Approaching Last Day: My 30th Birthday …and 5th Blogiversary

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I’m pretty sure no one has used a Logan’s Run reference on their 30th birthday in the last 20 years, but it is truly one of my favorite movies. In fact, I made Jake watch it early on in our relationship, in exchange for Blazing Saddles, one of his favorites.

Jake: “Why is everyone in this movie naked?”
Me: “What? They’re not naked. They’re wearing drapery.”
Jake: “It’s see-through.”
Me: “It’s not… ooooh. How did I never notice that?”
Jake: “How many times did you say you’ve seen this movie?”

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Regardless of the fact that this is apparently just cleverly disguised porn… or not so cleverly, as it may be, for the last 10 years, I’ve planned my 30th birthday around a Logan’s Run theme. I was gonna buy brightly colored age-coordinated gauze, glue plastic jewels to hair ties, make a geodesic dome shaped cake, and hold a viewing of the movie, while my friends watched in confusion. Then reality hit.

I live in Cherokee, 45 minutes from all of my friends in Shetland.

I got married this year and have spent enough money on parties.

My new husband isn’t above “accidentally” walking into a crowded room wearing nothing but drapery.

I even had to nix the lantern release from Tangled, after Gail the Wet Blanket informed me that it was “illegal.”

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Alas, my Logan’s Run theme has turned into a t-shirt I ordered from Redbubble and an evening viewing with Jake, as I’ve compromised with a more “normal” celebration and relocated my birthday gathering to a downtown food truck site, in the hopes that people will you know… come.

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As I hear it, such is the way of growing older. Reality sets in and all those outlandish dreams you once had fall away… except in my apparent fairyland, where that’s been proven to be complete and utter hokum. That’s right, y’all. I turn 30 today, September 9th 2017, and I have accomplished very nearly everything I had hoped to accomplish… as I’ve detailed in my blog for exactly five years to the day, including annual birthday/blogiversary posts.

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giphy4It’s a big milestone, y’all and this is exactly how I dance.

Surprisingly enough, I never actually sat down and created an official list of things I hoped to accomplish by 30. I think I’ve just always known that if I wrote a goal down and never achieved it, regardless of why, I’d feel like a failure… even though, as I’ve chronicled in my beloved blog, my goals have changed in the last five years. I’ve changed… and that’s okay. I proudly consider myself a very self aware person and now that I’m here, I think it’s for the best that I didn’t make any grand declarations of what I’d achieve by the end of my twenties. That doesn’t mean I’m not really proud of some things, though. Such as…

I lost the weight. I went from “somewhere around 270,” too ashamed and miserable to know an exact number, to “somewhere around 160”, as someone who can hike up a mountain, bike 10 miles, and never receives a raised brow from her doctor.

I’m confident. I learned to apply makeup, fix my hair, and comfortably wear cute clothes, which are blessedly far more affordable than when I was morbidly obese. I owned my quirky hobbies, and fandoms, and even my general social awkardness. Even if I still occasionally miss the mark, I learned how to more accurately gauge when to tease friends and when to be kind and supportive.

I finished school. I went straight through, graduating high school in 2006, my bachelor’s in 2010, and my masters in 2013.

I got my finances under control. I paid off some debt and improved my credit score. I consolidated my student loans and entered an income-based repayment program. I enrolled in the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program and am eligible on 2024.

I’m a full time teen librarian. At times, I thought it would never happen, as I worked two jobs for two and half years after receiving my MLIS. Even after I got full time, I thought the ship had sailed on working with teens, but through a crazy course of events, I’m working as a teen librarian in a suburban library, while still earning the pay and benefits of a big city system.

I fell in love and got married. I unashamedly admit that being married by 30 was pivotal to my overall happiness. Bt 27 or so, I didn’t want to come home to an empty apartment and Netflix any longer. I wanted a loving husband and a family.

When I started this blog, on my 25th birthday, I probably would’ve listed owning a home and children as goals for my 30th and now, five years later, I realize that it’s all come in God’s perfect timing. Jake and I weren’t ready for each other until exactly the day we met. We weren’t ready for marriage until the day we exchanged our vows. We won’t be ready for a house until next fall, when we’ve saved the money. We’ll benefit greatly from two years alone together, learning to communicate and not strangle each other, when I passive aggressively hide the clothes he throws on the floor, before we start talking about kids. 

