in which i navel-gaze

A few months ago an ex-boyfriend contacted me on Facebook.*

Yeah. Ex-boyfriend.

I did things bass-ackwards when I was younger, just so you know. I spent 85% of college shackled in a long-term relationship, and my mid-twenties doing all the partying I was “supposed to” do in school.

“Supposed to” is relative, yes.

I was engaged to this guy, at one time. For all of two days. My 19-year-old self couldn’t handle the seriousness of it all, though. I turned the ring back in. Yet we continued to date, for years. I thought I was mature, but I was so. Naive.

We learn these things with age.

You know what? It wasn’t creepy, per se, his contacting me. It wasn’t a grand overture. It wasn’t a come-on. It was more like: Hey, I used to know you, and look how far I’ve come. I found out he was married, with a kid, which was everything he ever wanted out of life during the time I knew him. But still… you ever get that feeling like you got something slimy on you, and you want to shake it off? That’s how I felt when I found that out.

That could have been me. I came really really close to this guy being that noose around my neck.

But I didn’t. I moved on. I found myself, I found my confidence. I found the worst parts of myself, and I found the best parts. And somehow, in the middle of all that, I found the beau.

There’s not a day that goes by where I don’t sit back and think: Wow.

Just wow.

Sorry for the introspection, guys. It happens sometimes.

Did you ever pull a U-turn in life?

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* FYI. It’s probably best to read this post while listening to Iron & Wine.** And no, I’m not drunk. OK. So maybe I like whiskey. And vodka. That doesn’t make me drunk right now, though. OMG. I’m an irresponsible blogger. Also: I like peanut butter.

** Specifically: “Upward Over the Mountain.” Or Outkast’s “Slump.” Either one works, really.

what the hell do we do with these people we love?

First of all, can I just say that last night I combined my two most-thought-about topics of yesterday, weddings and olympics, into one dream. Yes, the Wedlympics. Details are hazy, but I’m assuming it involved races to see who could make the most beauteous centerpieces in the least amount of time, and the like.

I think I just came up with a new reality show.

Also, dude, McDonalds. Do you really expect me to believe that Olympians come cruising by your restaurants after competing for the gold, eager to wolf down a hyper-processed sludge patty with a side of chemicals? On second thought, I guess I can see how those by-products could really help them ramp up their performance. Not to mention they wouldn’t mind hooking up with some of those youthful, trim, attractive people that populate your commercials. Oh yeahhhh.

ANYWAY. Moving on to the actual topic of this post, which is: My life as a Ukrainian mime.

No? Fine. Don’t be surprised when it gets turned into a Lifetime movie special. Carrie Brownstein from Sleater-Kinney will play me.*

OK, OK. You really don’t want to hear about that? I’ll talk about the wedding party instead. Our wedding party.**

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When the beau and I got engaged, I knew immediately who I wanted my brigadiers to be. I’m lucky enough to be close to three stupendous ladies, and I can’t imagine getting married without them by my side.

The beau hasn’t had it nearly as easy. There was a time, a few years ago, when he wouldn’t have hesitated to call on four of his good buddies from college. No doubt in his mind. But after graduation his pals all slowly scattered to points north and south in search of jobs and in hot pursuit of their own relationships. They still love each other and all, but he’s just plain not as tight with these guys anymore — so he’s waffled on making a final decision because he’s not sure it feels right. Cue the sad violin music, right?

We were talking about this the other night, and he was voicing particular concern with having to select a best man from this potential group of four. “Do you have to have a best man?” I asked.

“Well, if I don’t have a best man, who will give a speech?” he wondered.

“Do we have to have people give speeches?” I asked.

You see where this is going. Over the course of this conversation, we proceeded to deconstruct the basic roles of our wedding party and and came to the conclusion that, well, they really don’t have any roles to speak of. At least not in the traditional sense.

