DEAR ABBY: I'm writing you about a disgusting, rude and, in my opinion, obscene habit -- the bride and groom shoving wedding cake in each other's faces. The couple are all dressed up in their beautiful finery. They have a wonderful ceremony and a perfect reception table. How rude and insensitive to the person he or she has just promised before God to love, honor and cherish -- not to mention disrespectful.
What do you think of this "custom," and do you agree with me? -- FAITHFUL LITTLE ROCK READER
DEAR FAITHFUL: I do agree with you. The cake-in-the-face custom should have been retired at least 50 years ago. The significance of the "ritual" is extremely demeaning to women.
According to the book "Curious Customs" by Tad Tuleja (Stonesong Press, 1987): "The cake-cutting at modern weddings is a four-step comedic ritual that sustains masculine prerogatives in the very act of supposedly subverting them.
"... in the first step of the comedy, the groom helps direct the bride's hand -- a symbolic demonstration of male control that was unnecessary in the days of more tractable women. She accepts this gesture and, as a further proof of submissiveness, performs the second step of the ritual, offering him the first bite of cake, the gustatory equivalent of her body, which he will have the right to 'partake of' later.
"In the third step, the master-servant relationship is temporarily upset, as the bride mischievously pushes the cake into her new husband's face. ... Significantly, this act of revolt is performed in a childish fashion, and the groom is able to endure it without losing face because it ironically demonstrates his superiority: His bride is an imp needing supervision.
"That the bride herself accepts this view of this is demonstrated in the ritual's final step, in which she wipes the goo apologetically from his face. This brings the play back to the beginning, as she is once again obedient to his wiser judgment. Thus, the entire tableau may be seen as a dramatization of the tensions in favor of the dominance of the male."