Once when I was sick, I ate a bag of Cheetos just before a shot of Nyquil, and that is exactly how watching “My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding” makes me feel.
In case you haven’t seen the show: The insular “Irish Travellers” live in the UK and are secretive about their culture (that is, when they’re not getting arrested for conning old people into worthless “roof repairs” or being ejected from public arenas due to drunk and disorderly behavior). Ostensibly, they’re devoted Catholics who don’t believe in living together before marriage, so they marry young — 16ish for girls, though the grooms are usually older. Then they settle into trailers, have babies, and haul around the country being all insular and cultural and stuff.
Here’s how the brides look:
These girls spend their childhoods dreaming of their wedding day, but after that, it’s 60 years of cleaning the trailer for some dood named Paddy whose face is always pixillated because, well, it would hurt his “business.” After the “I do’s,” Traveller men drink their faces off whilst perusing the buffet of single Catholic ladies:
It’s not the weddings that get me — all weddings are tacky — it’s the life. It’s that these girls are kept home from school, functionally illiterate, and therefore trapped. They do not have other options besides running away to pornstitution, which means not freedom but the exchange of one master for another.
I watch this show, and listen to the jaunty Learning Channel theme music that says “Hey, look at these rakish vagabonds choosing their choices in a bright happy casserole of cultural relativism and whatnot!” and think, I bet every one of these girls would say that she “chose” to be a Traveller.
Women deny it when we’re trapped. We have so much invested in the idea that we’re free, that our choices exist in a bagless egalitarian vacuum. When we “choose” the silicone implants; the stripper pole workout; the second shift; the ersatz “opt-out revolution,” we are rewarded — overtly and covertly — by men who say the whole thing was all our idea. And they put it on TV, and we watch and know something is wrong — but since we’re not wearing a full-body tiara and dousing ourselves with spray-tan in a trailer, we figure it isn’t about us. It is.