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People keep asking me how I’m coping with turning 30 and my response is… coping? Why would I be coping? I live in a fucking fantasy world, where life only gets better as time passes. Despite the combined efforts of the entire South, I’ve spread out the good things in life and have yet to experience the best days of my career and buying my first home and having babies and watching my children grow and settling into a comfortable and steady marriage with the love of my life. In all honesty, if I did have Logan 5’s opportunity to seek renewal on Carousel tonight, I’d only go if I could be me all over again… because I have a shit ton of good coming my way, including a lot of brightly colored cookie cake.

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Carcinogenic Radioactive Waste and Oranges: Marriage at 19 vs. Marriage at 29

Jake: “So, we’ve been married for four months now, give or take. Do you ever look back and compare it to your first marriage and realize how different it is?”
Me: “Well, honestly, I try not to think about that time in my life, but even if I do, it’s just… apples and oranges. Yes, I was legally married and have never claimed otherwise, but that wasn’t actually a marriage in any way.”

When I was a senior in high school, my mother let my boyfriend move in with us, and a few months later, she took off to live with a man she met on the Internet. Because years earlier, she’d seen to it that I had no relationship with my dad, I didn’t really have anyone else. Sure, my Gramma has always been an amazing presence in my life, but it wasn’t the same as having a parent in the home every day to help me through the huge transition that was the end of childhood. Graduating high school, leaving those friends, going to college: those things are really hard with a supportive and loving family… or so I heard from friends. At 18, though, I felt like I had nothing and no one to hold onto as my mother prepared to sell the house she’d left behind, less than gently pushing me out the door, and my high school boyfriend was… there.

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Looking back on my reasons for getting married at 19, it’s no surprise that said “marriage” deserved air quotes. I don’t know that “apples and oranges” is even a fitting phrase, considering those are both fruit. Being “married” at 19 and married at 29 are more like… carcinogenic radioactive waste and oranges. For instance…

The Wedding Day

At 19, on my “wedding day,” I tried to look five years into the future and determine whether or not I’d still be “married.” I couldn’t picture it, but… I also couldn’t think of any other options. The college I was attending would only let us continue to live in family student housing if we were legally married and I had nowhere else to go… or so I thought. In hindsight, it’s easy to see that I could’ve called off the wedding, even the day of, and the rest of my family would’ve supported me. I’d have been able to stay with my Gramma or my dad (who I fortunately reconnected with in time), until a dorm opened up the next semester. There was always an option besides getting married at 19, when it didn’t feel right, watching a troubled young man become a sociopathic grown man, derailing my life because I didn’t want to make people uncomfortable or be the subject of gossip. I couldn’t see this, however, and there was a chapel full of people…

On my real wedding day, as I like to think of it, I was so excited to join my life with Jake. The only nerves I experienced were the result of knowing that in just a few hours, a lot of people would be staring at me… and I’d have to dance. Jake though? He has never been a question. The day I married Jake, I’d already moved past fantasizing about our newlywed days and well into day-dreaming about the complacency and monotony of everyday married life that everyone dreads. I haven’t just looked five years into the future and felt certain I would still choose Jake. I’ve imagined growing old together a thousand times… and not in some romantic Noah and Ally from The Notebook sort of way, but one that includes the horrors of childbirth and dead pets and money troubles and funeral arrangements and prayers and tears and heartbreak. I don’t need a romantic fantasy. I just need Jake. I’ve never doubted that he was the right choice; not when I walked down the aisle with my dad, as he assured me I had chosen right this time, not when Jake elbowed me in the head during our first dance, not when I was seasick for most of our honeymoon, not even the dozens of times we’ve argued since. Jake has consistently been one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

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The Religious Implications

As a confirmed Catholic, for any marriage to be valid in the eyes of the Church and God it has to be blessed by the Church. Now, even practicing Catholics elope or get married in beautiful wedding chapels or at pricey outdoor venues. However, their marriage has to ultimately be blessed by a priest in a convalidation ceremony. I knew this when and after I “married” in a wedding chapel at 19 and yet, something prevented me from ever actually going through with the process. In time, I distanced myself, not just from the Church, but from my faith in general. It’s difficult to call someone Godless without drama or exaggeration, but it’s a fitting term for my ex. Unlike an Atheist or an Agnostic, the man truly lacked any moral center. He stole, lied, cheated, and he did so indiscriminately from friends, family, enemies, and strangers. Simply being associated with him as a person made me feel unworthy and yet, leaving him would also be wrong in the eyes of many. It took two years after my divorce for me to shake my shame enough to return to the Church and I promised myself that my next marriage would be official in the eyes of God.

