Post-tradition

In my generation there is a turn back towards tradition. We are post-traditionalists. This means we want to get married again. The difference between us, and those a generation older is that they are too close to tradition to be ‘post’ – they are still pushing against it unequivocally.

  • Post – not coming after, necessarily, but responding to. Still doing it, but not really meaning it.
  • Neo – contemporary reinterpretation; ultimately, a continuation.

My friend got married recently. It is the first wedding I have been to that involved someone I was really close to. She is my age. It has always been assumed we would both get married. At her hen’s day (it was a lunch at her parents shack at Opossum Bay) someone read out, as a joke, instructions for 1940s housewives for how to greet their husband at the end of the day.

  1. Wipe the children’s faces
  2. Forget your own cares for a while
  3. Have a warm or cool drink ready for him
  4. Look fresh etc.

Kate’s mother (Kate is the bride) was horrified, and guffawed loudly throughout: ‘Yeah right!’

I silently thought it sounded good. Why wouldn’t whoever was at home make the person coming home feel loved and welcome when they got there? Isn’t that the point of having a partner?

Silent, until I said, ‘I think that sounds pretty good,’ and my other good friend Amy said, ‘Yes, so do I.’

The difference is choice of course, and expectation. If my ‘husband’ expected me to serve him a ‘warm or cool drink’ on his return from work, and I felt I had no other options, of course that would be horrid indeed. (I am having a moment of gratitude for first- and second-wave feminists right now as I write this. I have previously felt irritated by some older women’s seeming expectation that I will continue to live in the past in order to be grateful to them). But here’s how it is: it is self-evident that we should be nice to our sexual partners as best we can. It feels nice to me to get mine milk for his tea. He, in turn, is extremely nice to me, and would also get me milk for my tea of course, but that’s not his primary recourse to affection. (All this niceness. Sometimes people confuse gender inequality for the fact that they don’t like the person they’re in a relationship with).

I say ‘milk for tea’ because that same friend Amy who agreed with me told me a story about how she, usually pretty coy about things like this and often a little bit shy, took a wild stab in the dark and decided to get milk for the tea of a man who she knew was interested in her at social gathering – the after-wedding get-together of our friend Kate. Very brave of her, and for a woman, a loving gesture. She looked him in the eye while she was pouring the milk – straight onto his hand as he was holding the cup. (I told my boyfriend this and he looked distressed because he knows Amy and knows she is shy and would have felt embarrassed; but the most likely outcome, I said to him, was that she realised it’s not the end of the world to behave imperfectly when seeking to do something nice for a boy you might like).

Amy is also a single parent, and has recently reached the milestone of producing a ten-year old. Another man, a Muslim, told her once that as a working mother she was essentially unbalanced. He said she can’t give of herself in these two ways at once, and be fully at ease. It sounds shocking. But she said it’s partly true.

Finally: at the wedding Kate had little bios of her guests in the reception programme, which were lovely. Mine described me as a ‘lipstick feminist’, which is pretty self-explanatory. Whether it’s ‘post’ or ‘neo’, I don’t know.

-Elizabeth Mead