woman crying? Isn’t there a man in this house who can comfort the woman? An older comforter sent a clear eye message – “Don’t dare think of it, you bastard.”

What had that guy done? Why was I caught it in the warning? Are all men tainted by some original sin that they cannot comfort a woman at such times? Half an hour before I’d been flirting with one of those tearful women.

In the days that followed, I asked several women. None admitted they cried or even shed a tear. They all knew someone who did, but none wanted to talk about it. Delving into blogs “Did you watch the Royal Wedding” shed no light on the issue. Except curiously, some women reporting the Royal Wedding made them sick and they did not watch a second of it. Why? A national spectacle, a national celebration, one couple declaring love their love, if that’s what some people want to do, what’s the problem?

Every ten years or so, The West seems to need a national wedding celebration. If royalty or celebrities don’t provide, the film will industry will. Three Weddings with a Funeral thrown in for good contrast. If that is not enough, read a good Mills & Boon novella. A recent BBC romance novel documentary showed Mills and Boon readers. Most readers were in the throws of divorce, just divorced, in affairs or, dreaming of affairs or the perfect love. Then there are the broken-heart-mended films of go find yourself after a break up, such as Eat, Pray, and Love. |The film contains the line, “We cry at weddings because it reminds us of ourselves.”

So is that what these tears are about? Women crying for love lost, a dream dashed on the rocks of life, or a love never achieved? More than half the women of the land endure divorce, never find the love of their lives or live in second best marriages, and can’t understand why it happened to them. How tragic.

For a start, anyone with their eyes open knows a marriage has a fifty-fifty chance. With that failure rate, you might as well plan for the day it does. Understanding what might cause a break-up may increase the chances it won’t.

Where do so many women get the unquestioning belief the marriage love all going to be roses? OK, may not be cloud nine, maybe struggling to farm the outback, living in the Bronx, or suburbia and nine to five job, but love would still be roses. To understand such unquestioned beliefs, you’ve got to go a long way back.

Jesuits say, or was it the Catholic St Francis or the Greek Aristotle, whoever – “Give me new born child for seven years and I’ll give you the man.” Or woman, we should add. It’s a universal truism yet we don’t seem to understand it or act on its wisdom. Instead, we insist children should be allowed to play for the first seven years of their lives. Nevertheless, we tell them tales of life, – the Big Bad Wolf, Jack and the Beanstalk, Goldilocks and Cinderella.

One of my first memories was being taken to see Cinderella. Surrounded by a gaggle of sisters, I looked at my sisters wondering which would grow up to be Cinderella and which the Ugly Sisters. I had my own idea. It turned out right. She did become the Cinderella in the family. I did not see myself as Prince Charming, because I had the sisters so I must be Buttons. The understanding, loyal, serving boy. We grew up to serve women and understand a Prince may one day turn their heads.

These fairy tales become the prescriptions for our lives. They warn us not to build houses that can be blown down in huffs and puffs, or be so vain to be as stupid as the Emperor with new clothes. They raised us to take risks on planting beans to find a fortune and they tell so many little girls, the love of marriage is a bed of roses. It’s an apt analogy roses, for when the flower of love has died, all you have is a bed of thorns.

The function of national weddings is to remind us of vows that have served mankind for centuries and the threat of god or society’s damnation if we don’t. If we understand the vows, it is not two people, so physically beautiful that everyone can love and be reminded of their love. It’s not the public commitment of support in ‘let any man come forth…, or for every hold his peace. It’s not in the personal commitment ‘I do’. It lies in what they know they must do.

In his sermon to the Royal couple, and everyone who listened, The Bishop of London told us what.

Be who God wanted you to be and you will set the world on fire.

How?

A marriage is intended to be the way in which man and woman help each other what God meant one to be.

How?

Husband and wife are to give themselves to each other. It is of course very hard to wean ourselves away from self-centeredness, but in marriage, we are seeking to bring one another into fuller life. A solemn decision that, whatever the difficulties, we are committed to the way of generous love.

When feminists freed women from the oppression of male domination, they burnt thier bras but they didn’t burn thier fairy tales. Their daughters geeww to watch MTV for a lesson on how ot get your man. A world filled by Prince Charmings. If they don’t get theirs, or they loose the one they had, they shed a tear for their loss at weddings. Most men know, its not what you get it’s what you make. It takes two to make a marriage.

A decade ago, sat in a Rome restaurant feeling a bit of a gooseberry with a number of couples from around the world in various stages of their relationships. For nearly all, I felt a sense of foreboding. At one end sat an elderly couple in apparent contentment. No doubt they had played their games, probably been divorced, and remarried. Not the kind of thing discussed in polite conversation between acquaintances. They had every different careers, which they had adapted so they could be together. Then the host congratulated them on their Diamond Jubilee.

I did not expect a marriage that had survived the free love 60’s, swinging 70’s, career busting 80’s, austere 90’s, and greedy noughties. Decades that had tested and destroyed half the marriages of half the people around them.

Walking out saying goodbyes to people I’d never see again, I asked of the elderly wife, “What is the secret of your marriage?”

The couple looked at each other, and then answered, “To be as enthusiastic and supportive of your partner’s interest in life, as you are in your own.”

If they can do that for each bother, why should they ever have eyes for another?

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