When Jake and I married, we decided together that with his Protestant family and my Catholic family, moving and career changes, our short engagement due to rodeo season (no really), a Catholic wedding wasn’t for us. We were married at a beautiful and rustic outdoor venue, by a friend of Jake’s, who’s a youth minister and faithful husband and father; which was preferable to me over a minister to whom Jake felt no connection if we couldn’t get married by a priest. Jake might not be Catholic, but on this we agree: God’s authority is superior in every way to that of the government and the approval of my faith, as well as his, is crucial. So,we’ve already met with our new priest and scheduled to have our marriage blessed, the day after Jake’s birthday. Because I’m a confirmed Catholic, my previous “marriage” was never recognized by the Church. I have some paperwork to send in to complete my “defect of form” annulment and then, in the eyes of God, my marriage to Jake will truly be, my only real one.

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Our Standing in Life

When I was 19, I had worked a couple of minimum wage jobs and had nothing to show for it. My ex had even less, with no work experience at all. I had no savings, no assets, no real job prospects. I wanted to be a teacher, naively insisting that the money didn’t matter, making a difference in the world did. My ex didn’t and wouldn’t work or go to school, which I hoped would change. I tried not to think too much about the future, because any level of stability seemed so distant. We were renting married student housing, which was about to be condemned by the city (literally) and counting on financial aid to house and feed us. My mother paid for the wedding, because if I was married, she could sell her house guilt free and wash her hands of me. I had no real concept of money, myself, and ultimately accepted all the loans I was offered. It was Future Belle’s problem, as were many things, as I coped with how drastically my life had been derailed since the beginning of my senior year.

At 29, my wedding and honeymoon were always paid in full. At 32 years old, Jake had ample savings from his days in the oil field and zero debt, which of course meant zero credit. At 23, I’d begun working to improve my credit score and after six years, it somewhat made up for my debt, particularly when coupled with my Income Based Repayment Plan and the fact that I qualify for Public Service Loan Forgiveness. While Jake is beginning a new career in hydrology, his bachelor’s degree in the field, his experience in oil, and his crazy work ethic have already been assets to him. Because I make just under $50k myself, in one of the cheapest states in the country, we can afford for him to start at the bottom and I’ve every confidence he’ll move up quickly. We do have debt, but we’re both committed to paying it off and we’re currently saving to buy a home within the next year. The future is looking bright and Present Day Belle handles her problems like a big girl.

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Our Actual Relationship

It’s easy for me to put that first relationship in air quotes, not just because I was 11, but considering the motivation, the fact that God wasn’t looking, and that its primary funding source was financial aid and prayer. I feel those reasons invalidate the union plenty. The foremost reason, however, that my first “marriage” was no marriage at all, was the relationship itself. At the best point, we were extremely codependent. I don’t know that, looking back, I’d claim to have ever loved him, so much as I’d say that I needed someone, anyone, and he was the only one present. 

As time wore on, though, I moved closer to Shetland and my Gramma. Gail and I reconnected after that initial graduation drift, and even any sense of codependency faded. I once explained to Gail, that you get different things from different people, that I trusted and loved her and my dad and my Gramma. All I needed from my ex was for him to work. Literally, I didn’t need love or support or trust or fidelity or goodness or strength of character or a partner or someone to lead me closer to God. I just needed him to feed himself. I was actually completely willing to continue taking care of myself, if he’d stop stealing from me. I used to joke that I’d never get married again, that marriage is miserable, that my next wedding would be on a snow covered mountaintop in hell. However, no matter how hard some readers may judge me for claiming that any marriage can not count (in which case, they can go fuck themselves), I cannot stress enough that the relationship that spanned those four years was not a marriage in any sense. 

