|Wedding invitations. Mine look way better than these. Image source.|
So basically here's how it happened: I was browsing around online for invitations, and I found a design I really liked. It was about $200 for a set of them. Later I thought, well maybe I can find some that are cheaper than that. So I went back to the invitation website and set filters so it would only return results that were in the lowest price range. But I didn't like those ones as much.
It makes sense, right- the prettier ones will be more expensive. You're paying for the artists' and designers' work, and it takes time for them to make something that looks really good.
But is it okay to choose to pay extra just to get something pretty?
I kind of felt like it wasn't. For two reasons:
1. That's kind of more "feminine" that I want to be.
So there's this stereotype that women are all into decorating and making things pretty and planning out all the cute little details of weddings, and men don't care. From the time I was little, I didn't really want to be seen as "feminine" [even though I'm a woman] because then I wouldn't "look like" I was good at math and science. Wearing cute clothes would take away from my nerd cred.
It was internalized sexism. I did buy into the idea that the more "girly" someone looks, the less talent she has in STEM. Sure, girls can be good at math and science- of course they can! (I would get very angry at anyone who suggested otherwise.) But if they are good at those things, their appearance will be less "girly" and more "nerdy." Glasses, t-shirts, long hair that they never styled. No cute dresses, no revealing tank tops, no high heels, little or no makeup.
So when I was in high school, my identity as a math nerd was very important to me, and therefore I stayed away from interests that are seen as more "feminine." In college I decided I could embrace my "feminine" side more, that I could like pink and wear cute things and it didn't make me any less of a math nerd.
But apparently I still have this idea that I'm not into things that "girls" are into. In a lot of cases, this "I'm not like other girls" attitude is a form of internalized sexism- and I think that's at least partly true for me. Theoretically, I should just like the things that I like and not care about if society says they are "girl things" or "boy things"- but in reality, I find that I don't want to be interested in certain things, because there are lots of gender-related stereotypes attached to them.
Basically, society has certain ideas about what a girl who prefers to spend more money on pretty invitations is like. Those ideas are not true about me, and my reflex reaction is to pretend I don't care about the prettiness of the invitations- in other words, to agree that the stereotype is true and then deny part of whom I am. But that's so messed-up. I like the prettier invitations and I think it could be worth it to spend extra money on them. But just based on that, you can't assume other things about my personality. It doesn't mean I'm "shallow" or "high-maintenance" or whatever.
(I'm finding I actually do care about many different "pretty" aspects of the wedding, but I want to pretend I don't care. So... yeah...)
Challenge the stereotype. There's nothing wrong with liking things that are seen as "feminine." It doesn't limit who you are as a person.
2. Is it immoral?
I used to believe in a Christianity that said my desires don't matter. The less-pretty invitations are perfectly fine, they tell the guests when and where the wedding is, and that's the only thing invitations need to do. If I want to buy more expensive ones, just because I like them, well, that's selfish. I want to spend money just to make myself happy- that's SO not okay, not in the Christianity I learned.
For the past few weeks, we've been talking about radical Christian missions here on the blog. This ideology teaches that, because some people in the world don't have food and water, it's wrong for me to spend any money on myself, beyond the bare minimum needed to survive. It would be immoral- very, very immoral- to pay extra to get prettier invitations, when that money could have gone to feed a starving child somewhere.
I don't believe that anymore. I don't believe it's wrong to spend money just for the sake of making ourselves happy. My happiness matters. And it's so incredibly unhealthy to live in a constant state of guilt over the fact that I have nice things. It's okay not to deny myself. Yes, I should donate money to help other people, because I'm able to- but I don't have to donate ALL the money I possibly can. It's okay to make myself happy.
So anyway. I should tell you that my parents are paying for the wedding, so actually it was my mom making the decision about getting pretty vs cheap invitations. She seems to be of the opinion that it's not a big deal to pay a little extra- she wants me to have the ones that I like. (Aww isn't that nice?) So that's what we did. If I were paying for it, though, I'd have to think about whether it would be better to save that money for future living expenses. Not because it's immoral to spend money on myself, but because I might be better off spending it on myself in a different way in the future.
It's okay to care about pretty things. It's okay to have interests and desires that society reads as "girly." That doesn't make me illogical (y'all know I want to be a Vulcan)- my emotions are real, and it's logical to take actions to satisfy those desires. My happiness matters and is worth spending money on.