Monday, March 06, 2006

Dog & Pony Show

Friday: full weight circuit, 35 minutes easy elliptical, 10 minutes free weights, 10 minutes crunches/leg lifts

Saturday: cleaning house, walking around running errands (probably 2 miles or so)

Sunday: ditto above, plus 30 minutes pilates at home with new ball/bands/weights

We made dinner/dessert for Dan's parents Saturday night. I think that perhaps I shall recommend to him that next time we do that we try out any new recipes before making them for the first time while trying to entertain his parents at the same time. Luckily, though the homemade pasta turned out to be a clusterfuck, we had a big bag of rice noodles in the cupboard and the sauce worked even better over rice noodles, I think. All in all it was an OK evening, though I broke my vow and at one point did begin to discuss politics with Dan's dad. It was nice that even though they're diametrically opposed to Dan and I in terms of fiscal politics, when it comes to social issues we're all in agreement. So that was OK.

I've been thinking in the last week or so about major life events (weddings, giving birth, you know, the biggies) and about how the pendulum seems to swing in our country. For instance, it wasn't until the Victorian age that women wore big fancy white dresses (or even white dresses at all - it became a status symbol to show that you had enough extra money to wear an impractical dress), and that was really the upper crust of society anyhow. Most weddings in the 20th century weren't the huge dog and pony show that they are today; people got married in their parents' houses or the courthouse if they didn't get married in churches and receptions were simple and relatively inexpensive. During wartime (WWII for example) a lot of women just wore their best dress or suit, and the whole affair was just a nice kickoff to the beginning of what would (one hopes) be the really important thing, the marriage. I love the wedding picture of my great aunt and uncle that hangs in Aunt Edy's study. She's looking fabulous in a suit; he's in his Air Force uniform. They were married nearly 50 years before Bill died of cancer.

From what I've read and heard about from parents, parents of friends, etc., weddings weren't that big of a deal (on average) in the late 60s and 70s either. My parents had kind of a hippie wedding but even the parents of friends who weren't hippies had pretty low-key affairs. It wasn't seen as cool to have the huge to-do with all the frippery and fancy and whatnot (cultural differences, of course, being operative - I'm pretty sure people coming from money have always tended to have larger and fancier weddings just because they could afford to, as it's always been a status symbol in any culture to display lavish amounts of wealth. I know certain religions have also tradtionally held large, fancy, grandiose events, at least those with the money to do so).

It wasn't until Princess Di got married in the early 80s that the big poufy white dress, and the fancy party with all that entailed returned, I think. Suddenly there was a Wedding Industry and more and more people got convinced that to show status even within the middle class they had to throw elaborate shindigs for their children's nuptuals (or their own, for those who paid for their own). I think it's gotten more and more prevalent in the US and it doesn't show any signs of swinging back the other way. There's like 10 or 15 "bridal" magazines on every newsrack; there's all the things that we're all told we Must Do (videographer, professional photographer, sit-down or buffet fancy dinner for hundreds of people, etc.) or we won't be Really Married. I think it's probably getting more and more difficult to just have the kind of wedding or reception one wants anymore because of the Wedding Industrial Complex, because as soon as the W word is used the price doubles or triples or whatever for whichever vendor's services you're interested in.

And every bride is told by Wedding Consumer Culture that "it's her daaaaay!" and the focus should be on the wedding, reception, and Being a Bride with all that entails. What ever happened to the focus being on the marriage itself? Because you get to be a bride once per marriage, for one day, ultimately. It kind of amazes me how much money people spend on weddings these days - average costs for dresses, locations, catering, flowers, jewelry (don't think DeBeers isn't getting away with one of the most successful swindles in consumer history by artifically suppressing the diamond market while simultaneously convincing every woman in this country that her significant other doesn't love her unless he spends obscene amounts of money for an overpriced rock that some kid in Africa lost his arm for). I mean, if you are part of that class already, the group that Is Moneyed and can afford $30,000 (or $50,000, or $100,000) for a few hours of party, then more power to you. It just seems ridiculous to me that our collective personal debt continues to rise as people feel they need to emulate everyone else and absolutely CAN'T have a wedding without having spent the price of a decent new car or down payment on a house.