Sidebar: Unsurprisingly, The Knot has a glossary of wedding attendants and their respective roles, and I am genuinely flummoxed by the depth and specificity of these duties. Pay for the bachelor party. Escort elderly women. Dance with dateless women. Address invitations. Make favors. Plan the shower. Toast. Dance. Usher. Decorate the getaway car. Adjust the train. Hold the bouquet. Hold the rings. Enforce guest book signing. Dole out money to vendors. The maid/matron of honor even gets the special honor of “… help[ing] the bride get dressed, taking care to frequently remind her that she looks beautiful.”***

Look, I am not actually trying, for once, to mock The Knotness.**** I know these are just examples, and that everyone’s wedding needs are different. But it got me thinking. We’re not walking down an aisle, so we don’t need our peeps to perform the typical paired processional. We don’t even necessarily need them to stand up with us during the ceremony, mostly because the fountain we’re getting married next to is kind of small. And hearing some toasts would be cool, but instead of assigning the task to certain people, we’re leaning towards just having an open mic session during which anybody to come up and talk. I won’t have a train that needs to be adjusted. We won’t have a getaway car. My girls don’t have the money to pay for my shower or bach party. And two of ’em don’t even particularly like to dance.

In fact, outside of holding the rings during the ceremony, and helping us remember where we stashed those envelopes of cash to pay the vendors, I can’t really come up with anything our wedding party really needs to do. These are people I care about, and I don’t want to dump a buttload of expectations and tasks on them. I want them to have fun. And be happy.

This, of course, led us to ask ourselves: If we don’t really need a wedding party, then why have a designated wedding party? Why not just let them be regular guests? What’s the point?

Well, we considered that one for about half a second. The point is, they’re our people. Our chosen family. Even if we may have drifted slightly from some. We still wouldn’t be who we are without them. We want to have them around us all through the day, and we want to recognize and celebrate how much they mean to us. That’s why we want a wedding party. We just… don’t… know… what to do with them.

I feel like I’m tripping balls. I realize this entire thing should be a non-issue. I know we can just do what we want, right? But I’m having a hard time justifying the extravagance of a wedding party when the lack of clearly defined roles precludes the need for one. But we still want it. And I know we can just do what we feel like. But there’s no good reason to have one. It’s a giant circuitous merry-go-round of fuzzy logic. In my brain. Kind of like the Olympic rings, but less colorful.

Are you choosing a wedding party? If so, what are you doing with them?

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* You are SO JELLUS right now.

** I would talk about yours, but I haven’t met them. I hear they are nice people, though. Upstanding citizens. Outside of that one incident at the Krispy Kreme, of course.

*** You hear me, girls??? Feel free to use other adjectives  like stunning, gorgeous, breathtaking, and so on.

**** Although just between you and me, if I wanted to, I would point to The Knot’s definition of a Page, which is “Young boys (or girls) aged six through nine who carry the bride’s extra-long wedding gown train (think of Lady Di’s wedding) as she walks down the aisle. Also known as ‘train bearers.'” Bwah? This actually happens outside of royal weddings and fairy tales? I had NO IDEA.

in which i wear the pants

A couple weeks ago a flyer arrived in the mail from Men’s Wearhouse. Some deal on wedding tuxedo rentals.

The punchline? It was addressed to me.

“This Valentine’s Day, Men’s Wearhouse cordially invites your groom* to take advantage of a one-of-a-kind offer he’s sure to love!” the inside copy shouted at me gaily.

It was marketed to me. Like I am in charge of getting my partner dressed for the wedding.

I understand why this is the way it is. I understand that at some point everybody agreed that men couldn’t care less about getting married, and they cannot be trusted to with any of the details. So Men’s Wearhouse mails its promotional material to women, because then at least it has a chance of being read instead of getting lost at the bottom of a pile of old pizza boxes and unwashed socks. Or however these hypothetical menfolk live.** In fact, they probably haven’t taken those pizza boxes out to the trash yet because they’re too busy hiding in terror from their fiancées, who are stalking around the house screeching about how they better get over to the store right this very second to pick out matching TUXES AND SUITS AND TIES, OH MY.

I understand that, but I don’t get it. Yes, the beau and I will talk about what we’re both wearing for the wedding, and he’ll ask me for advice, and I’ll seek out his reaction, and I imagine we’ll make a joint decision on, say, what color of tie the groomsmen will wear. But dude: his clothes, his problem.

Then again, maybe Men’s Wearhouse was right after all. Maybe I am the one in charge here. Because “my groom” didn’t even get to see that flyer offer.

I threw it out on his behalf.

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* Emphasis mine.

** Heh. I’ll bet they drive Dodge Chargers.

when cynicism attacks

I’m tired of the internet. No, scratch that. I’m tired of looking at weddings on the internet. Lately it seems like every “real wedding” post I read kicks off with the same breathlessly gushy introduction about how this wedding is simply so sweet and airy it will just make you want to grin so hard your cheeks will hurt, and your toes will feel fluttery and you’ll want to do a little dance and shout “yay!” And I have to fight the urge to roll my eyes so hard they shoot out of their sockets.

