Wedding season, open them wallets

Mr. Gingermermaid and I did not have a conventional wedding with the “save the date” magnets, and the flowers, and the bridal parties, and the chicken or fish, and the showers, and the church. We got married, somewhat in secret, in my childhood home with just our immediate family and one very close friend.

We didn't things totally traditionally, but gorilla warfare of birdseed did happen.

We didn’t do things totally traditionally, but gorilla warfare of birdseed did happen.

Our circumstances weren’t necessarily unique by today’s standards, but at 6 months pregnant, after finding out extremely late in the game, we chose to have a ceremony before, rather than after the birth of our son and decided that the money towards the wedding would go to something more practical, like a down payment on a house or our child’s future. So boring, I know.

We don’t regret it for one second. If we did it all over again, there would still be no chicken or fish.

With wedding season in full swing now, and at the verge of 30, many of our friends are sealing their relationship with that certificate of ownership. Faced with attending wedding after wedding, we are finding that the tradition and culture we reject, and our peers embrace, is incredibly irritating and costly.

Issue 1, Babysitters

My husband and I are the first among our friends to have a child, and as cliche as it may be, it’s the truest statement ever stated: you don’t get it until you have kids (hate me now, I would too).

When we get invited to weddings where there are no kids allowed, or where we have to travel far, it can be a logistical nightmare. It’s not like we can leave the kid at home with a stack of TV dinners and the Netflix password. We have to arrange for his coming or not coming.

  1. Travelling in a plane or car for any period of time with little people, not easy. Who wants to sit next to the baby on the plane? Not me, in fact, I would put my kid in the front and sit in the back if I could. Dear flight attendant and passenger in seat F3, your problem now.
  2. Packing for a child to go on a trip is almost like moving from a house to a studio apartment, too much stuff and not enough space.
  3. Not every family has grandparents or siblings on the ready who can take a child in for an evening let alone a weekend or more. And contrary to popular belief, mainly just my friends’ belief, babysitters don’t fall out of the sky and they certainly don’t do so cheaply.

Issue 2, Party Time

When a wedding is announced, about a half dozen other events are also announced: engagement party, wedding shower, bridal shower, bachelorette party, bachelor party, wedding. Because I have the pleasure of being friends with this person, I’m expected to work all these events into my schedule, taking my few but precious vacation days, and bring along a gift per event. If I don’t, betrothal drama!

My husband has been invited to countless bachelor parties in his days, but the most recent affair was a bit too much. It was a 5 to 6 hour drive away and 4 days long. The initial cost for the affair was $700 per person to cover the escapade.

$700 and 4 days! My husband and I would prefer to go on vacation together, put in a new water heater, cover day care costs, or pay the mortgage on our new house rather than spend it on a party. There is absolutely nothing a bachelor party offers that can’t be done locally or in one evening for a fraction of the cost. Bachelor/ette parties are excuses to get be college drunk and see strippers. The guise of “I’m getting married, one last hurrah!” does not need to exist for this to happen.

Mr. Gingermermaid made the trip to this particular bachelor shindig for one night. We had other plans that weekend to work around and leaving a parent alone for an extended period of time with a baby is not easy (props to you single parents). My hubby took a lot of flack for this.

Issue 3, Gifts!

While visiting friends, an early wedding gift arrived for them while we happened to be in their company. The gift was not what at the monetary level they expected from these particular guests. They mocked the gift and the cheapasaureses who purchased it (from the wedding registry).

Gifts at weddings were established as a way to give a married couple a start. There used to be a time when engaged couples all lived at home with their respective mom and dad. No cohabitation until the exchange of vows. Post-wedding, the newlyweds moved into a new home with nothing. Nothing. So gifts like plates, toasters, and towels were a way to give couples a base to establish their home and life together.

Nowadays, almost every couple lives together and has more than enough clutter. Gifts of money are becoming the norm. I recently wrote a check for $50 to newly wedded couple that are millionaires. I felt like I was throwing a cup of water into the ocean.

Gifts are not mandatory, contrary to popular culture, especially when the cost to attend the wedding is a financial burden in itself. Some invitations even state that presence is enough and presents are not necessary. I’m not sure if many newlyweds believe that.

The cost of attending/being a part of the wedding add up:

  • engagement party gifts
  • wedding shower gifts
  • bridal shower gifts
  • bachelor/ette party costs/gifts
  • wedding gifts
  • bridal/groom party rentals, purchases (I believe brides/grooms should cover most of these costs)
  • hotel costs
  • travel costs
  • time costs

There’s also this concept of tit for tat. Many of the weddings we’ve attended and consecrated gifts for, we have never received a reciprocal consideration. No  “congratulations” card let alone a check or gift ,and we didn’t even make them spend a dime on attending*.

