I’m a real, live girl… apparently.

Every year, starting in September, my dad slowly morphs into The Grinch, himself. You literally cannot have a conversation with the man, without hearing about how we should just cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas and go to Cozumel. Truly, it is not Christmas dinner without listening to my dad bitch about Christmas dinner.

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My dad and his Christmas shopping list.

Now, I love the holidays so much, I am currently plotting to send Jake away for a weekend, so I can pull out my hot pink Christmas tree and have Christmas in July, before I have to sell it this fall… because Jake’s a boy and wants a boring ol’ green tree. I did not get my father’s disdain for the last quarter of the year. I did however, get his… you know, I keep Googling a word for “cynicism, but funny”, because I am fucking hilarious, but I can’t find any results. Fine. I got my father’s cynicism, only instead of directing it at the holidays, I’ve spent most of my adult life directing it at feelings. Ask Gail…

Me: “Ugh. Emotions belong with the last fucking Horcrux.”
Gail: “What’s a Horcrux, again?”
Me: “It’s where Voldemort stored each of the seven parts of his soul and hid them at the ends of the earth, you loser.”
Gail: “Yes. I’m the loser.”

Me: “Spock is the perfect man.”
Gail: “Why?”
Me: “He feels nothing. He’s always completely logical. Spock would never text you at 6:00 in the morning, asking if he’d done something wrong, because he hadn’t heard from you since 9:00 last night.”

… or Catherine.

Me: “Real men don’t cry.”
Catherine: “Dude, agreed.”
Me: “A real man is like Louis from Interview With a Vampire. He only cries one tear every thousand years.”

My teenage years might have been spent obsessing over Roswell and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but every romantic entanglement that wasn’t supernatural was met with mockery and derision. No lie, I’m still surprised that I wasn’t kicked out of The Notebook for my hysterical laughter.

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As time went on, I actually developed a love for ridculing these movies. My 24th, 25th, and 26th birthdays were spent crafting with Gail while talking over teen movies, Gilmore Girls style, making up new lines and yelling “Where is the administration?!?!” at the screen. Gail still regrets making me watch Dirty Dancing, because I spent the entire movie ranting about how Baby was the only one dressed like it was 1987 and no one noticed.. and ultimately cackled upon discovery that the famous “Nobody puts Baby in the corner” line referenced which table she sat at at the country club.

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Me: “Fucking white people, dude!”
Gail: “You are literally the whitest person I know… and the whitest person you know.”

I don’t have a friend left who will watch Titanic with me, as they’ve all been subjected to my epic rant, several times, and don’t want to listen to my random shouts of “Team Cal!”, during every romantic scene. I think I’m the only woman alive who will openly and cruelly mock Pretty Woman. 

Me: “I loved the ladies who turned their nose up at her in the dress shop. They’re the heroes of that story.”
Laura: shut_up_breaking_bad

It’s not just movies that have failed to invoke sentimentality in me. I hate weddings and anniversary cards and Valentine’s Day. I’d rather Jake fill up my gas tank than buy me flowers and I couldn’t even give our wedding officiant three reasons I love him without making a joke. I have indeed spent the better part of my life priding myself on being a little bit dead inside…

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… except something’s changed. I can’t pinpoint exactly when, but at some point in the last five years, I’ve begun to enjoy these movies… and not for the sake of mockery and blog material, but because they invoke feelings in me.

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I realized the other day, that not only was I not hate-watching Hope Floats, I was actually empathetic to the main character. I mean, yes, I still critiqued it, messaging Laura about how Birdy had a dream divorce, with a mom who would pay all her bills during her recovery, while looking like Sandra Bullock. I’m not a completely different person… or maybe I am, because as I’m nearing 30, I find myself in the mood to actually watch these movies more and more.

Such was the case the night I rented The Longest Ride. I genuinely wanted to watch a romance, but since the only Nicholas Sparks movie I’ve ever (eventually) enjoyed was The Notebook (and I still fast forward through the cheesy James Garner scenes), I figured chances were high I’d spend my night giggling through it… except I didn’t. I loved the bull-rider-meets-artist tale and almost immediately ordered it on Amazon, assuming this would go into my cache of chick flicks, one of the few I actually liked. After all, I was marrying a man from a rodeo family. That must be the only reason I related to this one… but I had to be sure I maintained my heart of stone, so I searched Netflix for the sappiest romance I could find, perhaps one I’d already seen and knew I would enjoy mocking… like Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven. 

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I knew the twist ending. I knew it wasn’t just love that saved the heroine, but ghosts. Yet, I found myself delighted by the chemistry of the lead actors. I thought the children were adorable and I don’t even like children. Yes, yes, I still laughed my way through the ending, but it was with less mirth than I once had. The same was true of Steel Magnolias. I no longer giggled at the predictability of Julia Roberts’ death, but found myself tearing up and wishing Sally Fields was my mom. I even Googled “movies like Steel Magnolias,” because apparently what they say is true. As we women get older, we all morph into the same Lifetime Original Movie cliche, weeping through formulaic romances about cancer and finding ourselves tearing up when Lorelei tells Emily about her secret day with Richard… and I am no different. It’s only a matter of time before I drag Jake to the latest rom/com and cry over Hallmark cards full of sentiment written by someone else. Soon I’ll find myself looking at children with affection, instead of distate and binge watching 7th Heaven… but wait, I did that last summer! What is happening to me?!?!

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Wedding Advice From a Reluctant Bride

If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you know how ready I was to be a wife and how reluctant I was to be a bride. If I’d had my way, Jake and I would’ve married in the chapel of my church, with only immediate family and friends by our sides, and might have had lunch at a local restaurant afterwards. However, I apparently married Princess Kate, because Jake was adamant that we were going to have a real wedding, with all of his friends and family.

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This, but with a cowboy hat.

Because I love Jake and wanted to make him happy, I agreed to his shenanigans. In hindsight, I’m glad I did (barely), because we had a beautiful and fun-filled wedding. I can look back and remember my real marriage began with a real wedding. Despite all the stress that lead up to it, I do have good memories from my wedding day and I, primarily, attribute them to a few key decisions, which I’ve compiled into far more practical wedding planning advice than anything I ever read.

Keep the Engagement Short and Prepare for a Headache
I was convinced that planning my wedding was going to suck from the start. Jake insisted it wouldn’t be so bad, as did many family members, and several articles I read… and they were all wrong. We got engaged just before Thanksgiving and I didn’t have a moment of peace until a week after the wedding. Granted, I switched jobs and moved and dealt with Jake’s unemployment during this time, but still… it was exhausting from start to finish and only barely worth the effort and I’m glad I wasn’t blindsided by that.

Buy Your Dress on Etsy and Save Big
My dress cost $450 with rush delivery, tailor-made to my measurements, in one week. You will wear it one time. As long as it looks good in the photos, no one cares… because all those dresses look the damned same. Try some on in stores to get a feel for what you want and order online.

Get the Rights to Your Photos
The photographer is probably the only service that mattered to me. If the food was mediocre and the DJ was annoying, whatever, but those pictures are going to sit on my children’s children’s mantle one day… as holograms. That’s only possible if I own the rights, though. Prints get lost. They age. They become damaged in floods and fires. Photographers go out of business and die and even if they don’t, they probably don’t have your wedding photos 15 years later. The rights to my photos were included in my package and I would’ve kept looking if they hadn’t been.

Skip the Videography, Flowers, Live Band, Open Bar, etc.
Only spend money on the important things. No one notices flowers or centerpieces or draperies over your chairs. If they want liquor, they’ll buy it and no one, no one, no one, wants your fucking beer cozy that says Heather and Tim Forever in True Love. Splurge on food, photography, your cake, whatever actually matters to you, even if it is the dress, but not everything, just because everyone says you should. We didn’t even have a videographer or flowers. Our bar was a cash bar and the free food was our favor. I couldn’t be happier about those decisions, because it saved us a lot of money on things we didn’t miss. I remember the awesome food, the beautiful cake my aunt made, how great our DJ was, and how much fun we had. I don’t remember wishing I’d had custom coasters made for everyone.

Don’t Throw a Bouquet
If you’re not 22 years old, your single friends don’t want to dive for your damned bouquet. They’re either single by choice or default and they don’t want to be publicly shamed for it. Furthermore, that bouquet cost a mint. Why would you want to give it away? I bought wooden bouquets on Etsy for my bridesmaids and myself and spent less than the average cost of one bridal arrangement on all four.

Spoil Your Bridesmaids and Groomsmen
One of the biggest troubles I have with the wedding industry, is the understanding that these people are your bitches for the day, or even the months leading up to the day, and you can be an asshole to them and make them pay for everything. I let my bridesmaids choose their dresses, with the condition that it was short, they all agreed on the same one, and they each wore the color I asked (pink for Gail, blue for Catherine, purple for Laura, all to match the flowers in my boots). They found one online, for $50 and ordered it sight unseen.

