Category Archives: Patriarchy

Registering Continues to Suck

Last Sunday Collin and I attended a Crate & Barrel “registry event.” We dropped in the store (which is brand new to Pittsburgh) a few weeks ago to check out dish patterns and were immediately made as an engaged couple and invited to this event where the store opens early for registering couples so they can be given lots of attention to manage all their annoying questions like “is this carafe hand blown?” all while  mingling with other engaged couples over mimosas and pastries.

It was disappointing. First of all, growing up without religion has left me extremely ill-prepared to do anything outside the house before noon on Sundays. The event started at 9:00AM.  There was coffee, but it wasn’t enough.

Particularly because the mimosas did not exist. There was a  carafe (and I don’t know if it was hand-blown, but I’ll get to that in a minute) of freaking seltzer water with strawberries floating in it. And the pastries amounted to one stale apricot danish cut into thirty thumbtack-sized pieces.  Sorry to be an entitled bitch, but when I’m promised mimosas and pastries, I need more than fruit chunks in seltzer water and crumbs, especially at 9:00AM on a Sunday.

It got worse from there: the woman running the event pointedly handed the scanning gun to the dude in every couple, and a checklist to the woman. UGH.  BUH. BOO! I wonder what she would have done if there were a gay couple there? Given the gun to the more butch partner? I WISH I WERE JOKING.  This whole idea that men can only be made to tolerate wedding planning/domesticity when given toys, and women crave ever more wedding-related check boxes makes me feel pukish. And goddamnit, I want to use the scanner gun! That’s like 2% of the reason I got engaged in the first place!

The tour of the store was very spend-pressure-y (“be sure to register for furniture, just so your guests have an idea of your taste. And you never know, maybe a group of friends will go in on a $1,200 chaise.”1) and not nearly as informative as I wanted it to be (“The type of cookware you want depends on what kind of cook you are.” Full sentence. No follow-up. Not about what kinds of cook there are, and not about which cookware suits which.).

The lameness was not all Crate & Barrel’s fault, though. None of the couples talked to each other. I tried a few times to break the ice (“A multi-use avocado tool? What a space saver!”) but heard only crickets. Wedding blogs have spoiled me into thinking everyone else getting married around now will be awesome and friendly.

We’re also to blame. Collin and I were both grumpy and indecisive. Collin has bizarre issues about receiving gifts/attention that I blame on him having grown up with a twin sister, in particular one who is abundantly enthusiastic about everything she encounters. He got his painfully uncomfortable “present face” from the moment we started (or should I say HE started, grr) scanning. He wouldn’t make choices because he doesn’t like getting presents. I wouldn’t make choices because I don’t like making decisions. It was a very unpleasant stalemate.

And I couldn’t help but conflate Collin’s lack of enthusiasm about registering for a lack of enthusiasm for getting married, even though intellectually I knew that wasn’t fair. Plus, all jokes aside, I really do want that avocado spoon thingie. Registering isn’t all bad.

1Confidential to Liz: I only included that link because I know you already have a chaise. If you didn’t, I’d censor that for your own good. You know I love you.


Showering in Sexism

My mother-in-law Viki called me earlier today and asked what I thought about having a co-ed wedding shower. “Awesome!” I told her. Dividing the attention with Collin? Still getting presents? Sounds like I’m making out like a bandit.

She checked in with Collin, he approved, and plans started hatching for a super-chill BBQ shower.  And then she headed out to a stationary store with a friend and fellow shower-host and looked at invitation options.

And then she called me.  “Robin… some of these invitations they are selling… you’re probably not going to like them very much.  Maybe we could send them as a joke, but I think you would be too upset by them to laugh.”

“What could be so upsetting about shower invitations?” I asked.

Stupid question.  Whenever the wedding world has the opportunity to bewilder, irritate, and outrage, it finds a way.

