the straight and narrow

When friends ask when we will get married, I bristle, embarrassed to say that we haven’t set a date yet. That luxury belongs to those who can financially afford the ordeal. We can’t.

The socioeconomic aspect of all this stands out the most starkly, but embedded within it are questions of gender and the roles tradition expects us to play. In diverging from our prescribed paths—I’m the primary breadwinner and have been throughout our relationship, and he’s just recently graduated with his B.A. and is now searching for employment—have we set ourselves up for a life that will never appear successful from the outside? If we both had more traditional personal backgrounds and had followed a straighter route toward adulthood, would we be the ones posting pictures of our wedding cake on the Internet? Would we be happier if we’d played the roles we’ve been given by society instead of questioning them and trying something new?

In feeling jealous toward what others have, I can’t help but feel like I’m betraying my own feminist beliefs. Although I may not necessarily want the marriage, I do want the enduring relationship and the rest of the life that the marriage celebration indicates exists—the comfortable job, the luxury of travel, the house that feels like a home, the car…the list goes on and on. Does that also mean that to some degree, I want the traditional gender roles? Or do I just want more stability and safety than I have now? And is it possible to be a feminist and still want these things, or is a Buddhist-like freedom from the trappings of married life part and parcel of feminism? I know that with many things in life, we can’t have it both ways. Am I asking for too much?