Age and Tradition

As many of you know, Kate got engaged late last week. She and Mike have been dating for over two years and this was certainly the major reason Deb and I chose to relocate to Maryland this month.

This milestone is not a surprise but it does suddenly make me feel my years. A child old enough to marry and planning a family, a new generation. This is significant.

It’s also steeped in tradition and I find myself both perplexed and comforted by it. When we were washing dishes after Easter dinner, Mike turned to me and mentioned he already possessed the ring but wanted to make certain I had no issues with him marrying Kate.

While a very casual conversation, it is one that goes back centuries. There’s the expectation that the suitor gains the father’s permission and has been used for drama and humor in literature. I did not ask my prospective father-in-law for permission, knowing full well he didn’t approve but Deb didn’t feel the need for me to ask.

And I told Mike, she is not mine to give and while it was nice to ask, it was thoroughly unnecessary. She’s 27 and fully capable of deciding if she wants to spend the rest of her life with the guy. Besides, if he asked and I said, “yeah I do mind” what would happen next? They get married and a deep rift is formed. That wasn’t going to happen. We like Mike, think he has taken good care of her and has the personality and sense of humor that will let him fit right in with our family and friends.

On a related note, Kate and I talked about me walking her down the aisle. Giving away the bride still denotes a sense of property that I object to. My claims over her pretty much ended when I could no longer claim her as a dependent on my taxes. She has effectively been living away from me and Deb for the last nine years. She has been working and living on her own since she graduated college five years ago. So, in my mind, she is not mine to give away so we’ve talked about both parents walking her down the aisle, but Deb’s a traditionalist so I will do a solo.

Following these traditions, regardless of us as a society having outgrown them, seems to bring great comfort and continuity, following the footsteps of our parents and their parents and so on. It’s one reason why these expectations continue to follow succeeded generations.

Clearly, the engagement period will be filled with many of these touches, from who accompanies Kate to shop for wedding dresses down to groomsmen and bridesmaids. There will also be many unconventional touches – I would expect no less from those two – and I’m looking forward to seeing how they personalize this most hallowed of experiences. They already started with Kate having selected a ring that would not normally be considered for use as an engagement ring.

Another sign of my age: I am being excluded from the bachelor party.

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