June 12, 2008
The dress, the ring, the registry and the rest
(Page 2 - Previous Page)I once had to buy my friend a "culinary torch" as a wedding present. It was the only thing I could afford on her registry.
Far be it from me to suggest that a newly wedded couple doesn't need the capacity to properly caramelize crème brûlee, but it's safe to say that gone are the days when we all lived at home before marriage and had to set up a household from scratch, when we simply needed the basics to start a life together. In fact, now that we're getting married later in life, and often while already cohabitating, wedding registries can seem more like a social contract than a necessity; the couple treats you to dinner and an open bar, you send a gift from Crate & Barrel.
For many brides, this is their Special Day, and along with it comes the long-anticipated thrill of picking one's china pattern. I'm in no position to be judgmental about how commercial it's all become -- bridal registries are now a $14 billion industry -- because despite loving high heels, Oprah and lip gloss, I am missing the female wedding gene.
So, it's easy for me to get sanctimonious when visions of tiaras and name cards and veils never once danced a first dance in my head.
I don't want to set a culinary torch to any bride's dreams of crystal decanters, silverware storage boxes or ocean-themed napkin rings. Those just aren't my dreams.
On the other hand, I also don't dream of staring at "Cat on Porch," the title of a watercolor painted by my aunt Ruth, an objet d'art she was planning to send our way if we didn't register
According to my mom, people were going to have the urge to send us gifts. If we didn't register, we were liable to end up with "Cat on Porch" and other handmade delights and freestyle gift choices. She was putting the pressure on, and moms may annoy but they are rarely wrong.
The fact that we weren't throwing a traditional wedding (only 15 invitees to the actual ceremony), but instead planning two post-ceremony cocktail parties, made asking for gifts even more complicated. Still, registering for a honeymoon seemed odd and asking folks to donate to our favorite charity, while beautiful in principle, seems unsatisfying to the gift-giver.
That's how we ended up at a place I'll call the Ceramic Shack.
We entered the Shack and were trapped there for hours. For most couples, I would venture this critical pre-wedding time would be better spent discussing how to raise the kids, conduct the family finances, spend holidays. Instead, we were pondering the difference between standard and European shams.
When it was all over, we stumbled out onto the streets of Pasadena, squinting from the sunlight, like newly freed hostages. We felt like POWs, Prisoners of Wedding. I needed a Jamba Juice just to work my way up to exhausted.
Now that we've gotten our first gift, a beautiful toile quilt, I think my mom was right. One has to account for the human impulse to give in celebration of a major milestone. And to be honest, when I ran into the bride who got the culinary torch, she beamed about the tarts she'd made her husband. It warmed my heart, but not as much as an idea that sparked my brain.
I don't always get fantastic ideas at my annual girlie exam, except my speculum-warmer concept, which never caught on. This year, however, between the stirrups and checkout, I happened on an idea relevant to registries. There I was, just planning on getting my annual Pap smear (I know, great story), when the doctor asked me if we intended to start a family after getting married. When I said we were, she suggested the "Ashkenazi Jewish panel" and sent me next door where I half expected to face the Likud bloc. Instead, the panel is a series of genetic tests that detect mutations associated with 11 disorders that commonly occur in Ashkenazi Jews, including cystic fibrosis and Tay-Sachs.
"We're having trouble getting any more blood out of this vein," the nurse whispered. "Oh, and by the way, these tests are ... really expensive."
"How much?" I asked, waiting for more blood to trickle into her tube.
As it happens, the cash price for the full panel can run between $3,000 and $4,000, according to genetic counselor Sayeh Farivar at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center. Costs vary depending on the provider, and insurance companies might cover some or all of that cost; then again, given our health care system, it might not. And it's not only Jews who might consider genetic testing, Farivar said; Asian, Italian and African Americans, among other populations, have their own sets of genetic diseases.
That's when it struck me: A way to combine my aversion to the whole idea of the wedding registry with my hospital sticker shock.
Could a national chain of labs create a bridal registry for genetic testing? Someone could buy me cystic fibrosis test, for example (I learned I'm a carrier, as are one in 26 Ashkenazi Jews and non-Jewish Caucasians). Next to each disease could be the cost of the test and a brief description of the symptoms and prognosis.
Do I want to find out if I carry Tay-Sachs or if the Ceramic Shack carries a toaster? Wait, there's the slogan: Testing, not toasting!
This is either the most romantic or least romantic idea I have ever had. In any case, it's too late for me. I will be grateful for any gifts I get from the Ceramic Shack. Still, I'll always carry a torch for my genetic testing registry idea.