Friday, July 29, 2011

Audrey (II) Hepburn would be proud.

If I've learned anything from an absurd number of viewings of My Fair Lady, it's that flower shops should be overflowing with bright colors, elegant British accents, and extravagant hats. Also, you are required to study linguistics for months before they let you work in a flower shop, don't you know?

I haven't found any florists like that.* I've only visited one, and he didn't seem like a good fit, despite his glowing review on Google:

Seriously? Only one person found this review helpful?

Blade would love a gag carnation, right? I think a single black orchid might have been over the top for an afternoon wedding, but I so had my heart set on carrying a delicate bouquet of Venus flytraps and garage-shaped ivy. They're just so classic, so Audrey.

I'm sure I'm not the only one who can't distinguish between Audrey II (left) and Audrey Hepburn (right).

*Actually, I haven't found a florist at all. When my parents visited last week, my mom brought her paper tendonitis flowers, and I liked them so much that we're not going to bother with fresh flowers at all.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

She should at least log her hours.

Blade and I have been talking about jobs, particularly about how we'll balance our jobs and our friends and our church as a married couple. We started the conversation with our premarital counselor earlier this evening and continued it as we cleaned up our supper dishes in kitchen.

Blade took over loading the dishwasher, and I sat down to think. And this is what I thought --

Me: Something's bothering me. 

Blade: Work stuff? 

Me: Uh, yeah. How come the Watcher's Council doesn't just pay Buffy? 

Blade: Because being the Slayer is a calling, not a job. 

Me: But they pay Giles. 

Blade: That's different. He chose his job. Buffy was fated. 

Me: But Buffy can barely keep a regular job. She should get paid for all the hours she puts in being the Slayer. 

Blade: Functionally, I think it would taint the position.

We are absolutely mature grown-ups, who discuss mature, grown-up things.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Teeth Wore White

This week, before I went to get my dental check up, I braced myself for another lecture on more consistent flossing. I hadn't planned on needing to justify my approach to our wedding to my dentist.

Dentist, spying my ring: When's the big day?

Me: August 27th.

Dentist: That's not long!

Me: Just under 40 days, yeah. 

Dentist: Oh, hon, we're really gonna have to hustle to get your whitening scheduled.

Me: My what?

Dentist: You know, your whitening. So your teeth will be nice and white for your wedding. Most of my brides get at least a couple of treatments.

Me: I'm ok with my teeth.

Dentist: But we could make them even whiter.

Me: No, thanks, I think I'll skip that.

Dentist, frantic: But it's your wedding!

Let's examine the dentist's appeals: 

1. "But we could make them even whiter."
What kind of white? As it is, my teeth aren't coffee brown or nicotine yellow. If we were looking for hardware store paint chips to match my teeth, we might find something close in that indistinguishable family of soft off-whites that includes Eggshell, Ecru, Bone, Vanilla, Ivory, Cream. 
Those are reasonable colors for teeth to be. I'd be afraid that bleaching would put my teeth more in the family of Politician Smile white and Blank Word Document That Should Have Been A First Draft By Now white.

The underlying argument from the dentist, of course, was: "There are people out there who are prettier than you are, and their teeth are dazzlingly white. Do you have your checkbook with you?"

2. "But it's your wedding!"
From the more reasonable friends and family, this sentence means, "Your wedding is important enough to justify being a little fancier than you normally would," or, "Let us do something nice for you, since getting married is a big deal and we want to help."
However, when a peddler-of-wedding-goods says it, she is attempting to bypass all your logic with her Jedi wedding vendor mind trick nonsense.

Blade and I ran into this mind trickery at Bed Bath and Beyond, too, when we didn't register for some of the fancier stuff we'd never use, and again when a potential caterer couldn't believe we weren't planning on serving a formal, sit-down meal at our reception.

When a vendor says "But it's your wedding," she means, "Your wedding -- and, by extension, your marriage -- won't be as meaningful and impressive and real if you don't purchase these goods and services. Did you say you had your checkbook with you?"

I finally told my dentist I would think about it, because I was tired of the conversation and needed my teeth cleaned so I could move on to the rest of the afternoon. The sound of the polisher blocked out most of the rest of the free wedding advice.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

One (Good Enough) Day

I just threw away three bridal magazines my mom bought me.* We had flipped through them and mocked them to pieces back in March, but they've been collecting dust on top of my sump pump since then.

