perfunctory?

I wanted to call this post "Suffering the Indignity of the Registry". The idea that I would be creating a registry, or more than one, has been something I've had trouble coping with since we started this whole wedding planning thing. When I look in our kitchen, I realize we have everything we need. Comparatively, we probably have two to three times the average kitchen. Ten years ago, I lived in Switzerland where people of all income brackets live happily with significantly less stuff** than the American home, and I was always adequately amused, cared for and fed during my tenure there. So being overly concerned about the color/pattern of my tea cups, the need for multiple tongs, seems forced and trite. I'm enough of a socialist to know that there are bigger issues to be concerned with, the least of which is our ability to decide between an oval or octagonal platter.

The allure of American consumerism is its most rabid when it comes to weddings, though. The expectation that a couple create, or recreate, the illusion of not having anything they need is something that I struggle with whenever someone close to me gets married. "Oh really? You don't have a toaster?"*** I wind up diverting from the registry when purchasing the seemingly required gift because I'm so angry about supporting what I perceive to be a lie. "You have a toaster, fool!" This tension within me doesn't go unresolved, though, when it comes to my own wedding. I do what any reasonable person would do and I ask my friends, who are all more or less in the same income bracket as Em and me. The majority of my inquires have been met with a resounding "DO IT" from my nearest and dearest, and consequently I sigh with annoyance at the thought. Basically what we're being encouraged to do is request things that we don't have, don't really need, things that would either upgrade what we already have or fill in holes that would be nice but are certainly not required. All for getting married? Wow.

Interestingly enough, I have no trouble knowing what I like and creating wishlists in order to track my dream acquisitions. I use Pinterest for that, mostly, but I do maintain various documents tracking things I'd like to get, from baking dishes to yarn. I'm not afraid of identifying a want, setting a goal and acquiring it for myself. This is how I was raised, actually. Christmas and birthday gifts had to, on some level, fulfill a need. My brother and I got underwear, pajamas, socks and books for holidays/birthdays in addition to the frippery. We were raised to appreciate these gifts of necessity, and in turn we grew used to expecting them. Gleefully. Thus, asking friends and family to cater to our Wants rather than our Needs is a genuinely problematic experience for me. I suck at being greedy.

We decided to take the closest thing to a middle ground. We have registered in a few places, trying to carefully select things that were basic and useful as well as things that satisfied the guests who might fall under the fun and "treat yourself" contingent. On our website, we truthfully and genuinely stated that we had no expectation of gifts, as we have established a completely warm and full home together, but that each gift comes with an invitation of dinner cooked by us for the person who decides to share so generously with us. And then we did what satisfies our consciences - we posted links to two charitable organizations that serve greater goods so that our guests could donate money in their names or ours. In Seamus' honor, the Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue, and in honor of all LGBTQ people fighting for the right to legal, federally recognized marriage for all people, Freedom to Marry. Our guests are encouraged to do whatever satisfies their conscience, rather than feeling pressured by a singular option.

Did we find the perfect solution? No. Probably not. But we found the solution that we can stand behind. I am willing to eat crow with regard to all of the registries (and people) I criticized so harshly over the years. I know that there are people out there who expect the gifts, and I also know that there are people who need the gifts. There are also people like Em and me, or many of our friends, who felt cornered by the WIC (Wedding Industrial Complex) to jump on board. What I've learned, I think, is that there is absolutely only one right way to handle the conundrum of the wedding registry - do whatever is right For You. Listen to yourself, be honest, accept that this is not just about you (even though it is about you) and that people do want to celebrate your union and that might take the form of a serving bowl, don't expect anything but appreciate everything, and do whatever makes you feel the most comfortable.

Come October, will I still feel settled into the same conclusion? It's hard to say. For now, the stress and angst has been resolved and I feel as settled as I can about it all.

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** Stuff, not money. Heh.
*** Hilariously enough, we don't have a toaster. In the battle of kitchen counter space, our Kitchen Aid mixer has always remained victorious.

3 comments:

  1. i think we've decided on gift certificates to local restaurants. it is pragmatic and indulgent all at the same time. goodness knows i don't need any more stuff.

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  2. 1) I don't own a toaster. I got one when I got married in 2003, but I donated it to the house my apartment was in at Oberlin because I never used it, and theirs broke.

    2) When Brian and I got married, we had a lot of cheap stuff because we were still students, but when my older, more-established friends get hitched, i understand that many guests are not creative enough to come up with a gift that truly reflects the relationship between them and the couple--so i think they're a necessary evil.

    That being said, I often feel that if I don't know the couple well enough to choose a meaningful, thoughtful gift that reflects our connection, I don't belong at their wedding.

    But that's just me, the king of overthinking... and if I ever get married again, I'll likely have a registry again since I know that people in the family will want to give a gift without considering what we would truly enjoy. I have sold, donated, or let friends take almost all of the gifts I kept when I divorced my husband because the emotional heft of keeping them around was too much.

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  3. I guess I'm less against registries and more against this idea that you have to get married to get the things that you want/need. I think it would be cool if we could adopt some sort of outfitting for young individuals who are preparing to go out into the world (who probably need the stuff more anyway) rather than placing the emphasis on having to get married to receive it.

    I'm stepping down from my soapbox now, but I do want to say that I think you and Em are handling it really well by giving people the option of doing more than just buying stuff for you.

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