From the monthly archives:

May 2009

I think I’m the only person on the planet who has not yet seen a single episode of American Idol, Survivor or Dancing with the Stars. And although I have seen the last season or so of The Biggest Loser (my fiancee is addicted), I’m not really a fan of reality shows. For the most part, they’re pretty harmless and because they’re cheap to produce, we’re sure to have a full roster of them for years to come. However, I think “The Bachelor” and “The Bachelorette” series push things too far.

In this era of mega-competition, human beings are inclined to turn every life activity into a sport. School is not just about learning but about being the smartest, getting the best grades, one-upping your fellow scholar. (On a side note, grade competition has become so acute in many high schools that they have done away with valedictorians lest someone with a 6.8 GPA who comes in second sues the school board or shows up with an uzi.) Cooking isn’t simply about creating something tasty and satisfying; it’s now about what is the most attractive, most creative, most outlandish. Work has grossly evolved beyond a vocation or calling and is an arena to demonstrate achievement, measured in money, awards and power over others.

And now, with the arrival of marriage reality shows, wedding vows finally have their finish line. Sure, you have movies dating back to god knows when about two guys trying to win the girl. But most of these were comedies in which all parties ended up getting what they deserved and love was the winner. But is love the winner in these new marriage games? Are these shows, with their roulette speed-dating and cruel elimination scenarios, really about love and compassion and commitment? Or are they really just about ratings?

In the end, you can be passionate about sport, but ask anyone who is in love and they will tell you that their relationship is not a game. It’s not about winning or losing; it’s about giving and sharing. This is why I think these shows miss the mark. But I’d love to hear your opinion.

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My business partner and I were talking about the huge differences in marriage between our grandparents and parents and ourselves. And that got me thinking about how marriage has transformed over the centuries.

Marriage has a long and storied history long before governments and religions got involved (because these institutions like to control the masses, and thus it only makes sense that they want to dictate the terms of marriage, too). And even early Christianity (before it became so organized and dogmatic) didn’t hold wedding services; you simply verbally indicated your intent to marry each other in front of witnesses, and that was that. This agreement was called a verbum, and it was certainly binding.

So what a long ways we have come, and thank god for it. I have friends who have been married in churches, synagogues, hotels, Vegas chapels, city halls, in their homes and on ski slopes. I have friends who are uber-committed to each other and shun any formal ceremony. I am friends with gay couples who have children together and patiently await our slow-moving society to give them the right to marry (good for you, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont and Maine; someday we could all be so just). I have religiously observant married friends, and I have friends who were married in a pagan ceremony.

Needless to say, in 2009, marriage is about what you, the individual and the couple, make of it and want from it. This is probably how it started (although maybe on a more primitive – and maybe pure – basis) and how it should be. Maybe cavemen and cavewomen were much more evolved than history (and stereotypic myth) gives them credit for.

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Our way cool rings by George Sawyer

by Jeff on May 21, 2009

We’ve been planning on getting married for some time now, so in December 2007 we decided we were going to buy rings even though we hadn’t set a wedding date. Initially Groomasaurus Gal wanted an engagement ring with a different stone – emerald, sapphire, something that had color (she’s very untraditional, this girl). So we shopped around for a day or two and found an heirloom emerald ring at a local jeweler that was okay. But we didn’t want to settle for okay (this is her engagement ring for God’s sake), so as we walked away from that jeweler’s store we wandered into another jeweler and, whammo, there they were.

We saw displayed in one of their cases rings that bore designs that I had never laid my eyes on. They had all these intricate contours of different colors of gold, bronze and copper – it actually looked like a cross-section of rock, but that’s not doing it justice whatsoever – and some were embellished with platinum and others with diamonds. We asked to see them, and once we started to closely inspect them, we were hooked.

