cherish the raincheck
by Indigo Crespighi
I have been mulling over the issues presented the recently published article in Huffington Post, "Let's Ban Weddings, and While We're at It, Baby Showers Too", written by Valerie Alexander. She questions the reasoning behind going into massive debt over those certain weddings which demand much money and time commitment from friends who are likely already be in debt. Also, teen baby showers are being celebrated more and more often, to the detriment of those daughters who are trying to put school first in their path to independence.
On the social media outlet that I posted it, I found that of the variety of responses, most agreed with the ideas—but the majority of disagreement I observed was expressed by thumbs-up on the few well-formulated statements of dissidence. Tacit disapproval.
There are some qualities that weddings, baby showers and Christmas have in common: Heaping expectations, family reunions in store, an elevation to "sacredness." Not to mention presumably good intentions, that risk leading to feelings of self-defeat and inadequacy.
I have been pondering the parallels between our language of discussing the holidays, and the best products of the world of advertising. As a culture, U.S. Americans are sold the idea that weddings are the most important moment of our lives, that having a baby is a cure-all (as long as you provide the right goods and lifestyle for it), that Christmas is righteous and necessary, whether you be Christian or otherwise.
Celebrate Christmas! And you can have: tree of epic proportions, a legitimized superhero accompanied by a grand do-gooder kingdom (Santa Claus and his elves), a time when all family ills are cured, and a mountain of all that you can wish for. Positive visions, cherished in the zeitgeist—anybody who questions it or rejects it is a deemed to be a Scrooge.
Likewise, weddings are a time when all family ills *must* be cured, one can dream of all material wishes (and register them to be accessible to all). And perhaps there'll be a dress, a cake and a choreography even grander than chopping a 50 foot pine tree, covering it in lights and fragile ornaments, topping it with an angel and setting it in your living room.
There are many more roles to play in weddings, and so much more to them than the motions of celebrating Christmas or baby showers, or Valentine's Day, for that matter. But the role of gift-giving is a common thread that threatens to divide people before the question of personal needs and desires can even be answered. Children expect their heart's desire to be filled in the magical egotism of childhood. Mothers try to hide their distress and exhaustion. Employers organize holiday parties that may or may not be appreciated, but the expectation to bring a gift is omnipresent. Do you find yourself taking part in a name-drawing gift exchange in which you don't expect to receive anything you want or can make use of? It is voluntary, but you really shouldn't have!
I recently attended a holiday party organized by my employers, which also happened to also be an unofficial baby shower. One of the supervisors in a different department has only recently returned from a short FMLA leave, but many of us were taken aback that we were learning about this shower just a day or two before the party. I am secure that I wouldn't be invited to her baby shower outside of work, so I opted out.
We also played Pictionary, and I had the most fun I had all year with my coworkers.
Yet it still felt like a faux pas to not participate. Baby showers can be divine, and anybody who has a baby and wants one should have one. Yet the personal ordeal of motherhood can be trivialized in the standard gathering with cake, pink or blue ribbons, hallmark cards, and so on. And the stigma against women who choose not (or cannot) be mothers is parallel somehow to the plight of teen mothers, single mothers, all mothers who must put on a smile for the sake of appearance.
Today more and more businesses are open on Christmas. Children are expecting more expensive gadgets at younger ages and the price of everything from college to housing to food is rising. Americans are working more than ever before.
How do we find time to attend every wedding, baby shower, Christmas party, or make a romantic Valentine's date, anyway? How do we look planned obsolescence in the face, and live in a society where the statement "I am not good at art" and the cut in artistic programs are banal realities?
How many people aren't talking or are still hurting from some "forgotten" gift, from certain rules of gift-giving, or from simply not being invited to one of these profound galas? And if these times are too sacred to discuss the ways in which we choose to celebrate our lives, is the mere questioning or skepticism about the necessity of the rituals making a statement that love between two people isn't beautiful, or that motherhood isn't magical?
If it were more helpful to get gifts and attention from one's acquaintances one year after having had a baby, is it too late to have a shower?
If one chooses to not celebrate Christmas does it equal outright disdain for exchanging gifts, gathering around a fire, listening to some carols or otherwise meaningful music, feasting together, and so on?
If your boyfriend doesn't bring you a heart-shaped necklace or chocolates on Valentine's Day, is he still your boyfriend?
Having as many standardized celebrations that run our economy as we do, perhaps we are lacking time to consider more individually meaningful things to celebrate. Perhaps the Bill Maher joke about having a Christmas truce (you don't get me anything, I'll do the same) is as progressive as we can get. Yet the desire to have more celebrations AND more tolerance of breaking the rules of the celebrations we already have is in the spirit of the season.