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Today, happily and healthily married to Jake, I’ve had to get used to a few things… like the fact that my Gramma and Gail are second and third in my life. It’s strange, having not just an additional person on my list of people I’m willing to see on a weepy and frustrating day, but having someone actually upstage them. Gail has been my best friend since the 9th grade and she still is… but the dynamic has shifted. Jake comes first for me and Terry comes first for her and in neither of our previous marriages was that ever the case… nor could it or should it have been. We were married to scary fucking dudes and were both somewhat distant from our families. It was us against the world… and now it’s not. We still talk every day and have some pretty fucked up shared history, but we’re not 20 and married to psychopaths, eating fish we grilled in a public park because we don’t want to go home. When I get pregnant, she won’t be the first to know. I’ll never drive her and her baby to the ER again… and that’s weird to imagine and sometimes even weird in practice: having someone. Being married.

I’m not driving around with food from The Dollar Tree in my backseat anymore. I don’t sleep with my wallet in my pillowcase. Zetus lapetus, y’all, I trust this man enough to share a bank account with him. What the fuck happened?!? When I went home crying from the stress of my first week at the Cherokee library, Jake was the only person I wanted to comfort me. When I had food poisoning and threw up all over myself in the car, I was only mildly embarrassed that he was present to see me miserable and covered in vomit. If I have good news or a secret to tell or a funny meme to send, Jake is the first person to come to mind and that’s so weird. What is this fantastical adventure they call marriage?!?! I ask, because this is truly the first time I’ve experienced it.

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The most I can say, in defense of 19-year-old Belle, is that she was not an adult. Nineteen-year-olds are teenagers, whose brains function differently. They still need guidance and I didn’t have that. In theory, it would’ve been nice if I did, but then I might not be here… and here is really good.

In Honor of Two Years Together: #JakeQuotes

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On my second date with Jake, I’d have sworn I was on my best behavior. We met at the mall, to see Jurassic World and I was cute and polite and I am certain that, on at least one occasion, I bit my tongue so hard it bled. Apparently, it was one time too few. Months later, Jake reminded me what I’d said, when I came upon him, flustered and yelling at the fancy soda machine.

Jake: “HI-C!!”
Me: “It’s not voice activated.

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What can I say? I’ve never been what you might call “sweet.” Fortunately for me, neither has Jake, which has led to my collection of #JakeQuotes, loved by my friends and his alike. So, in honor of two years of saying the wrong thing to each other, meet my husband. Meet us.

Me: “Ugh. I put my eyeliner on too thick. I look like a panda bear.”
Jake: “It looks fine.”
Me: “I look like Johnny Depp from Pirates of the Caribbean.”
Jake: “I like that movie.”

Me: “That one sweater makes me look bigger than I am.”
Jake: “The pink one?”
Me: “No. Not the pink one. If you don’t know, don’t guess.”

Jake: “Did you just send me a text message?”
Me: “What? No. I mean… yes. I just sent it while we were on the phone. It’s very important.”
Jake: “Did you schedule an automatic birthday countdown to message me every day?”

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“Why are you eating a sucker at 10:00 in the morning?”
“Why do you wanna buy a Christmas ornament? It’s September.”
“There’s a test to find out which Hogwart’s House you’re in?”
:: to the cat :: “Why are you sitting in a box?”

… ridiculous questions my husband asked one weekend… my RAVENCLAW husband…

Me: “My brakes are squeaking. I’m going to die.”
Jake: ::continues talking about Lord of the Rings::
Me: “You don’t even care that I’m going to die.”
Jake: “I’m pretty sure I hear that every day.”


Jake: “I can’t hear you.”
Me: “I work in a libra
ry.”
Jake: “What? I can’t hear you!”
Me: “I can’t talk louder. I work in a library.”
Jake: “What?

… when Jake calls me at work, annoyed that he can’t hear me. #librarianproblems

Me: “He’s a brilliant hunting dog.”
Jake: “Sure he is.”
Me: “You’ve never seen him tear the insides out of a squirrel and show them to its mother!”
Jake: “… neither have you.”

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Me: “This is why you don’t use my decorative towels. I washed it and now it’s a different color and I can’t use it anymore.”
Jake: “Why does that mean you can’t you use it anymore?”
Me: “Because it’s decorative.”
Jake: “Why did you wash it?”
Me: “Because you used it.”
Jake: “…. and why can’t you use it anymore?”

Me: :screaming:
Jake: “WHAT?!”
Me: “There was a spider!”
Jake: “Geez! I was going for the pistol!”
Me: “That would probably take care of the spider!”