Other than that, they chose to buy matching jewelry and their optional manicures, but I bought their boots and made their boot bracelets and the t-shirts I expected them to wear the day of the wedding. I bought them brunch and gave them each a monogrammed silver compact as a thank you for being by my side, in addition to the wooden bouquets they each held. I let them do their own hair, instead of insisting they pay someone. Jake’s groomsmen got a fishing trip and engraved shot glasses and we paid for their shirts and vests and ties. These people are supporting you on your day. They least you could do is treat them.

Live in the Moment
You’re not going to care about centerpieces nearly as much as you’re going to care about the fact that you barely remember your first dance, because you were fretting over the centerpieces. Be present. Look him in the eyes. Thank God. Have fun with your new husband and your friends and family, because the time for worrying about the tablecloths has passed. You only get this once… hopefully.

Buy To-Go Boxes
Y’all this is the best piece of advice I found from all those stupid wedding planning articles Facebook has been advertising to me since my relationship status clicked over to “engaged.” After the cake had been cut and served, we put out to-go boxes for our guests with a cute chalkboard sign the venue staff penned. We left with less than a dozen cupcakes and the top of our cake and that was it. We have like two months of meat in our freezer, so really, it would’ve even been wise to put some boxes near the taco bar, but I’m thrilled we didn’t waste any cake.

Don’t Drink Too Much and Don’t Plan on Having Sex
If I could change one thing about my wedding, I’d have drank a little less, toward the end of the night. I wasn’t hungover the next day or anything, but the last of the evening is something of a blur and I’d like to remember my wedding night more clearly. I’d like Jake to remember it at all. Regardless, we would’ve been way too tired to have sex and my expectations of having anything other than a tipsy moment of helping each other undress, were unrealistic.

Write the Damned Thank You Notes Immediately
I had every one of my Thank You notes mailed within a week of our wedding. Yes, yes, I teared up at one point because the wedding stuff was never going to end, but it was so good to have it behind me and it was so much easier to write them with their giver fresh in my mind. I didn’t forget who attended the wedding and who sent one in the mail. The stores still had record of who sent what. For this reason, each note was written with care and personality and I didn’t embarrass my mother-in-law.

Delay Your Honeymoon
Jake and I leave for our Alaskan cruise honeymoon on Sunday and I am so glad we chose the 28th, instead of the 8th, which was two days after our wedding. The gifts have been opened, their trash disposed of, and the kitchen rearranged for their storage. I’ve already received my photos and my dress has been preserved. We’ve settled into our routine and had time to relax and actually get excited for our trip. Had we left on the 8th, we’d have tried so hard to enjoy ourselves, but we’d have been completely drained.

So that’s it. That’s my advice, beyond “this too shall pass.”

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I had a dream wedding.

Just as there has never been a wife more certain of her choice in husband, there has never been a bride less certain of her choice to have a wedding… because I knew what planning a wedding entailed… and I was not wrong. Folks, I spent at least a month straight running errands during every spare moment. I got off work and hit the mall for ties or underwear or wedding makeup. I woke up on the weekends and ran to grab supplies to make boot bracelets for my bridesmaids or to buy a dress for the rehearsal dinner or to pick up gifts for the groomsmen. I worked the day of my own bachelorette party, running home on my lunch break to take care of the dog, so I could have ample time to make some fucking memories. I ran errands before and after my own bridal shower. I did all of this right after relocating to a new city and in the middle of developing my massive Free Comic Book Day program at work, solo, knowing I couldn’t be there, because it was on my wedding day. Planning my wedding was somehow more exhausting than I always knew it would be, and that is saying something.

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I’m not even going to pretend that I handled the whole thing with grace and poise, y’all. In fact, Jake had never seen Angry Belle until Easter Sunday. 

::cue musical score from Jaws::

You see, Mrs. Granger is a really sweet woman, who just doesn’t fully consider what other people are going through… particularly when planning a wedding, because she was married in Vegas a thousand years ago. Like her son, she has an opinion on everything and isn’t afraid to voice it, as she did four months ago when she told us that she didn’t like weddings and didn’t even understand why we were having one. Alrighty. I actually agreed with that and took no offense. Still, I figured she’d want to see the groomsmen’s vests and Jake’s jacket over Easter Sunday, so I had him bring them along to make her feel included.

Now, in hindsight, I think Mrs. Granger is just stubborn like her son and made a “my way or the highway” claim, when she realized we weren’t getting married in a church, without thinking it through. If we weren’t going to do things the way she wanted, she just wasn’t getting involved. Then she realized, three weeks out, that her baby was getting married and she’d had little part in the planning. Sooooo, upon seeing the $40 jacket we’d chosen, she figured she would offer to buy Jake a nicer jacket for his wedding, as a caring gesture and a way to make her mark on the ceremony, not realizing that this would throw a wrench in the wardrobe of the entire wedding party. Fair enough, because apparently Jake didn’t realize it either and didn’t immediately shut the idea down, nineteen days before our wedding. I understand… in hindsight. 

Me: “Are you fucking kidding me?!? I had you show your jacket and the vests to her, so she could feel included, because I wanted to be nice, and her response was to veto them?!?!”
Jake: “I don’t think it’s that she doesn’t like the jacket. She just wanted to do something nice.”
Me: “Then how about she shut the fuck up?!? Literally every single comment anyone in your family has made has been negative! They don’t like that we aren’t getting married in a church, that we’re taking the pictures beforehand, that we’re paying for it ourselves, that it’s the day of the Kentucky Derby even though they blacked out every other weekend, and now your mother wants to change the wardrobe three weeks out and you said you’d think about it?!?!?” 
Jake: “I didn’t think it was that big of a deal.”
Me: “OF COURSE YOU DIDN’TI HAVE DONE EVERY BIT OF WEDDING PLANNING ALONE! Do you have any idea how hard it is, how much it hurts, to do this without a mom to help me and then listen to everyone tell me how much it all sucks?!? You had to have your Pretty Pretty Princess Party and you have done jack shit to make it happen and all I’ve gotten is criticism! YOUR FAMILY HATES ME!”
Jake: “They don’t hate you. That’s just… how they are. They have an opinion on everything. I’ll tell my mom the wardrobe has been decided and that’s it.”
Me: “Then she’ll know told you to say that! FUCK IT! You can wear a fucking clown suit for all I care, because I’m not going! I hope you and your mother have a beautiful ceremony for two! Just let me know how many kids we’re having!!!!”

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I kid you not, I cried in the floor of my closet, tearing a layer of tulle out of my wedding dress, with a seam ripper, because I just did not have time to have a mental breakdown, without continuing to be productive. I cried for two hours, because I was so physically and mentally exhausted by planning a wedding I didn’t even want. As little as he actually did for this wedding, though, I have to give Jake some credit. He let me have my inevitable breakdown, despite how out of character such utter rage might have been. When he knocked on the closet door to see if I was okay and I screamed at him to leave me alone, he left. When I came out and lay on the bed and cried, he lay beside me and held me.

Jake: “If I’d known this would be so hard on you, I never would’ve done it.”
Me: “How could you not? The wedding is three weeks away and I just spent every night this week getting vests and ties and shirts for your groomsmen, to match the jacket we chose together. I would’ve let her dress all of the guys four months ago. It would’ve been nice to have some help, but it’s too late now.”
Jake: “I didn’t mean that. I meant the wedding in general.”
Me: “If only I’d said verbatim that I hate weddings, because they’re expensive and exhausting and miserable for the bride, who doesn’t even get to enjoy the day… oh, wait… I said that on our first date.” 

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I’m not going to say this was my proudest moment, but I’m also going to forgive myself for it. I had one genuine breakdown as a direct result of planning this wedding in six months, without help (and I’m still the one who suggested the compromise of letting Mrs. Granger buy Jake dress boots). Those six months included Jake’s unemployment and frequent work in another state, my hour long commute to my new job, a move to a new city, and major structural changes within said job. While I’m not one to excuse the stereotypical bridezilla, I am willing to concede to the idea that everybody gets one. In my case, I directed that one at exactly the right person for a limited and precise amount of time and then I moved down the ever-lengthening to-do list, up until one day before the rehearsal dinner… and it was all worth it.

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You know, if you marry a man from a rodeo family, this really should be mandatory.

Okay, okay. “Worth it” might be a weighty phrase, so soon after The Great Jacket Debacle of 2017, but I can say, without a doubt, that Jake and I had the perfect wedding. Thursday night, when I got home from another trip to the mall, after work, I was lost. I had nothing left to do. I’d already picked up my dress, done the iron-ons for the bridesmaids shirts, finished their boot bracelets, packed my bag for Saturday, ordered Gail’s vegan cupcakes so she could eat cake with us, cleaned the house so it would look nice when my bridesmaids slept over the next evening and, I was… done. How was I done?!?! For the previous month, I hadn’t had a moment to spare and now I was free?!? Could it be that all that racing around and my growing resentment toward Jake for being unable to help with anything beyond writing checks had actually paid off?!?! Could I enjoy getting married?!?!