Bridal magazines are not designed to be helpful, unless you need help spending a crazy amount of money. I guess their checklists are also helpful if you need to laugh until you cry. I've had to turn elsewhere for real wedding help. It's handy that my mom has planned plenty of weddings, but I've also explored books and blogs lately.

I devoured the book One Perfect Day: The Selling of the American Wedding. It is not about how to plan a wedding; it's about how planning weddings got insane.

Here is a short interview with the author, Rebecca Mead:

Here is another (audio only) interview with Mead, in which she talks about why weddings have gotten so huge in the last generation: It's at least partially because getting married isn't as big of a deal as it once was. It used to be that a wedding marked the day you moved out of your parents' home, the first time you lived with and slept with your spouse, etc. Now that people are getting married older and so many couples live together already, we throw extravagant parties to make marriage feel like as big of a transition as it used to be. 

Mead's book helped me think through whether any given wedding detail was something Blade and I actually wanted or just something that wedding companies have poured untold amounts of money into marketing to us.

While I was reading One Perfect Day, I was also reading Good News for Anxious Christians, which is about manipulative trends within popular evangelical culture. I couldn't help but see parallels with the wedding industry.** Both the wedding industry and the more wishy-washy evangelical churches put pressure on you to feel certain emotions, and if you don't feel those emotions, there must be something wrong with you. I don't do well under that kind of pressure. I get all panicky and resentful until I understand what's actually going on.


The blog A Practical Wedding has been the most helpful resource for actually planning my wedding (as opposed to helping me understand why wedding stuff makes me crazy). Though I frequently disagree with the blog's politics, I appreciate that the posts are full of thought-provoking, tongue-in-cheek writing rather than just collections of stylized pictures. If you're involved in a wedding anytime soon, I recommend exploring the site; I've especially enjoyed the posts: Bride in Exile, Lazy (and possible cheap) Girl's Guide ..., The Slavery of Choice, and Wedding Overexposure.

So Blade and I aren't going for a perfect day. We're going for a good enough day. And if we're married by the end of it, that is plenty good enough.

*I've kept one magazine, mostly because my mom shoplifted it from a bridal salon. She claims it was supposed to be free, that it just looked free, but there's definitely a price tag on the front cover. I can't seem to throw it away just yet due to its shoplifted hilarity. (Seriously? It just looked free? Who thinks like that?)

**My friend Steve saw me toggling between both books and said, "I like that about you." What? "That when you get mad you find a book about whatever's making you mad so you can figure out why."

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Let me shun that.

No more of that.
After helping with a couple of beautiful-but-stressful handmade weddings in the past few years, my mom and I decided that we did not have the energy or the time to fill my wedding with carefully crafted details. I've heard over and over that it's all in the details, but we know it's really not. Also, we have witnessed how those lovely, thoughtful touches can completely consume the bride and her helpers.

And so we were resolved: No projects that would take over our lives and homes. Only small, get-it-done-in-an-afternoon projects allowed.

Then my mom had ankle surgery. She thought it would only put her out of commission for a few days, but when she recovered from the anesthetic, the doctor told her she needed to stay off her feet for six weeks. We had the following, surprisingly lucid, conversation mere hours after her surgery.

Mom: How would you feel about knitted flowers?

Me: Sewn onto a baby hat or something?

Mom: No, for your wedding.

Me: Where are these going to come from?

Mom: I'm going to knit them. I'll make enough to use for centerpieces for all the tables. And your bouquet, if you wanted.

Me: You couldn't even believe how much energy Lauren spent on her flowers, and those were just paper.

Mom: It'll be adorable! Come on, what else am I going to do for the next few weeks?
Me: This is the Vicodin talking, right? This will wear off?

Finally, I told her that if she could find a picture of knitted flowers that didn't look precious, like they belonged on a baby hat or an old lady Christmas sweater, then we'd talk about her knitting flowers. Honestly, I thought she would be too drugged to remember we'd ever had this conversation, or possibly that she was having a stroke and couldn't control her words. But two hours later she called me back.

Mom: Knitted flowers are horrible. Forget that.
Me: Thank you.
Mom: I'm making them out of paper instead.

Me: Oh, that way madness lies.

I tried to talk her out of it; for one thing, I didn't want her to have to spend all her spare time fussing over my wedding. More importantly, it's a slippery slope from handmade flowers to handmade wedding favors and handmade emotional breakdowns.

