Monday, May 24, 2010

The Bridal Shower Gift

Sometimes (and by "sometimes" I mean all the freaking time) I feel like I am pretending to be an adult and I'm in way over my head. Like severely sucking at it. Partly this is exacerbated by moving in with M, which feels like playing house. Or being on vacation. And I keep thinking I will be going back to my own apartment soon and I had better live it up in the meantime. By eating junk food and keeping everything clean. (I don't get it either. My brain has a path all its own.)

Anyway, I have succeeded in being an adult in a few ways recently, including impressively making the bed each morning. I have also managed to:
(note that I have been known to do the exact opposite of all of these on a regular basis)
  • Buy flowers for the dining room
  • Turn off all the lights at night and sleep in a bed (not a couch)
  • Keep the coffee table clear of bills, dirty glasses, spoons and drawing pens
  • Put almost all of my dirty clothes in the laundry basket (not the bed)
  • Not leave the Brita picher empty in the fridge (To be fair, we don't actually use the Brita at all since we bought a Pur filter for the sink. This was a slight point of contention, solved when the filter-free faucet spat out a large bug. No more Bug Water, no more Brita.)
  • Also, my gym bag is not residing in the middle of the living room

Unfortunately this has taken all of my adult capabilities, as this is how I have failed at being an adult recently:
  • The flowers I bought died and they are still prominently displayed on the dining room table
  • I forgot to change my address for 70% of my bills
  • I left my comb, brush, razor, conditioner, and a pair of socks at the gym all on separate occasions and have had to buy another version of each of them again
  • I am clearly incapable of unloading the dishwasher or taking out the trash
  • I have not once watered or even looked at the two plants we have (To be fair, I did tell M that if he wanted to put the plants eight feet high in the kitchen, that I would most likely not remember that they are there as it is a good three feet above my sightline. I was right. Also, I killed a cactus once and have a decidedly red-for-danger thumb.)
  • I am highly uncomfortable in adult situations, like bridal showers and graduation ceremonies.

I suppose this last one is not something I just "discovered" while trying to be a real person. This is just consistent with my personality. I don't really like sitting still and making small talk. I am severely crowd-averse and I don't remember names or identifying details very well. Also, I very much think the bridal shower tradition of making people watch you open presents is tedious and weird. Even though I'm pretty sure I did this at every one of my birthday parties until I was 17.

Is this a tradition because the tradition is to show as much extra attention on the bride as humanly possible or is it a tradition because old people go to bridal showers and this is what they expect? (I am picturing a panel of white-haired ladies waving knitting needles in the air and waging a protest against "new-fangled bridal showers" - refusing to attend or send presents if they can't see their own gifts opened to much fanfare and applause.)

If you take into consideration the fact that I have a well-documented inability to lie or otherwise control my facial expressions/compulsive eye-rolling, you can see this as one in a natural line of elements of "The Wedding" that I do not want any part of at my own hypothetical future nuptials. This list includes that damn Corinthians reading that makes me want to strangle people. (Yes, clearly my impatience and rage dictate that I am not in fact the essence of love.)

Anyway, when you are buying presents for a couple who have essentially told you what to buy them via a gift registry, opening these presents is like writing a list of demands to Santa, and then having to pretend you are surprised when you get what you asked for on Christmas morning. Why do we make brides pretend they are not only surprised that you did what they asked, but they are extraordinarily thrilled with how you did? Do we expect that people are innate fuck-ups? (Don't answer that.)

In keeping with my rebellious inclinations toward "The Wedding," I tend to either not buy off of the registry or I try to insert something that will make the gift more than just something to check off of a list. I apologize to any brides that I have annoyed in this process. 

The most recent bridal shower that I went to involved a registry in which almost all of the things I could afford had been purchased already, leaving me with a choice between a $700 rug or a collection of random materials. I determined these were not good enough choices. Especially given that faking your way through excitement becomes even harder when people buy you a box of random crap. My friend A, of the delicious pretzel hostess gifts, is extraordinarily talented at baking cookies and cupcakes. When our boyfriends were roommates, cookies were a running obsession. So, for her bridal shower I bought a baking sheet off of the registry and then found a mini spatula made just for cookies, and cookie cutters in the shape of cupcakes. Neither of which were on the registry.