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The next morning, Jake and I woke early to get our marriage license before the 9:00 a.m. rehearsal. I made us late and for a moment, I thought I’d thrown a wrench into all of my plans for the day, because when we got to the Court Clerk’s office, there were three couples ahead of us. After fifteen minutes, we realized there was just no way to get the license and make it back to Jackson in time, so we left and hoped there wouldn’t be too long of a wait when we returned.

After speeding through our rehearsal, we made it back just in time. Only fifteen minutes later, we left with our marriage license, as literally 10 people walked through the door. I was free to take my bridesmaids to brunch, hit the mall to see the new nerd-themed store and get my ring cleaned, followed by group manicures and pedicures and even a trip to the liquor store. When Jake’s parents insisted we open our thousand dollar grill together (told you I was marrying a Windsor), I didn’t have to rush to get dressed for the rehearsal dinner afterward. My bridesmaids and I were even the first to arrive, after my dad and step-mom, Lena (who paid for and coordinated the whole thing out of kindness and not stupid obligatory traditions). I am pretty sure we found some kind of wormhole, y’all, because nothing went wrong or had to be dropped from the list. We even had time, after the rehearsal dinner, to watch the episode of Black Mirror, where the maid-of-honor goes crazy: my dream ending.

The next day went just as smoothly. While we were running a bit late from coffee and donuts, since the Jackson venue was only 15 minutes from my house in Cherokee, we had few worries. We arrived in plenty of time to put together centerpieces with the decor from the venue closet, since the tables, padded folding chairs, and linens were already set up by staff. We ran to the city to pick up Gail’s cupcakes and grabbed lunch to-go from the food court at the mall. Still, we had plenty of time to giggle as we squeezed into our spanks and Laura did my makeup. We chugged (but in a delicate, ladylike way) our free mimosas, while my cousin did my hair.

Finally, it was time for Jake and I to do our first look photos. It was a perfect, cloudless, still day, just a touch too warm when we first got started. Jake and I giggled through our photos, with no objection from the photographer I found through work. As we headed toward our families, his 7-year-old niece, Lucy, came barreling up to us.

Lucy: “UNCLE JAKE!!! You know how you talked about me being a flower girl!?!?”
Jake: “You mean when you said you didn’t want to, because you were a tomboy?”
Lucy: “Yeah. I want to now.”
Jake: “Well, did ya bring any flowers?”
Lucy: “No.”
Me: “Don’t worry, Lucy. We’ll find you some flowers. You find one of my friends in a pretty bright dress and they’ll get you some flowers. You can’t throw them, but you can walk in front of us and show everyone how pretty you look, okay?”
Lucy: “Okay. Where are your friends?”

I’m pretty sure my impromptu flower girl was carrying faux flowers from a vase inside the venue owner’s home, but she sure was happy to do it. The pictures went quickly and before I knew it, I found myself hiding in the bridal suite, taking a shot from my cousin to calm my nerves. We all gathered in the groom’s suite, half of us in one room being coached by our wonderful drill sergeant coordinator/venue operator, the other half of us taking shots behind a closed door. As my dad passed around some kind of mentholated liquor, my step-mom Lena stuck her head inside and snapped:

Lena: “Seriously? Give me a drink of that!”

Before I knew it, my dad was walking me out.

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Dad: “You did good this time. You picked a good one.”
Me: “I really did. It means a lot for you to say that.”
Dad: “I like him even more now that he’s got a job.”

Because that, too, fell into place just in time. A month ago, I found a listing for a wastewater treatment worker position for the city of Cherokee. Jake wants to build a career in his major, hydrology, and was excited to start from the bottom, especially considering they agreed to let him off for the wedding and honeymoon.

As my friends walked down the aisle one by one, I couldn’t believe this was happening. I thanked God for bringing me here. I was once so miserable in my life. How could it be that I got everything I ever wanted? My dad’s arm in mine, I walked down an aisle of people excited for me. No one passed bets on how long it would last. No hidden feuds were being quelled for my sake. My friends, Jake’s, and both our families were just happy for us and I thought:

This is exactly as it’s supposed to be. It was all worth it.

My dad gave me away and it was less gross and antiquated than I thought, knowing he approved. Jake and I took hands as one of his best friends, a youth minister, started the ceremony, which included just the right amount of humor, with such gems as:

Jason: “Now, Jake… he’s smarter than he looks.”

Jason read Ephesians 22-33, as I requested. I felt a bit apprehensive for a moment, knowing all my liberal library pals were in the crowd, but finally decided it was my party and I could be archaic if I wanted. I held Jake’s hands and looked into his blue eyes and thought he looked so handsome, even though I once swore I’d never date a redhead/anyone shorter than 5’10″/an oil man. He’s absolutely perfect for me.

We didn’t read our own vows, but Jason had asked us to list three reasons we fell in love with the other. He read Jake’s, cleaning up the language to say I countered his smart aleck attitude, that I had a deeply rooted faith, and that I made him a better man. He chose to read mine verbatim, which I did not realize he’d do when I wrote it.

“I was asked for reasons I fell in love with Jake, but those all seem too generic, like his work ethic and his patience and his intellect. I didn’t just fall in love the one time, but multiple times. I fell in love with him the first time I was truly upset with him and he apologized and kept his promise not to make the same mistake. I fell in love the day I thought the dog was choking, but it was really just Jake cuddling him and cooing at him like a baby. I fell in love when he introduced me to his friends and I realized that I wasn’t alone in my affection for him. I fell in love when I hit my head skiing and he held me while I cried.

I guess I can’t give a handful of reasons why I fell in love with him, because I keep doing it. I even love that his answer to this question is going to be lame and vague, because he’s bad with words.”

We spoke the traditional vows and traded rings and I was married to my best friend and the love of my life. We walked down the aisle to Stevie Wonder’s Signed, Sealed, Delivered, because we had the best DJ, who took liberties when I told him I did not care what music he played during the ceremony.

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We took pictures with our wedding party and I had another cliche screaming girl moment with Jane, even though we’d done the same thing when we’d run into each other at the mall. Jake and I had our first dance and it was the worst thing that has ever happened to me. 

I was pleasantly surprised to see that Jake was such a great dancer… because he refused to practice with me and I am not a great dancer. This was especially difficult to hide when Jake elbowed me in the head trying to spin me.

Me: “No one told me this was going to involve sports!”

My mortification only increased when I danced with my father, who kept telling me when to step and then loudly instructing me to quit leading when I did as told, as Lena stood to the side giving me looks of pity. My first dances were easily the worst part of the day. In fact, I’m pretty sure purgatory for me is dancing at my own wedding.

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Pictured: Jake and some other, more graceful woman.

Jake danced with his mother and I let her believe that he chose the song. We ate and poor Gail gave a brief, but sweet speech, about how she’s loved me for many years; that she’s loved Jake ever since she realized how much he cared for me and that he can match and counter me when I name and dress up the stuffed deer head on his all. Aaron, Jake’s best friend, gave a speech of all the reasons Jake is his worst best friend. Of course this means my family now knows that my new husband vomited all over his best friend’s honeymoon suite the night before his wedding and then cleaned it up with the shirt he was supposed to wear the next day. Jason shared an equally disgusting, yet far more endearing story about Jake wearing a dead snake in his hat during a camping trip, until it started to smell. When Jason kindly mentioned this, Jake responded in true Jake fashion “It’ll be a’right.”

Jason: “So Belle, whenever times get tough, just remember ‘it’ll be a’right.'”

The rest of the night was spent laughing with family and friends, eating our beautiful lemon naked cake, made by my aunt and occasionally dancing. We drank from the cash bar and made s’mores by the fire, while our guests played horseshoes, jumbo Jenga, and cornhole and filled up on tacos and cake. While we do have enough leftover meat in our freezer to eat for a month, our to-go dessert boxes were genius, because we only left with the top tier of our cake and a few cupcakes.

As the night wound down and only our closest friends and family remained, everyone danced, with my dad and Lena stealing the show. I suffered a brief respite, throwing up in the bathroom, after realizing I’d had too much and that if I didn’t make it happen, my body would. Lena and I had a sweet, drunken heart to heart where she declared she thought of me as one of her own and if I ever needed her, I just needed to let her know. This had been proven throughout the night when she, quite soberly, introduced herself as my mother. As the venue closed, our friends gathered our things into their cars and Jake and I rode separately to our house in Cherokee. Fortunately this meant Jake missed his chance to watch me drunkenly lick and dig into the top of our cake with my bare hands, because I am a dainty little lady.

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Our friends brought our things into the garage and Laura fed our pets. We helped each other out of our wedding clothes and into our own bed, where we spent an inebriated and chaste first night as husband and wife.

