February 21, 2016, 4:15 p.m. Crate & Barrel, 777 Boylston St, Boston, Massachusetts. We are standing in front of a flatware display with an iPod scanner, bickering about the price of forks.
I thought I knew Nathan pretty well before we got engaged. I did, in many ways. But I didn’t know anything about his aesthetic preferences for dishware, and it turned out that we had vastly different priorities for our future kitchen. For example: I like neutrals. If it were my call, everything would be gray and taupe and amber and olive. Nathan likes orange. (We had another argument in Trader Joe’s when he wanted to buy me flowers and complained that I only liked the white ones.) I also care about maintaining a particular Pinterest-curated minimalist aesthetic, and Nathan wants reasonably-priced spoons that feel good in his hand. He appears to have the moral high ground in this, and that irks me inordinately.
I thought that creating a wedding registry would be a lot more fun than it turned out to be. (You get married and people give you great stuff that you get to pick out yourself! It’s amazing! I’ll have matching plates and reliable kitchen appliances for the first time in my adult life, plus a real shower curtain!) But I’d forgotten, I think, about the absurd and arduous labor of selecting a good value crockpot based on consumer reviews, and sharing decisions with someone else who may hold different opinions about the sorts of things that will be useful to us, and the sorts of things we ought to request from our friends and family, and the values by which we select them. So really, the bickering wasn’t about the flatware—it was about being tired and overwhelmed by kitchen items and decision-making and what hospitality means to us and the importance we place on material objects and their symbolic value. I thought he was judging me for being “materialistic.” He thought I had unreasonable expectations for our future dining room. We both thought the other person was being a butthead.
After the flatware debate, we turned in the scanner and left the store in search of coffee, walking into the brisk New England breeze in silence for several blocks. I don’t remember who said “I’m sorry” first, but we said that, and other things. We found cheaper flatware elsewhere, Nathan acquiesced to the “totally unnecessary” inclusion of salad forks in the boxed set selected, and we chose white plates with colorful bowls to balance out our color preferences. (He also allowed me to register for a dish towel covered in baking tools that says “roll with it.”)
Wedding preparation has been a series of exercises in compromise, and in acclimating to the idea that I am not entirely in charge of my own life anymore. I have to account for someone else’s kitchen tool needs. I have to consider someone else’s priorities for a future home. It has been frustrating and difficult and put me in the unpleasant position of asking for forgiveness when I have been a butthead, even if he was being one too. Which is, like so many unpleasant things, good for me. Nathan is good for me. And while I’m skeptical of his taste in flatware, I’ve never doubted that.
Katie is a doctoral student in English and education at the University of Michigan. She loves the New York Times crossword puzzle, advice columns, oceans, and dogs of all kinds.