6/28/2009

When I am King: On Wedding Anniversaries

When I am King...

Wedding anniversaries will be celebrated with more appropriate gifts.

Anniversaries are supposed to be accompanied by gifts representing the time of servitude: paper, silver, gold, diamond. But what do these gifts represent, other than expensive drags on the savings account? We might as well give each other mortgages, or loan documents. These gifts seem aimed at preserving relationships through debt management and obligation, rather through bonds of love and appreciation.

When I am King, I will institute a system of more practical, or at least more representative gifts. Rather than saddling couples with debts far outweighing their emotional attachments, these presents will be truer to the nature of marital bonds. Let's examine recommended gifts for some of the hallmark years in a marriage.

Year One: The traditional gift is paper, which seems fine to me. Paper represents both an element of nature of the marriage as well as the danger of being easily dissolved and imminently flushable. But rather than just any piece of paper, I recommend a copy of the marriage certificate, which serves to remind your spouse both of the beginnings of your beautiful relationship and of their vows to actually stick around.

Year Five: The traditional gift is one of wood. To some extent, this material appropriate; it is organic, natural, and a more solid version of the flimsy paper tossed around in the first year. But I would instead recommend that the gift be more indicative of the strong bonds forged in your relationship: handcuffs. This gift is both metaphorical, signifying the fettering bonds of love and overwhelming responsibility, and practical, being able to lock down either spouse or both until such time as tempers cool back down.

Year Seven: The traditional gift is one of wool or copper. Which I don't get at all. You either give a scratchy sweater *or* some new plumbing fixtures? What are you implying by these gifts? I think the wool is closest to the mark, since seven is the year of the 'itch', when couples first start realizing how bored they are with their partner and how life would be far more interesting if spent with, say, the mailman or some random floozy seen in a dark bar after several stiff drinks. But rather than give a gift reinforcing that itchy idea, it seems far better to give one that addresses the problem; give itch relief. The gift can either be a back-scratcher or a large bottle of Calomine lotion. Remember: with marriage as with poison ivy, you can't possibly fix the root problems festering inside, but you can at least try to mask the symptoms and hope they go away soon.

Year Ten: Tradition suggests a gift of tin or aluminum. Here again, I would break with tradition. Giving cheap metals feels more like you're giving Jiffy Pop or foil-covered leftovers from dinner rather than a present of some significance. At this mature stage of the marriage, you should give a present of more weight and meaning:: I suggest rust. Rust expresses the paired feelings of being based on something solid at the core, while also exposing the inherent erosion and ugly decay on the surface.

Year Twenty: The traditional gift is china, which seems partially appropriate. But giving a new, complete set of china seems wrong; a marriage of twenty years is neither new nor complete, but is rather a basically workable set of miscellaneous pieces, held together through practicality and inertia. Also, a set of china can be a work of perfection and beauty, which is far from the ramshackle workings of a marriage of twenty years. I suggest, instead, an incomplete set of everyday dishes, all taken from different and random sets, and all somewhat cracked and abused. Like marriage, the set is neither beautiful to behold nor appropriate for fine occasions, but it is serviceable and able to withstand at least a couple more breakages before being completely dysfunctional and ready for disposal.

Year Twenty-Five: Twenty-Five years is a long time. A really long time. A really, really, really long time. In fact, twenty-five years, in marriage time, is more like 250 years or normal life. As such, this occasion demands something more significant than most other anniversaries. The traditional gift is one of silver. Apart from the fact that silver, if left to its own devices, will tarnish and look, like many marriages, soiled and abused, I find this gift unacceptable. For one thing, silver objects well cared-for will retain their early sparkle forever, which is quite different from relationships which have a hard time retaining their initial allure as far as the end of the church aisle, with the happy couple already drawing the battle lines about who's doing laundry for whom and whether the default toilet seat position should favor Him or Her. Instead of silver, I propose a gift more indicative of this point in the relationship: a fossil. These dead remains are significant both in their ability to carry on years after their usefulness and in their story of the ultimate end of the subject in question. Likewise, many marriages carry on for years after life expired and exist only insofar as their skeletal remains are still visible to any who bother looking for them.

Year Fifty: Tradition has it that gold is the right gift for this many years of wedded bliss, but I would suggest something more useful, meaningful, and thoughtful for both parties: a divorce. Hey, you both made it this far, you deserve a little bit of freedom before the rendering truck comes to collect the bodies from the stable. Go out into the wide world, meet some new people, try dating, and realize why you got married in the first place.
When you do get back together again, might I suggest a gift of paper for the first year.
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