I never expected to enjoy my wedding day. I assumed it would pass in a blur of stress and frustration and drama. Instead, we had the best day. Now that it’s all behind me, I can say that I’m thrilled to have celebrated my real marriage with a real wedding.  I’d live it over and over again… just not if I had to relive the prep.

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Click here for a throwback to my first dates with Jake.

Kicking Off Commitment with Possible Infidelity

I cannot wait to be Jake’s wife, to officially be Belle Granger, to be tied spiritually and legally to my best friend. Truly, I am so excited about our pending marriage.

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That’s my disclaimer, because I’m about to bitch about the traditions surrounding the wedding industry, some more. Previously, I’ve discussed my resentment of the materialism and expense of $1,500 dresses and $3,000 bar service. I’ve vented about everyone’s absolute obsession with little bitty things that do not matter.

Step-mother: “I know you said people don’t notice centerpieces, but they do.”
Me: “Okay. I’ll rephrase. I don’t care if people notice centerpieces. If they’re at my wedding, eating free food, having a good time, and judging my centerpieces, they can leave.”

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I’ve even ranted about the chauvinistic traditions surrounding weddings, despite the insanely high tolerance for sexism that is required of a small town librarian. Many of these things, I’ve flat out refused to take part in, ordering my dress off Etsy and insisting on a cash bar. It’s not just for my sake, either. There will be no bouquet toss, because at 29 years old, the single friends I do have are recently divorced and don’t want to talk about it, let alone be publicly shamed as they dive for a bouquet like the last chicken leg at the Fourth of July picnic. There will be no garter toss, either, because in addition to Jake’s friends also being married or divorced, it doesn’t seem especially respectful of my new marriage to have my husband pull any kind of undergarment from beneath my dress in a room full of our friends and family and throw it to the crowd. Call me a prude, if you must. You know what else I’m too much of a prude to appreciate, though? Bachelor and bachelorette parties.

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If Facebook and pop culture are anything to go by, this past weekend was to be spent like this:

We would start the evening at my place, eating a penis cake, while I wore a penis crown, in a room full of penis balloons. Next, I’d open multiple vibrators that I’d hope I wouldn’t really need and flavored lubes that I’d know I’d never use. I don’t know about the rest of the world, but I feel like a penis that tastes like chocolate goo would be far more unpleasant than one that tastes like clean skin. My twelve closest friends and I would get drunk on drinks named for something slutty, i.e. Slippery Nipple or Sex on the Beach, while I opened trashy underwear bought by said friends, even though they couldn’t possibly know my size. This would all be so uproariously funny that it would be no surprise when the police showed in response to the noise complaint… but wait! They’re not really police!

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You mean, I get to look at a naked man, who’s not my future husband, one last time… even though I’ve only kissed two people?!?!? WHAT FUN!!!!!! We wouldn’t have to stay in for the whole night, though. We could dress up in sleazy makeup, skimpy clothes, and the highest of heels, then grab an Uber for a night on the town!

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We’d start the evening off at a low key place, to pre-drink and grab some food. The food wouldn’t actually happen, of course, because we’re hot chicks on wedding diets. Next, we’d go to a livelier bar and I wouldn’t pay for a single drink of my own. The “Bachelorette” sash would take care of that for me, as I signaled to the single men around me that they should treat me to free liquor one last time, before this gal was officially another man’s property! Next thing I’d know, I’d wake up in my own bed, sick as a dog, unable to remember my giggling bridesmaids paying the Uber driver fifty bucks to carry me inside, as I flashed my sparkly thong to the neighbors and vomited down his back. It’d just be a funny story we recounted for years to come.

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Naturally, though, my evening would pale in comparison to my future husband’s. While I was drinking for free, compliments of men who wanted to see if they could bang the future bride one last time, Jake would be heading out onto the Vegas strip. As I ground my scantily clad ass into the groins of strangers, Jake would be making motorboat noises onto the breasts of strippers, because in true bachelor/bachelorette party fashion, while the Future Mrs. pushes the envelope, the Future Mr. does a line of coke with it. He’d wake up the next morning, with glitter in his beard, not because of an ill-fated Hobby Lobby trip with his Bride-to-be, but because those gals keep glitter in every crevice.

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While I mock the stereotypical bachelorette penis theme for it’s tackiness, I can’t truly hold that one against anyone. I may not have seen a lot of penises, myself, but I certainly know the shape by now and just don’t consider it giggle-worthy. Still, it’s a relatively harmless cliché. What I can’t reconcile is the societal norm that instead of celebrating the commitment we’ve already made through engagement and are about to cement through marriage, Jake and I are supposed to take advantage of our last few nights single… except we’re not single.

I’ve already outlined Jake and my reasons for forgoing pornography, but if we’re in agreement that viewing naked shenanigans on a screen is harmful to our relationship, why would we ever be okay with doing it face-to-face, or face-to-breast and ass-to-crotch as it may be?!?! If I would never dance with a strange man or accept a drink from a strange man before or after my bachelorette party, why do these boundaries cease to exist during? If I’m ready to marry Jake, why would I even want another man’s hands on my hips or face in my neck?!?!?

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At least the bride’s stereotype just pushes the boundaries of commitment. The groom straight up fucking cheats on his future wife… probably. He can’t remember. Jake actually has a friend who’s wedding was nearly canceled the day of, after the bride found out he’d gotten a blow job from a stripper at the bachelor party. Sure, he’s a disgusting human being, who doesn’t respect the sanctity of marriage, but he’s also just fulfilling the male stereotype here. We, as a society, have assigned and humored the role and we should take a little responsibility for how truly fucked up that is.

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I’m proud to say, that despite all of the societal pressure to share our vows and a brand new venereal disease, Jake and I chose to embrace the humdrum married life ahead of the game last weekend. Jake rented a cabin with his oldest buddies, played XBOX One and beer pong, and caught an ancient giant snapping turtle on his fishing trip. Judging by the enthusiasm and photo collection involved, telling that last tale will give him a much better (and far more appropriate) Christmas dinner anecdote than any ol’ stripper blowie would have.

As for me, having no desire to pretend I was 23, I skipped the bachelorette sash and penis crown, in favor of sushi, lingerie shopping, karaoke, and two a.m. fries with Gail, Catherine, and Laura. I didn’t drink enough to need a ride home and woke up hangover free in my own bed the next morning, content in the knowledge that I’d never have to decide between the humiliation of canceling my own wedding and marrying a man who doesn’t respect me.

I gotta say, though, while the aforementioned wedding went on, likely due to the cost, in the same situation, I don’t feel like my primary focus would be saving face or money. Nope. If Jake got a blowie from a stripper and I found out on our wedding day, zetus lapetus, I would make one helluva scene. Where there exists a cheating groom trope, there exists a batshit crazy bride trope and if I found out he was the former, I would have no trouble fulfilling the latter.

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HOW AM I STILL PLANNING THIS WEDDING?!?!

Y’all, I got engaged in November… of what must have been 1980, because I have been doing wedding crap for approximately 37 years. HOW HAS THIS WEDDING NOT HAPPENED YET?

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Jake and I have had at least 167 spats over him being Princess Kate in both that everything has to be perfect and that it’s someone else’s problem. I’m telling you, that man almost got blood all over our wedding invitations when he told me he hadn’t collected all of his addresses as I began to address his half. This is why I hate weddings. Jake and I rarely argue, but suddenly we can’t get through a single day without some inane squabble over the difference between ivory and white. It’s not just me, either. His mother was pissed that he hadn’t chosen his cousin to be a groomsmen. His sister was pissed that he didn’t have a special job for his nieces. I was pissed that he was digging in his heels over stupid little things like this, when he doesn’t even care.

Me: “You’ve got to learn to choose your battles.”
Jake: “I know. I’m sorry.”
Me: “You do know the answer can’t be ‘all of them,’ right?”

It’s not just time and arguments, though. It’s money. I cut out videography and flowers and centerpieces. I bought wooden bouquets for myself and my bridesmaids on Etsy, to save a few hundred dollars. My invitations came from Mixbook, with a coupon code, and the R.S.V.P’s were printed on cardstock at work. I bought my wedding dress on Etsy and hoped for the best, because every other one I saw looked the exact damned same and cost three times as much. Still, every time I turn around, I have to spend another hundred dollars or so on sparklers, to-go boxes for the cake, a serving set, and a steamer for my dress. The large accounts got settled just it time for all the little odds and ends to start piling up. Sure, the honeymoon’s paid for now, but we’re going on an Alaskan cruise, which means I need a bathing suit and more jeans. You see, only the one pair fits these days, because I haven’t eaten since November.

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Until recently, Jake had been pretty unhappy with his weight, as well. Living out of his truck, between the Granger Ranch, his place in Wellston, and my place in Shetland wasn’t conducive to a healthy diet and exercise regimen. When he’d complain, beer in hand, I’d try to gently suggest that the alcohol might be a contributor, but was assured that this couldn’t be the case. So, after we moved, he vowed to start working out, as did I, since I’d bought an elliptical, just before we moved. While I spend most of my free time on the elliptical, however, Jake has yet to take up P90X as planned, because what better time to play World of Warcraft than when I’m busy working out?  Additionally, even though I never get to eat peanut butter anymore, somehow, whole jars still disappear. Yet…

Jake: “I’ve lost about 13 pounds, since we moved. The scale says I weigh 212.”
Me: “Cool! ME TOO.”