I know. I’m a bitter, heartless, unsentimental bastard.

Here’s something else I want to know: Why is everything on the internet so perfect and twee? I click one link, and it is like “Look! Look at this cute thing! You know you want this cute thing so bad you could just keel over and DIE!!” And I click away and onto the next, and all of a sudden it’s “THING THING THING! CUTE CUTE CUTE!” all up in my face.

I am tired, tired, tired.

All this stuff is just stuff. Stuff that will be forgotten or sold or sent to a landfill.* I can’t muster the energy to care about it so. Damn. Hard.

Finally, I just want to say a big special EFF YOU to all those impeccably designed invitation suites out there. Seriously. You know who you are.

Well, that’s our show for today! Thank you. Thanks for comin’ out, folks! Have a safe drive home. I’ll be here all week.

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* Davanie of A Paler Shade of White posted about stuff a couple weeks ago, and it’s been kicking around in my head ever since. Where does it come from? Where will it end up? Can I repurpose most of the stuff I use for the wedding? The stuff I use for my life? Go read if you haven’t.

rebel rebel

Listen. I understand that traditionally, the maid of honor hosts the bridal shower. But all of my brigadiers are broke. They are wrestling with student loans, cuts in pay at work, working extra jobs, car troubles, going back to school. They got 99 problems and a bridal shower sure as fuck ain’t one.

So I’m putting this party on. A joint effort between me and my mom. Makes good clean sense, right?

But then today I wandered onto some site named “A to Z of Manners and Etiquette” which, I know, already sounds like a real winner. And right there, under the section about who should host the shower, it said (emphasis theirs):

A bridal shower rule that has not changed is that the bride never hosts her own bridal shower.

OH DAYYYYYAMN SON, I AM BREAKING RANK!!! Imagine how pissed my shower guests will be when they find out that my maid of honor did not have to resort to streetwalking in order to scrape together enough cash to pay for the party on my behalf! They will probably hurl their wine glasses to the ground and stalk off in a huff. Stupid bride-hosted wine-tasting trip.

But then I got back to the serious business of cruising the internets — the big, crazy, wacky world of internets — trying to see what I could learn about bridal showers. And inevitably, I ended up on The Knot.

As usual, The Knot is a great place to go of you want to make things 800 times more complicated than they actually are. I mean, take a look at this bridal shower planning checklist — intended, of course, for the bride’s maid of honor. Notice that there is no booze in the martini glass in the accompanying photo. What do you suppose happened to that booze, hmm? That’s right, the poor maid of honor guzzled it down the second she read that the bridal shower is supposed to be her “pre-wedding piece-de-resistance.” And that’s barely one sentence into the proceedings.

But you know what really threw me for a loop in this checklist? The last bullet point under “2 months ahead,” which is “Make a detailed to-do list and assign tasks.” Um. I already thought that this checklist was the list of things to do. No? Are they telling me I am supposed to start making lists of lists? Inside of other lists? That’s nice. And now the world is folding over into itself and my head is starting to hurt and oh hey look, a bottle of wine.

Ahhh.

It’s all right. It’s OK. I don’t need what the internets have to offer me anyway. Because I’ve got skills of my own. I’ll make a list that does not involve ordering linens or renting coffee urns. I’ll put together a party that does not involve streetwalking for funds. I am going to take this traditional shower concept and turn it into an excuse to get some of my favorite people — people I rarely get to see — together for a relaxing afternoon in the sun, enjoying food and tasting wine. Simple pleasures.

That can’t be too hard, can it?

in which my wedding immunizations are not up-to-date

Yesterday we went to the rental place. You know, to pick out tables and chairs and dishware and silverware and blah blah blah flee in terror.

The lady who was helping us, you could tell that she was used to talking to people (brides) who care intensely about The Details. For instance, we got to the matter of the Cake Table, and the beau and I went through the whole well-we-don’t-think-we’re-having-a-cake-we’re-maybe-having-something-like-pies routine, and she looked at us and put her pen down. “You know,” she said, “we had a bride in here who did a wedding last fall, and she did a whole table with an assortment of pies!” She lowered her voice and continued: “And I wouldn’t normally tell you this, but she went out and got her pies from Costco and Marie Callender’s.”*

She went on to tell us that they were just the hugest wedding hit ever, except in retrospect she wouldn’t recommend ever putting out an apple pie, because well, they just don’t hold their shape when cut, and they don’t look very nice on a plate.

