Confronting a friend about her offensive bridal theme could risk the friendship; is it worth it? And, is romantically pursuing a friend a mistake?
We urgently need your help. DAME reports the stories that need to be told, from perspectives that aren’t heard enough. In times of crisis it is even more critical that these voices are not overlooked, but COVID-19 has impacted our ability to keep publishing. Please support our mission by joining today to help us keep reporting.
I was recently asked to be a bridesmaid for the wedding of some dear friends. They sent me the color for my dress, they’ve sent out save-the-dates, and everyone is excited. But the other night the bride announced to me that her sister-in-law is a choreographer and she is going to have the bridal party do the haka, a traditional Māori war dance, at the wedding.
Only thing is: Everyone is white. Italian mostly, but still white, and none of them have Māori heritage.
While this dance won’t be used for entertainment/mockery/capitalism—their reasons are wanting to shout to the universe that they are ready to face any struggles that come their way together—this still feels a lot like cultural appropriation to me.
Am I overreacting? And if I’m not, how do I express this to the bride?
White People Should Know Better By Now, Right?
Dear Should Know (Dear White People was taken),
Oh, boy! This is a tough one. First of all, and I want to dispense with this quickly because it is extremely true, you are right. Full stop. White people doing a haka to celebrate their marriage without any input from people of Māori descent is cultural appropriation. It’s also … kind of weird. Like, there’s no way you guys will be good at it. But I guess that doesn’t matter. I mean, it matters to me. I have high standards for public performance. But it’s not the point. The point is, this is an inappropriate thing for white people to be doing.
That being said, it’s not the worst thing in the world. And as long as they don’t post it online, it isn’t going to actually hurt any Māori people because they won’t be at the wedding, because they don’t know any, because if they did, someone would have already told them not to do this.
So you have to ask yourself: Is being a better white person than them (and you are) worth causing a rift in your friendship? Is your friend the type who can take this sort of criticism without shooting the messenger? Especially considering she is in the middle of wedding planning which is one of those most stressful times in anyone’s life? Is the wedding far enough away that your bringing this up isn’t going to cause a huge drama?
If you do decide to bring it up, there are a couple of strategies you can take to make it an easier pill to swallow. You could say, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that some people might consider this cultural appropriation and I wouldn’t want you to get negative feedback about your wedding that you weren’t expecting.” You could suggest some other things they could do to demonstrate the toughness of their love that are not cultural signifiers, like arm wrestling, or singing a song from a musical, or a biblical reading, or crossfit. Either way, you probably want to lead with, “I just want to make sure your wedding is the best it can be,” and not with, “This is racist,” because white people tend to stop hearing anything you say after the word racist. Trust me on this.
But probably the best thing to do is not try to change her mind, because it is her wedding and you are not her wedding planner. You can just politely decline to be involved in the haka because YOU feel that it is cultural appropriation. It is 100% your right not to participate in anything that you feel is inappropriate or doesn’t align with your values. But that doesn’t mean your friend has to change her wedding for your values. But only go this route if you can truly do so without the expectation that she is going to change her plans to accommodate you. Because she may not, and that is her choice.
Do you like the dress at least? Because if your friend actually found a dress you like that fits you properly she is one of the best brides of all time regardless of anything else she does.
Ashley “Every Time I Watch a Haka It Makes Me Cry” Black
Get Me Out of the Friend Zone!
I have been friends with a guy for nine years. Our relationship started out as a brief dating stint and that just melted into friendship. Recently I have found my feelings for him erring once again toward the romantic end of the spectrum, so I asked him out. He, thankfully, said yes but now I am so worried about potential outcomes!
What if it’s a horrible relationship? What if he’s bad in bed? What if it’s all great and he’s my soulmate? What if, what if, what if? I am trying desperately to live moment-to-moment, but I’m a natural worrying planner type. How do I get over these anxious thoughts and just enjoy the journey? Or is this a sign that it’s not meant to be?
Constantly Concerned Courter
AHHHHHH!!!! I LOVE THIS STORY! THIS IS MY FAVORITE KIND OF LOVE STORY! EEE! SO EXCITING!
I think it’s so cool that you asked him out at all. So many friends who are secretly in love just stay secretly in love forever out of fear that acting on the love will ruin their friendship, but because they have unexpressed feelings, they start having all these weird fights, and then stop being friends anyway, so they might as well have just gone out for awhile and at least gotten laid, and NO I am NOT speaking from experience. So congrats on taking the very brave and very right first step of being honest about your feelings.
So don’t wimp out now! He said yes! He actually said yes! The scary part is over, don’t second guess yourself out of what will probably be some pretty good sex because your friend already knows how to listen to you and that’s like half the battle of sex. Your anxiety is not a sign that something isn’t meant to be, your anxiety is just a sign that you’re anxious! Our emotions always have something to tell us, but we have to be smart about figuring out what that message is. Anxiety is not the same thing as fear. When you’re actually afraid of something you often should move away from it (especially if that thing is a man). But when you have anxiety masquerading as fear about something it’s often your body telling you, “I’m so excited about this thing I kind of want to run away from it!” But honestly, all my best experiences in life have happened when I’ve run towards the thing that makes me anxious instead of away from it. And I say this as a woman who cried every night while applying for her dream job, wrote her writing sample through tears, and cried on the plane on the way to… the best freaking job I’ve ever had. And yes, I had to use a work example because you’re way braver than me and I’ve never asked a friend out! Seriously, where do I write in to your advice column?
But to answer your questions: If it’s a horrible relationship, break up; if he’s bad in bed tell him; and if he’s your soulmate, lock that shit down with a quickness because the world is on fire and we should at least have love. If you date for awhile and it doesn’t work out, take a break from talking for a few months, and then go back to being friends. You’ve already survived one break up, it seems pretty likely you’ll survive this one. You are deserving of love and the very best of love, not just a comfortable friendship version with a side of secret passion. Don’t worry yourself out of what you deserve!
To submit a question for Ashley, write to [email protected]
We urgently need your help!
Covid-19 has dramatically impacted our ability to keep publishing. DAME is 100% reader funded and without additional support, we can’t keep publishing. Become a member at DAME today to help us continue reporting and shining a light on the stories that need to be told, from perspectives that aren’t heard enough. Every dollar we receive from readers goes directly into funding our journalism. Please become a member today!
(If you liked this article and just want to make a one-time donation, you can do that here)
CONFUSED ABOUT VOTING?
We've got you covered!
Check out our state-by-state map for registration deadlines, early voting dates, and everything else you need to make your voice is heard on November 3rd 2020.