My internet bridegroom

21/04/2008

I got married last year to a man I met on the internet in 1999. We’d got engaged years ago but we kept putting the wedding off because we couldn’t work out how to cope with our odd collection of family and friends. It was only the deaths of some of them that made us realise if we left it any longer they might all have gone the same way.

If you meet a man on the internet – and I do strongly urge you to do so – you leap over a lot of the stumbling blocks traditionally dividing couples; race, class, politics and so forth. In our case it left us with an interesting group of putative wedding guests.

Well – more than just ‘interesting’; they were an unruly and ill-matched bunch. Just like the bride and groom. Some of them mad, bad and dangerous. Others curmudgeonly and abrasive, quick to take offence and to dish it out. They came from all classes and temperaments, some of them embracing their fellow man like long-lost social workers, others with more than a touch of the Genghis Khans, so I struggled a bit with how to introduce them to each other.

I’d been to a lot of weddings before and they fell into one of two categories. There are ones where you get told where to sit. This means you have to last a four-hour lunch with people you’d run across a motorway blindfold to get away from. And the ones involving the informal meal you can eat with ‘whoever you like’.  I don’t know about you. Maybe you’re very cool about approaching total strangers but I always end up eating with the one other person in the room I know already because I came with them. I can’t possibly approach tight-knit groups of people I don’t know with my wilting ham roll and chicken drumstick.

So if you’re thinking of getting married soon and in keeping with the internet age, I think you should consider a third way to arrange your guests for maximum social interaction – a speed-dating arrangement. Serve five mini-courses, and rearrange the guests between each course according to your whims – age, height, month of birth …

Families must be deliberately torn apart. Husbands and wives, girlfriends and boyfriends need to be separated and  set down next to people they’ve never met, and probably never will again.  You don’t need music or a disco, only odd speeches scattered through a very long lunch. A sort of teenager’s nightmare. This was how we did it and I couldn’t recommend it to you more highly. Shorn of their family armour, people blossom. Teenagers definitely need to be liberated from the disapproving eyes of friends who know them too well, As a result of this rough treatment our guests, even some of the teenagers, blossomed like a thousand flowers, or at least like a hundred really nice, interesting and friendly people. We barely recognised them.

By the end of the night we had to throw them out of the venue, and the next day once-cool teenagers sat on my sofa and asked when we could do it all over again. So  if you’re an internet bride getting married soon and your guests are causing you anxiety, stop sweating over the table plans, just herd them about like cattle between each course and force them to say hello to  strangers.  You can think of it as sort of collaborative thing – a Web 2.0 wedding. And it was so much fun I’m going to do it again next time.

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Xinran

14/11/2005

Xinran, a Chinese broadcaster who now lives and works in London at SOAS, wrote a collection of pieces about Chinese women. They are sober reading. For anyone who wonders why feminists can still be so persistent when so much of what they fought for seems to have been achieved, this is the answer. As increasing numbers of women now we apparently have freedom to choose, aim to return to full time homemaking, we’re in danger of believing that feminism was a lot of fuss about nothing. I think the ability to choose to work or not to work is a fantastic, and important choice, and still not enjoyed by many people. But having recently made just such a choice, I’m glad I came across this book. It’s reminded me how difficult getting here was, and continues to be for many women across the world. I recommend it. It’s got some tough stories, but I also found it uplifting.