In Which We Make Merry (and Judgmental)

vintage-wedding-dressesWeddings. Has any word, other than that ending in “-gasm,” produced such sighs of exaltation? Though our customs vary, there’s not a corner of this world that doesn’t celebrate the joyful union of two people. People love a good wedding.

Similarly, people hate a bad one. One dry cake or lackluster floral arrangement is all it takes for the whispers to start: “Did you see the dress? She looks like a bedazzled bratwurst! And the flowers. Good heavens, did she corner the market on tangerine carnations?” In the internet age, this seems to have gotten worse. Now, not only are your guests dissecting the wedding, but all your high school classmates think that veil made your eyebrows look fat, while your photographer’s other clients frown at your funky venue. When it comes to weddings, everyone has an opinion.

Even worse, they will give it to you. Your great aunt wants you to know how tacky buffets are, but your childhood friend would hate for your wedding to be cookie cutter. When I started thinking about our wedding, I had a vision: something romantic and casual, with a strong vintage vibe and really great food. Above all, I wanted not to spend the average American wedding budget, because holy macarons, that’s a new Volvo. Yet, every time I make a decision, I consider what people will think. I flashback to all the weddings I’ve been to, where I smugly sat in the pew, judging. Y’all, that is what a girl of marriageable age does at weddings. We hold them up to our own Pinterest-fueled standards and judge, judge, judge.

vintage-wedding-page1Kittens, that’s pretty fucked up. When we attend other parties, be they Halloween masquerades or Super Bowl couch gatherings, we don’t pass judgment. We eat whatever food is provided, laugh with our friends, and enjoy ourselves. We don’t care that Ginny’s cake wasn’t chocolate or that her hair was half-up. We thank her for hosting and go about the business of merriment! Sure, if something goes horribly wrong – the TV explodes at halftime or Colin Bridgerton the Cat eats the turkey – we’ll talk about it. However, only in extenuating feline-disaster circumstances do we openly pass judgment! What’s different about weddings?

Initially, I blamed the presents. When gifts are standard, perhaps people wish to be compensated with a perfect event? It’s an interesting theory, but it doesn’t hold. If we were so uppity about enjoyment reciprocity, wee Tommy wouldn’t have a Chuck E. Cheese birthday fête. If we happily bring presents, when we’re to be tortured with animatronic mice, we shouldn’t be that fussed about a cake-and-punch reception. So, I’ve drawn another conclusion. I think we’re so judgmental about weddings, because we’re stuck in the 1950’s.

Despite wave after wave of feminism, society still thinks of weddings as the bride’s glittery rainbow day. This is the one day she’s been waiting for her whole life. It’s the day she gets to be Princess Shinylocks Man-Nabber, Belle of the Ball. This isn’t just a party, it’s the only party in her life that’s ever going to matter. It’s the pinnacle of her achievements as a woman, a time to show off her trim figure and exquisite taste, before she rockets down the hill of stretch marks and minivans. It is her day.

Y’all, this is ridiculous. I know I’m about to be shunned by the entire wedding industry, but I don’t even think this should be an industry. People should get married, have a party with their nearest and dearest, then continue to joyfully boogie down every day of their lives thereafter. It’s not my fancy duchess day. It’s the day I’m going to marry the love of my life and celebrate! How I choose to do so is not indicative of my value as a woman. If I want to have hamburgers and a short dress, then so be it, because it’s just – gasp! –  a party.

vintage_bride_and_groom_happy_newlyweds_postcard-p239955201995983054envli_400Darling wedding guests who will never read this blog, let’s make an agreement. I’ll provide a good time and great cake, if you don’t give my centerpieces the side-eye. If you or yours get married, I promise to be just as joyful a guest.

– Grace

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Please Don’t Be Eaten by a Wolf

tumblr_kumhia1e3c1qzb7gjo1_400This weekend, I sobbed at the bookstore. If that sounds ridiculous to you, don’t worry. It was completely ridiculously ridiculous. There, in the middle of the New Fiction aisle, my eyes welled with tears and I choked back an involuntary sob. It was pitiful. It’s also what I deserve for reading the ends of books first.