The designer is George Sawyer, and he is a Minneapolis-based metallurgist who many years ago started making rings by folding layers of gold over on each other in the style of Japanese samuri swordmakers. The technical process of folding the metal is called mokume, and it results in creating rings that are one of a kind. Just check them out…

Here is what Groomasaurs Gal's wedding band looks like

Here is what Groomasaurs Gal's wedding band looks like

And this is pretty close to how our wedding bands appear ... we wanted the two platinum bands to signify the two of us united by our vows

And this is pretty close to how our wedding bands appear ... we wanted the two platinum bands to signify the two of us united by our vows

And here's what a plain band looks like (although it's anything but plain)

And here's what a plain band looks like (although it's anything but plain)

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I was helping my brother and his wife move yesterday (remind me to feign a persistent and very contagious case of pink eye next time someone asks me to help them move) when I was reminded of all the stuff I parted with when I moved in with Groomasaurus Gal, and this got me thinking of all the stuff that most guys lose when they get married or decide to live in sin. The following is an incomplete list of stuff you will inevitably part with, even if your wife/fiancee/girlfriend/sig other doesn’t actually dispose of it herself.

  1. Your beer can collection – This should have been reduced to recycling debris by your mom long ago when you were away on your senior class trip (if people actually take these anymore), but in case she couldn’t get to it, your wife/girlfriend will.
  2. Your most cherished t-shirt – That Def Leppard 1987 tour t-shirt that now resembles cheesecloth will soon become an implement for cleaning the floors.
  3. Your favorite chair – It may be green plaid, it may contain more bacteria than a CDC lab, it may house the largest dust mite in the Western Hemisphere, and it may smell like one big fart, but doggone it, the chair is still as comfortable as the first time your big butt settled down into it. And it will be on the curb inside of a month.
  4. Your junk drawer – Although this does contain many innocuous (partial decks of cards, nubs of pencils, etc.) and several useful items (shoestrings, allen wrenches, etc.), the baby will be thrown out with the bathwater due to the presence of a few crumpled, forgotten photographs of ex-girlfriends. Oops, sorry honey.
  5. Your stash of Playboy – Even the most straight shooter has a few of these shoved into the bottom of his sock drawer, and you will actually throw these out to avoid any scenario in which your wife finds them, looks at you funny and makes you feel like a cretin (which you aren’t … heck, you first read Philip Roth in Playboy, so it’s not all bad).
  6. Your warmest, coziest pair of sweatpants – You won’t lose these, per se … you will simply lose your right to wear them, as your wife will quickly commandeer them as the one article of cothing that makes her feel safe and secure and closer to you (which is kind of cute and sexy). Plus she looks much better in them than you did anyway, so this is a small sacrifice.
  7. Your sense of proportion and reality for about 3 days out of every month – When you lived apart, you could manuever around PMS, slaloming around its sharp turns and unseen dips and dives. Now it will hit you head on like a screeching-yet-sympathetic Mack truck, and there’s no getting out of its way. Just remember, she didn’t ask for it either, so hold her hand while you’re both getting run over.
  8. The ability to play air guitar while cranking your stereo to 11 without feeling like an idiot – Back when I had my own place, if I was feeling a bit raunchy and rebellious, I would crank up the Ramones or the Replacements, pull out my air guitar and throw down like a rabid Eddie Van Halen. Now every time I turn the stereo up past 9 o’clock I get a look like I should know better and, if that doesn’t do the trick, a comment like “some of us would like to hear ourselves think around here.” And she’s not talking about the dogs.

Now, although this may sound like me bitching, I’m really not, because all these things are totally worth losing. And if I have left anything out (which I’m sure I have) please let me know.

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This weekend, Groomasaurus Gal and I made plans to take a trip back to her childhood stomping grounds – outside of St. Louis – to attend her cousin’s wedding. Now, we don’t go back there very often, and although I have met her St. Louis cousins a few times, I can’t really say I know them that well at all. This doesn’t mean I don’t get along with them – I do, in fact, and I like hanging out with them – but it does make me a bit of a “wedding stranger.” You know the sort, that new boyfriend of your old college roomate who you don’t really know, but since he’s with your college roomate of course he’s welcome at your wedding, even if he comes dressed in a green dinner jacket and smells like a salami left out in the sun.

Well, although I intend to show up to this wedding well-bathed and fittingly attired, those will still have no impact on my status as a “wedding stranger.” We’ve all been to weddings where we’re on the outside looking in, so we all know what it feels like to politely shake our heads and smile when people casually refer to inside jokes and family stories that have absolutely no meaning to us.