*People criticized us for not having a wedding because we wouldn’t receive gifts/money. Husband and I thought the cost of having a wedding versus the possible “profit” of throwing a soiree were ridiculous. We never expected anything, and still don’t, but we don’t like having expectations thrown on us with an exceptional flair for the dramatic when the same consideration is not extended.

Issue 4, It’s all the same

Weddings are generic. There is this equation that hotels, wedding planners, and tradition mixed together. Weddings that attempt to be unique still follow the basic formula.

  1. Photographer takes staged photos of prep.
  2. Ceremony.
  3. More staged photography.
  4. Reception begins with snacks and drinks.
  5. Mr. and Mrs. (or Mr. and Mr. or Mrs. and Mrs.) enter.
  6. Awkward speeches.
  7. Father/daughter, Mother/son dances
  8. Awkward speeches.
  9. Dinner with linen covered seats and garish bows and tables with ugly flower displays.
  10. Cake smash!
  11. Dancing.
  12. Hangover.

For a grand total of $25k.

The real definer if the wedding is fun and worth all the hubbub? Open bar.

Issue 5, Divorce

It happens. We all go through the wedding hoopla and then a few years, or even months, down the way, the couple splits. It sucks for the couple and it sucks for the guests. Essentially the money and gifts given become collateral in the divorce proceedings.

Look, I venture to guess that most people who are getting married do not anticipate a divorce. Otherwise, why marry?

But in the cases that the relationships are rocky prior to any aisle trotting, it’s important to consider the whole picture. I knew of a couple that wasn’t sure if they should go through with the wedding or not. After all the planning and people RSVPing and making their plane/hotel reservations and blah blah blah, they figured they could work on their issues after the ceremony, right? So they married. Four months later? Seperated and well on the way to signing divorce papers.

Do the guests a favor, save their time and money and call it off. A teetering couple is going to lose out bigger if they go through with the wedding.

Issue 6, What we all want

Cake smash! Nom nom nom!

Cake smash! Nom nom nom!

The Gingermermaids are very happy with the way our wedding went down. We embraced a few cutsie traditions for our parents (and me too) but ultimately we didn’t want much more than that. We support that our friends do want the whole deal and we’ll participate in all the hoopla and spend the dollars to rent a tux and get our hair done like everyone else. It’s their day, after all, and they are our friends and we want to support them in their commitment to one another.

Some people take our perception of weddings as resentment that we didn’t get to do things the traditional way because of little Gingerguppy. When people tell me that I really want to have a wedding, a bachelorette party, a honeymoon, I want to tell them that what I really want to do is punch them in the face for not respecting my viewpoint. Not everyone wants what everyone else wants, like I’m sure that person doesn’t want me to punch them in the face even though I really, really want that, far more than a wedding.

One final note, weddings shouldn’t be the best day of anyone’s life, the future together should hold far better days. We don’t want to start our life at the climax of our time together, we want it to only get better.

 

Blogger’s Note: I embraced the following kitschy things: a dress that fit over Gingerguppy, sunflower bouquet, birdseed (which I hated and am still pulling little seeds from my hair), photographer, flower girls (because my nieces really wanted it), and cake smash! If you read my post about my own wedding, you may find some hypocritical statements to what I’ve made here. I’m not perfect 😉

What a PhD really means

Let me preface this by saying, I do not have a PhD. I don’t particularly have an ambition to earn a PhD. I mean, I guess Dr. Gingermermaid sounds pretty cool and everything, but I think I’ll manage just fine without the title as I do currently without the title Princess Gingermermaid. Both hold about the same stock of meaning to me anyway.

I’ve mentioned before that I work chiefly with academics. Some are fabulous leaders in their field, know their information, and have an open mind to boot! But the key word in that last sentence is “some.” See, most are not any of those things.

A PhD doesn’t equal intelligence, it equals hard work. I give lots of credit to those who earn their PhD because they do have a fabulous work ethic, or enough of one to get through the arduous process, and lots of tenacity. It’s not easy to get a PhD, but not for lack of smarts, for lack of heart.

Perhaps this is unfair of me. Since I have never gone forward to attempt a PhD, maybe I am out of touch. But just going through the motions and doing the work doesn’t guarantee a quality outcome, and this is what I am writing about.

