The Book Club

What About the Boy?

Dear Andy

I’m torn about The Bridesmaid’s Survival Guide. On the one hand, a quick glance at the promotional material reveals to the trained eye exactly what is afoot. It is in no way meant to help bridesmaids. Its only purpose is to keep one more ink-stained wretch from ever again having to write videocassette blurbs or software advertising copy. Given the depths of grimace-inducing humor she was able to reach, this desperate woman has very likely done hard time standing outside a burning building thrusting a tape recorder at someone watching their every possession reduced to cinders and forced herself to ask, “How do you feel Mrs. Jones? Quickly, now–I’m on deadline.”

Even the best among us have written drivel to put food on the table. So, I’ve got her back, but only to a point. Surely even writers have prostitutional limits. On the one hand, my hat’s off to her for coming up with such a clever and fiendishly simple book idea. On the other, how can I respect someone capable of titling a chapter: “Showers (Without Soap Scum Buildup).” Get it? Or, my personal favorite, as determined by factoring in both sheer gall and willingness to mystify: “[When china shopping with the bride], leave the plastic at home. Of course I mean credit cards, but if you habitually eat off throwaway paper chinette with plastic utensils, be sure none of those have made their way into your purse either. Digging around for a lip liner and coming up with a plastic fork instead could induce an urge to marry for the wrong reasons.” What does that even mean? Writer to writer, I think we both know it means that she assumed the bridesmaids receiving this little gag gift at the bachelorette party would either be too busy dry-humping the stripper or too drunk to ever snort-giggle their way as far as Page 52.

Here’s where I lose all sense of solidarity with her though–why bother to thank her parents “and the rest of my family for their love and prayers,” as if this were a serious endeavor? It’s like the gangster rappers or nearly naked, pelvic-thrusting girl singers who thank God on the awards shows. That always seems just a little weird to me. I mean, when she writes something substantive (and there’s no reason to think she can’t), she’ll say that again and the words will be meaningless. I have every intention of writing a blockbuster, thinly disguised screenplay/novel so I can become fabulously wealthy and live in a mansion with servants. But what I will not do is pretend that it’s serious literature that college students will write their theses on. It’s always so annoying when actors do the talk show circuit promoting Booty Call 2 and Beautiful Teens With Way Too Much Money Whining About Nothing at Ridgemont High and we all have to pretend to take it seriously. “I was totally Julie,” one of these twits enthused to Jay Leno recently. Julie’s boyfriend was mean to her. Then she got a makeover and he was, like, really sorry. So yeah, she probably was totally Julie. Just once I’d like to hear an actor in some afterthought of a movie say, “Listen, I wore fab clothes and used half my brain in that role. It paid the bills. But now I’m working on something serious and demanding.” I won’t hold my breath. McDermott, the author, should have just thanked her agent, her publisher, and an indulgent public, and called it a day.

I guess it’s because of the Vermont civil union announcement and the Gay Pride festivities I just attended, but Martha Stewart’s massive tome on weddings struck me as in-your-face hetero, militantly conservative. Given that many gay men surely find her to die for, she might not want to alienate such a potentially lucrative market (you know it’s true). Sometimes that stance wickedly works for her in courting gays: “If you or someone you love said yes, let America’s wedding experts help you create a day as romantic as the day he asked.” But then there’s: “Martha Stewart … [has] guided brides down the aisle, onto the dance floor, and over the threshold with thousands of ideas for making their wedding day unforgettable.” Here’s a weird passage: “Our goal … is to provide anyone planning a wedding with inspiration and ideas that will help her create an unforgettable day.” Why not “any bride” or “any woman”?–she rarely assumes men add much at all. Why isn’t it “their” unforgettable day? Does she think women are supposed to do all the work? Does she think men don’t care about their weddings, that big, hairy sweaty men can’t tell nosegays from gardenias? Maybe she thinks that if they can, they’re gay, and God forbid they should use her books.

Throughout planning our wedding, I was continually struck by how surprised our vendors were to have me remain in the background and how little people expected to tend to Scott. Everything was “the bride, the bride, the bride,” while they tried to give him a magazine and send him off to the couch. Did you feel you were treated like a goofball or a nuisance, too? That’s the gap that The Knot is trying to wedge itself into; it touts itself as the only wedding guide that caters to both brides and grooms. It’s a gimmick of course, niche marketing, but at least there’s a real need undergirding the money lust. I think men are going to be more involved all the time, and rightfully so.

I can’t help being offended by Martha’s book. Our wedding was just that–ours. We built it together (though he did the nuts and bolts), and it was beautiful. Our friends and families are still talking about it. It was the best day of my life. I resent, even figuratively, the way she blanked Scott out. Its like a Martha Stewart bride marries herself.


P.S.: I remembered last night that Scott and I chose nearly all our vendors from They have a section of the site devoted purely to wedding info. It was a real timesaver. They weren’t the cheapest around (the listees were compiled from surveys of the magazine’s readers), but we felt confident that the wheat had been separated from the chaff. That mostly held up. Since we have no relatives in the area to help, we had to do it all ourselves while both holding down jobs. It was brutal and we just didn’t have time to test drive companies plucked from the Yellow Pages. They gave reliable estimates and the pros and cons, culled from the survey responses. Extremely helpful.