Talk About a Complete Outrage!

"I can't believe this is happening! It's a living nightmare! Why me? WHY ME?"
“I can’t believe this is happening! It’s a living nightmare! Why me? WHY ME?”

I’ve gotten lazy about posting – typically, I really need my dander to be gotten up to generate sufficient energy to bash out some screed. Well, today’s NY Times Style section – the section which typically gets me almost as riled as the Op-Ed and Business sections – really outdid itself, with this piece on the terrible scourge of people not receiving wedding gifts. I mean, sure, chemical warfare in Syria is pretty bad – but can you imagine not receiving a wedding gift? Have you no sense of decency?

For that matter, Ms. Kaas Boyle can also recall, in elaborate detail, which guests relished the five-course dinner at the ornate Rex Il Ristorante (now shuttered), and still failed to give a present.

Nineteen years later, it still irks her.

Nineteen years! NINETEEN YEARS! IN ELABORATE DETAIL! She is still holding a grudge because someone couldn’t buy her some tchotchke to gather dust in her house? I’m the first to admit to be being petty and mean-spirited – but this gal makes me feel like I’m the Dalai Lama!

And get this from Jodi R. R. Smith, an “etiquette expert in Marblehead, Mass., and consultant for the wedding industry” [Ed. note: “wedding industry” is a deeply depressing phrase for so many reasons]:

The way Ms. Smith sees it, it’s acceptable to confront those guests who have failed to send even a token. The best way to do so is with a delicate, in-person conversation. “You tell them that you’ve been writing your thank-you notes and realized that you haven’t written one to them: it’s an ‘I’ statement,” she said. “Then you let the other person talk. Either they’ll say: ‘What are you talking about? I gave you the serving platter off your registry.’ Computer glitches happen. You can then say, ‘I’m happy to follow up.’ If they look at you like deer in the headlights, count to the beat of three and move the conversation along to a totally different topic. Then you wait and see if the gift card shows up.”

She is no expert in etiquette if she thinks that “it’s acceptable to confront those guests who have failed to send even a token.” In fact, I’d venture to say that the word “confront” would never appear in any discussion of “etiquette.” And while it may indeed be customary to send a gift to newlyweds, it is never an obligation – NEVER. There is never any circumstance where one is required to provide someone with a gift. And to inquire as to why one hasn’t received a gift is possibly the grossest interpretation of etiquette I’ve ever heard.

Let’s take a lesson from actual etiquette expert, Judith Martin a.k.a. Miss Manners:

Etiquette is a little social contract we make that we well restrain some of our more provocative impulses in return for living more or less harmoniously in a community.

Of course, on top of just the all-around foulness of the whining greed-heads in the article, I can’t help but trot out the fact that most states in this country still outlaw same-sex marriage. My sister and her partner of over a decade just announced that they are headed to the Santa Fe County Clerk’s Office on Tuesday, now that a judge has found that discriminating against same-sex couples who wish to marry is, in fact, unconstitutional in New Mexico. Like most same-sex couples who have been waiting years, even decades, for the opportunity to enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as opposite-sex married couples, I can state pretty much unequivocally that my sis and sis-in-law are not concerned in the slightest with from whom or even whether they receive any wedding gifts.

Now, not sending thank you notes? Well, that’s a different story…

6 thoughts on “Talk About a Complete Outrage!

  1. Ha! The picture you posted actually looks a bit like me. But the article says nothing about who I am. So I just want to introduce myself. I am an environmental attorney, the kind that defends the environment, not the polluters. I was asked if I could recall who gave me gifts 19 years ago and who didn’t for my wedding. Curse my good memory! That was the subject of the article, it is not the center of my life! I thought the article was humorous. Of course it is the thought that counts in any social situation, not material goods. My best gift, as a child of divorced parents. was having all my family together, a rarity for me. It was truly the best night of my life, and even though I had been with my now husband for 7 years already – that night was transformational and celebrating our love with all those we loved made it all the more special. We did not originally want a wedding or gifts – we felt we had everything we needed in each other, but our parents talked us into tradition. I have to admit, I am glad we listened, because sharing our ceremony made it all the more special and the gifts still remind me of our friends and family (some no longer alive) and that great night. I have no regrets and truly just thought it was funny that the few famous or very wealthy folks at our wedding didn’t send a gift. It kind of fits with the trend in America that the rich pay less in taxes, and tend to be less charitable percentage-wise. Just funny to me, not a cause for rage. I reserve that for people who are destroying the biggest gift we have: our planet.

    1. Hi Lisa, I’m Eric, the writer of this post. I appreciate your response – and I’m sure you’re an OK person! I probably should’ve called out Abby Ellin, the writer of the linked story in the NY Times since she was responsible for the editorial perspective of the piece. Frankly, I don’t think anybody she quoted in the article came off in an especially flattering light. That being said, while the piece may have been intended to be humorous, as a gay man, it’s especially difficult for me to hear people bemoaning some imagined slights from the guests at their wedding when I have been denied the right to marriage until just recently. In my particular instance, it had very real consequences. Without going into all the gory details, when my 9-year relationship ended several years ago (an unexpected and unilateral decision on the part of my ex), I was left high-and-dry financially, since in the eyes of the state of California, we were nothing more than roommates. Granted, divorce equality is not the happiest companion to marriage equality – but it’s part-and-parcel of civil marriage in contemporary American society. So, I think you can see why grousing about gifts not received might come off as, to be kind, rather tone-deaf to many. As my sister, who is marrying her long-time partner tomorrow, said, “Corny as it may sound, I consider people’s presence and good wishes the best gift.”

  2. Oh, and I was at Bonnaroo in my home state of Tennessee, not known for leading the call for social justice, and when Macklemore sang “One Love,” a crowd of nearly 80,000 people held up 1 finger for Equal Rights to Marriage. That was a great moment. We are making progress, and I am so happy to see my gay friends getting married here in California!

  3. Eric, I totally get your perspective. Thanks for responding to my comment – I have been cyber-bullied a bit since my quote, and I was just trying to be honest and funny. Guess I can check comedian off my list of future jobs. I think we probably agree on most issues – I would love if you would check out my blogs at Huffington Post filed under my name. I will keep reading yours!

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