Here, it is with the assumption that the theme of a couple’s shower must be Fundamental Gender Differences. Observe:

[Source: Invitation Consultants]

Men like:

  • Hammers. MEN SMASH!
  • Fishing.
  • Golf.
  • Malt liquor.
  • Belts and/or microplanes (probably not a microplane because you can use that in a kitchen, which is where girls go!)
  • Items that can be used to cook meat outside. (Inside cooking or non-meat cooking is GIRL STUFF.)
  • Cigars.
  • Champagne and champagne flutes. (Probably the most progressively gender-neutral item pictured! I thought men only drank red wine. Or, preferably, beer!)
  • Tickets to public events (presumably to use with his buds, because womenfolk should stay in the homestead).
  • Power tools.
  • Other hardware, but most importantly: HAMMERS!

Women like:

  • Wisks.
  • Spatulas.
  • Spoons.  Anything that lets us stir!
  • Standing mixers. For motorized stirring!
  • Chopsticks! Cheese Graters! Other things that will make us feel less alone in the kitchen.
  • Recipe books for party food so we can be great hostesses.
  • Napkins. Ladies are neat, and love things made of fabric!
  • Flowers.
  • Necklaces.
  • Piiiiiiiiiiiiiink!
  • Picture frames. (We’re sentimentalists.)
  • Martini glasses. GIRLS’ NIGHT! WOO!

Men’s gifts and women’s gifts are so different that they should be physically segregated, preferably by buckets.  Otherwise those flighty ladies might start stirring something with a hammer!  Can’t have that.

I assume what is going on here is that a wedding shower is considered a girly event, so invitation designers are trying to restore the included groom’s masculinity. What better way to do this than by reminding the guests how even though this groom is going beyond his traditional role of “just showing up” on the wedding day, he still has a Y-chromosome, one that constantly yearns to hammer something.

Fortunately, Viki tells me she found a couple’s shower invitation that doesn’t involve creepy gender policing.  Which is great, because we really don’t need another hammer, and I don’t want people buying Collin one just because they think it’s the secret to saving his masculinity.

Bridalplasty: BUH

E! has ordered reality series Bridalplasty, in which the contestants who prevail in wedding planning challenges (example: writing the best vows) win plastic surgery.

After reading stories like this, I usually check to see if it is April 1st.  For those playing along at home, it is not.

I’m having trouble moving past making retching noises to appropriately respond to this.  I suppose it ties back into the theme of Bride As Uberwoman.  When an average everyday person like you or me plans a wedding and anticipates being a Bride, it somehow taps into all these insecurities woven throughout our sense of selves by that tenacious patriarchy loom, perhaps in an unprecedented way.1

We think, “I’m just a regular everyday chick. I can’t be a BRIDE. I can’t be that perfectly gracious hostess. I can’t be that clever crafter of a beautiful, cute, charming, hand-made with love day. I can’t be that stunning beauty walking down the aisle, deserving all eyes on her.”

And so women getting married start thinking now, more than ever, that they need to lose weight.  They need to whiten their teeth.  They need to have someone else’s skin.  Or, if reality television is involved, they need an Extreme Makeover.

Because the person they are now is just a person, and some serious improvements must be made before they can be a Bride.  Fat chicks can put on a white dress and walk down an aisle, flat-chested chicks can exchange rings and vows with their partner in front of friends and family, chicks with wrinkles can throw a bunch of flowers at their single friends… but there is this pervasive message they won’t be a Real Bride unless they are something more ideal.  On this milestone day in our Womanhood we’ve got to be everything a Woman can be.  Most importantly: nice to look at.

1I would not be surprised if something similar happens to women anticipating motherhood, but I have never done that and have never actually been close with anyone doing that, so I can only speculate on that comparison.

Movie Review: Father of the Bride (1991)

Father of the Bride tells the most important wedding story of all: the story of masculinity in peril.

It’s a remake of a 1950 movie starring Spencer Tracy. Never having seen it, I don’t really know what the original movie is like.  But I do know some of the things that happened in the United States between 1950 and 1991.  A sampling: Hormonal birth control! The Feminine Mystique! Title VII! Legal abortion! Title IX! A woman on the Supreme Court! Three seasons of Murphy Brown!