Aside from my own collegiate experiences, in which I blindly trusted my professors and felt they were gods of intellect or some sort, I realize now, some were but most were not. They were human and made/make mistakes much like I do (well, at the pre-bachelor’s level, let’s be honest, most of my mistakes were drunken, youthful, and way beyond stupid—for another post). I also didn’t realize that most professors are less inclined to be teachers than they are to be researchers and publishers of their own works. That idea seems backwards to me since I’m paying many a dollar for an education to be taught by someone who would rather forward their own career than assist in developing my future one.

Part of the fault lies within the university system. In order for professors to get jobs, earn tenure, survive in academia, they have to do a lot of BS (and I don’t mean Bachelor’s of Science). If they don’t publish enough, they aren’t marketable. If they don’t get grants for their research, they have nothing to show but their PhD certificate. If they don’t conform to the political correctness and ideals of the university, they are cast out. It doesn’t matter if the school is Ivy League or in the middle-of-nowhere Wyoming (no offense, Wyoming).

Still, regardless of what the standards of conformity are in the academic world, I get a taste of the kind of people who decorate its many institutions on a daily basis.

What shocks me most about interacting with professors and independent scholars (what is that even?) is the lack of attention to detail, the ignorance of common courtesy, the forsaking of all things grammatical in correspondence, and the inability to follow directions. To top it all off, an ego that is difficult to maneuver around.

At times I’m shocked, that me, a lowly college graduate with just a BA must conduct a paint-by-numbers outline of instructions of a fairly intuitive process that practically conducts itself. Is it the use of technology? Is it the fact that these folks are so “important” and “busy” they have no time to go through trivial steps to complete a mundane task? Or do they expect anyone less than them to deal with these sorts of matters, thus are not troubled to read and follow instructions?

Each year I assist in a fellowship with 30 to 35 professors. I have to say, a lot of these folks are quite down-to-earth and even, dare I say it—fun? However, put them all together in a room to be instructed (the role reversal is not well-received) or to discuss intellectual but challenging matters, and the egos, commentary, ignorance, and spouts of achievements projectile vomits itself into fragile ears (chiefly, mine—the others are used to this kind of rhetoric).

It’s as if you can’t teach a teacher because they feel they have acquired all knowledge. That PhD, if anything, should give you the access of knowledge to go farther, ask more questions, and continue to learn more. We never stop learning because we can never know everything—expert or no expert. If you ask me, if there is a god, I doubt he’s all that omniscient and perfect (have you seen the craziness this world is in?) which means that a lowly professor is even less so.

So, dear PhDs, professors, academics, kindlers of knowledge, please remember a few things:

  • Be respectful of your colleagues and those who have only so high an education, it doesn’t mean they are dumb, it means their life goes a different way than yours.
  • Be humble because it is impossible to know everything and closing your mind only exacerbates the ignorance in education and society.
  • Take your position as educator seriously. You may want to write a book, you may want to research 23 of the 24 hours, but remember, you are also a teacher and your responsibility is to arm students with knowledge to go out in the world and assist in its development, not its demise.
  • Follow goddamn instructions. You are not above reading and performing them.
  • If you expect your students and colleagues to write emails with proper grammar, you should do the same. Capitalize the first letter of every sentence, use exclamation points responsibly, and don’t forget your punctuation!
  • You earned a PhD and this is nothing to sneeze at, but it isn’t your identity and people are only mildly impressed.

Dear Grandpopper

A letter to my grandfather, who passed away a year ago.

Dear Grandpopper,

It’s been a year since you had decided that you had enough and fleeted from the world. It made us all really sad, but at the same time, we knew your last years weren’t your best and that now at least you aren’t in pain and you certainly aren’t as crabby!

I missed saying goodbye to you by an hour. I felt badly about that, and still do, but I know you knew your spunky, little, redheaded granddaughter was on her way to bring you cheer and excessive, energetic chatter, and let me tell you, I was bringing my A-game.

You looked like you were asleep and I put the stuffed Grumpy, your kindred spirit of the seven dwarfs, next to you and consequently, he accompanied you into the coffin too. I figured that a companionship like that needed to be continued on into the eternity. I know he is keeping you great company—I didn’t want you to be alone in there.

I never actually thought you would die. If there is an afterlife, I’m sure the guys at the gate knew you would be trouble. What, with the dirty jokes and the crabby nature, they knew things were going to get far too interesting.

I wish we had spoken more, but that was my fault. I took you for granted. I can’t regret what I didn’t do, so I keep you alive as much as I can. I call grandma much more and we talk about you. I have the flag that covered your coffin next to my favorite picture of you, standing in your air traffic control tower looking wicked as ever. Sometimes I talk to that picture and often I wonder how many stories I never knew about you. I know you were a trouble-maker in the war, and it’s one of my favorite things to mull over.