So, I was thinking, wouldn’t it be cool to have an appointed wedding stranger greeter to make all those wedding strangers feel welcome. You could appoint that wonderfully gabby Aunt Mary – the one who never knew a stranger and could small talk a statue – to seek out these people and make sure they were having a good time and felt included. This may not be necessary for every wedding; for example, Groomasaurus Gal and I are having a small destination wedding where we know everyone very well. But for those weddings 75 people or larger, there’s bound to be a wedding stranger or two. And a greeter may put both them and you at ease.

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Family and friends far before money

by Jeff on May 14, 2009

Most people aren’t made of money, and although many of us do splurge on certain things (shoes, Ben and Jerry’s, earrings, Starbucks, CDs, etc.), most of the time we keep our spending within our budget. Even when it comes to our wedding.

Groomasaurus Gal and I wanted to have a wedding that is a bit out of the ordinary and that allowed all our friends and family to really relax and enjoy the time with each other. Thus we hatched up our plan to have a destination wedding in Mexico. However, knowing that budgets are tight these days, we have taken advantage of quite a few timeshare weeks that my family has stored up so that most people won’t have to pay for their room for the week; they just have to cover their airfare and food. And because the rooms all have kitchens, our guest can eat in if they like and save more money.

Simply put, we didn’t want to make people have to opt out of our wedding because they couldn’t afford it. I bring this up because today we were talking with a friend and she mentioned she was going to be a bridesmaid next weekend (1 of 9) in an over-the-top wedding that is costing its participants quite a bit of coin, with expensive dresses, flights, lodging in downtown Boston, 4 days of events (many of which are at extra cost to the participants/attendees), etc. Our friend couldn’t even attend the bridal shower/bachlorette party because it was going to cost each individual around $2k to attend.

Now, some people can afford these things, and if that’s you, more power to you. But if you know not everyone who you invite can afford all this, then why plan something that is instantly going to make people you care about feel left out. It ticked me off a bit when I heard about this, because I feld bad for our friend, and it made me think of what’s really important at a wedding: being able to share the moment with the people you care about most. When money starts to screw that up, it’s time to reassess.

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I’ve started to consider locations for the party to celebrate my swan song as a bachelor, and the choices are almost paralyizing. Of course there’s Vegas, but it’s a huge cliche; I’ve been there, done that with friends already; and I’m not exactly a strip club kind-of-guy. Those places always feel like an alien world, where up is down and rules are twisted around and nothing is what it seems (especially the those too-perfect 36 DDs). Plus I’m always afraid to touch any surface in those places lest I pick up some unknown flesh-eating disease. So Vegas is out…

New York would be great, with its fantastic food, great clubs and excellent shoe stores (I love shoes). As would San Fran, the Left Coast counterpart to NYC. And then there’s those hidden gems like Vancouver (although the nightlife isn’t as amped up as NYC or SF) or San Diego.

However, I’m really intrigued by Miami and South Beach. Warm weather, great Cuban food, fantastic clubs and enough bikinis and bare flesh on the street that we could certainly get our fill of eye candy without sullying ourselves by cramming into a greasy strip club. Plus, since I’m getting married in November, we could have the party in early October and enjoy travelling from then-cold Colorado to sunny FLA. This sounds like the ticket … any other suggestions out there, or have I hit upon a good plan? Let me know…

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Bride in a bubble

by Jeff on May 11, 2009

Groomasaurs Gal and I were talking the other day about this swine flu threat, and honestly we’re not sure what to make of it. First there was the Ebola virus, which was a horrible, awful affliction that thank goodness didn’t spread. Then we had the SARS scare, which again was a dreadful disease but didn’t even come close to the epidemic that had been feared. Now this latest in afflictions that has us all scratching our heads and washing our hands.

So what does this all have to to with marriage, and our wedding in particular? Well, we are getting married in Mexico, which currently happens to be the epicenter of the swine flu, and although our wedding day isn’t until November, the media is now saying this influenza could boomerang back around in the late fall for reasons beyond my understanding. Thankfully, the Centers for Disease Control have reported they are fast-tracking a flu shot for the swine flu that will be available in the late fall, and now the media is reporting that so far this pandemic has been relatively well contained. So the scenario continues to turn for the better, but I’m still unsettled about a few things…

1. Why do we continue to let the media yang our emotions all over the place? Granted, any illness should be taken seriously. But doesn’t it seem like the media is so amped up on its own bad-news adrenalin that they just can’t stop, so every little thing that comes along they are reflexively turning into armageddon. (And don’t even get me started on the media conspiring to inflate the import of our news to boost sagging viewerships/readerships and increase ad revenues. I’m not a paranoid person, but the Cassandra-like caterwauling of the media these days certainly has me questioning everything.)

