Wedding invitations pile up in my mailbox, and I can't help but notice the current trend: The prospective groom is asserting his independence and registering for wedding gifts.
It used to be that proper convention placed the stoic "other half" discreetly dashing in the background. Aside from the infamous bachelor party, should the groom's friends decide to adequately embarrass him, he wasn't privy to country club showers, grandmother's china having been set aside for him, or that fine day in the department stores when his intended registered for everything that glitters or is silver-inlaid.
In more recent years, we've all seen an increasing number of showers for "couples." And bridal registries have moved beyond traditional department stores to include retailers such as Target, Restoration Hardware, and Home Depot. I wonder if Costco is next on the new wave list of wedding wishing wells?
Practicality and simplicity have resulted from the pared-down lifestyle of the modern working couple, the blushing bride far too exhausted to hand wash sparkling crystal and ivory Lenox china. Who has time to polish sterling-silver coffee urns?
I hear that young brides back East still entertain as Aunt Alice did in 1955, but speaking for Westerners, we'd rather eat chili set atop wash-and-wear place mats from Wal-Mart than worry about white Irish linen from Saks Fifth Avenue.
Men on both coasts – and in between – are enjoying the opportunity to get involved, though. What guy doesn't covet items that only he can dream of, as he watches his fiancée open packages aplenty, delivered to the front door by UPS?
Make no mistake about it, men are making their mark when it comes to prenuptial participation.
When I remarried at midlife, I admonished on the invitation, "no gifts, please," while my husband-to-be suggested that those who were so inclined might fuel their desire to please by gifting money in our name to the local Kubota dealership. I was horrified, while his friends all thought the idea was refreshing.
My good friend, Nona, whose daughter Kim will be married soon, telephoned in frustration. She simply could not imagine what her future son-in-law, David, must be thinking to register at Cabela's ("world's foremost outfitter") under his own name. The bride and groom are both church pastors in Wyoming and strive to live "the simple life."
"But what's he going to do?" Nona asked plaintively. "Take her mining?"
I told her that Cabela's is Brad's and my favorite store. We took a day trip from Montana last summer just to visit the location in Utah that is the size of a well-planned city.
"David is going to want what he is getting," I explained to her.
This reassurance wasn't enough. She wanted me to visit the website with her and look at what David's Cabela's "wish list" included: a Bugaboo dome tent, a Hobo knife/fork/spoon, two surplus German military rucksacks – and, the topper for me, because my husband has already bought them for us – the GSM atom LED headlamps. "Don't get caught in the dark on your next outdoor adventure," the descriptive copy read.
"Outdoor adventure! They're pastors, for goodness sake," Nona fretted. "What does she know about outdoor adventures?"
I saw why Nona thought that David must be going to drag her daughter deep into the coal mines of Nebraska, but I reassured her that Brad and I, in fact, own these headlamps, and they actually are useful for many other adventures.
However, I was distracted because I furious to see that the hands-free headlamps come in more au courant colors than black – the color Brad bought us.
"I set mine on the bedside table," I explained helpfully, "so I can strap it on in the middle of the night, when I need to see my way to the bathroom. I don't have to wake up Brad by turning on the bedroom light!"
My voice was a bit strident as I revealed this constructive, midnight marital hint, because I noticed that the blue headband would have blended far better with my favorite nightie. Not to mention that the silver is far more prêt-à-porter, considering most of my jewelry when I'm wearing jeans.
"Brad grabbed his," I added, "and pulled it across his forehead so he could walk out on the porch in Montana, when he thought he'd heard a bear rustling through our trash."
Nona started to laugh, as she visualized me performing my ablutions while Brad held down the fort, ready to wrestle any grizzly with his bare, free hands.
"Not at the same time," I chastised.
Perhaps it all goes back to the cowboy thing. "You leave David alone and let him wish for those," I finally advised. "Kim will use them!"
After all, the groom needs to salvage some bit of the great-outdoors life – other than mowing the lawn – in his future. His bachelorhood of adventure is flashing before his very eyes.
I'm sending David and Kim the LED headlamps – in blue.