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I jest, of course. I weigh 167. I’ve also lost 13 pounds… since November, not since we moved a month ago. With three weeks until the wedding, though, I’m seven pounds from my goal weight. Whereas Jake could drop that with a walk around the neighborhood, I’m about to just amputate mid-calf and call it good.

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It’s not just the wedding hype that’s motivating me. I turn thirty this year and while I will have accomplished every other thing I want to accomplish by September, I am adamant that I’ll reach my goal weight. An expensive dress accompanied with photos that will be displayed forever is just encouragement… unlike the Easter candy I stocked up on, to eat after the wedding, because I refuse to miss the best candy holiday for a party. That’s what all this is, after all: an elaborate party, that I’ll only remember as a haze of stress, dollar signs, and ridiculous arguments, because Dante forgot to mention the circle of hell that is even minimalist wedding planning.

Years ago, I often joked that I didn’t want a husband. I just wanted a Kitchenaid mixer and I figured that was the only to go about getting one. Today, I’d be willing to buy my own Kitchenaid mixer if it meant Jake could just be my husband. Only 19 days to go, y’all, which is approximately seven more years in wedding planning time. I suppose I’ll do it for Jake to have his big day. After all, he’s already paid for mine, in full: the day when our Alaskan cruise ship sets sail and I can finally enjoy being with my husband.

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Protecting the Future of Libraries is Ruining My Life

If you’ve been following my blog for the past year, then you know my professional life has been a bit hectic. Last January, I started as a Supervisory Librarian at the Northside Library. Finally full time, I was able to quit substitute teaching for a new position that was envisioned as 20% supervisory and 80% librarian. Sadly, the title quickly evolved and my true role ended up being 100% supervisory… and still 80% librarian. In addition to acting as manager at all times, I was also the adult librarian, in charge of local and off-site book clubs, building the adult programming department, working the reference desk, maintaining and weeding a quarter of the collection, and performing readers’ advisory. After eight exhausting months, I tearfully explained to my manager that a good week was one in which I was the only person crying in my office… and that I was stepping down, internally.

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This took a bit longer than I thought it would. I assumed I was the obvious choice for the adult librarian position in Cherokee and was rather overdramatically devastated when the job went to a woman who I now know was the more qualified candidate. Then, just north of Cherokee, a position opened in Jackson, also for an adult librarian. While teens have always been my passion, my experience at the Northside Library in adult librarianship just seemed to go further than my bachelor’s degree in education or my six years of substitute teaching or even all the teen-centered classes I took in grad school. No one cared about my goals or theoretical experience as much as they did my actual experience. Since I enjoyed working with seniors and I hated being a manager, it seemed unwise to be picky. Exactly 11 months after my first day, I celebrated my last as a Supervisory Librarian, before starting as just a Librarian at the Eastside Library. Life was good… for a fucking minute and a half.

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Towards the end of January, came the announcement: my library system is undergoing a grassroots restructuring. Literally everyone’s title and job description are changing… no matter how new they might be. Less than two month’s, y’all. I had my position at a small town library with a touch of adult programming for less than two months… which was still enough time to relocate.

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The Jackson Library is unique in that it’s grouped with the Lakeville, Harmon, and Nada libraries, which all serve small, almost rural, communities around a thriving metropolitan city. Together, these libraries comprise the Satellite Libraries of my system, which until very recently, have been treated as the Hillbilly Annex, when it comes to resources and funding.

Me: “I just hate the way everyone talks about these libraries. My bachelor’s degree was in home-ec. I constantly had to defend it, even to those in the education field, and here I am again, defending the Satellite Libraries to the rest of the system.”
Boss: “How do you mean?”
Me: “We’re part of a fifty million dollar system and we didn’t have color printing here, until 2017. I had a color printer in 1997.”

This is one reason why I asked my managers to see if I could be transferred to a new branch as part of the restructuring, since it seemed at least two librarians would be moved from the Satellite Libraries and no one else wanted to leave. Additionally, despite my asking before the interview and during the interview, if my position would require traveling to every Satellite branch and being told no, it seems this position has also evolved. Instead of doing the occasional adult program and working as a librarian, as promised, I would be expected to spend my days in meetings with city officials and schmoozing business owners in four different communities.

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Me to my boss: “This is exactly why I got out of management. I spent all my time in meetings, talking about changing the world instead of actually changing the world.”

The restructuring, however, isn’t just about revising the positions themselves, but also deciding who fits best within them. We were asked to evaluate our strengths and truly consider with which population we could make the biggest difference: children, adults, or teens.

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Children’s library has never even been a consideration of mine. I only like the children I’m required to like and sometimes, not even them. I’ll like my own. I probably won’t like their friends. As a whole, I don’t like kids and I’m not sorry.

While I sort of fell into adult librarianship, I did enjoy it, especially seniors. I had a group of ladies I visited at the nursing home, and they fun, sassy, and opinionated. I was the first stop at the Northside Library if a senior needed help with an iPad or Kindle Fire, because I loved reassuring them that they weren’t stupid, technology is hard, and they could do it. Still… my heart has always belonged to teens.

For the same reason I love seniors, I love teens. They’re the forgotten population. We push them aside in favor of the most active tax payers. When they’re children, we love them because they’re cute (or so I hear) and we cater to them because their parents are watching and voting.  As teens, however, they come in alone, make a ruckus, and can’t vote. Most people view teens as little adults who have not yet learned to behave. I know that their brains are just as different from adult brains as those of children. One of the most miserable parts of management was watching the teen librarian plan and orchestrate programs and mentor volunteers, when I had missed the chance.

As much as I didn’t want to travel to a different library every day, I decided to chance it. I tossed my hat into an unknown ring and claimed teens. I could end up staying and travelling or leaving for any of our other 14 system libraries… but I’d get to be a teen librarian. Management has assured me the decision isn’t permanent, but I don’t see how it couldn’t be. No one will ever be more qualified for a position than someone who’s already doing it. Nevertheless, I was assured that they could probably still find a new place for me to serve teens, in system,  but outside of the Satellite Libraries… or so they thought.

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The next week, I was informed that I would probably be staying with the Satellite Libraries, as the teen librarian, despite the fact that two librarians will still need to leave and no one else wants out. I felt like management was trying to make a point that this wasn’t about me, but was it really so unreasonable to think I could still benefit, if someone had to leave anyway? Furthermore, why did they even open the Jackson Library in December, filling three positions, if they knew they were going to pull the rug out from under us all? After what happened with the Supervisory Librarian position, how could they do this to me, again? For the last six months, I’ve had no idea what my professional future holds. On the one hand, I understand the importance of the restructuring and I’m thrilled we have a director will to take it on to keep our libraries relevant… on the other, I’m trying to move and plan a wedding and prepare for marriage and management is ruining my life!

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I’ve gotta give some credit to Jake, here, y’all, because as much as I tried to keep my cool, I… so… horribly… failed. You have not seen dramatic Belle, until you’ve threatened her future as a librarian and at this point, the back and forth was just too much. I didn’t even know if I’d be able to do teens for sure. There was still a chance I’d have to spend all day in meetings with city officials and lead book club discussions over boring grownup books about the Civil War and economics. If they made me travel and sit in meetings all day, I was seriously considering look for teaching jobs… and education in my state is not looking good. I’ve said it before, folks. I am the old man declaring that what you do is who you are and if I’m not a librarian, who am I? I spent days in bed, sleeping and crying over the stress of just not knowing.

Finally, I was able to sit down with my own Supervisory Librarian and the manager above her, where they explained that it’s unlikely anyone will be leaving the Satellite Libraries, but if they do, it just wouldn’t make sense for it to be their only passionate teen librarian. I was even informed that no one actually knew the restructuring would be so drastic, until after the Jackson Library was opened. My manager also made the point that, despite all this stress and upheaval, the teens in these communities need someone to champion them and I could be the best person to do so, considering the similarities between these towns and Shetland, my upbringing and theirs.

As icing on the cake, amidst all of this craziness, we received some other news: IMLS (Institute of Museums and Library Services) might lose their funding, because President Donald Trump is ignorant and shortsighted and wants to give the appearance that he’s cutting real spending when the only impact from defunding libraries at a federal level, will be a negative one. It’s a drop in the bucket as far as government spending goes, but if it’s eliminated, libraries all over the country will have to cut staff, hours, and resources and some will probably have to close their doors for good. I, myself, am fortunate enough to work in a library system that receives zero federal funding. While we benefit from a state database resource funded by IMLS, my job and that of everyone in our system, is secure.

