There's an old saying: "If five people tell you you're drunk, maybe you should go lie down."
Last week's column provoked a tsunami of response, and, while no one suggested I was drunk, they all but implied I might have been indulging in some questionable lifestyle choices, involving lighters and glass pipes, when I wrote it.
In other words, I was a) dead wrong, and b) way, way off.
Let a thousand flowers bloom. I stand by my advice, but part of the fun of writing an advice column is the sword-crossing and antler-butting that ensues. So this week, rather than write a column, I'd like to "open up the phone lines" – or, to use a metaphor I always found disturbing, to allow you, my readers, to "open your kimonos" and let the rest of us know how you feel.
To recap: The woman writing in last week was having an adults-only "destination" wedding, and one of her besties wanted to bring her three young children.
I said: Stand firm on the no-kids policy. And: Her friend should find a caregiver for the kids and come on her own. That the bride should be allowed to have any kind of wedding she wants, and the friend will have more fun in the end, anyway. The vast majority of you, as I say, did not concur:
Mahina said she's been in the friend's position herself, and writes: "I agree with you that a bride is allowed to have any kind of wedding she wants. … However, what seems to be completely not understood – by our friends, your bride, and weirdly, even you – is not everyone has child care at the ready. Not everyone has the luxury of grandparents who are a) in the same town, b) willing to provide child care, c) physically able to care for small children."
Katherine: "I feel you miss out an issue that I would certainly have as the friend with three kids under six: Who is this magical babysitter that I will find to watch my kids for a week? And if I'm a working mom, how about those vacation days, taken without my kids?"
Some people just had a burr in their saddle about the concept of a "destination wedding" in general – people like Sondra: "You say her friend is being selfish??? Since when is a destination wedding anything but selfish by definition? Asking friends to spend thousands of dollars on a week with people they might not want to spend their hard-earned vacation dollars with? We were invited to one we couldn't afford to go, and I can't take vacation time whenever we want. But my husband had to go, and there went my vacation as well. It's crazy!"
It's true, they can take a bite out of your bank account. Candace doesn't like them either. She seems to find them a nightmare and I'm thinking she would agree with Charles Bukowski, who once said (after going to a Tom Jones concert): "If you pay for a nightmare you really are a sucker."
Candace writes: "I have seen these beach weddings many times and they are not as romantic as one would hope. How would any bride feel having strangers with pot bellies and tiny bikinis standing around making comments and drinking beer? The beach is always windy and sand blows everywhere. Then you go to the public dining room and they stick you in a small corner among the rest of the resort with no privacy. I hate destination weddings and refuse to go as a matter of principle. If you really want people to come, then think of your guests first and make it as convenient and pleasurable for them as possible. Then go to your destination on your honeymoon."
Getting sand in your eyes while beer-guzzling strangers with pot bellies and tiny bikinis stand around lobbing unsolicited comments certainly does have a dystopian feel.
Joanna has an idea: "What about the following compromise? Arrange for a sitter at the destination end. That way, any friends who want to bring their children and make a holiday of it can do so, but the kids won't be at the wedding itself. Wouldn't that be the easiest way to accommodate both parties, without any hurt feelings?"
Not a bad idea. To me, though, if you allow one friend to bring the kids, how can you say no to others? And the floodgates open.
I'm going to go ahead and be a stubborn guy and stand by what I said. But let me add a concession. My wife, Pam, the true brains of the operation, says: "It's a tough one, I see both sides," but also "if it were my really good friend, I'd find a way to accommodate her."
And it's true, when we went to "destination weddings" when our kids were little, we had the luxury of grandparents to babysit. And we missed some milestones: my second-oldest, J.J., learned to crawl while we were at one of them. Another was in Ireland, and we were going to spend a romantic week afterward in Dublin – a plan cut short when Pam made the mistake of phoning home and talking to our oldest, then three. "Mom, I miss you," he said, and burst into inconsolable tears. She was on a standby flight the next day.
I hung around out of sheer contrarian-ness for another day. Then hopped on a standby myself.
And I guess that's symbolic of the way I am: a contrarian, but willing to make concessions to the reality of family life. Therefore, though I stick to my guns on last week's advice, I will say: People, I see your points. Let me scratch my head for a bit and think about it.
Meanwhile, keep those cards and letters coming. Keep zinging me! Let me know how you feel. Keeps me honest and on my toes.
What am I supposed to do now?
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