The simple version of the story is that all of my friends got engaged when I was in my early twenties and in what felt like just a blink of my eye, I suddenly became Always The Bridesmaid.
I found myself collecting polyester dresses, spending weekends at bridal showers, bachelorette parties, or catching bouquets, while standing in the middle of a cold dance floor, beside a handful of other single and semi-hopeful women.
But the real slap in the face that made me decide to start Bridesmaid for Hire, a business where strangers from all over the world have enlisted my services to be there for them before and on the day of their wedding as a member of their bridal party, was because I was really, really good at being a bridesmaid.
Better than that, I was able to wrangle all of the people that come in to play on the wedding day, and often bring with them a clutch filled with drama, chaos, and unexpected twist and turns.
I was nicknamed the bridesmaid warrior, the bride's human Xanax, and finally “the professional bridesmaid" by my roommate, the night I posted the well-known Craigslist ad that took me from perpetual bridesmaid for my friends to the founder of a company where people paid me to zip on a dress, jump on a plane, and be there for them on their wedding day.
Two years, 30-something bridesmaid dresses, and over 40 clients later, I look back at my adventure so far and realize that there are 3 main reasons I decided to become the world's first professional bridesmaid.
1. I Wanted to End the Concept of Bridezillas
The term “Bridezilla" used to make me upset because I don't think most people understand the amount of stress and pressure that a bride feels leading up to her wedding day. There are questions over how she'll pay for the celebration, if her guests will like the venue and the food, and of course, if it'll look like the wedding she's always dreamed of. Because of so many unknowns and so many months of planning, emotions skyrocket and stress levels soar. Instead of writing off brides as going bonkers before their weddings, I wanted to intercept their chaos and help them make it down the aisle without feeling suffocated by what-ifs and unrealistic wedding expectations.
2. Being a Bridesmaid is a Lot of Work
The number one question people ask me is “Do brides only hire you if they don't have any friends?" and the answer is no. Often times brides hire me even if they have 5 or 7 other bridesmaids. But the role of being a bridesmaid is a lot of work and brides would rather their close friends have fun and enjoy the wedding adventure without giving them the headache tasks of planning a bachelorette party, organizing a bridal shower, and running around on the day-of the wedding as their personal assistant. That's what I'm there for instead.
3. I Didn't Like Weddings
This last one sounds a bit wacky, but it's true. After attending more weddings, for my friends, than I could count on both my hands, I started to roll my eyes at the concept of weddings because there was so much pressure attached to the idea that one day was supposed to be the most perfect and greatest day in a person's life. It's not. It is just a celebration of new, fresh love.
So make the day what you want and skip out on old school wedding traditions that you don't really need. Every bride I work with, that's what I tell them from day one. My goal is for them to have the wedding that they want, not the wedding that social media, the movies, or the wedding industry wants them to have.
Women in the workplace have always experienced a certain degree of discrimination from male colleagues, and according to new studies, it appears that it is becoming even more difficult for women to get acclimated to modern day work environments, in wake of the #MeToo Movement.
In a recent study conducted by LeanIn.org, in partnership with SurveyMonkey, 60% of male managers confessed to feeling uncomfortable engaging in social situations with women in and outside of the workplace. This includes interactions such as mentorships, meetings, and basic work activities. This statistic comes as a shocking 32% rise from 2018.
What appears the be the crux of the matter is that men are afraid of being accused of sexual harassment. While it is impossible to discredit this fear as incidents of wrongful accusations have taken place, the extent to which it has burgeoned is unacceptable. The #MeToo movement was never a movement against men, but an empowering opportunity for women to speak up about their experiences as victims of sexual harassment. Not only were women supporting one another in sharing to the public that these incidents do occur, and are often swept under the rug, but offered men insight into behaviors and conversations that are typically deemed unwelcomed and unwarranted.
Restricting interaction with women in the workplace is not a solution, but a mere attempt at deflecting from the core issue. Resorting to isolation and exclusion relays the message that if men can't treat women how they want, then they rather not deal with them at all. Educating both men and women on what behaviors are unacceptable while also creating a work environment where men and women are held accountable for their actions would be the ideal scenario. However, the impact of denying women opportunities of mentorship and productive one-on-one meetings hinders growth within their careers and professional networks.
Women, particularly women of color, have always had far fewer opportunities for mentorship which makes it impossible to achieve growth within their careers without them. If women are given limited opportunities to network in and outside of a work environment, then men must limit those opportunities amongst each other, as well. At the most basic level, men should be approaching female colleagues as they would approach their male colleagues. Striving to achieve gender equality within the workplace is essential towards creating a safer environment.
While restricted communication and interaction may diminish the possibility of men being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment, it creates a hostile
environment that perpetuates women-shaming and victim-blaming. Creating distance between men and women only prompts women to believe that male colleagues who avoid them will look away from or entirely discredit sexual harassment they experience from other men in the workplace. This creates an unsafe working environment for both parties where the problem at hand is not solved, but overlooked.
According to LeanIn's study, only 85% of women said they feel safe on the job, a 5% drop from 2018. In the report, Jillesa Gebhardt wrote, "Media coverage that is intended to hold aggressors accountable also seems to create a sense of threat, and people don't seem to feel like aggressors are held accountable." Unfortunately, only 16% of workers believed that harassers holding high positions are held accountable for their actions which inevitably puts victims in difficult, and quite possibly dangerous, situations. 50% of workers also believe that there are more repercussions for the victims than harassers when speaking up.
In a research poll conducted by Edison Research in 2018, 30% of women agreed that their employers did not handle harassment situations properly while 53% percent of men agreed that they did. Often times, male harassers hold a significant amount of power within their careers that gives them a sense of security and freedom to go forward with sexual misconduct. This can be seen in cases such as that of Harvey Weinstein, Bill Cosby and R. Kelly. Men in power seemingly have little to no fear that they will face punishment for their actions.
Source-Alex Brandon, AP
Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook executive and founder of LeanIn.org., believes that in order for there to be positive changes within work environments, more women should be in higher positions. In an interview with CNBC's Julia Boorstin, Sandberg stated, "you know where the least sexual harassment is? Organizations that have more women in senior leadership roles. And so, we need to mentor women, we need to sponsor women, we need to have one-on-one conversations with them that get them promoted." Fortunately, the number of women in leadership positions are slowly increasing which means the prospect of gender equality and safer work environments are looking up.
Despite these concerning statistics, Sandberg does not believe that movements such as the Times Up and Me Too movements, have been responsible for the hardship women have been experiencing in the workplace. "I don't believe they've had negative implications. I believe they're overwhelmingly positive. Because half of women have been sexually harassed. But the thing is it is not enough. It is really important not to harass anyone. But that's pretty basic. We also need to not be ignored," she stated. While men may be feeling uncomfortable, putting an unrealistic amount of distance between themselves and female coworkers is more harmful to all parties than it is beneficial. Men cannot avoid working with women and vice versa. Creating such a hostile environment is also detrimental to any business as productivity and communication will significantly decrease.
The fear or being wrongfully accused of sexual harassment is a legitimate fear that deserves recognition and understanding. However, restricting interactions with women in the workplace is not a sensible solution as it can have negatively impact a woman's career. Companies are in need of proper training and resources to help both men and women understand what is appropriate workplace behavior. Refraining from physical interactions, commenting on physical appearance, making lewd or sexist jokes and inquiring about personal information are also beneficial steps towards respecting your colleagues' personal space. There is still much work to be done in order to create safe work environments, but with more and more women speaking up and taking on higher positions, women can feel safer and hopefully have less contributions to make to the #MeToo movement.