So, over this past weekend, I was really able to process what my manager said, now that I’ve been assured that there are no hidden agendas and I can at least count on being the teen librarian for the Satellite Libraries. Maybe I really can make a difference out here and be truly fulfilled. Would the traveling even be so bad, once I’ve gotten used to each branch? After my talk with management, I realized that everyone in the system is facing major changes in their title. If I moved, I’d just be in the same trailer, different park. I told my Supervisory Librarian as much on Monday morning only to hear that the wheels are still turning and the Cherokee Library is now considered a Satellite Library, as well. I may end up working there as a teen librarian after all.

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As exasperating as they may be, however, these changes are the reason we’ll be thriving in five years. They’re going to be the reason we’re still standing as other libraries fall, because while I’ve been crying in bed like a fucking Disney Princess, because I don’t know the future of my library, others in my field have been crying because their library has no future. This isn’t just a great chance, because it’s my opportunity to work with teens.

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– I GET TO BE A TEEN LIBRARIAN, Y’ALL! –

It’s reassurance that I can still even be a librarian… because for many in my field, it ain’t looking good.

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Shetland in My Rearview Mirror

At 10 years old, I was chubby, asthmatic, and uncoordinated, longing to rank amongst my sportier classmates, who played competitive soccer and already had “boyfriends.”

At 13, I was still chubby, asthmatic, and uncoordinated, but also surly and defensive around those “stupid whores” who now bullied or ignored me.

At 16, I was every small town, cliche, misfit, declaring this town was too closed-minded for my creativity and biding my time until I could leave the judgemental assholes behind.

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I used to joke that there was no sight as beautiful as that of the Shetland water tower in my rearview mirror, insisting that once I left, I’d never return. I did leave at 19, to go to college about 45 minutes away. It wasn’t far, but it wasn’t my bizarrely religious and intolerant southern suburban hometown, either. Sadly, however, my college years involved several more moves, a house fire, a miscarriage, and a divorce, as opposed to the more traditional toga parties and slam poetry readings everyone else enjoyed.

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Wait, wait, wait… did Saved By the Bell lie to me?!?!?

Luckily for me, as Robert Frost once said, “home is the place, where when you have to go there, they have to take you in,” because at 23-years-old, newly divorced and a little broken, I returned to Shetland to lick my wounds. Waiting for me was a flexible job substitute teaching and a two bedroom, two bathroom apartment that rented for just $490 a month, with an ironically comforting view of the Shetland water tower from my patio.

After the first year, the fear began to subside when someone knocked on the front door, because I knew the rent was being paid and there was no risk of eviction. After the second year, I realized one morning that I hadn’t slept with my purse right beside me, because there was no risk of anyone stealing from my wallet. After the third year, I was able to put away my .357, in its pink gun sock, because I knew he wouldn’t break in and steal from me again. Surprise of all surprises, when I wasn’t looking, the town I once despised had become a healing place.

Indeed, for six years, my little apartment has been not only my home, but my safe haven. I’ve pulled all-nighters with the patio door open, enjoying the breeze and the cigarette smoke from the neighbors as I worked on my graduate portfolio. I’ve littered the floor with fabric swatches and straight pins in my latest craft project, while marathoning One Tree Hill. I’ve lain by the pool and read romance novels and listened to 50s music. I’ve packed more people than was probably wise onto my patio, to smoke cigars and drink cheap booze. I’ve dramatically cried after bad grades and bad dates and bad days at work.

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In a lot of ways, Shetland now embodies my carefree twenties, more so than my tumultuous teen years. The horse-themed landmarks that once brought forth memories of bullying and boycotted football games now recall nights at the community center playing pickleball with my friends after closing, getting day drunk in my living room floor and giggling over online dating profiles with Gail, decorating my hot pink Christmas tree, sharing my first kiss and makeout sessions with Jake. It’s been a wonderful time in my life and it’s bittersweet to see it end.

Saturday, I bought packing tape and boxes. I threw out my college kid papasan chair. I took down my wall of photos of just my family and friends and consolidated them to one collage frame. In less than eleven weeks time, my life will no longer be just my own and so in just two weeks, Jake and I will move into our first house together. The town of Cherokee is just fifteen minutes from the Jackson library, but forty minutes from Shetland… forty minutes from Gail… forty minutes from my Gramma… forty minutes from home.

I know it’s for the best that Jake and I start on neutral territory, that we have more space than my apartment allows, that my dog finally has a yard, but it’s so hard to pack this stage of life into boxes, knowing I’ll unpack them in another. I’ve hardly begun and I’m having trouble not tearing up looking at my bare walls. Ridiculously, I already get weepy driving through town, knowing that one day I’ll be surprised to see new restaurants and office buildings, that the Shetland I know today will cease to exist.

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I’ve worked so hard over the last six years to carve out the life I wanted, to figure out what that life even was, who I even was. I’m overjoyed that that’s where I’m headed. I’m also beyond grateful, that I cherished my time here in Shetland and the bulk of my twenties. I didn’t spend my days pining for a husband and children and mortgage. I enjoyed my days alone and my nights with friends and even my bad dates with strangers, because each phase of life should be savored, one is no more valuable than another. At one time, I identified so clearly with Steinbeck’s quote that “it’s a hard thing to leave any deeply routine life, even if you hate it.” But… I loved this one and it’s kind of breaking my heart that it’s just time to put the Shetland water tower in my rearview mirror.

 

 

Five Ways You Offend Women by Insulting the Fifty Shades Series

Anyone who reads my blog is familiar with my love-to-hate affection for the Fifty Shades of Grey series. After all, I’ve captioned it here, here, here, and I once showed you my homemade Pin the Penis on Christian Grey game. There are many things wrong with this series, but quite frankly, that’s a topic that’s been exhausted, by individuals willing to take it a lot more seriously than I. In fact, while researching for this blog post, I found this one, which makes a lot of great points and this one, which makes me giggle.

Reba: “Everything makes you giggle, Belle.”

I do have a pretty low threshold.

So, don’t misunderstand my point here. I am not defending the series, as a whole. It’s just that in reading all of the thought-provoking and giggle-inducing critiques, I’ve come across a few criticisms that insult women all on their own. For instance:

Women who read Fifty Shades of Grey are unintelligent.

Zetus lapetus, is this book badly written. The characters are abhorrent, the dialogue is beyond a reasonable suspension of disbelief, and it is just so redundant. I don’t care that Anastasia says “double crap.” I just said “zetus lapetus.” I care that she says it 88 fucking times. It’s just… unreadable, but you know what? That’s just me. I read books about pushy special ops alpha males and werewolf love stories and that one about the sexy alien king. One of the most well-read women I’ve ever met has a soft spot for hobbit slash fanfiction. Does that make either of us any less intelligent? If your answer is yes, kiss my ass, because I also devour at least 10 articles a day on everything from current events to the issues facing prison libraries.

If your argument against Fifty Shades of Grey is that intelligent women can’t read poorly written smut, you are one of the reasons reading is not a more popular hobby. Some people don’t watch American Idol or Keeping Up With the Kardashians. Some people had to Google “most popular reality show” to make that point. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to turn down their brain to relax. Not everyone considers reading a chore all the time. There are two kinds of librarians: literature snobs and those who hate literature snobs. I am the latter. I am intelligent. Sometimes I read smut.

Ana is only 22.

I’ve seen multiple criticisms of Fifty Shades of Grey fixate on the age of the heroine. For one, they get it wrong. Ana turned 22 in the third book, Fifty Shades Freed, so actually, the character in the movie is supposed to be 21, until otherwise specified. If you’re gonna bitch about something, do it accurately.

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When I was 21 years old, I lost my baby to a nearly second trimester miscarriage. Six months after that, I helped my best friend bury her infant daughter. That year, I accepted over $20,000 in student loans, graduated college, made the decision to enter graduate school, and chose to leave my ex-husband. Perhaps it wasn’t the typical middle-class American 22-year-old experience, but I was unequivocally an adult. By 22 I had bought a car, moved several times, paid my bills, taken out more in student loans than I could possibly earn in a year, and made major decisions about my future career path. That is typical. So, how dare you tell me that I wouldn’t have been of sound mind to enter into a sexual relationship of my choosing? If a woman old enough to vote, marry, drink, be tried as an adult, and sign binding contracts wants to sign a pretend contract before consensual sex, it doesn’t matter how much she giggles or how “mousey” she appears. I was 23 when I learned to apply eyeliner from a YouTube video and actually style my damned hair. That’s not what made me an adult. Being both responsible and accountable for my own choices was. Regardless of where things go in the books, Anastasia Steele was both of these when she met Christian Grey. Her age had absolutely no bearing on the situation and it’s disrespectful to young adult women to imply that they are not capable of making their own choices.

Ana is still a virgin.