Yes, I’m a book cheater! Rare is the novel I buy, without first checking to see how it ends. I’ve done this for years, scandalizing the hell out of our dear Mae, who believes in preserving the integrity of intended story structure. I’m all for story structure, but I’m also all for not being surprised by the narrator getting boiled alive in the school showers halfway through the book. Spoiler alert: I may have been traumatized by R.L. Stine’s Cheerleader series. As a late 90’s tween, I vowed never to be caught off guard by charred pep squad captains again! So, I cheat.

Which is what I was doing Monday afternoon, when I took my little sister on a celebratory “We don’t have school today!” bookstore adventure. Perusing the new releases, I picked up a book that received great buzz in the UK last year. The plot was intriguing, but had the potential for tragedy: woman is hired by man, man is training to hunt man-eating wolves in a forest, man and woman fall in love, despite danger of wolf attacks*. So, I flipped to the back of the book and read the end. Surprise! The man totally goes into the forest and gets eaten alive by wolves, after the woman begs him not to go. He tells her he loves her, kisses her, then nobly marches to his doom.

woman-cryingY’all, I lost it. All I could think about was Professor McGregor choosing to do the same thing. In reality, were we ever endangered by lupine warriors, he’d hire someone else to do the hunting or construct a clever trap that would keep him from becoming wolf vittles. Also—let’s be real—we live in Texas. A person is much more likely to be bitten by a snake, than to be eaten alive by anything. Logic was beyond me, however. I was overwhelmed by the realization that forever, that word that had so terrified me in past months, is not really forever. Barring miraculous advancements in modern medicine, we are not immortal.

Yes, that’s a morbid thought. It’s also one that needs to be dealt with…in a way that I feel completely at a loss to grasp. Love on screen is a lot of smiling and pining, which is certainly involved, but my variety also contains equal parts worry and protectiveness. Part of loving Professor McGregor is wanting to see him safe and happy, always. But there are things in this world – wolves and snakes and diseases that no gun can reason with – that threaten us.

Working in hospitals, I’m reminded of human frailty everyday. It’s just now, that I have a person who is mine, that the full impact of that hits me. For the first time, I’m jealous of Bella Swan. It’s not because she’s a spineless twit who made two supernaturals fall in love with her, but because—no matter how she might wish it otherwise, once she realizes how annoying Edward’s whining is—their love is actually forever.

Which brings me back to the wolf book. I’ve always been an empathetic person, quick to see myself in characters and situations, but suddenly my reactions are more violent. It was easier to read stories of love not conquering all, when I was neither in love nor desirous of its presence. So, am I just going to cry a lot now? Will the rest of my life be spent with tissues and waterproof mascara close at hand? That sucks. Y’all, I don’t want my days to feel like Nicholas Sparks marathons. Puffy, splotchy wimp is not my chosen aesthetic! Hell, I’m super embarrassed to even be writing this post. Walking around so vulnerable/drippy would mortify me!

I’m not marrying a vampire. Surely, I will get used to that fact eventually and stop being so damned emotional. You know…unless we have kids and I start crying over children, instead. I may have to institute a stronger Happy endings only! rule in my reading material. One can only bawl in Barnes and Noble so many times, before they ask you to stop shopping there. That would really make me sad.

– Grace

*This is not the actual plot, but just in case you want to read the book I picked up, I invented a storyline to keep you from being spoiled. You’re welcome. Unless there is a book about wolf wars on the shelves now and I just spoiled that one. If that’s the case, then I’m sorry and, also, what a coincidence!

She Posted A Ring On It

il_570xN.65694159Facebook is annoying. Even if you’re the most social of butterflies, an ex’s status update or an embarrassing high school cheerleading photo can tempt you to deactivate. When you factor in enraging political memes, it’s amazing Mark Zuckerberg isn’t pelted with rotten eggs every time he leaves the house.

There is a certain age, however, when Facebook irritation peaks. Between graduating college and turning 30, social media becomes a harrowing landscape of couple vacations and wedding cake toppers. With all the posed babies and whitened smiles populating my Facebook feed, logging in feels like I’ve stepped inside Barbie’s Dystopian Dream House. Every other day, someone pops out a kid or says “I Do.” Emotional voyeurism isn’t so fun, when it makes your weekend of bowling and drunken dancing look lame.