But I relented. The flowers looked good and were less time-intensive than Lauren's, and they gave Mom something to do while she rested her foot and watched Slings and Arrows.*

At a follow-up appointment about her ankle, her doctor found that she has a new injury, this time in her elbow. It's the kind of injury that comes from performing detailed, repetitive tasks, like, say, making hundreds of tiny paper flowers. Let this be a warning.

 *See? She does have good taste, knitted flowers notwithstanding.

Friday, July 8, 2011

There are no passports in ten minutes.

Again, from Hyperbole and a Half, whose post on adulthood pops into my mind all too regularly.

 Continuing on my logistical failure when paperwork is involved ...

This fall, due to some combination of peer pressure and family obligation, I'm going on a trip to Israel with basically everyone I know.*

I've turned my apartment upside-down looking for my passport. There's no telling where it could be. It could have gotten lost during one of the seven times I've moved since I last used it four years ago. I have to give in and get a new passport. 

The local passport office is in the post office; rather, it is the post office. The clerks that weigh packages and sell stamps are the same clerks that process passport requests. The post office is open until 7pm, but the clerks will only handle the passports until 3pm, though the sign says 3:30pm. There's also the odd day when they close at noon or refuse to handle passports at all, and these usually seem to coincide with the times that I am off work and able to go to the post office.

I made it in before that 3pm deadline a few days ago and ran into what should have been a small speed bump.

Clerk: I need your actual birth certificate, not a copy.

Me: Oh! That's easy. I can run home and be back with it in ten minutes.

Clerk: I can't do it in ten minutes.

Me: But you'll be at this same counter for four more hours.

Clerk: Yes.

Me: But you won't help me if I come back in ten minutes.

Clerk: No. There are no passports in ten minutes. 

I returned the next day to try again. The first clerk was struggling with her English, and some complications with my paperwork (mostly due to my confusing driver's license issues) made it impossible for us to communicate. She transferred me to another clerk, who was able to be more helpful, especially after I got frustrated enough to cry. 
This clerk recognized me from the several times I'd been in before to try and get this goofy passport. She made some phone calls and found some loopholes, and now my passport is being expedited. Although I can't cry on cue, I absolutely believe it would have gone even less smoothly if I hadn't let myself cry. 

Still, I'm terrified that this Very Expensive envelope that contains my original birth certificate is headed to an office like the Department of Records from Brazil

*The trip has the potential to be awesome, actually. I just wish it were next fall, after Blade and I have had some time to get used to being married.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Us and Them(es)

This is not a thing we're doing for at least three distinct reasons.

As I said in my wedding FAQ's, I've been asked this question more than once:

Q: You're getting married? Congratulations! What's your theme?

A: Oh, you know, marriage.

More detailed A: Our wedding will be straight from the Book of Common Prayer, hopefully with a little music by friends, and there will be snacks. By the end of it, we'll be married.

People* who haven't recently spent time flipping through wedding magazines and blogs** might be unaware, but all the cool weddings these days have themes. Not explorations of timeless ideas and universal questions, like in literature; more like pervasive motifs, like in amusement parks and children's birthday parties.

Some people manage to have a theme in an un-obnoxious way. Here are an Amelie wedding and an Up wedding that pull it off sweetly. My brother and sister-in-law also rocked an Alice in Wonderland theme for their reception (after a BCP ceremony). Those are fun to go to, but they don't suit Blade and me. Also, these weddings are unusually labor-intensive, and, as Lisa puts it, I react to wedding chores the way Harry Potter characters react to Dementors.

And let's not forget that wedding themes often veer into crazy: How about a Star Wars wedding? Or a pirate theatrical classic rock wedding? (Both of these weddings were recently posted on Offbeat Bride, where a staggering number of weddings feature a TARDIS.)

People obviously put loads of care into themed weddings, but, at least from the pictures, many of these events seem less about sacrament and more about entertainment.

I wonder if this trend toward themes is a reaction against being told What Is Expected for a Proper Wedding over and over by (mostly) well-meaning friends and family from the moment you get engaged. I respond to that pressure by delegating to someone more useful than I am, just before I curl into a fetal position. I'm lucky that the people whose opinions matter most to me also like laid back, simple things.