But you’d never guess from this movie.  There are two major themes:

1. Steve Martin freaking out over losing control over his daughter to her husband-to-be.

2. Steve Martin freaking out over how expensive the wedding is.

Because losing control over a woman and losing thousands of dollars mean that Steve Martin is losing his manhood, and therefore losing what makes life worth living.

Perhaps surprisingly, I have less to say about the first theme.  It’s played so arch that I think it successfully crosses over into successful parody.  I certainly laughed out loud when Steve Martin envisions his 22-year-old daughter as an adorable 7-year-old as she describes how wonderful and brilliant her fiancé is.  It’s a little less funny when you contrast his “you’re still my baby” treatment of his grown woman daughter with his interaction with his ten-year-old Culkin son, whom he regards as a peer.  He does not trust his adult daughter to decide whether she needs to wear a jacket, but he trusts his small boy son to re-park dozens of guests’ cars during the reception.

Disturbing, but still I found myself much more rankled about the “dear lord the cost of weddings!” plotline.  Now, I understand from personal experience that even people with privilege can/should/do worry about their wedding budget.  But I still think it is kind of offensively off-putting that the masses are asked to relate to the wedding budget panic of the driver of that Aston Martin and owner of that house:

The first ten minutes of the movie outline how comfortable Steve Martin’s lifestyle is: He’s got a laughably improbably successful sneaker manufacturing business, with the whitest, least-sweatshop-esque factory in the history of athletic footwear.  He’s got the aforepictured Aston Martin and big house with a white picket fence in picturesque San Marino, California (Southern Californian cities named after European microstates: definitely dead center middle class, right?).  He’s sent his daughter to Rome to study for her Masters in architecture, but she still lives at home when she isn’t abroad.

However will this family afford a wedding?!?!

Perhaps they could ask the groom’s family for assistance? They do live in Bel Air after all.  They are, by Steve Martin’s estimation, rich people.  But he also thinks that it is truly offensive for them to offer to help pay for the wedding.  He’s the father of the bride, after all!  How dare they take away his problems like that?

Or maybe they shouldn’t hire Martin Short’s wedding planner, Franck, of ambiguous European origin and not-so-ambiguous sexuality.  Gay wedding planners = instant comedy!  They can recognize fabrics!  They wear turtlenecks! They pronounce “cake” like “cock!”   And they incorporate new expenses into weddings, like tulip beds, live swans, and Chiavari chairs.

What really happens is that Steve Martin is told by Diane Keaton, his better half, that all his money panic is taking little pieces of his daughter’s happiness away.  So he shuts his mouth and lets the money fly, returning to his core obsession of losing his little girl.  And then the wedding reception is so busy he doesn’t even see his daughter off.  But she calls from the airport to tell her dad she still loves him.

Moral of the story? You can buy your daughter’s love.  Even after she has a husband.  Rich white men of the world, relax! It’s all good.

The Lamest Part of Waking Up

Grown Woman: “Morning, Daddy Dearest!”
Father: “Princess, while this economy has been hard on all of us, it does seem a little ridiculous that you’re living at home in your late 20s or early 30s.”
Grown Woman: “Good thing I have a man to support me!”
Father: “Indeed, darling. And on the subject of your dependence on me, I object to the hour at which you came home last night.”
Grown Woman: “Yeah, one silver lining of the recession is no matter how long I stay unemployed, beer still works.”
Father: “Sweetheart! You are a woman! If you’re going to stay out late drinking, make it white wine. Or appletinis, if you MUST.”
Grown Woman: “Daddy…” [extends left hand, adorned with delicate engagement ring] “another man will be ordering for me from now on.”
Father: “Oh, Angel Pie. Does Todd know that you get really cunty around that time of the month?”
Grown Woman: “DAAAAHHHH-D.”
“Just kidding. I warned him when we negotiated the transfer of you to his property last week. Knocked a few grand off the dowry!”
Grown Woman: [Smiles with surprise and relief!] “I never thought a guy who can belch my full name would go through the proper channels like that. I’m not making a terrible mistake marrying him! I love you, Daddy.”
Father: “I’ll love you even when another man owns you, Baby Girl.”