So, it comes as no surprise that a backlash has started. Circulating in the feminist blog-o-sphere recently was a piece from The Cut, lamenting the trend of posting engagement ring photos as status updates. It even hit Jezebel, the feminist blogging mothership, with a rousing endorsement. The argument is that there is no modern status update so irritating as the “context-free diamond,” just a picture of a newly adorned hand with a smugly joyful caption.

Now, I don’t want to be a bad feminist/blogger, but…I couldn’t care less. No, that’s a lie. It’s not even indifference I feel towards ring pictures, but adoration. Despite my well-documented side-eye toward engagement rings, I love looking at other people’s jewelry. Though the whole ring thing is a bit of archaic patriarchy, it’s still a tradition we honor as a society, and one of the few wedding symbols that is both enduring and truly personal. The wedding flags you loved on Pinterest will be used by a hundred other couples this year and the cake will grow stale and molder, no matter how many buttercreams are tasted ahead of time. The dress can be stored away and preserved, of course, but what’s the chance that your daughter will really want a mermaid-style gown with “bling” on the sash?

The ring, however, will stay on your hand forever. It’s also one of the only wedding traditions that involves the tastes of both the bride and the groom. A ring can tell someone so much about a couple, right down to their opinions on traditions and simplicity, just by what he chose with her in mind. So, yeah, I love looking at them. I love being told of a friend’s engagement, through a picture of her great-grandmother’s own wedding ring that fits perfectly on her hand. I love knowing how much a groom adores his bride, thanks to a sentimental little inscription inside. It’s still a tradition which has connotations I’m uneasy with, but…is there really nothing more annoying than a picture of sparkle and a note of joy? I can think of a dozen things posted on Facebook today that make me legitimately enraged and none of them involve something so inoffensive as a ring.

But, then again, perhaps I’m particularly biased today. Because, even after reading those articles and realizing that other women loathe the whole practice, I took a picture of a ring and put it on Facebook. On Saturday, Professor McGregor proposed and I said yes! Afterwards, during an impromptu celebration with our nearest and dearest at a neighborhood pub, I happily posted a ring on it.

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– Grace

PS: In all the joyful hubbub of this weekend, I forgot to make another exciting announcement! Remember that post on marathons that I wrote last year, which had runners across the world sending me death threats? It’s being performed in the 11th production of Bloglogues, a live comedy show in New York City, which features some of the funniest writing on the internet! Crazy, right? If you’re interested in going, this run’s  theme is health & fitness and will be showing through next weekend! They’ve done a few posts from my dear friend Girl on the Contrary, one of which they turned into a musical number. Also, you get a free beer with your ticket. Totally awesome.

The Non-Existent Ettiquette of Pregnancy Tests

vintage_baby_poster-p228687218926020335vsu7_325I’m not pregnant.

It seems really important to clarify that up front, kittens. There is no blonde mini-Grace growing in my womb, sucking out my life force. Which is good. I can barely keep myself and my fluffy, white dog alive. If the professor and I were to have children right now, I’d be arrested within six months, because it would turn out that you can’t put a leash on a baby or give it heartworm pills. Parenting is, at this moment, completely beyond me.

So, it was with much trepidation that I visited my local drug store last month. I bought razors and shampoo, but they were just smokescreen toiletries. At the bottom of my basket — looming in a way that seemed improbable for a small, pink box — was a pregnancy test kit. Thanks to the magic of modern medicine (read: whore pills), my period is usually as regular as clockwork. Which is to say that, like clocks, it loses time here or there, but chimes at pretty much the same time every month. In December, however, the crimson cuckoo never struck.

238550111481800892xKAHi0ezc  I’ve tortured this metaphor, haven’t I? Suffice it to say: I skipped last month’s lady curse and was freaking the fuck out. Visions swirled in my head of wee professors and — horror of horrors! —maternity wedding gowns. I’m normally hyper-vigilant about taking my birth control, but I was four hours late that Tuesday. Was I so fertile that all it took was one late pill and a sideways look by some man essence, before—boom!—welcome to babytown?