You used to always ask me, from the time I exited the womb of my mother to our final conversation, “are you married yet?” I loved that question. I wanted to be a bride one day, mostly for the dress and less for the guy, and I wanted you to be there to watch me strut down the aisle in my fluffy white gown. After the wedding I’d say, “I’m married yet!” We could share a dance and you could tell me terrible jokes that would make a sailor blush.

Although I’m not married yet and not really engaged either, perhaps something you can appreciate even more is that I’m knocked-up. Despite the generation you come from and the ideals that comes with it, I know you wouldn’t be ashamed of me or disappointed, mainly because you did the same thing! Come on, Uncle Mike was born just a few months after the wedding, you weren’t fooling anybody! When I told grandma to tell her the news, she was ecstatic and said, “well, your grandpopper did the same thing.” Thanks for paving the way for my out-of-wedlock child, you pioneer, you.

I anticipate having a little firecracker, essentially just a smaller, more compact version of me. I wish you could hold the child, I wish you could watch me walk down the aisle, I wish that I could call you and you could talk about my crazy ex-Italian boyfriends and what you really thought about them (accompanied by some inappropriate Italian jokes), but I know I can’t. I can only hope that if you are somewhere floating about the atmosphere, that you can hear me talking to you and be happy.

We all think about the last words that you said to us. I’m so happy that you said this to me the last time we were on the phone:

“That one guy you dated spent more time on his hair than a girl.” Best. Memory. Ever.

I’m sorry you aren’t here for this chapter in my life, but if you can read this, you should know, I’m happy, I’m freaked out, and I’m also really hungry.

I love you, grandpopper. Don’t cause too much trouble.

Sincerely,

Your favorite grandaughter (let’s be honest, we all know it’s true)

Email courtesy

Since the advent of email, the rules of proper email etiquette and grammar style never fully infiltrated into this popular form of communication. I realize that we aren’t writing letters and affixing a 46 cent stamp, but does that mean it needs to be “addressed” any less seriously? Does a stamp make that much of a difference in tone and capitalization?

I work mostly with academics, the kind with PhDs and suede elbow patches. After the quantity of time spent in school, writing papers, publishing books, teaching moldable minds, one would think that simple grammar, punctuation, and common sense would permeate their correspondences. In reality, it’s as if there is a rebellion against their schooling and profession.

If I’m paying $35k a year for an education, the least my professor can do is find the energy to hit SHIFT while pecking out the first letter of a sentence. I expect it.

It’s not just the blatant disregard for all things grammatical that makes me crazy, it’s the tone, the way I’m addressed as if I am a simple plebeian. I realize they address me the same way they address anybody, but nevertheless, it is belittling.

Where is the “Dear Ms. Gingermermaid”? Where is the “Sincerely” and “Kind Regards”? When did this become acceptable:

what, no receipt?

You want a receipt for submitting payment to an organization? That’s great! I’d be happy to oblige! How about you try this:

Dear Ms. Gingermermaid,

Thank you for the confirmation of my membership. I was curious if it would be possible for to obtain a receipt as proof to my university that I am a member and can receive reimbursement?

Thank you, and I look forward to your reply.

Kind Regards,

Dr. Gramaluva

or even…

Dear Ms. Gingermermaid,

Thank you. May I also have a receipt?

Sincerely,

Prof. Supanisguy

Now, was that so hard?

Look, between friends, do your thing. I opt for capitalization, punctuation, and witty openers among my closest kin. That’s entirely between the correspondents on this particular amicable level. But between professionals, let’s be just that—professional. It’s not just a matter of courtesy, it’s also a matter of respect.

Kids + Restaurants = Waaaaaa!

I will preface this post by saying I do not have kids, just a cat. I do have 2 nieces and 2 nephews that I am worshiped by, the oldest being 7 and the youngest being 1ish, so I’m not a stranger to kids and the joys and sorrows they cause families.

My boyfriend and I decided to go out to lunch this past weekend to a Dogfish Alehouse. We enjoy the selection of brews and the artery clogging food. It’s not a particularly cheap place to eat, but it’s not necessarily going to break the bank every once in a while either. Between the calorie-ridden food and the higher than preferred prices, we go as a treat.

Our treat was disrupted even before our first (and consequently, only) ale was delivered, a family of four sat down at an adjacent table. The approximate ages of the children appeared to be 5 and maybe 4.  The antagonist of the story, the screaming boy, was no baby but still fell under that jurisdiction of “uncontrollable-terrible-somethings” age with the mother and father at the “parents-should-know-better” age.

