"There's a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out." -Lou Reed

Monday, September 6, 2010

Pain vs. Tradition: The Walk Down the Aisle

It’s not that far to walk. Maybe 30 feet I am guessing? It is a small church. And at the end of that walk, a part of my life will be over and a new one will begin. It will take 3 minutes or less. And yet, it is the one thing about planning this wedding that has caused me the most worry, the most heartache. It has been the one argument my fiancé and I have had over anything to do with the wedding.

Will my father walk me down the aisle?

I actually have already talked to my mother about where my father should get fitted for his tux. I have already had a disjointed conversation with her about him walking me down the aisle. I never called her to formally ask. He and I have not really spoken in over a year. The last time we spoke was by necessity at a family gathering for Christmas last year. My mother called me a few months ago once I started to plan the wedding, simply asking what my father should wear to walk me down the aisle.

It seems easy enough to those outside the situation. Knowing my history with my father, knowing my feelings about him, knowing the pain he has caused in my life—NO—he should not have the honor of walking me down the aisle. It seems easy enough.

Do I want him to? No. Mainly because I have had to take care of myself for a long time. I may have done a poor job of it at times, but I have had to find a way to navigate through this world, to honestly survive my relationship with him. It was his voice I heard in my head for the better part of my life. The voice that made me doubt myself, that made me make choices I would not have made otherwise. The voice that told me I wasn’t worth a healthy relationship or belief in myself. The voice that constantly made me doubt myself and at times hate myself. That voice I heard—his voice-- became my voice. I was 36 years old before I even began unraveling that mystery; before I began to try and hear my own self in there. Before I realized it was his voice and not mine I had been hearing.

This isn’t about breaking with tradition. For me, tradition went out the window years ago. I could care less about wedding etiquette or rules, or what people see as right or wrong. A lot of people don’t know the truth about what went on in my house growing up, or who my father was behind closed doors, or who he is now. So yes, there might be questions at the wedding, but that isn’t it either.

It begins and ends with my mother. Although I have wanted to pummel her at times over the years for concentrating on nothing but the fact that I wasn’t married, that I was getting older and was going to end up ALONE, that I was going to get too old to have children—I am happy that she is getting to see this happen. It has worried her to death—almost literally. I know she only wanted my happiness as she completely missed the irony that she was begging for me to enter into an institution that had brought her nothing but pain, disappointment, and loneliness. I know that it will be one of the happiest days in her life to be at my wedding. And I think she has had too few of them. I know if I tell her (because I will have to tell her since my father and I don’t speak) that I do not want him walking me down the aisle, that it will be she who suffers. She will hear him venting, he may refuse to come, and my mother is at times dependent on him when traveling. Not because of any illness or anything like that, she just relies on his opinion, almost his permission, to do anything.

My mother is living in the biggest state of denial I have ever witnessed. Part of this is that in her world, we are the perfect family, have had no issues or dysfunctions to speak of, and every holiday has been a Normal Rockwell painting. My wedding is just another painting in progress, and everything should be in place: the bride in white, the handsome groom, the three tiers of cake, and the father walking the daughter down the aisle.

As much as I want to just let it go, and do the easy thing…I woke up yesterday asking myself who this was easy for. I have, too many times in my life tried my very best to make things good for everyone else. And to be honest, because I grew up living my mother’s denial, I too kept up appearances that everything was normal, if not wonderful in my family for many years. You can learn denial and keeping secrets just like you learn everything else. Everyone at college went home for Christmas and excitedly talked about relatives not seen all year, presents, family meals, and just happiness. At times I even made up stories, or at least very heavily embellished what I had to look forward to. The truth was, Christmas was one of the most painful times of year for me. There were several Christmases that my father either made me leave the house (on Christmas Eve) or things became so explosive that I had to leave. I wasn’t a problem teenager. I didn’t come home with a tattooed boyfriend or a pregnancy announcement or any of the other afterschool-special problems that might send a parent over the edge, even at Christmas. It was as if just my existence, my very being, and all the disappointments I had become were too much for him to handle without loads of alcohol and profanity spewed in my direction. It took me awhile to stop trying to be the last missing piece in my mother’s Rockwell painting, coming home to make it complete for her. Finally, I started taking vacations at Christmastime, saving my vacation time at work, and not always being honest with those who I knew about where I was going. No one wants to hear that you are spending Christmas alone, even if it is in Maui or Paris. It is best to just let people assume you are heading home with the rest of the world.