Way to be a sadistic bitch, Mother Nature! All that recycling I did and this was my payback? Oh, but Professor McGregor didn’t yet recycle. Was I being punished, because I had not prevented his beer bottles from being thrown in the landfill? That seemed unfair. Surely, he should be the one plagued by a small creature wanting to hijack his body, since they were his bottles. Damn it, biology.

So, there I was. Through the magic of love, birth control user error, and a boyfriend who inexplicably doesn’t recycle, thus pissing off the universe, I was buying a fucking pregnancy test. Or, to be technical about it, I was buying five pregnancy tests. This was not the time to quibble over brands! Buying one of each was, obviously, the best course of action. My gaggle of tests and I pulled up to the beauty counter—or, as I like to call it, the Buying Tampons and Laxatives Counter—and feigned nonchalance. Then, this happened:

Middle-Aged Cashier Who Looks Like a Sunday School Teacher, Complete with Christmas Tree Sweater: Good afternoon!
Grace: Hi.

Cashier: Having a good day?

Grace: Totally. What about you?

Cashier: It’s just dandy! Why, lookie here! (picks up pregnancy tests, with a flourish) Wouldn’t that be a nice Christmas surprise?

Grace, feeling faint: Not necessarily.

Cashier: This time next year, you could be celebrating with a baby!

Grace: Hopefully not.

Cashier, totally not picking up what I’m laying down: Babies are the best. I miss mine being little ones. Miraculous bundles of joy! If you ignore all the vomit.

Grace: Oh, for the love of God! I do not want a baby! Stop your jinxing blather, Witch of Walgreens!

vintage_cute_blond_curls_baby_smile_baby_shower_invitation-rbc1a08b23c424b77a9fbbde65f349f95_8dnmv_8byvr_512Okay, I didn’t say that. I just made vague, noncommittal noises and prayed for the credit card machine to work faster, damn it, because years of living in the South had rendered me incapable of rudeness. Why isn’t there a standard of ettiquette for the purchase of pregnancy tests, y’all? If this well-meaning cashier is anything to judge by, we need rules for these exchanges! People can’t seriously assume that all women over 18 want to be pregnant, right? Some of us do, sure, but some of us really, really don’t, so please stop talking about the inherent cuteness of tiny socks.

To prevent potential drugstore violence by angry, potentially impregnated women, I propose these rules, to be implemented by pharmacies worldwide:

  1. Do not mention the pregnancy test.
  2. Only look at the pregnancy test long enough to find the bar code.
  3. Be fleet. Scan items like the wind, noble cashier!
  4. For the love of God, don’t talk about how awesome babies are! Why, why, why would you do such a thing? We’re already stressed out, whether we want it to be positive or negative. We don’t need to chat about it!

Seems simple enough. Could someone please make sure the Anderson Mill Walgreens in Austin adopts these? In the meantime, I’m going to go drink some coffee and eat sushi, because this month, the cuckoo clock definitely chimed. Let the happy dances commence!

– Grace

I’m So Glad My Parents Were Squares

gamepicFriends, I just lost a day of my life.

It wasn’t an amnesia-inducing camel accident, but something altogether more insidious: an iPhone game. Since yesterday morning, I have played Ticket to Ride over forty times. Y’all, it seemed harmless enough! It’s a simple concept: players build train lines across the US, connecting routes they’ve randomly drawn, before everyone else finishes. The game caters to people who’ve clamored for a Thomas the Tank Engine edition of Risk. Strategy is more quaint with trains!

Turns out, I’m fucking awesome at it. Want to get from Vancouver to Miami? Done. That dreaded route from Calgary to New York? On it. Being born in the 1980s really screwed me over, because my true calling is railroad barony. Or, perhaps, I am just too easily enthralled by things. That is a distinct possibility. Last year, I spent all summer chucking enraged birds at porcine criminals. Right now, I’m engaged in eight games of Words with My Mother.

