Leave it to a writer to create one the largest romantic scams of the 20th century. In 1947, a young copywriter employed by N.W. Ayer & Son—a prominent U.S. advertising agency—worked late into the night meticulously searching for just the right words to evoke romance, desire, and eternal love. This project, commissioned by one of the largest monopolies the world has ever known, continues to thrive yet struggles to shake the blood stains and controversial legitimacy in our post modern family society.
I’m sitting in a room of women at my best friend’s bridal shower. Navy blue, white and gold decorate the tables, napkins, flower arrangements, candle holders, decorated cookies; suspend from the ceiling in delicate tissue paper balls. Everything is beautiful and I am jealous of my friend who is about to get married.
But instead of tears of happiness, I experience waves of depression as I learn—for the very first time—about the progression of bridal ceremonies that mean more to the average American woman, than any other single experience she will savor.
From outside the glass house of her engagement, I am holding stones feeling overwhelmed by so many contradictory feelings that I pretend to wonder if Mary of Burgundy, the first recorded female to ever receive an engagement ring, was surprised when the Archduke Maximilian asked for her hand—probably not. Centuries ago, marriage was a way to unite kingdoms, gain property or sustain noble bloodlines. It was all business—romantic love and bachelorette parties had no place in the process. Today, we are no longer in the business of uniting kingdoms so much as we are watching them rip a part. My kingdom, for example, was split into two nations when I was fourteen.
I listen to three generations of women talk about boyfriends, husbands, sex and children and I’m looking for a reason to get up and clean something. Now I’m jealous and about to be sick.
The grass looks much greener from where my best friend is standing. It makes me happy to see her so happy, but as I search for the same kind of fulfillment I am increasingly more depressed by the realization that Walt Disney fucking lied to me as a girl. In colonial America, women wore thimbles as a symbol of betrothal. I find this almost as amusing as watching one blindfolded grandmother hold a broom between her legs while another granny directs her to insert it into a cardboard toilet tube held by her crotch.
Maybe I wouldn’t feel so perplexed by these wedding traditions if I myself were in love—whatever the hell that means—or maybe if I felt like there was any credibility left to the ceremony itself. But instead I’m totally hallowed, searching for something meaningfully romantic to fill myself up with. I look to books, great movies, art and music to ease my confusion—but even these can’t be trusted.
In the 1930’s diamond sales were down. In the original 1949 Broadway production of “Gentleman Prefer Blonds,” Tony award-winning, Carol Channing, introduced women to the idea that “diamonds are a girl’s best friend.” A few years later, the quintessential blond of the 1950’s—Marilyn Monroe—took the song and its proverbial meaning to the masses.
The night before my friend’s bridal shower, I attended a wedding—it was a very bridal weekend. I listened closely to the couple’s vows from inside the museum where they stood under a flowered arc. I really wanted to believe. I wanted to know that what the bride and groom were saying meant something real, and I wanted to believe that love is as easy as The Little Mermaid, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White. Maybe I had just missed the words that were supposed to mean forever? So, I listened closer. I tried to be optimistic, but that became more difficult a long time ago: when I leaned that Santa Clause, the Easter Bunny, the Tooth Fairy and Full House were all just make-believe.
And than I thought about that damn writer, a young girl named Frances Gerety, who wrote the words that would have an impact on women of future generations the world over. Circa 2000, Advertising Age magazine named De Beers’ “A Diamond is Forever” the best advertising slogan of the 20th century. There is something to be said about the relationship art and reality play in our perception of love. Art has done a great job of providing the example but the reality is less romantic than Shakespeare. But even art can surprise us by being particularly poignant. Read “The Death of a Salesman” if you don’t believe me. Nothing says true love and the American Dream like hallucinations, adultery and suicide. Or listen to “The Civil Wars”, beautifully depressing love song, Poison and Wine. Don’t worry about my dark-humoured soul burning in hell, that’s make-believe too.
I can overlook uninspired drunken speeches, bad wedding food, and to an extent, uncomfortable heels that match my dress. But I draw the line at love. Because every time I hear about someone getting married, it ignites my confusion and begs every man and woman of my generation to defend their choice and prove me wrong, that all of this bizarre bridal behavior isn’t all just a bunch of bullshit. In my opinion love and marriage are mutually exclusive. And don’t think I didn’t try to persuade myself otherwise, I read “Twilight” okay!
How can I pretend that any of this makes sense knowing that some girl with a pen arbitrarily changed the world of romance with carbon? I don’t think anyone who get’s married today really thinks their diamond will really last forever, so much as they need it to last long enough for people to think they’re happy. In my—not so humble—opinion, happiness is seriously overrated. Forever is an impossible standard to assume; especially from within this room of divorced women, widowed wives, married women and one cynical bitch wearing black. It’s almost as if we love to hate being married, because loving it might lead to bitter disappointment. And when love is lost, what else is there besides frozen wedding cake smashed in the back of the freezer saved for a forgotten anniversary?
I know, I know, I sound like a bitter old maid, but I’m actually the maid of honor.