Thursday, March 4, 2010

In which Sly and Doris buy us a wedding present

September 2008 I'm going to tell you flat out that I am an ingrate. And that I myself am a bad wedding present giver. So if you want to stop reading, go ahead. I am going to whine even though I do not have a leg to stand on here.

Consider yourself warned.

Let me explain. I am a bad wedding present giver because when my friend Rebecca got married three weeks before I went into the Peace Corps and one year after I finished grad school, I gave her socks. (I sent her the socks once I got to my Peace Corps country.)

Yes. Socks.

Granted, they were cool socks made in my Peace Corps country by marginalized illiterate indigenous women with organic handspun wool, but they were still. Socks.

So it's not like I can point fingers here.

And as far as being an ingrate?

Sly and Doris are under no obligation whatsoever to buy us a present. None. It is gracious of them to even consider it, especially as this is Primo's second marriage and really, do you need to buy a present for someone's second wedding if you bought something for his first one? I would say no. Really. I would. My motto is one wedding present per lifetime per person.

There. Now that we have dispensed with the obligatory pleasantries, let's move on, shall we?

Sly and Doris have decided to get us a present. That is indeed lovely. We have told our families that we don't really need anything, which is true. We are merging two complete households and I am trying to get rid of stuff, which is not easy because Primo is very attached to things. Like ten year old phone bills. And 20 year old calendars. And benefits schedules and open enrollment information from companies he worked at in 1993. I have been trying to throw such things away, but have not been having much luck.

I have also been trying to get rid of duplicate kitchen items and furniture. That's been a little easier because I have been able to appeal to the Good Liberal in Primo. "It's the Right Thing To Do," I say earnestly. "What about The Poor?" I'm not sure The Poor want the cheap knives that Primo bought when he moved here, but my knives won and I suppose cheap knives are better than no knives at all.

Although we don't need any household items, we still love getting presents. I have been touched that friends and family have sent us gifts. Friends and family who have not even been invited to the wedding. Several of my aunts and uncles have sent us very generous checks. Very generous. Wow. And friends have sent great gifts. My college roommate sends tulip bulbs. Perfect! I am a competitive gardener and what a great idea for a new house.

My mom asks if she can finally get me that KitchenAid stand mixer I have been coveting but never had the room for before. Yes! Now is the time.

Sly and Doris decide we need a lamp for the living room. Well. Yes, we do. Doris wants to go with me to get one NOW.

Now? She wants to go shopping now? Now is not a good time. Not that any time would be a good time. 1. I do not enjoy shopping. 2. I do not enjoy spending time with Doris. 3. I have like a gajillion other things to do to get ready for having an additional seven guests arriving soon.

Plus I do not pay retail. My way is to go to estate sales or junk shops and find beat-up pieces that I refinish and restore to their previous glory.

At the moment, I am working on an end table that I got at Salvation Army for $5. It is covered with gloppy yellow paint, but it is hardwood underneath, with dovetailed joints. When I am through stripping and refinishing, it is gorgeous. My friend Bruce, who has an estate sale business and who is a certified appraiser, tells me it is maple and that he would price it at at least $150.

But I am spending someone else's money so I guess I will go. Primo does not go because he is working. Lucky duck.

We go to the fancy lamp shop by our house.

Holy smoke. Lamps are $300 and up. I know this is what lamps can cost because after I was laid off from my corporate job, I helped my friend Laurel, who is a decorator, with her invoicing and estimating. I am not surprised, but still.

I do not want to make a $300 decision in one hour. I do not want to spend $300 on a lamp, period. What I want to do and YES I KNOW THIS IS TACKY and NO MY MOTHER DID NOT RAISE ME THIS WAY is ask for the cash. I want the cash so I can find a cool lampstand at an antique shop that I will re-wire myself and then I'll get a new shade somewhere* and I'll spend just $50 and then have $250 for something else.

I don't, though. I don't ask for the cash. I just want to. Yes. Yes, I know this is gauche. I know it, OK?

And guess what?

It is pretty clear that Doris does not want to spend $300, either.

Which annoys me just a little bit because she is the one who offered. It was her idea in the first place. What, were we supposed to go to Target and spend $20? Not that I have anything against Target lamps - we have some and they have been good to us - but before you tell us you want to buy us a lamp, shouldn't you have an idea of what kind of money you're talking about? And if y0u didn't know, shouldn't you just have said, "Here's $50. Go buy a lamp?"

And then I would have thought, "$50? That's it? That's all they're giving us for a wedding present?"

Which yes I know is tacky but a nice lamp costs more than that and if they have been eating the expensive cheese for several days and have already spent more than $50 on booze, then shouldn't they spend more than that on a wedding present?

But that didn't happen so I didn't have to have socially unacceptable thoughts about how much money someone was spending on a present she wasn't even obligated to give.

We go home and tell Primo that there wasn't anything I fell in love with, which isn't exactly true, but I just can't bear to spend that much money on a lamp when I know I have better options. I am always looking for the arbitrage opportunity.

Instead, we order a cheap-ass Chinese lamp from that arrives broken, so Sly and Doris get a refund from UPS. I hate cheap-ass Chinese products, although it didn't look that bad on the website, but we should have known. It's not too broken to repair and if UPS had actually come to inspect, they could have taken it back. We just filed the claim because it was broken. I would have been happy to return it, but UPS said, "Eh. Whatever. Keep it." So we did and we fixed it and it's in the basement where it's not that bright and you can't see that it's a cheap-ass Chinese lamp made by political prisoners who work as slaves so that we might have cheap consumer products here.

Not that I have an opinion on that.

We should have gotten the expensive lamp.

Except in the end, what they do pay for is to frame the oil paintings that we buy on our honeymoon in Spain. And they spend almost as much money - maybe even more - for that as they would have for the lamp. I am not involved in those negotiations, but apparently, they are a bit grouchy about it.

By now, I am less sympathetic to their financial situation, especially after we have flown them to our wedding using Primo's frequent flier miles, even though they have their own frequent flier miles (Primo says they are saving them for Sly's sisters' funerals, but how much do you want to bet they will ask Primo to attend those funerals instead?), picked them up at an airport 90 miles away, and fed them our $400/lb Carr Valley cheese, even though they are lactose intolerant.

Buy nice or spend even more is what I say.

* Which is what I end up doing, only I get a faulty socket and it exploded and set the shade on fire right before book club a few weeks ago. So now I have to re-wire.


  1. You can't compare what they spent on booze with what they spent on your gift. For some people, booze is non discretionary. It's like vitamin alcohol, required for normal neural functioning. You wouldn't want them as house guests without it.

    Statistically, his sisters are more likely to attend Sly's funeral than the other way around. Women outlive men by a considerable margin. Just check out any nursing home.

    For the record, I prefer to give cash at weddings. It's always a hit, and it avoids the shopping exercise. I don't think anyone is ever offended by a nice check.

  2. I hate when people want to give you something and it ends up being so much work, and then they're mad and resentful. Altho Sly and Delores seem to live on mad and resentful...

  3. Richard, cash is always lovely. :) Although I also like to give a silver tray because you can always use a silver tray.

    Maureen, it is very sad that they spend so much energy being angry. There is so much to be happy about in their life, but that's not what they focus on.