Being the Best Man
Some women dream of their wedding day. One of my fantasies was being the best man. I like the idea. Firstly because I want to be the best at something. Secondly, I like the idea of being an honorary man for a day. In society, I present my outward appearance in a feminine way. I wear makeup and have long hair. I don’t mind this feminine presentation of self. However, my inner self is more androgynous. My inner self dislikes being female. It doesn’t like to be pigeon holed into a biological sex and all the terrible things (things I find terrible) that come along with being biologically female (more body fat, breasts, periods, hips, etc.) and the social roles, expectations, oppressions, of femininity ( being emotional, being paid less, being taken less seriously, motherhood, etc.) Don’t get me wrong…I don’t want to be a man. I just want to be less of a woman. Less curvy, no breasts, narrow hips, more logical (this is socially constructed because women can certainly be logical!), more scientific (again socially constructed as women can certainly be scientific), less gender conforming, and so on. There is nothing inherently bad about the traits that are considered feminine and female nor are these traits the end all and be all of gender expression. There are heterosexual mothers who love their curves and emotions but also love mud bogging, kick boxing, hunting, etc. They are both more women and more man than most men and most women and yet they would never consider themselves gender queer. A great accomplishment of the feminist and LGBT movements is greater space for women to express their gender. While 100 years ago or 50 years ago, women couldn’t play basketball, wear pants, go hunting, choose not to have children, choose not to get married, travel independently, and many other things without strong social sanctions…today there is a great deal more gender freedom (for women). So much so that most people (I don’t want to overstate this) don’t think it too strange if women enjoy contact sports or independent adventures. Granted, I don’t think that society is some utopia for women. I do recall being told that only lesbians play soccer (by a professor no less) when I joined a soccer team. I was also told by a professor that women can’t go into politics because we are too emotional to make the hard decisions (I guess women can’t make choices beyond the grocery store and shoe aisle. Everything else is too much for our PMS addled brains). There is still room to grow and for all of us to experience life more fully. And while there is more room to express femininity more broadly, the masculine experience is quite narrow and very policed. Men police each other through homophobia and still must prove each day that they are not gay and not female. Why? Masculinity and heterosexuality are still the cornerstone of patriarchy, which has not been overthrown. The perpetuation of male power demands defining and defending masculinity. So while to some degree women can play sports, have careers, choose not to be mothers, and so on…men are not able to dabble in femininity the same way (showing emotion, being stay at home fathers, enjoying clothes shopping, etc.) Again, I don’t want to paint the female experience as dreamland (as there is still domestic violence, rape culture, slut shaming, wage gap, etc.) I simply believe that one accomplishment of the social movements of the last century was an expanded role of women and expansion of how women experience gender.
With that said, I am glad to live in a time where I can express femaleness differently. I am glad to live in a time where I can question gender. Even if my gender queerness never leaks out of my inner world and fantasies, I am glad that I can …at least to some degree…even entertain these thoughts. I thank feminism and the LGBT movement for that.
Getting back to being the best man, it was meaningful for me as it was a day to enter male space. For instance, I was assigned the male restroom to change in. So, I changed into my clothes in a male space and among men. Although I wore a dress and even overdid the feminine presentation of self, I liked that I had a traditionally male role. I gave the best man’s speech, stood by my friend Mike during the ceremony, and brought a gift to the female dressing room. The female dressing room became foreign. It was full of tears and hairspray. The male dressing area and the guys weren’t weepy. They actually seemed more befuddled and awkward. No one understood how to pin on the buttonaires. The main concern seemed to be how to appear competent (i.e. standing in the right place, following the ceremony correctly, wearing the dress clothes properly). My backstage peek into masculinity mostly taught me that men like to appear competent and do not feel competent at weddings. Adam and I (and Luca) were probably the only dry eyed people through the ceremony. The public presentation of the masculine self requires self control and emotional restraint. Not that I felt inclined to cry. Why cry? It is a nice time. Everyone is there. It was pretty and the ceremony was nice. The decorations were creative. The theme was cool. I felt happy for Mike. Still, it would have been odd to cry. I wonder if the women felt that they had to cry…since it would suck to be the only woman in the bride’s party who didn’t cry. Maybe guys can avoid crying and still be seen as caring. Maybe no one cares if they care. I don’t think that anyone thought Adam, Luca, and I were jerks because we didn’t cry. However, maybe a bridesmaid who didn’t cry would be seen as bitchy. I am not sure.
Anyway, I am thankful that I got to play a role in Mike’s big day! I am thankful that I was treated like one of the guys…and for a day…felt like one. I like that I can be a best man, but still wear makeup and a short dress. I can be as emotionally sterile as man, but still connected to a friend and in solidarity with his decisions and struggles. I felt like an equal. I felt like one of the guys. I think it makes me more human to have a wider set of gender experiences. I think it makes me a better person, if not the best man.