2. How could this stupid virus still screw up our wedding? I know it has affected the weddings and honeymoons of many people over the last month, and it could certainly make things very uncertain in Mexico for a while. I for one am determined to get married there, so we may have to resort to a bride in a bubble and a groom in scrubs, but should we have a backup just in case? If so, what? If anyone out there has ever created a contingency plan for a destination wedding, please let me know … we’re all ears.

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I was browsing around groom attire sites today, just getting some ideas, and as I browsed past dozens of tuxedos and suits, I began to wonder about the real need for bowties. Most guys are not tie guys. They may not be as uncomfortable as panty hose, but they are our one piece of attire that has a high irritability to practicality ratio. Unless you’re an attorney or accountant and still have to wear one of those ungodly things to the office, most of us consider neckties a necessary evil for weddings and funerals, and don’t get us started on bow ties. Those are strictly the domain of proms, weddings and, if you’re lucky, inaugural balls or the Oscars. But why is that?

Well, I presume the idea is that these occasions require that a person get all gussied up beyond any reasonable measure, mainly because the pictures will presumably be lasting the rest of your life. And I agree that we guys should definitely try to look our best and take pride in our big day, but I think we should look our best in our own way and not be expected to wear something that we wouldn’t be caught dead in any other situation. If you ask your fiancee or boyfriend what he thinks about this, he may say he doesn’t care and that he’ll do whatever you want, but he’s secretly hoping you pick out a nice, normal black necktie for him.

So I’ll get off my soapbox now and wish you all a relaxing weekend.

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This may seem obvious, but bear with me, because there are a few nuances here that brides may not fully realize.

First, everyone on both sides of the aisle understands the value of good kitchenware. We all need toasters to toast our bread, griddles to grid our french toast and poachers to sit at the back of our cabinets and gather dust. You will get no arguement – correction, no good arguement – from guys as to the importance of a fully functional plate, fork, blender, baster or grater. Pardon the pun, but we know which side of our bread is buttered, and it would be foolish to pooh-pooh any utensil or appliance that results in a pleased palate and a full stomach.

(Side note: Knives are always a welcome gift, as they are one of the true gender neutral appliances. I know my college roommate Derek always gave them as wedding gifts, mostly so he could say afterward, “Just don’t use them on each other.” This goes without saying, but Derek is one of the few people I know who possesses a cornier sense of humor than my own.)

You will also get little guff from us regarding the utility of most other general household wares. We may never touch an iron, let alone know how to operate one, but some of the greatest men and women who have walked the planet have receieved irons as wedding gifts, and who are we to break such a revered and longstanding tradition. Accordingly, we acknowledge that towels, sheets, rugs, doormats, clocks and such all have a welcome place in our homes.

But then there’s what I like to call the “elective” category. In college, the elective courses were the ones we took to fill in the gaps around our required curriculum and our major. You know, courses like art appreciation (for those who couldn’t hack art history), science for humanities majors (aka science for dummies), environmental geology (aka rocks for jocks). Well, you can probably guess what items qualify as “elective” wedding gifts. Napkin holders. Dried flower bouquets. Crystal centerpieces. Porcelain duck lawn ornaments. On the surface, these may seem like perfectly pleasant gifts to brides. But it’s these gifts that drive us guys nuts because THEY HAVE NO OBVIOUS PURPOSE OTHER THAN TO EVENTUALLY BREAK AND END UP IN A LANDFILL (the napkin holders may seem like an exception, but because of their rare use they still qualify for his category). I know this sounds mean, and it’s not intended to be, but after we help you unwrap the fourth collectible, engraved silver tray that can never, ever be used as a tray, we are wishing to god for a leafblower.

So, please, throw us a bone and put some guy stuff on your wedding registry. It doesn’t even have to be a big ticket item – although a nice mitre saw or a Dewalt power drill set would certainly put us in the right mood. Just a little sumpthin-sumpthin that we can get as excited about as you would a Kitchen Aid food processer. Just remember, any tool or implement will end up benefiting you anyway, because the leaf blower isn’t going to start itself.

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