What I Love About the Clinton Wedding Photos
August 1, 2010 3 Comments
As you and I have both been through the wringer of being a bride*, I put forward the released photos of the Clinton wedding as a welcome addition to our generation’s large memory book of This Is What Life Is In Our Age. Why? Because they are large scale fairy tale, the kind that we easily assign adjectives like “classic,” “royalty,” and “like a movie.” These pictures may become as bridally iconic as Princess Diana, and set to slow time glamour of the likes of Jackie Bouvier. The wedding has already been deemed a “Power Wedding,”–a confusing, and feudal term in a time when marriage seems less and less like a joining of powers as much as a hunch on a horse, or a penchant for marathons (so many metaphors here…again, see word cloud MARRIAGE). So, on one scale, these images have entered the collective “dream wedding.” The dress, the vegan menu, the celebrity attendance, the perfect weather, the gluten free cake. Bridal magazines now have a some new stories to twirl on for a decade.
But that is not what makes me happy about these photos. I like them because in them, I see a bride who is working. I could have to check myself here for the Rear Window question***…and, admittedly, I will often suggest that weddings are horrendous work to a happy couple who has had no strife in their nuptial planning. But, there is the larger reason I quickly identify with Chelsea. She is our age. We went through adolescence together. I wore skorts, and had a very similar gawk. Her parents seemed invested in her life in a way that many parents of our generation are–structured, with the expectation of large things. I imagine her parents disciplining her through conversation, with Hilary working through teen mother/daughter strife by taking her to Africa, and Bill giving earnest talks of repentance and confession, building a sense of informed withholding, of adulthood that came early. If we put aside the insane melodramas of adultery, this small family is a kind of 80’s ideal as well (one kid, two successful parents, a marriage that tumbled but continued, totally unlazy and engaged, etc.).
And in the pictures, Chelsea looks like she is tired of smiling, and that her makeup is heavier than expected. I see strain. And I think strain might be the most honest kind of wedding portrait around. She is the first of the new model of White House daughter. Not an accessory, and successful in her own right. And yet the wedding itself doesn’t quite acknowledge this. It looks like all weddings do. I don’t see a strong woman, I see a classic bride. I see a woman who is under stress, who is walking with her father down the aisle, who probably dieted for this day. I feel as if I am supposed to applaud her shoulders, her collar bone. And like most wedding photos, we can see the gesture of love–the recreation of the tender thing that just happened. The hope that this is being authentically captured. And the fact that this family has been in front of cameras for 20 years or more, and that fancy dress is also a gimme for them, warms my heart. I love these photos because they show that weddings are really hard, that even brides with tons of brains and money are reined in by tradition, and that pride and love are exhausting (and that bridal makeup is always really, really heavy). I also love that the girl I identified with so much in 1992 is still a model of a different kind of celebrity, still worlds away, but with a face I understand****.
*Note: while I say the work is hard, neither of us is a dried up walnut. Weddings are their own brand of catastrophe**, but one that stays on the planet of its plucked and pruned date. The marriage is a different bramble, and its own conversation (see overlarge word on wordcloud).
**Etymology: Greek katastrophē, from katastrephein to overturn, from kata- + strephein to turn)
***Does Jeffries only see his neighbor’s relationship struggles because he is mired in his own?
****This all might be because I also identify with her actual face, and I am simply reducing her to a glossy famous person that soothes me because I can easily put my face onto her face without difficulty. Poor celebs. The things we do to them in our brains.