Beware of strangers bearing fondue sets.
And that's the least of the weird stuff you have to watch out for as The Thing slowly, relentlessly stalks you. And here I'd assumed that once I'd made the decision to marry my girlfriend of six years, the hard part would be over.
Popping the question, it seemed, would be like scoring the winning touchdown in the big game (and isn't it just like a guy to see something like marriage in terms of a sporting event?). Instead, the road to The Thing, also known as The Big Day in some circles, turned out to be just the pregame warm-up.
It's not that I wasn't looking forward to getting married. It's just that all the stuff you have to go through to get there can turn the engagement process into an endurance test. Some of what happens can be fun. Some leaves you wishing you had made that reservation with the Elvis preacher at the Chapel o' Love in Vegas. Sure, that puts a crimp in your gift-receiving potential, but it certainly would make life a lot less complicated.
Therefore, strictly as a public service to commitment-shy guys for whom The Thing is but a distant worry, here are a few of the pitfalls to watch for.
Weeks before The Thing, the presents start trickling in and one trend becomes immediately obvious. While getting married is a great way to score plenty of free stuff, the stuff you end up with tends to be of one variety: domestic supplies. Pots. Pans. Pitchers. Pasta dishes. Pillow cases. Fondue sets. All the stuff that, as a bachelor, you had exactly one of. Who needed more?
Instead of Bullock's, Crate & Barrel and Crabtree & Evelyn, why not register at Toys R Us, Circuit City, a liquor store? These are places a guy would register at if he could.
At some point before The Thing, it is customary for bride and groom each to have an exclusive gathering with friends of the same sex. Nothing explains each gender's differing views of marriage more than these events.
Women get together for a shower. Even the name tells you what's up. \o7 Shower. \f7 It reminds you of spring, something warm and friendly. Gifts and pleasantries are exchanged.
What do guys do for their nearly departed brother? A bachelor party. This is probably fine for those drum-pounding Iron John types. But let's look at what this tradition is all about. Porno movies. Strippers. All your friends drinking way too much--the married ones tell you how you're going to miss all this freedom, while the single ones tell you how they're going to keep enjoying all this freedom.
Come to think of it, there is one positive thing about having a bachelor party. It starts to make married life look like the more positive lifestyle choice.
From the minute you announce your engagement (and increasing exponentially until The Thing), you hear them. From friends. From enemies. From the guy you make the mistake of talking with on the elevator. They all ask two questions. The first is inevitably, "Are you nervous?"
It's perfectly natural to ask. Still, since the real nail-biting came when you were deciding whether to propose, nervousness now is the least of your worries. Headaches, sure, but not nervousness. Life isn't a "Love Boat" rerun, where the bride or groom gets to the altar and says, "You know . . . thanks but no thanks."
In fact, the only thing that makes you nervous is all the people asking if you're nervous. Especially when it comes from your married friends. This can only mean they know something you don't. And they're not sharing.
The second question is always if the bride will be taking the groom's name. I like to answer by saying, "Only in vain." Even in this allegedly modern day and age, people still seem to assume the woman will adopt her husband's name. It's a silly tradition we'll have no part of.
If a woman spends her whole life with one name, why should she give it up just because she got married? I propose a compromise here. If the woman has to give up something very important and personal like her last name, the man should have to give up something important and personal like the remote control.
The Post-Thing Festivities
Again, you can make the plan as simple as humanly possible. It won't stay that way. Take our Thing. It was to be low-key, with a quick trip to our favorite spot in the mountains of New Mexico. Just the two of us. And then back home to Los Angeles a few days later for a reception with our families and a few close friends. Easy, right?
There's arranging for a justice of the peace.
And finding a couple of friends acceptable to both bride and groom who can serve as witnesses.
And delivering apologies to those friends who didn't quite make the cut.
And doing the same to the family members who weren't invited, lest they arrive to make this small affair into an unwieldy one.
And figuring out which close friends will be invited to the reception.
And deciding which friends of those friends have to be invited, lest their feelings be hurt.
And there's figuring out what to feed everybody. The tradition goes something like this: The guests bring you all sorts of kitchen gifts. Thus, you are obligated to give them food.
An army travels on its stomach. So does a Thing.
I won't deny this is a nice tradition. I've mooched many a wedding meal myself. Still, finding an affordable meal that meat eaters and vegetarians and dieters can all enjoy after The Thing is, at best, difficult. Why can't it just be like, say, when you win The Big Game in Little League and the whole team celebrates with a meal from Fatburger?