John D. Spooner is an investment adviser, author and novelist. His most recent book is No One Ever Told Us That: Money and Life Lessons for Young Adults. Here, he responds to queries from advice seekers of all ages. Send your conundrums to email@example.com.
I’m a bridesmaid in the wedding of one of my best friends, and I’m honored and happy to be a part of her special day. However, the amount of money each member of the party has been expected to pay thus far for gifts and events has been slightly overwhelming since I don’t have much of a disposable income. I know I can’t be the only one in the bridal party to feel this way, but I’m nervous about mentioning anything, lest I come off as cheap or uncaring. I’d love nothing more than to shower my friend with gifts and plan lavish parties, but as expenses add up, I get more stressed and, unfortunately, even a bit resentful. Any advice? Unfortunately, this is a credit card nation, folks. Don’t defer pleasure. Have it now. Stick it all on plastic. Sad.
My bachelor party was awkward, embarrassing to me but not to my ushers and other close friends. They had rented a room at the Lenox Hotel, spearheaded by my friend Mike, a big man in the advertising business during the Mad Men era. There was an open bar, pupu platters, grainy black-and-white naughty movies and two strippers. Two pitiful hours of low-end merriment, memorable in no way. But most bachelor parties then were exactly like this, whether in a private room at Locke-Ober or a downscale joint in Chinatown, the Squire in Revere or dives in the Combat Zone out of noir films.
Women did not have bachelorette parties then. They’d have a wedding shower with presents. All dressed up, with mothers and mothers-in-law to be. I’ve taken a broad sample of my younger female friends for some suggestions about today’s blowouts. A compilation:
1) To save money and avoid double airfares, have the party in the town or city where the wedding is being held.
2) Don’t give individual presents. Have everyone chip in the same amount for one big gift.
3) Have fun closer to home. Great parties have been held at Foxwoods and the Cliff House near Ogunquit, Maine. A ski weekend in Maine can be wonderful fun, as can a visit to the Vineyard in the summers. And remember that you can have a great time pub-crawling right here in Boston.
4) If a trip to Vegas is inevitable and a few of the women really can’t afford it, have them give a second party with the bride in Boston. It keeps the magic rolling and makes everyone happy.
I’ve heard stories of as many as seven women staying in one room for bachelorette outings. Sounds good to me. Seven is a lucky number. But one thing young people seem to be great at is finding the lowest prices for everything. Push your friends to negotiate. Believe me, in life, almost everything is negotiable.
I take a commuter train to work each weekday and always sit with the same folks. They are all great except one has a terrible habit. He finishes all my sentences, and it’s driving me crazy. I can be in conversation with someone, and not only does he interrupt, but he interrupts in order to finish my thoughts! It’s not like he joins the conversation, which would be fine, but he takes over my end of it. I finally just give up and shut up. How do you deal with a verbal hijacker like this? I don’t want to have to move my seat. I like these people, even him, and otherwise my commute is a pleasure! Do you know about the famous “timeouts” that parents subject unruly children to? They would be fine lessons if the parents I observe made these timeouts stick for more than a minute and a half. Many parents, it seems, cannot stand to be in charge, to be the adults. I counsel so many young people who tell me their tales of not really being prepared for life after school, where not everyone loves them and forgives them at every turn. So don’t you give your nice but clueless commuting buddy a free pass. It’s classic impatient Type A behavior on that person’s part. Next time he interrupts you, say, “Time out. You obviously know what I was going to say; what was I going to say?” It will stop him in his tracks. But go on and add, “I know you can’t help it, but you’re not the ventriloquist, and I’m not the dummy. I know you’re a wonderful person, but we’re in a play here, and you can’t play every part.”
We can all learn lessons every day. And we can learn to modify our bad habits. But if you do not speak up when you are hurting, your stomach and your dreams will be troubled. Out with it!