The problem is that because of this Wedding Industrial Complex, those of us who don't want to participate get lumped in with those who do and it's not really affordable to have a wedding where and how you want to have it anymore. Not that it isn't past the hypothetical stage at this point, but I'd love to get married in and throw a big party at a winery in the area where I grew up. Because it has personal significance, and besides, it's one of the most beautiful areas I've ever been - and if I do ever get married I want to get married outside where I feel the most spiritual and connected to things. But I can't afford to spend thousands of dollars just for the privledge of having my wedding at a winery, not even including food, party costs, what have you. Because now the wine country is a big Wedding Destination and they're all in on the racket. And that's just one aspect that is personally significant to me - there are infinite other ones that I've read about, heard about, and know about from friends and acquaintences who have gotten married recently. It's a lot harder to plan a wedding that is affordable and still includes the aspects that are really important to the people participating, because the WIC has its talons in everything surrounding the idea of a wedding.

It seems like there are only a few ways to circumvent the WIC, none of which I'm particularly interested in (eloping, getting married at city hall, destination wedding with very few in attendance). Those who are able to do it, I say Hooray! But it certainly isn't easy.

Along the same lines, I've read a lot of blogs over the past year written by women who are pregnant or new mothers. It's tough to have the kind of birth you want these days, too. I think I'll save that rant for another post because I'm hungry and this is already like 9466165 pages long.


Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Interesting post. We're having a blowout wedding for my sister, at the Ritz Boston no less. Our families split it. I think the total cost is about 36K so each family is paying half of that.

I don't care if people have as big or small a wedding as they want-like you I think the sadder part is being squeezed out of an affordable wedding as locations get in on the racket.

Personally, I think it's the "MY DAY" attitude that annoys me the most. Isn't it everyone's day? I can't understand people who are so selfish about the whole damn thing-shouldn't everyone's feelings be taken into consideration?

Anyway, my wedding will be about half my sisters. I doubt I'll be lucky enough to get a guy whose parents can afford it/be willing to split the costs. I would say that it sucks that my hypothetical wedding won't be as lush as my sister's but I can't be bothered to care. As long as the food is tasty and I look smoking hot I couldn't care less.

-qir said...

It's an interesting rant, MLE.
[aside: look what I found! It's the lappie Ads gave me way back when!]

I've attended poofy dress weddings as far back as I can remember. Sadly, this takes us to the era entitled Before You Were Born. Generally, you're right; those were mostly church based weddings. Big poofy dress, boring 20 minute Methodist ceremony, reception in the chuch parlor following the nuptials featuring punch and flavorless white cake decorated with Crisco frosting.

The Uber-wedding trend I see accompanies the strides women made in the work place, both in terms of a sudden disruption of male-female gender roles, but also a sudden shift in discretionary income spending by women. Marketers in the 80s (yes, you got the time period dead on) discovered this huge untapped market.

The Wedding Industrial Complex feeds on an identity struggle that plagues even the 21st Century Fox: Wife or Individual? From youngest ages girls are instilled with the notion that one day they will marry, and that will be the best day of their lives.

One example of this, and thus one of the problems, is that the "Best Day" concept conflates the celebration of something that is supposed to be a one-time deal with the security that comes of this woman being married off, with the proof that she is in fact, marriagable. The result of course is Bridezilla whining about the disposable cameras on all the tables that cost 100% more than regular disposables, just because they're tricked out in white rose labels. Understandably, she wants her one time party to be the best party she can muster, not only because it's supposed to be the best day of her life, but also because she's doing the one thing she has been conditioned her whole life to do.

I'm sorry that you've been fiscally alienated from being able to have a vinyard wedding. I can understand your anger at the cost. At the same time, in my ever increasing curmudgeonhood, I have to believe that people wouldn't pay those prices if they didn't want to. That doesn't make your problem any easier, no doubt. I'm willing to believe any number of foul things about people generally. Our capacity for sheeplike behavior is pretty terrible. However, we must get something from it, otherwise we wouldn't do it.

As for your wedding cost woes, since I know you aren't planning on doing this any time soon, I'd recommend that you slowly scout out someone who owns private property somewhere in Vineland. It just seems to me that you have to know someone who knows someone who has a vinyard that they would be willing to use for a one time party.

Or you could play Lotto.

MLE said...

QIR, I think you're exactly right. I didn't really have the thought process brought to that point, but you did it for me. It's a tough position to be in, balancing societal tradition with fiscal independance.

