The Discreet Harm of the Bourgeoisie.
This is Emily's first user submitted question!
Q: My parents thinks that because I "rail against the bourgeois" (her words), I'm not going to have a nice wedding. While I do tend to rail against the bourgeois, I'm not going to pretend that I'm not a part of it myself, and my disdain doesn't actually extend to tableware and champagne. How can I convince them that there will, in fact, be forks and napkins at the reception?
A: Your mother sounds like she is on the right track! You probably should eschew the bourgeois institution of marriage, and instead form an egalitarian feminist commune based on bonobo society.
However, since you seem to be dedicated to replicating patriarchal institutions (and who can’t? Isn’t it true that we do not speak in discourses, discourses speak through us?), I have landed on a creative middle ground that decenters the normative process.
Rather than avoiding formal middle class norms, you should obsessively embrace them. Don’t simply have cutlery; you should insist that your mother come with you to select appropriate asparagus tongs, berry forks, marrow spoons, and grapefruit spoons. You should demand ALL possible parts of a formal place setting at your wedding, with at least three different origami napkins at each place. Further, insist that your betrothed hand your father cash as he gives you away, thus revealing the underlying chattel tradition of the Western wedding ceremony. Then, your female relatives can reveal the bloodstained wedding sheet at brunch the next morning!
In effect, turn your wedding into an exaggerated parody of the bourgeoisie wedding. This will do one of two things:
1) Your mother will become uncomfortable, and start arguing with you to tone it down and just have one damn napkin, which will bring you to where you want to be.
2) Your mother will accept, and you can apply for a NEA grant, claiming that your wedding is a performance that will reveal the violence that underpins ordinary cultural practice. Your guests will leave deeply unsettled, but they will have learned a lot.
Regardless, I wish you the best on your special day—if you believe in arbitrary divisions of time such as “days.