All of this has clarified one thing: my parents were really, really smart to outlaw video games in our house. Sure, they claimed we couldn’t have a Nintendo, because of my sister’s epilepsy, but my siblings and I knew the truth. They were totally lame. Along with processed foods and backward baseball hats, video games seemed another arbitrary enemy our parents waged war against.

“Play outside,” they insisted. “Read a book!” Nary a Wii nor a PlayStation would enter their house. My brother snuck systems in from his friends’ houses, but they were too soon ferreted out. As such, my practical video game skills are sadly lacking. I’m the one who spends all of Halo running into walls, until I’m shot in the head by my exasperated compatriots. My Mario-kart always comes in last. A blind-folded lemur would be better at FIFA than I am. Though, to be fair, the lemur would also probably know more about soccer…

As a kid, though? I would have played those games, until I reigned supreme…or died from dehydration. I am unable to start something, without wanting to conquer it. Only, since my parents banned ALL THE FUN from our house, wee Grace instead conquered things like reading all the Amelia Peabody mysteries and sewing. I can cook a mean pot roast, change my own headlights, and paint impressionist blobs that vaguely resemble people. Had we been allowed to play video games, I’m pretty sure I would not do any of these things nearly so well. Graduating high school may also have been questionable.

It’s not that I think video games are bad. To be honest, I think they’re a really interesting and vital part of modern culture. Plenty of people I know play them well and often, without going down the rabbit hole. Moderation, however, has never been my strong suit. It’s probably best that my teenage obsessions were books and dresses – things with an end in sight – rather than World of Warcraft.

While I still think a girl should be able to eat Oreos without worrying about hydrogenated oils, I’m glad my parents were eccentric. Mom and Dad, thanks for being such squares. My Assassin’s Creed skills may suck, but I make pretty killer (hydrogenated oil free!) brownies…which you might never eat again, now that I’m marrying a guy who owns an Xbox.

– Grace

Why Isn’t My ‘Give A Damn’ Ever Broken?

Have you ever heard someone say “My ‘give a damn’ is broken.”? I’m guessing you have, and I’m guessing that unless it was directed at you specifically, you probably thought it was pretty funny. And it is. It’s a funny little saying. Unfortunately, despite how much I adore repeating funny little sayings that I hear, I’ve never once been able to say this. Why? Because my ‘give a damn’ is NEVER broken. I always give a damn. Even when I shouldn’t, even when it hurts me, even when all logic dictates I should immediately stop giving damns, I still give them. I give all the damns. All the time.

It’s exhausting. And I would very much like to be able to not give a damn sometimes.

Why isn’t my ‘give a damn’ ever broken? Well, I think the scientific-ish answer to that is that since I was a little girl my capacity for empathy was off the charts. It was first noticed when I was 9 and we watched a video about slavery in America in class – I couldn’t stop crying I was so appalled at the brutality and discrimination I was seeing on the screen, I was so upset the teacher sent me to the counselor who promptly started testing me for all kinds of disorders. Many tests later, she declared me “the most empathetic child she’s ever known” and gave herself a pat on the back. Then, in high school, I was tested again and my results were used in a study because I tested higher than any one else my age for empathy. Same thing happened when I went to University. My University made us take a personality quiz when we registered to assess what our 3 greatest strengths were and of course, empathy was my number 1 by a landslide. So, you know, I guess you could say I’m empathetic and that’s why my ‘give a damn’ isn’t broken. Ever.

And most of the time, I’m really thankful for my empathetic nature. I think on most days that it’s a strength and it’s something I’m proud of being a part of me. But some days, days when I need to protect myself, days when I know I need to turn off my ‘give a damn’ if only to give myself a moment to breathe, it’s hard. It’s exhausting. It feels like I’m weak and incapable of controlling my emotions and feelings. It makes me feel overly vulnerable and exposed.

And, to be honest, I’m not sure why I’m writing this post, except that by putting it into words, sharing my thoughts on it, makes me feel more in control of it. It helps me understand it. And it helps me, for a few minutes at least, to ignore the ‘give a damn’ alarm that’s going off in my brain about something I know I need to let go.

So, thanks for reading. For listening. For giving a damn.