‘A Woman’s Right to Shoes’
From bachelorette parties to wedding gifts, I'm thinking about how much 2019 will cost me financially to celebrate all of my friend’s life choices. Never mind how much the average wedding costs, what about how much it costs to be an average wedding guest? As Carrie from SATC rightly points out, “Hallmark doesn’t make a ‘Sorry You Didn’t Marry the Wrong Guy’ card.” So, what then am I left with, aside from less money in my bank account?
“I did a little mental addition, and over the years I have bought Kiera an engagement gift, a wedding gift, then there was the trip to Maine for the wedding, three baby gifts…In total, I have spent over twenty-three hundred dollars celebrating her choices,” Carrie said in episode 9, season 6 of ‘Sex And The City.’
That SATC episode ‘A Woman’s Right to Shoes’ aired in 2003, but I have been thinking about it non-stop recently. Carrie’s quote, above, is part of a ranting conversation with Charlotte after her Manolo Blahniks were stolen from a baby shower she attended. She took them off at the request of the host, who subsequently refused to pay for them and told Carrie to get “a real life.” It’s iconic and hilarious, but fifteen years on should it still be so relatable?
Next year, I will attend four different weddings. I will be a bridesmaid for one, and I will travel abroad for another. Not surprisingly, I have spent a lot of 2018 talking about these weddings, the preparation and what they will entail. It’s not that I’m not happy for my friends and family. It’s the fact that I am expected to squeal with joy each time the occasion gets mentioned, or hang off every word about color schemes and table decorations.
On top of that, and where Carrie’s quote comes into all of this, is how much 2019 will cost me financially to celebrate all of these people’s life choices. Having a wedding is a personal choice, and of course, that’s fine. People have quite literally fought for their right to be able to do so, but on the other hand, it’s also totally fine not to. Even still, that’s a life choice we don’t seem to celebrate.
As Carrie rightly points out “Hallmark doesn’t make a ‘Sorry You Didn’t Marry the Wrong Guy’ card.” Granted, in our current online shopping-scape, I’m pretty sure you could find someone, somewhere who makes that card. But it still feels somewhat depressing that fifteen years later not much has changed in the way of life milestones.
Getting engaged, getting married, having kids and owning property (not necessarily in that order) is what we are taught equals real success and stability. I like to believe that attitudes are changing, mainly due to my generation being much less financially stable than the former, but that very much feels like the template and the only occasions which are considered worthy of a large celebration.
The Knot published a survey this year stating that the average U.S. wedding now costs $33,391. Now I don’t know about you, but that’s a pretty lavish party by my standards, especially as it’s higher than the average household annual salary which comes in at $61,372.
As someone who has recently gone freelance, the concept of a salary feels like a distant memory. I currently live my life from invoice to invoice, with short, frantic bursts of selling my belongings online. But this is a life choice, which I made willingly. I quit my well-paid job to pursue my dream – and where’s the card for that?
As each wedding invitation has come through the door, and group chats ping off about bachelorette parties, my first thought has simply been “How will I afford this?” Never mind how much the average wedding costs, what about how much it costs to be an average wedding guest? Let’s take my friend who is getting married abroad for example. Not only do I need to book flights and accommodation for the wedding, but I will also need to buy something new to wear and a gift.
Maybe just about do-able, but her bachelorette party will take place in the south of England, so that’s another trip away. In true Carrie style, I have calculated that the minimum cost I will spend on celebrating her life choice is $1,265.77. And I guess that’s okay because she’s one of my oldest friends, and to bring Charlotte’s point of view in here, “If you got married or had a child, she would spend the same on you.” But, back to Carrie, “And if I don’t ever get married, or have a baby, what? I get bupkis?”
At the risk of sounding like a bitter old hag, people rarely ask about my own life choices and what they might be. Yes, I have been to plenty of engagement parties where people ask when my boyfriend and I are getting married. But the response of “I think the sanctity of marriage is bullshit” or “I’m not sure I want to get married” or “I think the concept of marriage is sexist” rarely seems to go down too well. Which I’ve never understood, because you asked me a question, and I answered it.
It’s okay not to want to get married. It’s not a requirement of being alive, on this planet, and nor is it the key to lifelong happiness. Surely we’ve worked that out by now. Or maybe I need to go to some different parties?
I feel I am at the age where this is starting to become an issue, but am not at peak Carrie frustration level yet. And I hope I never get there. I want to make a conscious decision to celebrate people’s other life achievements – be it quitting a shitty job, ending a stale or destructive relationship, changing a hairstyle or managing to save for a holiday. Because every milestone is valid, and life is fucking hard.
It can be a simple act of saying congrats or buying a drink to say well done. A change in language can have a significant effect on people who already feel self-conscious about their path in life. Instead of asking who’s dating who at the moment, let’s ask what are you working on currently? How’s your mental health? How’s your family?
Let’s have more difficult conversations, and change small talk to mean something. It might mean we shift society from the bottom up, and fewer people will get married and have lavish celebrations, but that means broke people like me get to spend less money on them. So, everyone wins really.
Beccy Hill is the London-based editor in chief of Sister Magazine.