Monday, October 11, 2010

Never the ____________, Always the ____________

(The enchanted forest when men were boys.)

On more than one occasion I have said that if women spent as much time setting and achieving personal goals as we did planning our weddings, we'd be a lot happier. So here I am, planning a wedding, and of course there's a twist.

The short version of how we find ourselves here: A few weeks ago Chris took me to a favorite spot of ours - the enchanted bamboo forest - and he got down on one knee and asked me to spend the rest of my life with him. He dug up a split of champagne after I produced the requisite "yes" and we toasted to climbing the next plateau - because relationships are really less like a mountain and more an intense incline that levels for a while until the hike up. Being unapologetically sappy, it was dreamy and perfect. In our jeans, walking our dogs, taking a few minutes to salute our friendship.

We have been enjoying being engaged for the moment, but I couldn't help but think how and were we would say "I do" when it finally dawned on me that we must do it at home, and in our back yard, in particular. How quaint, you are thinking, but how practical, I was thinking. Instead of dumping all our resources and energy into a space I have little connection to - there are, after all, few places where we could be feasibly publicly marry that move me - why not prepare the house for our nuptials and invite all our friends to christen the new chapter of our lives together.

There's something else. According to a 1985 study entitled "Materialism in the Home: The Impact of Artifacts on Dyadic Communication", the objects in our home, e.g. the furniture and its arrangement, pictures we hang, plants we display, etc. are "messages about ourselves that we want to convey back to ourselves, and to the few intimates that we invite into our house." Identity, the study highlights, is "achieved through artifacts." But what about the abstract, say a wedding. The study identified the artifacts as being either historical, ancestral, fraternal, or developmental. A wedding would be all these things. Could a wedding become artifact?

The philosopher Marx W. Wartofsky would say yes. He distinguished a handful of types of artifacts, among them secondary artifacts, which is essentially a representation of actions embodied in socially shared practices. Heady, I know, but this view reinforces - and maybe reassures me - that the location is perfect. So join me as I explore our home in the context of of an impending marriage. It just might get messy...with dirt, of course.

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