What to do to when faced with the task of buying a shower gift for the bride of a “traditional marriage”? I don’t know about your relatives, but to mine, a request for specifics can be seen as impolite—a challenge rather than a courtesy. This can make meaningful gift-selection difficult. For example, if the bride’s tradition is that of fraternal polyandry, I might buy her a cashmere robe for nocturnal visits between brothers. Or if her tradition includes a ritual defloration by a priest, I might get her a vaginal sponge soaked in pig’s blood (to hide a previous defloration). Therefore, I always consider myself lucky when a bride’s family clarifies the matter with details such as “traditional American values, you know, like biblical.”
Solid ground at last! Over the years, I have found several options that never fail to please when a biblically-inspired shower gift is needed for a traditional bride.
Sometimes, I give seven negligees. No, that’s not a different color for each night of the week, but one for each of the co-wives likely to be present in a biblically-inspired marriage. Hopefully, this peacemaking gift will soften the hostility of incumbents toward the newbie.
A top-of-the-line chef’s knife might also be helpful, not only in the kitchen, but also in any situation that requires a wife to perform a strategic haircut (Delilah), heroic murder (Jael), or impromptu circumcision (Zipporah). It can also function as a useful means of self-defense against a traditional bride’s male relatives who might become angry if, at some point between the shower and the honeymoon, they learn that she is not, after all, a virgin. In such cases, a kitchen knife could even prevent a bride’s traditional death by immolation, asphyxiation, or stoning.
If, as in many biblical marriages, the bride and groom are first cousins (Isaac and Rebekah; Jacob and both Rachel and Leah), uncle and niece (Nahor and Milcah), or even half-siblings (Abraham and Sarah), I sometimes honor a bride’s tribal identity with a gift card for a tattoo parlor where she of a truly endogamous union can proclaim her happy affiliation with an artful design permanently inked into her ankle, belly, neck, or lower back.
Lastly, for a traditional bride addicted to celebrity memoirs, I like a biblical queenship theme: Bathsheba’s Tips on Seduction, Fratricide, and Blended Families; the Queen of Sheba’s Wisdom Riddles II; Queen Esther’s How to Throw a Stellar Monday-Night Execution Party.
A digression: For a traditional groom gift, I always recommend a hint from The Book of Tobit: fish-gut incense in the honeymoon suite to scare off the demons—and housekeeping service before noon.
In biblical marriages, the lack of progeny can be ruinous. If the bride’s fertility is at all in question, might the shower guests pool resources for the gift of a reproductive surrogate? This solution worked brilliantly for Sarah and Abraham.
If, however, the groom’s fertility were in question, I’d lobby the relatives for a male angel, a hassle-free means of insemination that worked well enough for the mothers of such luminaries as Jesus Christ, Samson, and, from the antediluvian era, the Nephilim.
Gifts to Avoid:
1. A pet. Traditional wives bear an enormous responsibility for the home, and most of them do not want an adorable puppy or conspicuous golden calf, to feed, exercise, polish, worship, or clean up after for the next fourteen years.
2. Gourmet treats. Initially, I was unaware of the numerous dietary restrictions followed to the letter by American biblical traditionalists. For example, sea creatures without fins and scales are “an abomination” in The Book of Leviticus. Therefore, I always ditch the Maine lobster and go with the explicitly permissible: locusts, crickets, grasshoppers.
3. Jewelry. An understanding of specific tradition is key here: Isaac’s bride, Rebekah, was divinely blessed with jewelry, while the bejeweled Whore of Babylon received a nasty slogan on her forehead. To bling or not to bling? I tend to play it safe.
4. Plagues. Save gag-gifts for the bachelorette party. The traditional bridal shower is not the place.
5. Miracles. The burning bush makes a good story, but who needs a patio plant that might spontaneously combust? Blessings could be a curse.
And finally, I avoid, more diligently than other potentially unwelcome gifts, any last-ditch attempts to dissuade the traditional bride from the traditional marriage she has chosen. More convincing than my own words, I think, is a beautifully bound edition of The Holy Bible–just in case she just hasn’t had a chance to actually read it.
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