Thursday, August 12, 2010
A Book of the Month Rebuttal
In June, I highlighted Rebecca Mead's "One Perfect Day," her investigation of the wedding industry, as a Book of the Month. I then recommended the book to my fiancee, Laura Amoriello, who couldn't get halfway through it without steam coming out of her ears.
So, I asked Laura (she's on the right, obviously) to share her thoughts on the book. And, boy oh boy, did she. Her insights are listed below.
I am not a professional writer. No one pays me to review anything. I’m just a girl puzzled by a book, who loves a writer, who has a blog, so he asked her to share these thoughts because he thinks it’s funny when she gets miffed. So please do not take any of the following seriously.
Some time ago, Pete recommended "One Perfect Day," Rebecca Mead’s critical take on the American wedding industry. My fiancé is one hell of a bibliotherapist (it’s a real thing), and the book seemed perfect for smart-aleck non-brides like me. Yes, I thought I was above wedding hype. Then Mead’s Oxford-educated-"New Yorker"-writing-liberal-minded kung fu brought me down faster than Elizabeth Taylor can say “I do.”
Through impeccable research, Mead exposes bridezilla culture with wit and insight. She examines bridal media and its seduction of the newly engaged woman. She questions the sincerity of couples adopting varied religious traditions in their ceremonies. She uncovers harsh conditions in Chinese wedding-dress factories. She slam-dunks the travel industry, the wedding registry, photographers, videographers, wedding planners, wedding gowns, Disneyworld, Las Vegas. Mead wipes the floor with the wedding industry. And as "USA Today" promised, I was tempted to elope.
Well-played, Mead. But I counter you on several points.
For some perspective on keeping the meaning alive during wedding-planning, Mead interviewed “smart New Yorkers” (p. 219). What about the rest of us? I get convenience sampling, but with wedding observations from Vegas to Disneyworld, could Mead have interviewed those brides too? I mean, just because Mickey Mouse is officiating your wedding doesn’t mean you lack insight, right?
By the time the epilogue hit, Mead was driving the already-made point home harder than any pink, shoulder-padded, ass-bowed bridesmaid dress. She interviewed the smart girls. She got married at the courthouse. The dress was orange. Bush won’t let gay couples get married, and boy does he stink! I was exhausted.
I needed some heart.
Pete often says that any film can be appealing if its heart is in the right place. I eventually uncovered the gooey center of this book…in Chapter 8. (I still think it was wishful thinking.) No, Mead’s intent was not to pull on my newly-engaged heartstrings. But though my favorite authors have a cynical worldview, they admit with warmth and self-deprecation that they’re just like the rest of us. I never felt that here.
Mead states of her own wedding, “Without the dictates of religious authority to follow, or the rituals of unwavering cultural practice to enact, we had no choice but to invent a wedding for ourselves” (p. 226). Nothing special. Check any wedding blog (shout out to www.apracticalwedding.com), and you’ll see that countless couples do the same every day. Mead criticizes the wedding as self-expression, but I don’t buy it. How is her day at the courthouse in the orange dress not an expression, in this case of her anti-wedding sentiments?
Willing yourself to be different is an ironic method of conforming. You want to stand out, but that makes you just like everybody else who wants the same. Yes, the wedding industry is a manipulative, money-grubbing bully of brides-to-be like me. But we have the right (and the smarts!) to get married as we please. So did Mead. So did her subjects. None of us is entirely free of our cultures. But in the end I think most of us, even those from New Jersey, are smart enough to find the true meaning amidst the pageantry.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to shop for a wedding dress. A white one.