Oh honey. You had me at Costco. And then you went and lost me with presentation. It is pie. I don’t care what it looks like. I would scoop that shit up and eat it with my hands, no problem. But then again I am not as classy as some.

So anyway, there we were, feeling smug in our wedding zen. At least I was. The beau was probably daydreaming about, I don’t know, maple-flavored bacon. But then shit got wild, yo. She asked us what our wedding colors were. I looked at the beau. The beau looked at me. “Well,” I said, “we don’t really have wedding colors.” The lady put her pen down again, slowly. “OK then, what’s the color of your bridesmaid dresses?” she inquired. Blank look from me. “Uh, well…” I stammered. “I don’t have a color for, uh, for those dresses yet.”

A look of alarm passed over her face. I could see it in her eyes: These people do not know what they want. This was a problem, you see, for how could we possibly select the colors and themes of the rental items if we did not know the colors and themes of the overall wedding?

She looked us up and down. “Well, I can see you are both wearing green,” she began tentatively. I glanced down, then slid my eyes sideways to check out the boy. We were indeed wearing green. What do you know about that? “Do you like green?” she asked. We nodded dimly. Yes. Yes, we like green. And that was good enough. Now she had an angle. She was in like Flynn.

From there it was all a blur. There were these racks, they had tablecloth fabric samples on them. She was a machine, a machine in motion, pulling samples down and setting a pretend table with different glassware and utensils. She was pairing sage green with rust, with copper, with burnt orange.** She was tossing teal into the mix. She threw together a satin olivino tablecloth with a satin citron napkin. She, good lord, she was putting little clippings of rosemary and lilac in the folds of the napkins!

It this impeccably casual enough? No? Yes? Help? // Source: Jen Tilley via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jentilley/)
It this impeccably casual enough? No? Yes? Help? // Source: Jen Tilley via Flickr (https://www.flickr.com/photos/jentilley/)

And somewhere in the middle of all this I found myself suddenly caring deeply, deeply, about these colors. What if they didn’t go with our venue? What if they didn’t go with each other? What if some of our guests didn’t like the colors? What would the guests think when they approached the tables? What kind of feel would the colors generate? Moreover, did we know that for the centerpieces we could build low, long boxes and grow wheatgrass in them, and then contrast that with citrus tree branches in vases for that extra pop of color?

The beau told me later: “She really lost me when she said we should grow plants in boxes for the wedding.”

We left after two hours, in a daze. I was clutching fabric samples. I am still the same person who said that I would just get the cheapest, most boring tablecloths and call it a day, right? Then how do I explain this sudden bout of hand-wringing over color coordination?

They got to me, you guys. They got me.

For now, the fabric samples have been jammed into a drawer. I need a break. I need some time to sort the B.S. from what’s really important to us.

In the meantime, I’m thinking about making a trip to Costco. I understand they have a decent selection of pies.

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* I’m already liking this chick.

** Yes, these sound like they should be all the same color, but mysteriously, they were not.

can you feel my love buzz?

Ahh, the elusive three-day weekend. How dost one celebrate thee appropriately? Those in the northern states might celebrate by fleeing for warmer climes. But if you’re a coastal/southern Californian,* you might just consider making a trek to see that cold, wet, white stuff** that you’re always hearing about. Yeah, that frozen stuff that is always causing hellacious problems in BosNYwash and beyond.

And how. Like many of our fellow residents of the Golden state, the beau and I paid homage to our dead presidents by heading up to Mammoth Mountain with our friends. This provided me an opportunity to go skiing for the first time. Of course, I went with people who had been skiing since grade school. So what I really mean by “going skiing” is “making a giant embarrassing ass of myself.”

On the very second run I attempted, the beau accidentally took us up the wrong lift. We had been looking for a green route, you see. Green meant easy. What we did not know until it was much too late was that we ended up on a blue diamond, which is one step below a black diamond. Which translates into a “medium-hard” level of difficulty. Ho ho! The universe has such a delightful sense of humor sometimes.