At this point I was worrying slightly about breaking the rules, so I pimped out the Crate and Barrel box:

To break this down for you - A and J are the initials of the betrothed. That striped panel with the cookie peeking out the top is a library pocket stuffed with shopping cards for cookie recipes. And the green sheets are cookie recipes attached to the handle with a metal ring.

For the shopping cards, I drew a picture of each type of cookie and then listed the ingredients needed for the recipe, directing A to Bon App├ętit's website for the full recipe instructions:

The idea is that when you want to make one of the cookies, you pick up the card and bring it to the store instead of copying down the whole recipe. But also I hand-wrote them the night before the shower and did not have time, patience or enough index cards to write out the whole recipe.

Faking it at being an adult is helping me feel like I am sucking at it less.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The Totally Inappropriate Gift

I am no stranger to totally inappropriate behavior. I talk to myself. In public. In French. I also have allergies that compel me to wipe my nose with restaurant napkins. And sometimes I forget that sunglasses do not make me invisible and end up blatantly staring at people for too long. But I do not chase people down the street to ask them out in the following way:

Crazy Man in Range Rover: "Hey beautiful, take a copy of my book!"

Me: (Ignoring crazy man completely.)

Crazy: (Following me in Range Rover, parking car on the street and running after me, waving a crazy arm in the air.) "Hey, I just want to get your number! I just flew in from filming a movie in New York and I have a fashion show coming up I want to give you the dates for."

Me: (Ignoring crazy man completely.)

Crazy: "Here's my card. Can I get your number or give you mine? Wow, you sure walk fast."

Me: "Your number's on the card, right? Then I have yours."

Crazy: "Well, that not my real cell phone number, so take my new one."

Me: (Pretending to type Crazy's number in my phone while actually stabbing at random buttons. This entry is now "Zz8r47Wa" in my phone.)

At this point Crazy has returned to his Range Rover and I am still zig-zagging my way through downtown to teach at the museum. It is 8:40 am. Crazy continues to follow me in his car and is now waving something out the window.

Crazy: "I want you to take a copy of my book. I'm gonna be on Oprah in two weeks."

Me: (Thinking I either have to take this copy or call the police, I take the book.)

Crazy: "You'll see on the back that I have seven kids. But I'll be divorced in three years."


Crazy: "I know God brought me to you for a reason."

I hope God doesn't tell him I put a fake number in my phone.

As pointed out by my best friend K, I do seem to attract a certain level of crazy. (She said "hilarity" but if you knew all the stories, you would know that "crazy" is more apt.)

I'm not sure what kind of woman thinks a man with seven kids, a pending divorce and a really terrible book is a catch, but I would guess that chasing even that woman down the street doesn't do you any favors. I did read part of the hardcover autobiography I now reluctantly own. And if "With five kids by the age of 26, [Crazy] didn't think it could get any worse, but had two more kids in the next three years" doesn't just pull at your heartstrings and make you fall in love with Crazy, I don't know what will. He goes on to talk about how when women "get scared, they get possessive of their man" and that at this point "the man doesn't respect the woman at all and the woman makes it worse by clinging to him."

If Crazy goes on Oprah I hope she eats him.

Anyway, as I said, I am no stranger to totally inappropriate behavior. And sometimes this behavior actually makes totally appropriate gifts. As long as it doesn't involve chasing.

Last summer I went to France for a couple of weeks. I did an exchange program in high school in which I lived with a family for a month in a small town two hours southwest of Paris. The girl I was paired with has become one of my closest friends and when I received her wedding invitation in the mail, I decided that even if I put the whole trip on my credit card, I would be at her July 2009 wedding in the town where I had lived for a short time ten years ago. So, last summer I went to her wedding. And maxed out my credit card.

Anyway, what do you get someone as a wedding present when you don't know the wedding customs of their country? If you are me, apparently you draw a sketch-portrait on the plane, tear it out of your sketchbook at the airport and then visit a French Pier One at the train station to buy a frame and frantically scratch off the price sticker while riding the TGV.

Totally inappropriate. Yet, this made a lovely gift. Why? My friend is a dancer and the picture I drew was of them dancing. Also, the frame covered the torn-off edge of the paper.

The moral of the story is, if your inappropriate behavior is behind-the-scenes, or a clumsy means to a tidy end, then the behavior is a non-issue. Or that chasing people down the street is never a good plan for woo-age. Or inappropriate pick-up lines are funnier when invoking the name of Oprah. Whatever. I win.