Q: Do you have any advice on how to deal gracefully with being called a Bridezilla?
I have been really chilled through the whole planning process and still had people bandy about the term, because I’ve been decisive. Even when it is meant in a joking fashion, having the term leveled at me is about the one thing that is likely to get me looking for cities to wreak havoc on.
It really rankles with me, as I have organized other far bigger and more complicated events (things like a three-day games convention for over six hundred people with guests, talks, panels, games slots, and demos) and been precisely as decisive, prepared, organized, enthusiastic, and energetic as I am about the wedding (in actuality, I’m far more laid back about the wedding than I was about the convention) and nobody thought anything of it other than I was doing a great job and being a really good event lead. Apparently though, I’m now a Bridezilla.
Maybe it’s the difference between what they see as professional me and personal me, but suddenly it’s my wedding and some of the people who were supportive of me when it was a non-wedding event have used the B word. I have dealt with those I care about by saying, “I really don’t appreciate you using that word about me,” and, “I find that term hurtful, please don’t,” and those I’m less invested in by laughing it off and asking for directions to the nearest nuclear power station.
Ultimately though, it is really trying my patience. I have trouble at the best of times with how over-used and deeply misogynistic the term Bridezilla, but having it leveled at me is harder to deal with. I don’t want to explode over something so minor. Please help.
A: If you’re having a hard time hearing the word Bridezilla, both out in the wild and when it’s directed at you, you have every right to be! It’s an incredibly misogynistic, undermining word, and it isn’t used by accident. Bridezilla is a carefully curated social construct, and it functions something like this:
- Step One: Society tells you that weddings are super important.
- Step Two: Pop culture gives you images of what a socially acceptable wedding looks like, but no clear idea on how to pull it off.
- Step Three: Somewhere, offstage, someone knows how much that wedding costs, and isn’t telling you.
- Step FOUR: You are a woman, so whatever you do, do it flawlessly and without any sign of emotional attachment or personal interest in the thing.
- Step five: When all this inevitably leads to you being stressed out, society punishes you for caring too much. Also, if you’re not stressed out but simply decisive, you must also be punished. Rinse, repeat.
Throw all that in a pot, and ta-da! The concept of the Bridezilla is born. (Oh and for added measure, let’s tell men weddings are important enough that they want it done right, but not important enough for them to care about it personally.) In short, Bridezilla exists, as a concept, as a way of punishing women for a host of offenses including being too bossy, too decisive, or just filling up too much space in any given room.
So, anyway, if you’re frustrated, I get you. If you’re really fucking angry, I’ve also got you there.
Now, what can you do about it? Unfortunately, getting society at large to stop using the word is a long game. For example, we refuse to publish the word at APW (except today!). So the first move is to just pretend that word doesn’t exist, and consume media that does the same. As for how to make it less emotionally exhausting for you, personally? Well, that sort of depends on your emotional bandwidth in any given moment. But these are the two tactics I use for stuff like this:
The non-confrontational education: The hardest part about being called Bridezilla is that it usually comes from people you care about. Which means going to that place where you’re asking, “Is it worth starting something over this?” I spent a good chunk of wedding planning simply holding my breath and praying everyone could temper their drama until we were done saying “I do.” So I sure as shit wasn’t going to invite conflict with something as inconvenient as my feelings.
Luckily (or unluckily?) in this political climate, I’ve had a chance to flex my semi-confrontational education tactics with friends and family. And what I’ve found works best to actually move the needle on their behavior is to educate the person on the other end with a “Did you know” type of engagement. For example, if someone casually called me a Bridezilla, I’d say something like, “So, I actually have been reading this website that refuses to use that word! It’s been so nice for me to have a place like that online, because the word Bridezilla was just invented to make women feel like crap. Plus when you think of it, it’s like a trap, right? You’re damned if you care too much about your wedding, and you’re damned if you don’t.”
Translation: “La la la, I know you would never intentionally hurt my feelings.” When you present a critique as a totally neutral idea that has nothing to do with the person talking to you, it gives them a chance to consider it without getting defensive. Plus, they can only really respond in one of two ways:
- Double down and insist that you’re actually a monster. (Which makes them look like an asshole who came to start a fight.)
- Nod their head and go, “Oh yeah, I hadn’t thought of that before?” And then maybe they actually go home and think about what you said.
Because here’s the thing: more often than not, people who say shit like this to you have never stopped to think about things like internalized misogyny, or how bride shaming is often inherently sexist (because surprise, they don’t exactly talk about casual sexism on TLC). And just alerting them to the fact that their favorite phrase is low-key sexist can be enough to make them think twice before they say it again. (Your mileage may vary, obviously.) But if you’re dubious about the efficacy of this method, then I direct you to option two:
The internal redirect: Okay, but sometimes people say shitty stuff to us and we just don’t have the emotional bandwidth to deal with it. Or you know them well enough to know that they are simply never going to stop saying bullshit things to you when you don’t need it. What can you do, besides… swallow your rage? In those cases, I remind myself that people say shitty things to you because there’s something wrong with them. Aka, their crappy comment is usually a reflection of some insecurity, or internalized sexisim that they are dealing with.
For example, if people you love are casually calling you a Bridezilla, maybe they are unaware of their own internalized misogyny and can’t grapple with a decisive woman. Or maybe they are having some other anxiety around your wedding they haven’t voiced. (Weddings! They bring up the dirt you thought was good and buried.) Whatever it is, it’s their bullshit to deal with, not yours. And it’s not your responsibility to fix their problems. If you need a mantra to help you remember this, try mine: This has nothing to do with me. And then let it roll off you.
One of the hardest things about getting engaged is the sudden transformation into public property (hello everyone’s opinion about everything). And it only gets worse as the wedding becomes more imminent. (And then forget about it should you choose to have kids. Decorum goes straight out the window.) And when you add to that the fact that most people have been educated on weddings at the school of pop culture, it can mean a recipe for eighteen months of comments that slowly chip away at you.
So it’s up to you how you’re going to get that dirt off your shoulder. But girlfriend, remember. This shit isn’t about you. This is about society.
And till the world catches up with you, you go on being decisive AF.