Can I tell you something? It took me an hour to get down that run. In that hour, I have never hated snow so much in my entire life. I knew, of course, that it was not the beau’s fault, so I tried not to vent my frustrations at him. And by tried not to vent my frustrations I mean threw a hysterical fit. “This is the stupidest fucking sport EVER,” I moaned from my spread-eagle position on the slope after biting it for the 28th consecutive time. “I can’t do this I can’t do this oh my god I HATE EVERYTHING AND I’M GOING TO DIE!!!!”***

Not my best moment.

If I tried, I could somehow tie this story into an insightful analysis of the dynamics of our relationship, and how we can sometimes treat each other during stressful times, and how amazing it is that the beau did not just leave me mid-whine on the mountainside, but I am just too tired. The skiing, you see. It takes a lot out of you.

What I want to share with you instead are these vintage cards from 7 Deadly Sinners the beau gave me for Valentine’s Day. Well, he didn’t give them to me in the sense that they reflect his sentiments, he more presented them to me in the context of wow, would you look at these crazy things!!****

Look at them indeed.

Disturbing and misogynistic! Everything you want in a Valentine! Or… no.

What kinds of trouble did you get into this weekend?

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* OH HAI WHAT A COINCIDENCE I AM ONE OF THOSE.

** This will amuse you east coasters: at one point in the trip, we came across a couple of kids who had gotten their truck stuck on a trail. The boy was busy affixing chains on the front tires, and the girl was… hunched over an embankment, shoveling snow into her mouth. Yes. She was eating snow. She said she was from L.A. and it was the first time she had ever seen “real snow.” Insert scoffing noise/estimate as to how high she was here.

*** Wow. Emo much?

**** He is so cute.

passing it on

I dunno. Sometimes I get a little weary of thinking about the wedding in a measured, mature kind of way. Yes, yes, we are getting married, this is very serious introspective business. I know this. But sometimes I just wanna flip out, run around in circles shrieking with glee, shout “HOLY FUCKING SHIT I’M GETTING MARRIED WOOOO!!!!” at utter strangers from the window of a moving car. You feel me?

No? You never get that urge? Oh.

So in the spirit of shenanigans and revelry, I want to talk about wedding traditions. Yeah, traditions. ‘Round these parts we mostly talk about bucking tradition, but not this time. Because guess what I recently remembered: traditions can be light, fluffy, joyous, and somewhat insane.*

My favorite wedding tradition stems from my family, but it was not limited to my family. See, my great-grandparents owned a bar in rural Michigan called Cedar Grove. It didn’t matter who you were, if you got married in the middle of the thumb** of Michigan sometime between the 1950s and the 1980s, the first stop you made after the church thing was over with — on the way to the reception, of course — was Cedar Grove. As my mom put it, “It’s just what you did.”

My great-grandparents sold the bar in the 1970s, but it’s still there, and it’s still called Cedar Grove. We stopped in one Christmas a couple years ago, my extended family and I, for a few drinks, and we got to digging through their photographs. There are a few shoe and cigar boxes they keep behind the counter, and they are jammed full of yellowed photographs taken of bar patrons over the years.

I was sipping whiskey, digging around in a dirty old smoky box that contained a few generations’ worth of shadowy and out-of-focus bar antics. My youngest aunt, the one who stayed in Michigan, was keeping up a running commentary, murmuring over my shoulder — “Oh, she looks like a Wisniewski, that’s Dougie Wisniewski’s daughter” — when I suddenly came across some people I recognized.

Cedar Grove, 1976

That’s my aunt Terry on her wedding day in 1976. That’s my mom to the far left. Yet another aunt has her back to the camera.

From there they started stacking up. I found pictures taken at Cedar Grove from all of my aunts’ weddings, and from my parents’ own wedding. Sometimes my family members would show up in other weddings. Sometimes they even showed up in civilian clothes, clad in casual bellbottoms and polyester, just another night out with a beer.***

There’s no way the beau and I can keep up this particular tradition, of course. Cedar Grove is just about 2,500 miles too far away. But damn. Damn. I so wish we could.

Are there any traditions you can’t wait to keep?

Cedar Grove, 2007

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* Mmm, marshmallows. Oh wait, weddings? Or marshmallows? Mmm, marshmallows.

** Fast fact: Michiganders actually refer to the “thumb” on the “mitten” of Michigan as “The Thumb.”

*** My family members are, apparently, drunkards.