Me: “We had cows when I was little.”
Jake: “What kind?”
Me: “I dunno. They were brown.”
Jake: “That’s… not a color used to describe cattle.”
Me: “Yuh huh. There’s a children’s book called ‘How Now, Brown Cow?’“.

Me: “I love the guy with the lantern!”
Jake: “Because he’s cute and helpful?”
Me: “Yeah, just like real bears.”
Jake: “I… don’t think that’s true.”

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Me: “Just so you know, if you add any more deer mounts to Buzz, I’m going to name all of them after Toy Story characters, too.”
Jake: “Great. I’ll have little name plates put on the mounts.”
Me: “Yes! I’ll hold you to that!”
Jake: “I immediately rescind that offer.”

– boarding the plane home –
Me: “Stop singing that!”
Jake: “What?!?”
Me: “”You keep choosing the most obnoxious song you can and you sing it for FOUR DAYS and I’m going to murder you!” ::to airport security:: “I mean… I didn’t say that.”
Jake: “You are REALLY bad at getting on a plane.”

– all night at the rodeo –
Jake: “This is my wife, Belle. We got married two weeks ago. We met three weeks ago on farmersonly.com.”
Me: “Stop telling people that!”

Jake: “I’m pretty sure we’re both too big for that.”
Me: “Excuse me?”
Jake: “I’m just saying we’re both stocky people.”
Me: “I’m STOCKY? Like a linebacker?”
Jake: “It was a compliment!”
Me: “Call every woman in your phone and ask if ‘stocky’ is a compliment.”
>> later that day
Jake: ::taps the small of my back:: “Take that, small part of your back.”
Me: “There is no small part of my back, because I’m so STOCKY.”
>> even later that day
Jake: “I’m sorry you don’t understand me when I say things.”
Me: “Okay, Google. Define ‘stocky’.”
Google: “Stocky (of a person) broad and sturdily built.”
Jake: ::cackles:: “Google doesn’t know what it’s talking about.”

Jake: “Yeah! How ’bout you Facechat THAT to all your friends!”

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When a millennial marries a Gen Xer.

Me: “I’m sorry I’m irritable… and I’m sorry you think the best response to that is to play ‘I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you, I’m not touching you.'”
Jake: “I didn’t do that… but I’m going to NOW!”

Jake: “This picture looks like it’s from a magazine.”
Me: “Is that a compliment?”
Jake: “It’s just that nobody’s that happy to put on earrings.”
Me: “Well, thank you for telling me I look fake in our wedding pictures.”
Jake: “That’s not what I… I’m making this worse, aren’t I?”
Me: “Yup.”

Jake: “‘The Dog Easter Egg Hunt.’ That sounds…”
Me: “… like so much fun! Where is that?!?!”
Jake: “… like the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Jake: “You’ve never used an electric filet knife?”
Me: “How do you see that ending? Do I have all my fingers?”
Jake: “They’re really good for fileting fish, if you catch a lot of fish.”
Me: “Oh, yeah. I catch a TON of fish.”

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… every time I have to explain to him that I’m an indoor girl.

Me: “I’m being serious!”
Jake: “I’m trying to lighten the mood!”
Me: “I don’t want to lighten the mood. It’s a serious mood!”
Jake: ::growls at me like I’m an angry kitten::

Jake: “Going to the doctor is not a waste of money. Cat costumes are a waste of money.”
Me: “They looked ADORABLE in those costumes!”

Me: “I’m sorry I ate your strawberries. I mean, I’m sorry you didn’t eat your strawberries.”
Jake: ::to the dog:: “I hope YOU’RE still here, when I get back.”
Me: “DID YOU JUST SUGGEST THAT THERE’S A RISK I MIGHT EAT MY DOG, BECAUSE I’M THAT FAT?!?!”

Jake: “They’re the same age.”
Me: “Ew. I can barely handle 32-year-old Jake. I don’t want to date 29-year-old Jake.”
Jake: “I wasn’t that bad at 29!”
Me: “What was the name of the last woman you had sex with, before me?”
Jake: “I… don’t remember… but she was from Louisiana!”
Me: “Okay, Google. What’s the population of Louisiana?”

Good news. He narrowed it down to 4.671 million.

womens-march-in-chicago-imgurReal footage of Jake’s sexual conquests. 

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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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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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.

 

 

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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