Wednesday, June 12, 2013

No Wedding Bells Please

Let's all agree to stop going to weddings.

Cheers will abound to cover the shocked gasps. There is not a single person on earth who has not been to a wedding that was either a disaster, a fiasco, a dramatic affair, a disappointment or flat out boring. There are probably millions who have suffered from impossible expectations, hostility over bonbons, family fights for no particular good reason at all, and a whopping bill at the end that could have put a serious dent into a mortgage.

It used to be that a wedding was a special day for friends and family to witness a blissful union made in love which will probably result in children and house renovations for the next 20 years. Weddings have now become a spectacle, a reality television special and a spread in a glossy magazine. Brides have gone from blushing princesses to Hollywood style divas on a bluetooth device, yelling for exactly 14 petals on every rose. And the bills associated with these extravagant one day circuses are landing newly-wed couples, who have probably never discussed money before, into debt.

It's exhausting to even think about it.

And it's not just the bride and groom. It's the family and the wedding party and the guests. Everyone experiences some form of wedding headache or angst, and is more the poorer for it. The expectations and the demands have spiralled out of control, and this once-in-a-lifetime milestone is often anything but these days.

Your graduation from high school is likely an once-in-a-lifetime affair. You went, you did the work, you earned. You're not likely going back to high school. Your first job is a once-in-a-lifetime affair; you're not going to get two cracks at the first job. Sadly, marriage is not proving to be once for many people, and that is just fact, not a judgement. So let's get over this concept that this is a magical ever after story where we all get to be princesses for the day.

Think about it: there are very few days in your life which turned out to be as special as people told you they would. Most of us are incredibly underwhelmed when things happen to us. That's also because we're not likely to know the glories of winning an Oscar or seeing the sun rise over the Himalayan Mountains. The amount of truly amazing experiences we common folk have in life are not very numerous. People will overpromise- those people who claim that the wedding will be the best day of your life are usually the vendors who want to be there for it.

They are the true winners of your wedding day. While you scramble to roll up enough pennies to pay for that open bar you promised your sports team for when they show up at the midnight buffet, which only happened because you were peer-pressured that one time at the party where you were cornered near the biscuits, and while your parents squabble over who should sit next to your estranged aunt Edna who can't even remember anymore what caused her estrangement, the vendors will be smiling all the way to the bank.

And while your friends grit their teeth during the various glorified gift grabs which are showers, parties and stags, all the while resenting the fact that they're going to spend a week eating bag lunches to pay for some obnoxiously-priced blender, the handful of people who really truly know and love you will take a thousand pictures and wonder why everyone looks so stiff.

And let's not forget how the industry plays on your vanity and insecurity by insisting that you special day will only be more special if you just buy more things. How they always remind you that this is going to be the most special day of your life and don't you just want everything to be perfect?

Look, marriage is a beautiful thing. It's so difficult to find another human being you want to spend more than a few hours with without punching them in the side, it's a near miracle that anyone finds anyone that they want to wake up to each morning. Despite all our dumbness and neuroses and the stupid things we do when we think nobody's looking, we still find it within ourselves to love each other and accept each other for life.

That's pretty special. Let's not ruin that milestone by turning it into a gala of sparkles and flat speeches. Let's not allow a billion dollar industry to make suckers out of us by feeding us the notion that we're Beyonce and Jay-Z for a day. Let's celebrate in a dignified, intimate and classy way that doesn't involve consultations and agendas. People who are disappointed that there won't be some flashy show with free drinks will just have to get over that. They're not the ones who are truly happy for you in the first place.

If the sight of two people pledging love and fidelity to each other in words is not enough to make you happy for them, then you shouldn't go to weddings. If you're more interested in seeing what designer dress the bride has or glazing over the vows until you can get a cocktail, then you shouldn't go to weddings. Let's be honest when we look at weddings and recognize that it is first and foremost an industry and old-fashioned social conventions that serve no particular purpose anymore.

Get married. Love each other. The people who will be truly happy for you don't need a wedding to prove anything. And at the end of the day, all you will have, other than the bills to pay, will be each other.

Monday, June 10, 2013

National Public Non-Service Week

Does anyone remember that awards show when Fiona Apple got on stage and mumbled that strange 'acceptance' speech where she basically said that it made no sense for her to exist? That was the speech that threw her credibility right out the window with her music career, but she didn't leave without making an impression.

It was short, like a teenage 'life sucks' retort, and highly unconventional, since she basically thanked noone. Granted, it was refreshing to see someone give a speech where they didn't prattle on about God or the fans or their agent and roll off names that nobody knows; but we don't want to be remembered for the wrong reasons.

What does this have to do with the National Public Service Week? At first glance, nothing. But then consider the messaging of the Conservative government during this so-called appreciation week. The Statement by the Prime Minister talks about the dedication of public servants and how fitting this year's theme is: 'Proudly Serving Canadians'. But this line was the true coup de grace: "I look forward to continuing to work with our public service to enhance the prosperity and well-being of Canadians.”

If by 'working with' you mean cutting jobs, removing severance, slashing budgets, and the newly-minted attack on sick days which is about to be announced sometime today to align with the ceremonial kick off of our 'appreciation' week, then this government has really outdone itself. How ironic to start a day meant to honour the public service with a kick off that is a ceremonial punting of our benefits.

It's a lot like waking up on Mother's Day and having to put out the fire in the kitchen that the kids started while trying to make breakfast in bed for you. Except in that scenario, there are nothing but good intentions. It baffles me that the government would choose to introduce this measure in a week that's dedicated to us. Did they really think that we would be too busy beaming from self-importance to realize that our benefits were being slashed? That we would all be grazing on smiley cookies and applause, oblivious to the fact that the measures designed to make us more 'effective' like the private sector are going to diminish our quality of life?

It's not certain what form this 'effectiveness' will be, but it's a pretty safe bet that the government will seek to reduce sick days for the public service, regardless of how the policy will be rolled out or presented. Every time this government has wanted the public service to be more effective, cutting back on budgets, staff and benefits has been the name of the game.

So in a way, this is a lot like the Fiona Apple speech: short, highly unconventional, thanking noone. And very likely to be remembered for all the wrong reasons.

Remember public servants based in Ottawa: when you go to the National Public Service Week barbecue which is supposed to be a symbolic gesture to thank you for your dedication and professionalism, and all the insincere words cause you to choke just a little bit on your badly charred hamburger- take a sick day. While you still have them.