This weekend, I went to a baby shower for a friend. By the time I drove there and bought gifts, I spent around $120. Afterwards, we had a surprise party for her, which was another $50. That brings Saturday's 'celebration of Amy' to $170. Which is fine! I like Amy, I'm excited to meet her kiddo in a few months. But then Amy didn't get married that long ago either... Between the showers and the bachelorette parties and the wedding itself, I spent about a thousand bucks on her and Dave's union.
In the Sex and the City episode, Carrie claims to have spent 23k celebrating her friend Kira's choices. Luckily, Indiana is cheaper than New York and none of my friends' tastes are quite that outlandish. Still, over the course of my twenties, when everyone seemed to be getting married or having babies or buying houses, I've spent a good chunk of change and even more time celebrating everyone else's choices. Entire weekends were devoted to helping plan these celebrations or crafting wedding shower invitations or driving around town to find a damn Target that had that one special item on the registry in the right color. And it's not that I mind this - I can always use a reason to go shopping. And who doesn't like parties? Also, good for my friends for getting married and having babies. Congratulations! But here's the thing - I don't think I'm ever going to do any of those things.
Kids are not anywhere near my to do list. Marriage is the last thing on my mind and buying a house is terrifying. Birthdays are bullshit - as Carrie so rightly observed, everyone has those. College graduation was a long time ago. So now what?
It's not about gifts - what would I register for? It's been almost seven years since I left the dorm room, so I've got all the pots and pans and wine aerators and crock pots that I need. There's fancy china and expensive flatware, but I don't even think married people need those, let alone a sad little singleton.
It's the fact that there's nothing worth celebrating. A typical wedding results in around two bridal showers, at least one bachelorette party, then the shindig itself. Wedding costs are high, mostly due to the reception, and apparently higher costs cause higher risk of divorce. Can I just pay for my meal instead? Still, that's days and days of celebrating, all devoted to the happy couple. And then they divorce after a year and a half and everyone pretends it didn't happen.
But if I don't get married and I don't have kids, I am not worth celebrating. Sure, a promotion or new job might get me a dinner out with friends, but I don't get a shower. No one has to play awkward games or bring a last minute gift to that. I can't force my closest friends to buy a dress they'll never wear again to my going away party when I leave for Germany in January. Society and tradition have decided that unless you're getting married or popping out kids, there's no need for a fuss. There's nothing note worthy about a new job or moving to a new country on your own or adopting that dog you've always wanted. Crate and Barrel doesn't offer a registry for that.
And maybe we don't need registries at Crate and Barrel anyway.
I recently went to a wedding shower for a couple of thirty year olds. That means they graduated college almost ten years ago, have been out of their parents' houses for twelve years. I look at their registry. It's full of plates and flatwear and bed sheets. I have to wonder - have they been without those things for ten years? Did they decide that marriage was the time to finally put away disposable, plastic cups and plates for the real thing from Pottery Barn? Surely, by the time you're in your thirties, you have the basics that you need. It's not like you suddenly get your wedding band and realize you need an espresso machine because you're too good for a daily Starbucks run.
When do you really need this stuff? College graduation. I don't need pots and pans because I suddenly get a husband. I need it when I graduate college and suddenly I don't have Mom or the dorm mother or the school cafeteria any more. If anything, I should give some stuff back when I get married - the husband and I can combine our kitchen appliances! No household needs two gravy boats or two Roombas.
For bridal showers and wedding gifts, we should get things that are actually useful for a married couple as opposed to a single person or a nonmarried, living together couple. What do married couples uniquely need? Marriage counseling? A good financial advisor? A date night at Cheesecake Factory for when the honeymoon period wears off? Or we could contribute to the honeymoon itself! Instead of a fancy wine opener (and really, a waiter's corkscrew works just fine), I could get my friends an upgrade from coach to first class on their flights. Aunt Marge can pay for a sexy couples' massage at their destination of choice. The college friends can get together and pay for a fancy five course meal or an extra two nights at Boca Raton. This makes more sense. Sure, Grandpa George can still make that 'love' plague he's made for every wedding he's attended since he took up woodwork forty years ago. The new mother-in-law can still put together some ugly quilt that will hide in the guest room closet until she comes to visit. We just need to think more practically. Or there's always those smug couples who just ask you to donate to a charity in their name.
Baby showers, on the other hand, can continue as is - I don't know anyone who picks up baby onesies or diapers before the pregnancy test comes back positive. It really does take a village.