I took baby steps in trying to preserve my sanity. Not going home for holidays, and then not visiting when my father was home. I felt guilty making things hard on my mother, but had to, at some point, save myself.

And in about two months, I am getting married. It will be one of the most important and happiest days of my life. And though it may seem like an easy decision one way or the other…to spare my mother’s feelings or to say no to someone who doesn’t deserve the honor…it isn’t easy. But, I have waited so long for this. For this love. I honestly had completely given up on it happening for me. And the joy I have had in my life for the almost ten months I have been with my fiancé has changed my life and made me stronger. I honestly believe I had to learn to love again, and my fiancé has taught me. They say you have to love yourself before you can love someone else. I think for the most part, that is true. But sometimes, you can’t see yourself until someone else sees you. Believes in you. Helps you hear their voice and your own above everyone and everything else. And that has happened for me.

The thought of even the gesture of letting my father walk me down the aisle makes my stomach hurt, makes me angry, makes me sad.

The thought of walking myself down the aisle, toward the man I love, toward my new life makes me nothing but happy.

Maybe it is an easy decision after all.


Angella Lister September 6, 2010 at 1:49 PM  

Kim, I think you've made your decision. Whatever you decide, you mom will find a way to be at peace with it. If it turns out that she needs help traveling, maybe there are others who can provide it? I doubt she would let anything allow her to miss this day she has dreamed of for you. But it is your day. So above all, be true to you. I am so very happy for you!!

"Sometimes you can't see yourself until someone else sees you." Wow. So profound.

Eva Gallant September 6, 2010 at 3:23 PM  

I think you are making the right decision, walking yourself down the aisle! Good luck, girl.

Patty September 6, 2010 at 4:50 PM  

Follow your heart. I would think in ten years, you will want to remember this day, as the first page of a new chapter in your life. Live it, Love it - it is so precious.

Kate September 6, 2010 at 6:36 PM  

Oy oy oy oy oy.

Girl, I think you and me could have some loooong and interesting talks.

My father was a jerk. I'm glad he's dead.

I dunno what to say about weddings, except that I've had 2, and I didn't end up really liking either one of 'em! If I ever have a third, I'll go to Hawaii or the Bahamas or somethin'. :-D

Good luck with EVERYTHING! I can't wait to see the pictures!

JC September 6, 2010 at 7:01 PM  

It's YOUR wedding. At your age, you can do anything you want on your day. Tell your Mom that considering that you live on your own and have for some time that you have decided to walk down the aisle by yourself. If she says anything, just say that it isn't personal at all. Tell her that you thought about it but that you think that is an old tradition and you have been out of the house for a long time and you feel that it wouldn't fit in with the style of wedding you have planned. Just that simply ... and, if they do not come to your wedding ... so what, no big deal, your wedding will be grand cause it's the end of your old life and the beginning of your new one.

Anonymous,  September 6, 2010 at 7:19 PM  

I don't know if there really is a "tradition" to weddings anymore. All of the ones I have been to are so unique. They are destination or non-denomination or gay, they are including children the couple already have together or from prior relationships. In the end it's your day...and only what you want and what makes you happy matter. Anyone there and anyone who matters will understand why your father is not a part of the day...and if they talk...let them. As long as you see your love at the end of that isle and float yourself down it to him...thats all that matters. Good luck and congrats.

