Saturday, July 25, 2009

Tradition, tradition

I’ve been to a bridal shower. Well not exactly been to one, to be exact it came to me. My house was logistically the best venue for this eagerly anticipated pre-wedding event. I was intrigued to find out what would happen since we don’t have bridal showers, baby showers or any other sort of showers in the UK. Except for the merely utilitarian sort that make you wet.

I offered my little house and volunteered to make food, after ascertaining that the appropriate type of catering was something that I could handle. A rerun of the Great Pumpkin Pie Disaster of 2002 would not be wise on a nice young lady’s pre-special day special day. Apparently pretty canapés, finger food generally and edible feminine fripperies are the best thing, and I can do that, so I did. The rest of the planning fell to Theresa and Katherine, who know from bridal showers.

The musings were, well amusing (sorry). Thanks are due to Ba for her specifically English take on the idea...“The bride is hauled into a shower and stripped. Her sage women friends turn on the cold water in the hope that she comes to her senses. It has been known to do the trick.” But in the interests of proper, educated, transatlantic cultural enquiry I turned to Wiki for help. And there I read that this is a specifically North American tradition, which may have been imported from Belgium or possibly the Netherlands in the mid 1800s. A party at which all the women associated with the forthcoming nuptials get together and shower the bride with wedding presents. There are also games. The gifts bit makes sense but the games bit, less so. Wiki tells me that the custom probably began as a way to marry off young ladies whose father couldn’t afford a dowry. Make sense. And actually, it comes over as a little classier to me that that horrible habit Brits have of putting all the gifts on display at the wedding, so that everyone can see who bought what and how many toasters there are.

Wiki also advises that ‘Sociologists like Beth Montemurro note that the ritual of the bridal shower "socializes women into the hyper-feminized traditional wife role," with its emphasis on the future role of the bride-to-be as family cook, homemaker, and sexual partner.’ I think that makes them a Bad Thing. But, mulling this over in the light of a fairly pleasant evening where the dishes, teatowels and candle holders took centre stage and there was only one kettle, I am minded to place a more generous, post-feminist interpretation on the custom. Perhaps, down the ages, families have known that if you give anything to a guy he will lose it in a poker game and the sensible course of action is to let the women take care of the giving and receiving. Hey, I’ve got an ‘ology, perhaps I can get a grant to develop the theory.

Anyway, the shower has been and gone. Leftover tasty, nibbly comestibles inhabit the fridge and I get the thing with the games now. If you are going to collect together all the women of two disparate families with nothing in common, who don’t know each other yet, and ask them to have a tolerable evening, a little greasing of the wheels is required to convince everyone that they are having a nice time. Fortunately for us, Theresa is a consummate storyteller; so on this occasion the games rapidly gave way to tales of ‘all the other traditions Carolyn knows nothing about and has messed up’. Yes, Including the pumpkin pie.

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