*This is most people, right? I hope and pray that it is most people.
**Most of which are designed to make you insane.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Now, that's a pipe of a different color.

Responsibility trophy from "This Is Why I'll Never Be An Adult"
I am frequently quite grown up. I go to work, cook for myself, and return my library books on time. My apartment is clean enough not to embarrass me if a surprise guest were to show up at my door, and my bills are promptly settled with checks that do not bounce.

However, all of this grown-up pulled-together-ness dissolves the moment bureaucracy and paperwork are introduced.

I need to renew my driver's license. After studying for the written test, waiting for an hour at the DMV, getting sent to a different DMV, not being let inside the second DMV after waiting in the out-the-door line for another hour ...

Security guard: What's the point of letting you be in this line if you're missing part of the paperwork?

Me: But I have a question about that part, can you answer it?

Security guard: No, I don't know anything about that. The people inside would know.

Me: But you won't let me inside to ask.

Security guard: No. It's not worth anyone's time.

... and realizing that I'm going to have to go through this whole process again anyway when I change my name this fall, I had one of my patented being-a-grown-up-is-hard breakdowns* and called my dad to help bail me out.

It turns out that I can't actually get that awful paperwork without my dad signing over the title of my car to me, which he can't do until we're in the same place, which won't be until long after my license has expired. The best solution seemed to be to mail order a renewed Texas license to tide me over until I get my married name.

I had hoped to commiserate with my friend Steve, who also needs to renew his license, but he has elected to drive six hours each way to a DMV in middle-of-nowhere Missouri rather than deal with the dread Illinois office.

What we could all use is a rogue DMV clerk, like Robert DeNiro's vigilante HVAC repairman in Brazil.** He could burst in, fully armed, and bypass the whole system without so much as a 27b/6.

*To the layperson, these are very like my wedding-details-are-overwhelming breakdowns.

**I seem to watch mostly movies and TV shows that feed my paranoia.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Wedding FAQ

Don't we look engaged?

I will now tackle the questions I have been asked by many friends, acquaintances, former coworkers' relatives, and passing strangers ever since Blade gave me a sparkly ring. Let's put some of these to rest now.

Q: When did you get engaged?!

A: January. Or March, depending on how you count it.

Q: How did Blade propose?

A: By asking. The first time, in January, I had already taken some medicine that makes me Very Sleepy, so I don't remember a lot of details, except that we decided not to tell anyone until we had a chance to talk to our families. The second time, in March, was in my car after I picked Blade up from the airport. He was returning from California, where he talked to his parents about getting married, and they gave him a ring for me. He waited until the car was in park so that I wouldn't run off the road.

Q: Ring! Ring ring ring!

A: That's not a question. But the answer is that it belonged to Blade's great-grandmother, and I love it. We're having his ring made out of jewelry from my great-grandmother, who happened to be a loan shark. Long story.

Q: What is your theme?

A: Oh, you know, marriage.

Q: So you're having a big wedding, then?

A: Again, that is not a question, really. That's an assumption, and no, we're not. We're having as small a wedding as we can manage while still including our families as well as friends that we both know. Blade and I lean toward the introverted side of things and get easily overwhelmed by crowds, so a big wedding didn't seem like the best option for us. We think everyone is great, but we don't have room for everyone all at once.

Q: Are you stressed about wedding planning?

A: Only when I have to do something wedding-ish, which is not that often. Blade made the invitations and website, and my temporarily-crippled mother is flexing her Martha muscles while she recovers from ankle surgery. (She isn't allowed to be on her feet for awhile, which means she's itching for things to make with her hands.) A couple of months ago, she helped me dress shop, and she's handled most interactions with our caterer and venue.

This doesn't leave me a lot to do, really, which is good, because wedding chores instantly fill me with anxiety. I tear up, my nose gets itchy, I have to eat some chocolate and lie down -- it's this whole big thing. Then I want to drag Blade to a courthouse and skip the cake-and-photographer-and-flowers mess. The number one reason we haven't given up and eloped is because we want our marriage to begin with a sacrament, not just a legal form.

Q: Do you resent how the wedding industry has deliberately and systematically brainwashed the entire country over the last several generations?*

A: Why, yes. Yes, I do.

Do you have a question that I missed?

* That nobody has actually asked me this question is something I attribute to the thoroughness of the brainwashing. Also, it's just possible I watch too many Joss Whedon shows.