Pat September 6, 2010 at 10:15 PM  

I agree. You've already made your decision. This is YOUR day. It's all about YOU. What YOU want. Don't worry about anyone ELSE. Your mom will have to understand. She lived in the same house as you did. She knows what went on. Be strong.

lydia eve September 7, 2010 at 1:01 PM  

I'm not convinced you've made your decision. If you have, and you've decided to go by yourself, that's awesome. Don't look back. If you're still not sure, you might consider having him walk you only part of the way, then walk yourself the rest of the way. Or have him walk you part of the way and Shea meet you and walk you the rest of the way. Or have him walk you part of the way, you walk part of the way alone, and Shea meets you for the final few steps to the altar. There are ways to include him that might please everyone involved. In some ways it might be therapeutic to have him walk you down the aisle--you just said yourself that he was the voice you heard for so long... Him walking you down the aisle may truly be the final symbol of you leaving him in your past and moving forward to your life with Shea. One last walk with dad so that you don't have to worry about him anymore.

I'm not saying it's wrong if you choose to NOT have him walk you down the aisle, but if you want to have that happen as a gift to your mother, be sure you find a way to make it a gift to yourself as well.

RMB September 7, 2010 at 8:50 PM  
This comment has been removed by the author.
Michelle September 9, 2010 at 12:57 PM  

i have to agree with lydia... i know you want your mother to be happy and to stop worrying... and since she is so dependant on your father... IF he is the type of man who will opt out of coming if he cant walk you down the isle... then she may opt out of coming too... or he may TELL her that THEY arent going... and that would be even more upsetting to you than having to put up with him for a few minutes... maybe you can have YOUR MOTHER walk you down the isle and give you away? hows THAT for a break from tradition?

however you choose to do it... i hope your wedding day is magical...

on a personal note... my father didnt walk me down the isle... he didnt know my husband well when we got married and the very thought of me gettingf married to someone he just met threw him into a panic. he made all sorts of wild assumptions about why i was getting married... and suggested that i was on drugs. BUT... he came to my wedding... and watched me walk down the isle to my husband without his help. and i was OK with that... because i didnt need his help anymore... ;) thats what my husband was waiting for me at the end of the isle for... and he has helped me walk forward in life every day since.

akc40 September 17, 2010 at 10:30 AM  

When you walk down that isle, you look straight ahead. Never look back at what you are leaving behind, the past.

Sadhana Ramchander September 20, 2010 at 8:29 AM  

A happy occasion is a time to forgive and forget. It is difficult for me to understand the extent of your hurt, but I think you should give your father one last chance...maybe your relationship with him will take a turn for the better? And, you now have your husband next to you now...what do you lose by having your father walk you down the aisle? You would have made a large-hearted statement at your wedding. Think about it.

Anonymous,  June 28, 2012 at 3:43 PM  

Hi,I'm Swati, I don't even know if you'd read this. But I was just writing a love story which began with a wedding, I wanted a cover for it and found the picture you have used. I saved it, edited it and put it up for the book. I was about to shut this page when I realized something was written. I scrolled down to ur page, read the entire thing and some comments and decided to post. I'm 18 and my dad, he's tried raping me and yet i've never told my mum.You might understand why. I love my mother too much to have the courage to tell her. When I was young he used to hit her infront of my eyes and I just looked and did nothing. The guilt of it kills me till this day.I always think to myself weather I'll ever give him the honor of giving me away at my wedding but I know I won't let him. It would just be another act of showing that he matters while he actually doesn't. Im from India and people here are conservative. I'm in college but have to live with my parents and hear the bickering 24/7. My mother now comes home drunk. I've noticed more than once that she's come home after having intercourse with some other man. But I can't say anything I just sit and cry at times. To myself. There's no one I can talk to, no lace that I can go to or just run away. I'm trying to get out but its next to impossible. I hate my dad nd wonder when i'll be able to walk away and save my mum and younger brother too. Its tough but maybe like you i'll muster the strength and do something before I end up emotionally killing myself.
The worst part is...I'm not sure weather the man I marry will be any good or just as worse as him. It scares the hell out of me...


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