I had my first official meltdown last night. It was bound to happen to one of us.
There are three things most women have planned from an early age. This would be their homes, their children and their weddings. I picture somewhere in female DNA the words “wedding,” “house” and “babies” have been programmed like they’re The Manchurian Candidate and as soon as their spoken a subroutine is executed that involves watching copious amounts of HGTV, finding names like Phinnaeus acceptable and subscribing to Brides magazines. Did you know they only come in six month subscriptions… makes sense when you think about it (unless you’re Goldie Hawn). This is the same DNA that allows them to instinctively wrap a towel around their naked bodies and secure it with one well-placed twist. Have you ever seen a man wrap himself in a towel? It’s quite sad.
Men, on the other hand, have very little criteria for any of these things. I have lived in seven homes since I moved out of my parent’s house. My main concern is always where my TV will go. Everything else is secondary. The exterior could have pink Nazi swastikas and I wouldn’t care… the TV is inside the house. I only see the outside for thirty seconds getting to my car and thirty seconds nine hours later going to the front door. I have never had any preconceived notions of what my kitchen will look like. You’re talking to a guy that did his entire bathroom in white to make it resemble a motel bathroom so the framed Psycho poster would be funnier… right down to the transparent shower curtain.
My wedding. I was hoping there would be a bride who spoke a language other than Russian and my biggest request is that I get to wear the tuxedo that Harrison Ford wore in Indiana Jones And The Temple Of Doom (which, for movie nerds, was also worn by Humphrey Bogart in Casablanca but at twelve I was too young to know that).
Babies? I’d like for them not to have the name Phinnaeus.
There. Those are my requests. I am a simple man with simple pleasures.
So last night Natalie and I were reviewing the wedding budget and the numbers started coming in. Understand, 95% of the work for the wedding has been done by her. She’s made the phone calls, conducted interviews, signed the contracts. I was given the tasks of guest favors, finding a DJ, a photographer and picking stuff to do for the honeymoon. On occasion, my opinion was requested for colors or cake types and the all important food tasting (and for the record, you can wrap a possum in puff pastry and it’d be delicious).
The more numbers I saw, the more panicked I got. Don’t get me wrong. I know we have been hording money for months but there is something about me that likes looking into a bank account and seeing an obscene amount of money like when you buy a house and for forty-eight hours there is a few hundred thousand dollars in your bank account. You know at the other end there is a house but part of you really likes seeing all those zeroes.
So the numbers start coming in and as quick as Natalie is rattling them off I am keying them into Microsoft Money and watching our savings account balance fall faster than Lindsay Lohan in Cancun on her birthday.
Flowers cost how much?
That’s for the cake? Its eggs, flour and water. If you take out the eggs its paste.
I don’t understand why I am buying people gifts at my wedding? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?
Why can’t I put Xbox games on the wedding registry? I don’t even like toast.
These conversations came with Natalie explaining why it’s important that the font on the invitations match the font on the envelope and how worlds will collide if you use Liberty Bell stamps instead of Love stamps. The sheer obscenity of a caterer to request a mandatory twenty percent gratuity (even if they suck) along with sales tax (and you know the bartender is still going to want a tip jar on the counter… well wanting and doing are two different things).
In her best attorney voice she tried to argue the point of tipping on an already established fee. This is something I find pointless. If someone asks a rate for my services and I say, “six hundred dollars,” then we shake hands, sign paperwork and I’ll see you at the wedding. But apparently I am supposed to tip them on top of that. Keep in mind, this person is getting paid one hundred and fifty dollars an hour already.
The phrase, “That’s the way it’s done,” was said to me several times.
And then I snapped. I wasn’t vocal or violent. There was no outburst. The exact opposite. I just kinda shut down.
I don’t know what it was. Maybe it had been building over the past few months. I am a “Function over Form” man (as are most men) and weddings are the antithesis of form over function. Maybe it was the surprise at just how much weddings cost. Maybe it was the amount of people who in conversations at liquor-fueled Christmas parties have invited themselves to my wedding. Maybe it was thinking about all the things I could do with that money. I just know I clicked one last zero and turned into Randall McMurphy at the end of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest and this wedding had become my Nurse Ratched.
Natalie came downstairs to find me on the couch eating my favorite Oreo Cheesequake Blizzard from Dairy Queen knowing full and well fourteen hours earlier I was on a treadmill.
“Are you emotionally eating,” she asked.
“Yes,” I replied with no guilt.
I went to bed in a near-Catatonic state. I woke up not much better. At 6:00a Natalie asked if I would be going to the gym with her and I rolled over and said, “No.”
You see, I have never been good managing money. Caller ID and voice mail were my best friends.
COLLECTION SCHMUCK: This is just a courtesy call to let you know you’re overdue… when can we expect payment?
JIM: Since most of my money is tied up in food and shelter why don’t you just pick a date and we’ll hope for the best?
I can’t tell you the amount of times I’d come home to find my power was shut off not because I didn’t have the money… but because I forgot to mail the payment in. When they turn it on, you still get charged a fee. Oh, if anyone that tells you overdraft protection tied to a credit card is a good idea, punch them dead in their face, they have it coming. Somewhere in the last few years, I learned how to manage money and I’ve become very, very good at it. Natalie dreams of a wedding she’s probably been planning since she was nine (much like the baby names she has scribbled in her diary since tenth grade). I, on the other hand, want a new house since I have outgrown my condo. When Natalie looks at our finances, she sees a wedding. When I look at it, I see the culmination of years of skill and months of savings that I’ll be spending on cake and flowers instead of a down payment on a new house.
And somewhere in the drive to work this morning I realized I wasn’t buying cake and flowers. I was buying one of my fiancé’s dreams. She’s been very reasonable about this, I’ve seen Bridezillas… I know.
She’s been very practical and it isn’t like she’s spending thousands on orchestrated doves. Most importantly, it’ll make her happy and consequently that’ll make me happy.
And surprisingly, money can sometimes buy that.