This article is not the first one to take issue with the fact that Anastasia Steele has never had a sexual experience until she meets Christian Grey. The writer actually suggests that, because Ana has had no genuine interest in a man and doesn’t masturbate, it’s more likely the character is asexual. For one, the lead character in a romance isn’t asexual. That’s not how the genre works. Two, we learn later that Ana has had encounters with the opposite sex and they just haven’t gone anywhere. In regards to masturbation, I do know women who just aren’t interested. A lot of women have trouble reaching orgasm, both by themselves and with a partner. Their bodies just work a bit differently and without an emotional connection, physical stimulation may lack appeal… and that’s okay.

My biggest problem with focusing on this criticism of the series, however, is the assumption that a woman who is not sexually active is asexual or somehow abnormal. Until one year ago (exactly, oddly enough), I not had sex in six years. Furthermore, I’d only kissed five people, ever, and that includes a stranger who pecked me on the cheek on New Year’s Eve. I am not asexual, far from it. I was just never interested in sharing my body with someone with whom I saw no future. I once let a man in a bar kiss me, with tongue, when I’d just met him that night. It makes me uncomfortable even remembering that, because physicality without an emotional connection just doesn’t do it for me. Different women have different needs and it’s just as offensive to shame a woman for not being sexually active as it is to call another a slut.

Fifty Shades of Grey is only popular, because the hero is rich.

While Christian Grey sure wasn’t my dreamboat, I can tell you that when I was treading water in a dating pool of grown men with flat-billed caps and job titles as specific as “n/a,” it wasn’t so far-fetched to think that, perhaps, it would be easier to repair deep-seated emotional scarring than to motivate a man to get his shit together. While I’ll admit that for an America drowning in debt, financial freedom might be it’s own fantasy, I’m still not convinced that the ability to “buy all the planes” is the sole appeal of the Fifty Shades of Grey target audience. This article suggests a somewhat circular logic for the over 30 bracket, in particular: women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey, because women are reading Fifty Shades of Grey. Finally, a woman with traditional goals (marriage, children, an optional career) can come out and say…

No longer is it only Carrie Bradshaw that gets to talk dirty, but housewives too!

As a librarian, part of my job is analyzing literary trends. This is why I am particularly aware of the rise of the billionaire romance novel. Along with Christian Grey, in the last few years we’ve been introduced to Gideon Cross, Gabriel Emerson, Jesse Ward, and many other laughably wealthy and emotionally damaged heroes. However, long before well-worn copies of Fifty Shades of Grey hit nightstands all over the world, we met the heroes in these series: Rock Chick, KGI, Black Dagger Brotherhood, Psy-Changelings, Immortals After Dark, and The Sookie Stackhouse Novels. Every title listed stars leading men who are borderline abusive and financially set. That describes most contemporary, paranormal, and historical romance. This shit ain’t new. Not only does the insistence that this book simply broke new ground with an abusive megabajillionaire give the title far too much credit, it also implies that all women who enjoy romance are gold digging whores. That’s just not nice.

Note: I was known, at one time, to declare that I’d let a man string me from the ceiling and whip me if he’d pay off my student loans, but I am hardly the standard by which all women should be measured.

Fifty Shades of Grey is responsible for sex injuries.

This article and many, many more suggest that the rise in bedroom play injuries is the fault of Fifty Shades of Grey. Maybe it’s the researcher in me, but…. I call shenanigans. You are an adult. You likely have a smartphone on you at all times, meaning you literally have endless information at your fingertips. If you are stupid enough to purchase a spreader bar and use a trashy novel for a user manual, you are the only one to blame for the spine injurt. Have some faith that the majority of women are intelligent enough to manage a Google search, y’all.

I can say a lot of bad things about Fifty Shades of Grey. A lot of writers can. I mean, two twenty-somethings e-mailing each other? What is this, Amish country? Between Ana’s “inner goddess” and Christian’s “laters baby” this librarian actually fell out of love with reading for a few days. I love when women ask me to suggest titles “like Fifty Shades of Grey,” because it gives me the opportunity to introduce them to much better written erotica. Perhaps I can get them started on Kristen Ashley’s special-ops-saves girl books. Maybe I can send them back in time with one of Karen Marie Moning’s sexy highlanders. I can even show them more plot-light erotica, but with with steamier scenes that don’t read like a child reporting her molestation – “Then he touched me… down there!” You know what I won’t do, though? Insult them.

  • I originally posted this on March 5, 2015.

Seeing Each Other at Our Worst Through Unemployment

At 19 years old, I married the only boy who’d shown any interest in me, because facing adulthood alone sounded scary and he was there. That’s really the simplest, least dramatic explanation. Of course, since I neither grew up in the 1950s or a Nicholas Sparks novel, at 23 years old and three days after Valentine’s Day, I sat in an office alone, holding back tears, as a judge signed my divorce papers. There were a lot of reasons for said divorce, but the most… well, not notable, but quotable in polite company, was that the man I married refused to work or contribute in any way. In fact, toward the end, I was sleeping with my wallet and keys in my pillow case and driving around with all of my valuables in the car. Ah, young love.

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On an average day, I have few, if any, significant thoughts or feelings about my previous marriage. It, in itself, could barely even be titled as such, equating to many other toxic long term early twenties relationships. It is what it is, though, and if it weren’t, I wouldn’t be here. The last few months, however… really haven’t been made up of average days.

One year ago, Jake and I saw each other twice a month and the future of oil was bleak. That’s when he made a promise to me that if things hadn’t picked up by September, he’d get out. All through August, Jake worked the manual labor side of oil, two weeks on and one week off, 12 hours a day, with an hour commute each way. Though he was staying with me, we were lucky to get a half hour together at the end of the night, before Jake would succumb to exhaustion… and unlike other exhausting oil jobs, this one didn’t even pay well. Since this allowed no time to apply for new positions, let alone interview, Jake kept his promise. Starting in September, he was officially unemployed; and although he was applying for positions in the Metro, they tended to be ideal scenarios, as opposed to ones that would provide immediate income.

You see, Jake comes from rodeo people. That’s not a joke or an exaggeration. His dad ran away at 15, to become a bull rider, where he met his mother, a trick rider (you’ll have to Google that, I’d imagine), and together they built a cattle ranch and traveled the country, with their three children in tow, like the Partridge Family, if Shirley Jones fried more stuff. His brother is a bronc rider, his sister a retired trick rider, his brother-in-law a retired bull rider, and his uncle runs a wildly successful rodeo company. Every one of them run their own cattle. Even his nieces are third generation trick riders. Meanwhile, I’m trying my best to help Jake see that any spawn of mine is unlikely to possess such coordination. It seems athletic country folk tend to marry other athletic country folk, and well… a few weeks ago, I fell over putting on Uggs.

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The thing about country folk, and I mean genuine country folk, not the “country folk” in my family, who board their horses because they live in subdevelopments thirty minutes from Downtown, is that they’re often not beholden to a Monday through Friday, 9-5 schedule. For Jake’s family, in fact, this is a pretty foreign concept. I mean, sure they know that city people lead more regimented lives, but it’s in the same way I know that there are people who live off the grid in travel trailers: because I saw it on TV one time. The Grangers do not define “steady work” in the same way the librarian daughter of a nurse and lineman does… and to an extent, neither does Jake. That’s why, when Jake wasn’t immediately able to find work, he wasn’t especially worried. He had plenty in checking from his last paycheck and plenty more in savings, that he knew he wouldn’t have to touch for months. In the meantime, he could just work cattle on the Granger Ranch, for $100 a day tax free. That’s a financial plan, y’all. I couldn’t argue with that, particularly considering I begged him to quit is job in the first place.

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The trouble is, as much as I’d love to claim otherwise, I can never truly break free of 22-year-old Belle, evading those pesky questions about her partner’s employment and working two jobs, herself… not in my own mind and not in the minds of some of those who witnessed that struggle. So, while Jake’s family and friends considered working the family ranch to be legitimate employment; I knew that, at the very least, the man who opened the door to his daughter to hear “ImgettingadivorceI’msorryIruinedChristmas” was struggling with it… and so was I.

Jake is not my ex-husband. He’s nothing like him, nor is he responsible for any of the damage done. It’s not his problem. That’s what I told myself all through the holidays, as I defended his work ethic and decisions to people who, quite frankly, probably weren’t even worried. I’m no longer an idiot teenager making promises I can’t fathom, because I’m out of ideas. They know that. I know that… but that knowledge didn’t change the turmoil and stress I felt and tried desperately to hide.

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I tried to explain to Jake, that his unemployment was wearing on me. I did. I was also careful not to really draw any obvious parallels to my previous situation… so it sort of canceled itself out. “I really need you to get a job… but I know you’re working hard and I trust you.” I was too rational and it wasn’t the clearest expression of where I stood on the issue.