Monks, I know you will look teh hott on your wedding day. If someone were to offer to pay $36,000 for me to spend one day getting married I'd probably say "Hey, thanks, but can I use the money to help pay for a house?" or at least part of it anyhow. I know that people of both Indian and Jewish descent have a different kind of tradition than the typical WASP bride - it's a really big deal to spend a lot of money on a really big party in both those cultures, whereas in Middle America that's only become part of the deal within the last 20 years.

Plus I bet my sister will be getting married before I do and I fully expect whatever wedding kitty my mom might choose to bestow upon her daughters will be tapped out before I have MYYYYY DAAAAAY. In fact, from the upbringing I've had, I would feel kind of uncomfortable accepting money from either my parents or my partner's to pay for a wedding. Mostly I wouldn't want to feel indebted to anyone for a one-day event.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I get what you're saying but

1) It's my parents money and they have enough of it

2) My sister and brother already own property

3) My parents have spent a grand total of a couple of grand on my sister's education whereas they helped me fund grad school so I think it was important to my parents that they demonstrate to her that they're willing to spend on her as well. I think the originally cost was slated at 30K but they let her go over budget.

In terms of HIS parents. This is their only son and they too are reasonably well-off.

I guess I would be uncomfortable with as lavish a wedding they are having if my parents were paying for it solo-our families split it so she fell right in the amount of money they had kind of alloted.

I think I still attach cultural issues to it-I don't want a huge ostentatious ethnocarnival but I couldn't not serve a big dinner and drinks or whathaveyou and that's usually the biggest cost at these things (aside from the venue).

Since I have about half her budget I think I might have a winter wedding out in the 'burbs instead of a summer wedding in the city. Since I now reside in the Land of No Sudden Climatic Changes Ever...I think a winter wedding would be kinda cool and different.

MLE said...

Oh yeah, if you/your parents have the money, I don't have an issue with it - it's more the people that put it on credit cards or expect parents to pay for a wedding none of them can afford. It's kind of like those people who buy McMansions with interest-only mortgages and then they can't even afford furniture for the damn places. My thoughts are mostly that people shouldn't feel like they HAVE to spend that kind of money to feel like the community accepts them, and people in this country are in enough damn debt already.

In terms of my own personal background, my parents were PO, I mean really PO, and I paid for undergrad myself. My mom is helping the 3rd sis pay for school, but she's in Santa Barbara where it's even more expensive to live than the Bay Area, plus my mom doesn't have any more kids or husband at home to support. At this stage of the game I would feel weird taking money from my mother because I know that every extra penny she has these days is going toward her retirement, since my dad continually ate up all their savings and spent up their credit cards over the 25 years they were together.

I think a winter wedding would be cool (no pun intended) in a place like SoCal where the climate can often be at its best.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

yeah, agreed. To tell you the truth I would be happy with just my family and real friends seeing me get married (as long as I fed them!) but that would be unlikely to happen unless I had it out in SoCal. Which you know, might not be a bad idea. I could fly the couple of friends I would want out to the wedding and my parents could keep pretty much all of the money they had allotted for me. They worked hard for it, I don't know why they don't spend it on another vacation.

The worst part of my sister's wedding is seeing people who are active assholes be invited...because they're friends with Bro's side of the family. I'm sure they feel the same way about some of my parents' friends.

So much drama! And I swear, my sister has gotten a little Bridezilla-ish. Ferinstance, the original plan was to have glass bowls filled with floating candles and flower petals as centrepieces. The cost? 150$ max. Then she threw a fit because it would be too cheap looking. This is how the budget crept up. Or the fact that it's at the parents are scrambling around trying to figure out who to or not invite because Raj HAD.TO.HAVE.IT.IN.THE.CITY. I don't begrudge him that actually, because he was all "I'm perfectly fine having half the number of people there" but GAH, can I tell you how snooty Ritz people are? At this point my sister keeps our parents away from them because they look at us like we're turds. I'm sorry but I personally would prefer to hold it in a place where we weren't looked at as second class citizens but chacun a son gout.

However, over the summer I told the wedding planner off when she tried mocking my parents to me and my sister, though. Really, bitch, they're paying and how dare you? That privilege only belongs to us. Sis and I were like "don't talk about them like that in front of us."

Anyway, weddings bring on the drama, no matter how small, modest or whathaveyou they are. My parents and my sister's in-laws are really good friends, for the most part we are all pretty laid-back about this wedding and my sister is on the very mellow end of things in terms of Bridezillaness but drama just creeps in.