There is a romantic-industrial complex that nets billions of dollars from Valentine’s Day and weddings, and it needs you to “buy into” outdated ideas of love and marriage. The more you express your love through candies, chocolates, diamonds, rentals and registries, the more the RIC makes! Valentine’s Day is only one manifestation of the RIC: Americans spend $70–80 billion on weddings each year. With the average American wedding costing $27,000, marriage itself has become a luxury item. This is more than a struggle between old and new traditions—this is about money.It has long been a working hypothesis of mine that the likelihood of a marriage failing varies proportionately with the money spent on the reception. To the women of the fevered brow, that's excessively simpleminded.
So it was that I drove by the church with the billboard that said “Jesus is God’s Valentine to You” and smirked with the ironic distance of my truly analytical feminist brain. But that smirk was quickly wiped off my face as I listened in on a local radio station’s Valentine’s Day special: a real live wedding. Of course it was incredibly predetermined in its presentation—the young high-school friends who were meant to be together but went their separate ways, reunited on Facebook, now marrying live on the radio. Of course their vows said all the right things about for better or for worse as if they were unaware that a lot of marriages don’t really get through the worse times. Of course they played every single cheesy love song in the background as the radio host narrated the bride’s descent down the stairs, the flower girl’s throwing rose petals in her path, the ring boy, the bride’s son from a previous relationship, looking forward to his new life in the “sanctuary” of his new family.All presented, straightforwardly and without irony, by the house organ of academic decline as High Theorizing. Higher education might be in bad odor in the general culture, and some of that odor is self-inflicted.
I could have written this scene in my sleep it was so overdetermined by historical, economic, cultural, and narrative forces. And yet I was crying as I listened to it. Why did I cry?
I asked my students in my course on the Sociology of Heterosexuality this very question. “Because,” one of them ventured, “you find their inability to be analytical about the hegemonic discourse of romance depressing?” Yes, of course I do, but that doesn’t explain my tears.