2010. The year of the wedding. At least for me. Rapidly approaching three years of post-college life has apparently scared my friends straight… into marriage. I know this is the first wave (I can’t seem to stop using war terminology when I talk about this) and more will come, but I yearn for the lull between.
The art of the wedding gift, similar to the knack of composing the perfect greeting card, is an area in which I consider myself fairly expert. My two rules: never buy something on the registry and never get anything new.
I haven’t always been fond of the antique. When I was 14, I chided my parents for their mismatched house decor. (You may feel more sympathetic if you saw the sousaphone hanging above our fire-engine red leather couch.) My exasperated mother asked just what I would like to change and after a few moments of thought, I exclaimed, “Well, at least have matching dishtowels!”
I can’t figure what changed between then and now, but in my own house, I’ve taken a more relaxed approach to decorating. And the other day, I looked around and noticed most of my favorite items are old. I have a 1956 Underwood typewriter that I adore, despite the fact that it hasn’t technically worked in a few months. (A user error — I loaded the tape incorrectly and now every two letters, it falls below the keystrokes. I’m sure it can be fixed, just not by an engineer like myself.)
Many of my books are old, including the 1962 Encyclopedia of Modern American Humor. The record collection I’ve built is mainly of my parents old vinyls. My mother contributed Blood, Sweat and Tears and Joe Cocker and my father let me have his Cruising ’58 as long as I swore to give it back someday. (This column is also about the pleasure of possession.)
Yesterday I met a friend at the Brooklyn Flea, which is a three-story amalgamation of young t-shirt designers who all try to look like Elvis Costello and batty hoarders selling broken costume jewelry. I like flea markets and antique fairs, though I can never find a happy medium between haggling the seller until I feel guilty and being ripped off completely. I spent about $200 on two beautiful pieces of art, one of which I believe I’ll give to a pair of friends who are going to be married in November.
If I were getting married, I would want gifts like a washer and dryer, or other expensive houseware items. The rest I’d like to be fun pieces that reflect me and the person who gives them. I think this is much more meaningful than that set of stemware from Williams Sonoma. (But what do I know…. I drink out of something that half resembles a sippy cup.)
I don’t believe in reincarnation, but I do believe that something of yourself remains in the objects you use. When you buy a new cooking pot, you must first season it or the things you make taste bland. They lack depth and personality. But once you’ve used the pot for a few years, you build a relationship with it and you trust each other and the end result is a better collaboration than something new and sterile could have produced. (That and you ought to have learned to cook better during all that time.)
The one thing I’d hesitate to buy used — wedding rings. I love the idea of an old piece that’s been worn before, but I fear the other marriage’s problems would come along with the diamonds.
I guess it’s a good thing I’m not the groom in any of these weddings, just an attendee who comes bringing great gifts.