Alison Berkley: The Princess’s Palate
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
“So I’ve been talking to Sarah about the baby shower,” I said to my mom on the phone yesterday. “I mean bridal shower! Why do I keep calling it a baby shower?”
The thing is, I don’t really understand what a bridal shower is supposed to be about. I know you get presents, so I’m going to have one. I’m just not sure I get what the point is.
“It’s to celebrate the bride,” Sarah said, by way of explanation.
When it comes to traditions, Sarah totally gets it. She comes from a big family that celebrates lots of traditions. They keep traditions alive, passing them down from generation to generation. They save stuff and preserve it, just like the jam they make in cool jars with hand-lettered labels. They even have a family cookbook that tells you how to do it, just so the next generation knows.
My family doesn’t do that. The only tradition we ever had was having Thanksgiving dinner catered by Nanshe’s in West Hartford. When I was in high school, my mom let me have one “mental health day” every semester when she would take me out of school to go shopping. If I ever do have a kid, I’m totally going to keep that one alive. I love that one.
There’s no “this is how my mother’s mother did it” or “this is an old family recipe.” The world “heirloom” does not exist in my parents’ vocabulary. They were like two teenagers when they finally retired and made the move out West 10 years ago. They basically gave away all the stuff they’d accumulated, what, living in the same house for 30 years. I’m surprised they didn’t just dump gasoline on our house and light it on fire. That’s how attached they were to our “stuff.”
I don’t know what that has to do with the planning of my bridal shower, really, other than that my mother has no advice to offer. All she says is, “We didn’t do all this stuff back in my day,” and “I just let my mother do it all.” She should probably be credited with coining the most ironic line of all time. Hello, how is that supposed to help?
My instinct from Day One has been to deconstruct the way things are supposed to be done and start over, to rewrite it and define it for myself so I know it has true meaning. (I guess I now know where that urge comes from). The funny part is, after doing all that work, I usually end up right where I started, which is to give up and just do it the way everyone else does in the first place.
Like with our wedding ceremony, I wanted to do something totally unique. Because Ryan has been married before, I wanted to make sure this ceremony was important. Not the wham-bam-thank-you-I-do-ma’am ceremonies I’ve been to as of late, where a family member stands up there for three minutes and then says, “By the power invested in me by onlineministires.com, I now pronounce you man and wife.”
No, goddamnit (or, no, God, whoever you are): I’m going to make this mean something.
I thought about writing the whole ceremony myself, researching various traditions and trying to synthesize the best from each into something uniquely meaningful. I thought about how cool it would be if Ryan and I could marry ourselves, ask each other the appropriate questions, maybe face the audience even. I thought about writing these kick-ass vows that no one has ever heard before, something like, “You are my sun and my moon, my earth and my sky, my mountains and my sea …”
But then I realized every time I even think about my wedding for two seconds I get all choked up, tears blurring my vision. If I have to speak more than is absolutely necessary, I will probably pass out/freak out/die, and that would be really embarrassing.
So then we go and meet with this friend of ours who performs wedding ceremonies and he goes, “I’ve researched all different traditions and synthesized them into a meaningful ceremony. The only words you should have to worry about are ‘I’ and ‘do.'”
Ryan and I looked at each other and were like, “Awesome! You’re hired!”
So for this bridal shower thing, I’m going through the same cycle. I started thinking it would be so cool if I could get together with all the ladies and do something that meant something. Like maybe we could build a fire, and I’d take one thing from every man I ever loved and burn it, you know, as a way of saying goodbye forever and purifying my love for Ryan.
The way I see it, we’re all sitting around this fire and it’s all sort of Pagan and primal and real. I can even burn some of the gifts they gave me, or photos maybe. And I’ll say something about each one, just to get it off my chest. Instead of a Bridal Shower we’ll call it a Bridal Fire Bath.
Then I realize there might be toxic fumes, or maybe some of these things won’t burn well. Or what if I start to cry, or people get bored, or I really lose it and people think I’m crazy and need to go on medication.
Also, I kind of still like that one nightgown/pair of earrings/photo from college. And do I really want to drag all those old skeletons out of the closet for everyone to see? Maybe it’s better to just leave them in the dark.
Instead, we’ll just have a nice civilized afternoon and sit around the backyard and eat little mini sandwiches with the crusts cut off and drink mimosas and make a little bonnet out of all the ribbons from all the presents I’m gonna get.
Come to think of it, a shower is just what I need – maybe even a cold one.