I couldn’t figure out how to tell Jake what our situation was doing to me, without nagging him or sounding manipulative… or just revealing things about myself and state of mind that I wasn’t comfortable acknowledging. What kind of woman begs her guy to quit his job and then complains that he’s unemployed, when he spends all week doing physical labor on his family’s ranch for pay?!?! A batshit crazy one… one who’s a little bit broken… one who can’t quite let go of the past… and I did my best to hide that part of myself. Jake was under his own stress from working for his family and it was starting to show, as well. We started bickering more and more, as I tried to keep a hold on my feelings and he tried to juggle his familial obligations with the new ones he had to his fiancé… sometimes poorly.

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I spent New Year’s Day furious with Jake for getting drunk and embarrassing me in front of his friends, people I barely knew, the previous night. It’s one thing to hear his crazy college stories, but a completely different one to live through them at 29, as a witness to his complete regression. He was not responsible for how I felt about his technical unemployment. He wasn’t responsible for the flashbacks to my previous marriage. He wasn’t responsible for the nightmares, but he was damn sure responsible for not being a drunken asshole and I told him as much. I’d planned to just save my breakdowns for when he was at his parents’ house and only share just how much his unemployment was getting to me, when he’d found local work, but there was always a new need for him on the ranch. It was always urgent and if he turned his parents down, they’d tell him he was selfish and lazy, even though they made no moves to hire anyone for the long term, knowing Jake was looking for work here. He was becoming more inconsiderate and I was becoming shorter tempered. It was really starting to wear on us… and eventually, I just couldn’t abide by my cardinal rule that feelings are for the inside.

Me: “I know it’s not your fault, but I spent years thinking things would be different in six months, in a year, in five years, and I can’t do it anymore! You’re working and you’re making money and I know it’s not the same and I’m sorry I’m so fucked up, but I didn’t sleep for days after the nightmare where you turned into my ex-husband during sex! You have to get a real job.

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Jake: “All I wanna do is help my parents and my brother. I want to get a job up here, stop living out of my truck, and find us a house. I’m just trying to help people and everyone I love is pissed off at me.”
Me: “I know you want to be there for them and I’ve supported that for four months, but you asked me to marry you and I can’t do that if you don’t have a job. I don’t mean that as a threat. I love you so much, but this is too hard for me. It’s been too hard for me.”

Ultimately, we compromised. Jake would spend the next week on the ranch, one week looking for work here, and one more week on the ranch, when he’d tell his dad that he couldn’t rely on him for daily help. By the end of that first week, he had a start date for spraying lawns. It’s not his dream job, but it’s income. It’s local. We survived seeing each other at our worst and Jake’s officially moved in with me. He can stop drinking like when he was 22 and I can stop having deeply disturbing sex dreams about my ex-husband, like when I was 22.

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The Apathetic Bride

As a child, I was not especially girly. This might come as a shock to my frequent readers, considering Jake and I just recently had an argument as to whether or not glitter can be my second favorite color. Spoiler alert: he’s wrong.

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Perhaps I’m simply overcompensating in adulthood, because when I was little, I was bound and determined to be a tomboy. I “hated” baby dolls, Barbies, dresses, and the color pink, because naturally you couldn’t like Disney princesses and climbing trees. Regardless, I loved my Water Baby, because it didn’t feel like a doll, but a real baby and I wanted my play to be as realistic as possible… which is precisely why I stuck my baby in the microwave to heat up the water, after my mother refused to refill it. While my mothering instincts might have left something to be desired, it wasn’t for lack of interest. Just like most other little girls, I felt that biological drive and genuine desire to be a mom.

I suppose my first romantic fantasy had the same lead as that of every other 90s girl: Jack Dawson. Of course, it took me a bit longer to realize that Cal Hockley was the real hero of Titanic, but all the same… at age 10, I began to dream, innocently (put your dress back on, Rose, you just met this man), of falling in love. Despite this, it would be another six years before I even considered my own wedding, and as an assignment in a marriage and family class, at that. Now, before you go mocking my undergraduate degree of family and consumer science education (or home-ec), I’d like to clarify that this was a budgeting and planning exercise. Weddings just happened to be on topic with the course, as we calculated the cost of catering and venues and attire. While I’m sure this was fun (and a little harmful) for the girls who grew up fantasizing about their dream weddings, for me, it was just… illogical.

Teacher: “You have to include boutonnieres for the men.”
Me: “Why? You can have a wedding without those.”

Even when I planned my first wedding, I just couldn’t muster up the energy to care about this entirely unnecessary party. In hindsight, I’ve considered the possibility that this was simply because I was getting married for all the wrong reasons, and there may be some merit to that. On the day of my wedding, I remember trying to picture my life five years later and thinking that I couldn’t see myself married then… that maybe this was the wrong path… that it was too late to do anything about it. Few believe me when I tell them this, since I didn’t actually say it at the time, so they insist that the only reason I don’t care about my pending party is because I’ve already had a wedding. Y’all, I swear on the Deathly Hallows that the next time someone implies that my second marriage counts less than the one I entered before I could legally drink, Imma cut a bitch.

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Weddings have just never been my thing. On our first date, I told Jake as much… and he was baffled as to why. In every other way, this man is a stereotypical country boy. He loves hunting, fishing, drinking, football, and taxidermy. He has such a thick southern accent, that he sounds like a racist cartoon character. The man’s a downright parody of himself… and he loves weddings, so much so, that he’s attended at least fifteen over the years and has been in half of them. Jake thinks it’s absolutely worth it to spend $9,000 on a party. I’m marrying Katherine Heigl from 27 Dresses and I’m… Sheldon Cooper.

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Hate is a really strong word for how I feel about weddings. If I’m honest, I’ll admit that I don’t mind the idea of looking back on a big celebration to declare my lifelong commitment to Jake, in front of all of our friends and family. It certainly means a lot more at 29 than it did at 19, to me and to the audience. I’d do it just to make Jake happy. It’s just… I want to be a wife, not a bride. I don’t need or really even want all the fuss, especially when the tradition and industry surrounding weddings… kind of sucks.

Weddings and wedding planning are typically very sexist. It takes a lot to tickle my feminist bone, but I resent that I’m supposed to plan this shindig, just because I brought the vagina to the party. I want to go to the caterer, who Jake told me was shocked that I’d “let” him decide the menu without me there to hold his hand, and remind her that it’s 2017. I love Jake’s mom, but I think it’s completely unfair that she and everyone else think my father should pay for an elaborate party that his adult daughter doesn’t really even want. It’s not because it’s my second wedding, either. It’s because I bring in $50,000 a year and I don’t need my father to inventory his livestock so he can pay some man to take me off his hands, because women are such a burden. If we want a party, we can pay for a party.

To be clear, it’s not any one person being sexist. It’s the wedding industry. Societally, we talk sooooo big about female empowerment and some pretend sisterhood where I owe more to a random woman than a random man, because somehow equality (?), but the second a woman gets engaged, all of that goes out the window. I’m criticized for my own traditional relationship and gender role (my boss once joked that I was “gender conforming”), which effect only me, but now it’s not only okay for me to ask my dad to pay a literal dowry, but mandatory. No longer are the sparkle and the glitz and the bright colors grounds for mockery, but celebrated… by the jewelry and bridal stores, who want my money. If I say I want to maintain a certain body image for Jake, I’m doing a disservice to all womankind, but my wedding is in three months, so it’s just assumed I’m on a diet of laxatives and self-loathing, to look good for everyone else. The idea that I’m not allowed to be traditional and feminine (aside from the language), unless it’s wedding season, is utter bullshit… and a marketing ploy.

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Zetus lapetus, are weddings expensive. After my first and only wedding dress shopping trip, last summer, I’ve refused to go on another. I was thrilled when my bridesmaids chose their own dress online and ordered it sight unseen. As for my dress…. well, I’m getting married in three months and I don’t even know what I’m going to wear. I’m not really that concerned about it, either, because I’ve been shopping online and all the dresses look the same. It’s my first communion all over again. For realz, y’all, the only difference I can even see half the time is price. The same white, A-line, floor length, strapless dress, either runs for $800 or $2,300 and no one is going to remember it, either way. In fact, none of the stores even make anything as low key as the lacey, tea length, sleeved dress I had in mind. They’re so well stocked in taffeta and tulle, I’m never sure if I’m looking at bridal gowns or pageant dresses… and I’m not even going to pretend I’ve ever had that much grace and poise.

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I’m sure I’ll order the dress I’ve had my eye on from Etsy in two weeks, and if I don’t… so what? I can find something on Modcloth in the last month if I must. It’s a dress I’ll wear one time and it’s likely I’ll only vaguely remember doing so, because that’s the thing no one tells brides: they’ll be so stressed and wired the day of their wedding, that when it’s all said and done, it’ll be a fog of memory. They’ll have looked forward to the day their entire lives, shed tears of frustration over ridiculous arguments during the planning, spent thousands of dollars on flowers and centerpieces and videography and all those other things I refuse to purchase… and it’ll still be a haze. The only people who’ve ever truly enjoyed a wedding are guests, and so I maintain my apathetic stance: I don’t care and if it’s my day, why can’t I bring my pets?

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