After I had successfully wrangled and sedated (with milk and bedtime stories) my toddler last night, I plopped myself on the couch. Generally, once the little one is in bed, I try to unwind by eating all of the junk food I can’t eat in front of her and watching all of the television I can’t watch in front of her. It’s something I do probably every night, as long as I don’t have any work to do, and the day hasn’t kicked my ass too hard.
So last night I sat down with a bowl of ice cream and some homemade brownies, because it’s been a tough week, and started to watch “Becoming Us.” The show, which airs on ABC Family, seemed to promise a relatively progressive worldview. It’s billed as a docuseries about two transgender parents. I was excited to see it, but my excitement ceased when the adult daughter in the series expressed her concern that her fiancé hadn’t asked her parents for her hand in marriage.
I have a daughter, and the thought of any potential suitors calling me on the phone to ask for her hand in marriage is frankly disgusting. My daughter is a person, not a commodity. I do not own her. If you ask me for her hand, then you do not understand this simple truth. At this point, if I had any say in who she married, I would advise her to not choose you.
Luckily, as I said, my daughter is only a toddler. I (hopefully) have a very long time before I have to worry about any potential boyfriends or girlfriends doing something so asinine. Before this particular television show, the thought of any future romantic pairings for my daughter had never crossed my mind, because that is weird. It isn’t up to me who she dates, proposes to, or maybe even marries. It isn’t up to me if she decides that she doesn’t like the idea of marriage. I have no say in whether or not she becomes a bird lady, or an opera singer, or a physicist. And that’s exactly why the idea of someone asking me or my co-parent for her hand creeps me out.
I know that some people get sentimental about the tradition. They think it’s sweet and old-timey and romantic. I don’t buy into that. It is derived from a time when dowries were paid, and marriage was no more than a business transaction. It is a custom from an era when women were measured by the value they could bring upon marriage, where daughters were burdens until they found husbands, where girls were seen simply as commodities that could be bought and sold. It is the antithesis of romance and respect.
If any future suitors do call me and ask for my daughter’s hand, I’ll tell them what I’ve written here. It’s her decision, not mine. I don’t have any say in her romantic entanglements. But I’ll also work my hardest to raise a daughter who understands her real worth isn’t tied up in romance or relationships. She’ll know that she isn’t to be bought or sold. She’ll be empowered to make her own choices—ones that may challenge me as a parent, but are made with confidence and intelligence.