For the first five minutes of shouting, I was already on edge. It takes me no time to get irritated by piercing screams begin losing patience. My boyfriend was like, “it’s not that bad.” My boyfriend is a way nicer person than I am and far more tolerant; he probably expected a quick end to the tears and banshee cries. Once the bill was paid, he was sprinting out of the restaurant ahead of me.

After ten minutes I couldn’t hear myself think and each time I started to try to talk to my lunch partner about the mysteries of cockroaches, I couldn’t finish the statement because the wailing coming from ten feet away was killing my brain cells as quickly as it was killing my appetite.

Still, I figured, the kid had to stop sometime soon. But when he didn’t, my anger wasn’t at the bratty, tantrum-ridden child, but at the parents. Obviously, what they were doing wasn’t working. There has to come a time when they realize the uncontrollable rage at life being showcased by their child isn’t going to work by letting him throw fries, sit on the floor, go from father to mother, excessive cooing, etc. There is a restaurant packed with people (hence being unable to move from our location, not that it would have mattered, the screams penetrated the sound barrier) and consequently, they should show consideration to other paying customers and take the kid outside (beautiful weather), to the bathroom, to the car, take the food to go, whatever!

I get it. Kids cry. They whine. They poop and puke. They are pests and parents love every iota of it! Yay! But, parents, realize that this is not your home, this is a public venue, one where everyone is paying money to treat themselves, take a break from their hectic day, indulging, whatever. Aside from the fact that kids are welcome in this establishment, it’s an alehouse which means that the target demographic isn’t really anyone under the age of 21. The food is expensive and kids will have a few bites of fries and chicken tenders. A family is better going to a kid-friendly, affordable restaurant like Friendly’s or a fast food place which even offers healthier options for kids nowadays and playgrounds! It’s not like this particular restaurant was the only available option. There were many!

I understand the parents want real food and real beer, so get a babysitter. Because parents also deserve to treat themselves to the pleasure of a meal and a drink without screaming children. Kids don’t give you an excuse to disturb the rest of the human population. Exercise good judgement and be considerate.

By now my boyfriend and I were miserable, as were the diners around us. We would have loved to hang out and sip another beer, but we couldn’t eat and get the check fast enough. I practically threw my credit card at the waitress. $45 plus tip for a meal that was probably tasty, a beer I think was blueberry flavored and probably also good, and a headache I know I didn’t order.

warnh086_no_children_allowed_in_this_areaI felt bad for the waitresses who had to serve and handle the screams and growling customers. I don’t know if it’s for them to talk to the family or a manager to tell them to control their kid. It’s not their job to do so. However, they certainly lost a lot of money as people who intended to stay left and other diners, I’m sure, cut the tips in half. But the accountability of the situation is with the parents who were oblivious to those around them. If my boyfriend and I started crying and shouting, we’d be kicked out. Why? It’s disturbing and we know better. The kid may not know better, although this one seemed old enough to be aware, but the parents certainly do know well enough.

Families bitch about restaurants not letting children in, but I applaud restaurants that do this. For whatever reason, when someone becomes a parent there is this feeling of superiority and entitlement that accompanies them everywhere. Suddenly, conversation is only about their child(ren). In public spaces, families are disorganized and take up excessive space, they cause delays and are in the way, all while remaining completely oblivious to anyone in the vicinity. I get it, juggling your 1 – 6 kids is hard (no matter how much gear you have with you), but it’s your responsibility to handle it and to handle it in a way that agrees with the rest of the world. You are not any better than a childless family or someone who decides to remain without a kid temporarily or permanently. Your children shouldn’t define you nor your manners. And if 6 kids is too much? There are so many ways in these modern days to prevent that. I’m sure your god will understand, otherwise he’s an out-of-touch asshole and not worth you worship.

People might say to me, “Gingermermaid, you don’t understand because you don’t have kids.” I would respond with a big bird located in the middle of my hand and a response, “You don’t remember what it was like before your children defined your entire existence.”

During that meal I looked at my boyfriend and said, “If ever you and I find ourselves in the unfortunate situation where we happen to have offspring, promise me that we will never take them to a restaurant and will exercise judgement to get a babysitter or a kid-targeted eatery.”

I was super close to saying something to the family, maybe with a little passive aggression, but not overtly rude. I wouldn’t tell them how to raise their kid, just that they should be considerate of those around them. I didn’t and now I regret it. Because sometimes we have to point out the obvious for people to grasp reality.

So to that family out there and all the families like them, take a look around and watch as the world revolves around the sun and not your nuclear center.