Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Karen M. Dunak's "As Long as We Both Shall Love"

Karen M. Dunak is Assistant Professor of History at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. She earned her BA in History at American University and her PhD in Modern US History at Indiana University.

Dunak applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, As Long as We Both Shall Love: The White Wedding in Postwar America, and reported the following:
Page 99 features one of my favorite sources used in As Long as We Both Shall Love: Robin Morgan’s “Barbarous Rituals.” Among those listed:
  • quarreling with your fiancĂ© over whether “and obey” should be in the marriage ceremony
  • secretly being bitched because the ceremony says “man and wife” – not “husband and wife” or “man and woman.” Resenting having to change your (actually, your father’s) name
  • having been up since 6:00 A.M. on your wedding day seeing family and friends you don’t even really like and being exhausted from standing just so and not creasing your gown and from the ceremony and reception and traveling and now being alone with this strange man who wants to “make love” when you don’t know that you even like him and even if you did you desperately want to sleep for fourteen hours…
Coming toward the end of the third chapter – on the rise of hippie or alternative weddings – the page concludes a discussion of the influence of women’s liberation on the style of celebration emerging in the 1960s and 1970s. Morgan’s list reveals the limitations of the day assumed to be the crowning glory of every woman’s life. She critiqued the standard white wedding celebration with its focus on language, roles, and appearances marked by limited, old-fashioned expectations of gender. As other women read her list, they too identified with the confines of the celebration and realized they were not alone in their dissatisfaction with the celebration and all it communicated about men and women. Like other feminists of the era, Morgan suggested that not all women could be expected to desire the same experiences and that those who were looking for more egalitarian unions might need to develop an alternative to the standard wedding form.

As I argue throughout the book, the 1960s philosophy that the personal was political directly influenced men and women as they aimed to infuse their celebrations with individual touches that expressed something distinct about their relationships and expectations of married life. Women (and men) realized that they need not follow the cultural expectations laid before them. They could review and revise such expectations as they saw fit, and ultimately, this is exactly what couples did and what couples well beyond the 1960s and 1970s have been doing as they’ve celebrated their weddings and entered into marital unions.
Learn more about As Long as We Both Shall Love at the New York University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue