July 31, 2003
It’s All About You
It should be pointed out that once upon a time I wrote a little book titled "Life Sentence." It is the definitive treatise on the state of human relations between men and women, vis-à-vis engagement and marriage from the male perspective. Some people think it was anti-marriage, although on page three it clearly states, "For the record -- strongly recommend getting married." It remains, in my opinion, the best written and the least-read book on the subject. Ultimately, it seems that the man's point of view on the subject of marriage is somewhat irrelevant.
In fact, the guy seems to be incidental to the whole marriage process. When I went with my long-suffering fiancée, Alison, to register for wedding gifts, there was a catalog with a beautiful bride (there is no other kind, evidently) on the cover, shot with slightly out-of-focus artiness. By contrast, the yellow, 72-point headline was clear enough that I could read it from across the room. It said: It's All About You.
Later that day, Alison bought one of those brides magazines at the newsstand. There are tons of these things, all 2-inch- thick monsters, with yet more beautiful brides and recycled stories full of clichéd advice. (Have you noticed that there is not one magazine for grooms?) I leafed through it when she wasn't looking, and was somewhat surprised to find that there was scarcely one picture in the 500 pages of glossy color ads with a guy in it. As if the whole marriage thing would be so much simpler without those unseemly men mucking it up. Just whom do they think all these brides are marrying, anyway?
We went shopping for wedding rings the other day. Alison took me to a joint called Cartier in Beverly Hills. When you ask to see the women's wedding ring selection, they do a whole choreographed number, with "I Feel Pretty" playing over the sound system, great velvet-covered trays of sparkly jewels being proffered by eager, perfumed saleswomen.
By contrast, when you ask to see the selection of men's wedding rings, they snap back, "Gold or platinum?" The girls get to choose from 31 Flavors, and we get chocolate or vanilla. (I found it interesting that the women's rings seem to be somewhat more expensive than the men's. Fascinating.)
Even the registry is all about her. Why don't we go to the Home Depot? Do we really need a cake plate more than a nail gun? Which is going to be more useful in the future? Have you ever tried to install molding with a cake plate? They're useless.
Alison didn't want it to be all about her. She didn't even want a bridal shower where your friends give you all that kitchen stuff. To be fair, Alison doesn't know her way around the kitchen. Not at all. If left to her own devices with a raw chicken, some vegetables and herbs, she might starve to death.
I, however, am a very handy fellow to have around in the kitchen, and I like all that stuff -- the All-Clad pots and Le Creuset pans, for example. (While writing this story, I was informed by The New York Times that I'm a "metrosexual," a straight guy in touch with his inner Julia Child.) So my sister, who also happens to be my gender-bending best man, threw a kitchen shower for me and all her gal pals. We had a spa day at which I had a scrub, a wrap and a massage. I was going to get something called a "polish change," but was told it didn't apply to me.
Over salads (with the dressing on the side), the gals took turns offering me marital advice. In turns, it boiled down to this: empathy, focus, persistence, don't sweat the small stuff, and the "Serenity Prayer" (Lord, help me to accept the things I cannot change). How can I go wrong?
It's all right with me if the wedding is all about her. There would be no "us" without her, no wedding plans to fight over, no honeymoon to look forward to. I just hope I get my picture in the wedding photos next to the beautiful bride.
It's all about J.D. Smith at www.carteduvin.com.