Friday, May 9, 2008

Whose party is it anyway?

Now that graduation season is upon us, I've been thinking....really thinking.....(the exaggerated number of periods indicates serious thinking)..............................................thinking about the way we do parties and celebrations in America....and I have a few thoughts to share. (...)

Let's see...what are the most important events/celebrations that a person might experience in his/her life?

Birth? Certainly.

The repeated numbers of graduations and school promotions you experience? Yeah.

Your wedding? Most definitely.

Death? Without question.

Now think about this: out of all of those major events that give you permission to be the center of attention for just a while--when the whole world (or at least that part of the world that knows you) gives their assent to take time to gather around your life and achievement--how many of those parties are your responsibility to plan? Answer: All but one!! This realization was a shock to me.

The only major event out of those listed where you have no responsibility whatsoever to plan for your guests is your birth. All you have to do is just show up. Your mom does the vast majority of the work. Your dad tries to look like he's helping by bringing the video camera. Even the doctor tries to look important, but most of the time, just collects a huge fee that makes it look like he/she did more than he/she really did (with notable exceptions in cases with birth complications). And then there's the relatives that would really prefer not to be present in the room when the actual event takes place, but would rather just plaster their faces against the glass of the nursery and talk about which parent you look more like.

Graduation....Now, whether it's from high school, college, or grad school, let's face it...a graduation party is just another thing for you to have to plan on top of finishing finals, papers, all of the crazy bureaucratic paper work that is required to graduate from most instiutions, and the logistics of the actual graduation day. Unless you have some very nice relatives and/or friends to plan the party for you, the actual throwing of the party seems like it is more for those who come than for you...even though the actual event that occasioned the party is your graduation.

Then there's the Big Cahuna...your wedding day. In America, the planning and execution of a wedding that usually makes everyone afterwards say, "Wow, what a big, beautiful wedding!" can feel like a nightmare that is finally over when you jump in the limo with your new spouse while picking rice or flower petals out of your hair. Once again, like the graduation, the event is supposed to be for you, but it is almost always through you in such a way that you might begin to wonder at some point who it is really for in the first place. This is why it helps to have relatives and friends so gifted at helping you (like my wife and I had) that the actual wedding day can allow you to focus your attention where it belongs.

("Thanks, mom and dad Tippin.")

But there's still one last event that people come for....your death. But as guests to all of these events, we still figured out a way to make sure that you didn't get out of your responsibility to plan it all for us, just because you've passed on to the next life. Nope. We invented the will. And while we appreciate the fact that you told us in your will where and to whom your possessions will go, we're all also hoping that you told us what songs to play at the funeral, what kinds of flowers you like best, where you would like us to bury you, and what material you want included (or excluded) from the eulogy. It might be your funeral, but you're still planning it, buster!