Monday, September 28, 2015

Culture Corner 9.28.15




I'm going to a wedding. Well actually, I wish I was just going to a wedding. If I were just going I'd be more excited. Weddings are fun. Weddings are great. Weddings are a time of great joy, except for those in the wedding. I tried to politely decline when I was asked to be a bridesmaid. I truly did. It's not that I don't love and care for my friend(s) getting married or that I have something against 'tradition' (a subject we'll return to later), it's just that weddings are work. Unfortunately, there is no polite way to say,  "I don't have time for this" but I tried:

1) "Oh you're getting married in October, I have midterms then."
I received blank stares. 

2) "You know,  I can't exactly fly to New Orleans in the middle of the semester,"
to which she responded "Oh, you'll be fine. It's Columbus Day Weekend."

3) "I'm actually choosing to observe the holi-"
I couldn't even get that one out. 

So to make a long story a little bit shorter, I'm going to be, or rather, I am a bridesmaid.  

This past weekend, the wedding party as well as the bride and groom's respective parents met to discuss the ins and outs of the big day. Everyone was very tired and from the look of most faces that night, not too happy either. My friend, the bride, began to tell us all about what exactly would take place at the ceremony. How long each thing should take, what time it would start, what time it would end. It was so fiercely scheduled, there wasn't a second unaccounted for. However, she forgot something. Or rather, her mother felt she forgot something. 

"When are you supposed to jump the broom," she said. 

I wanted to run for cover. I knew this wasn't going to end well for anybody and what makes matters worse is, I felt like I was the only one who knew this wasn't going to end well. Being surrounded by inquisitive, clueless, but curious faces while knowing exactly how something is going to end, is not comforting. It is number four in the top five of things-that-make-me-anxious. It falls right before Sending a Professor an Email and right after Not Hearing What a Person Said For the Fifth Time and Being Afraid to Say 'What' Again.


I know my friend very well which is probably why I was asked to be a bridesmaid and more than I know her, I know her views. It's weird to know someone else's 'views' so well, especially when you don't  always share them. It is the moment where it goes from friendly banter, to heavy debate. It's a ticking time bomb in all conversation. It is the trigger.

The bride's trigger is 'tradition' (the word I said that we'd come back to). I won't go on a tangent about how ironic this is because I've already gone on too many tangents.

The jumping of the broom is a Black wedding tradition that stems from American Slavery. It is actually a custom that seems to be on its way out so my friend, the bride, isn't alone in her disdain for this particular tradition. The act of jumping the broom was used solely for 'sham weddings', weddings that didn't count, if you will. There was no exchanging of vows before God, because as property and not people, enslaved Blacks had no rights to God (although they could and did serve him) or to law (although they were expected to adhere to it) which is what marriage is or what marriage was or what marriage was defined as or what marriage is defined as: a contract between two people, God and the law. In 2015, we're probably not buying that definition or we probably are, you know, whatever. Regardless, two hundred years ago, jumping a broom meant your marriage was not actually 'real' or I suppose 'respected' is the better word.

However, the act has taken on a new meaning, to some. The historical context of 'jumping the broom' has been somewhat forgotten although I wish I could find a better word. I don't think people who choose to participate in the custom have "forgotten" where it comes from. I think it may just be another act of reclaiming or even if not actively trying to reclaim the tradition, what if it is just something people enjoy doing or watching, would that be so bad? I don't know, man.  I don't know. 

My friend, the bride, dismissed her mother's question with an eye-roll and although my anxiety is grateful this didn't turn into a two-hour debate about 'tradition' and what should and should not be considered 'tradition', and how much of the past should be brought into the future, I felt her mother deserved more of an answer. However, I also felt my friend, the bride, had every right to dismiss this question, if only for the fact that this is her wedding. 

I don't know.

-Chante

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