family values

Perhaps because our household has a landline and is therefore Officially Old, we’re getting dozens of calls a week aimed at a conservative “Family Values” voting contingent. I always let the robo-caller play through in hopes that at least I’m keeping them busy for 90 seconds, and I always answer the surveys and push-polls. The thought that my unexpected, unwanted response makes a tiny bump in their data pleases me. And if there’s an actual human on the other end, I always — always — let them know that my values are family values, just not the kind they espouse.

So let’s talk about Family Values. I’m tired of that phrase being claimed solely by conservative forces. I have a family, and I have values, and my Family Values are just as valid as anyone’s.

I value education. I value science. I value equality for all our citizens regardless of race, class, gender, or orientation. I value cultural diversity. I value my rights as recognized — not given, not bestowed, recognized — in the Constitution. I value freedom of religion — including freedom from religion. I value civil discourse, even about inflammatory issues. I value individual reproductive rights, including the right to choose abortion. I value equality and freedom.

This election season, local ads from anti-equality committees frantically urge us not to let the upcoming vote “redefine marriage.” I’m quite pleased that they’re framing the issue that way. See, I’m all for for periodically redefining marriage, and I bet most Americans feel the same way if they really examine the historical and ongoing redefinition of marriage.

Think of how our laws have redefined marriage just in the the past century. Married women now have the right to own property and to maintain their own bank accounts. Single adults can legally and readily obtain birth control. Spousal rape is now a prosecutable offense rather than a right or a punchline.

That last one particularly stands as a shining example of “redefining marriage”. Until the mid-1970s, there was no process or statute by which to prosecute a spouse — even an estranged spouse — for rape. The marriage license constituted an exemption (in many statutes, an explicit exemption) from rape prosecution; it was a license for even an alienated spouse to force intercourse upon their partner. As recently as 1993, North Carolina upheld this exemption from prosecution for marital rape. In a generation, our nation as a whole has transitioned from explicitly permitting spousal rape to making it a criminal offense. This is a vast shift in our understanding of consent, sexuality, and privileged entitlement, and a redefinition of the rights and responsibilities bestowed by marriage.

Every time we update our outmoded marriage statutes, we make strides for greater equality. It’s appallingly improper to let civil rights be decided by popular vote, but if this vote — this “redefinition” — helps to shift the tide for progress, then let’s do it.

RSV puh-leese

Brides and grooms routinely kvetch about delinquent RSVPs. I’m no different. We dearly hope that our friends and family will come to the celebration, but we do need to know roughly how many people we’re seating and feeding and boozing up, and how many tables and how big a dancefloor and how many of this and how many of that.

Ten days before the wedding and a good three weeks since our RSVP date passed, we still have about 15% of RSVPs outstanding. So far this week, my sweetly toned query, “Oh, we sure hope you can you make it to the wedding! Can you?” has prompted the following responses:

“Of course we’ll be there!” They didn’t need to RSVP, because I’m psychic: I knew they wouldn’t miss it.

An offhand “Nah, we can’t make it.” They didn’t need to RSVP, because I’m psychic: I knew they’d have to miss it.

“Didn’t we RSVP? Uh… we did! I wrote you an email last week! Or a letter!” Did you? Hmmm. If you did,
A) I most likely would have received an email or a letter.
B) You’d know which one you sent.
With that in mind, I have a feeling that you didn’t RVSP, and I’m trusting that feeling, because — didn’t you hear? — I’m psychic.

missed manners

A word of advice to the soi disant etiquette maven: if you’re going to get snotty with the (frankly, pretty freakin’ gracious) bride for the perceived lapses of etiquette inherent in her non-traditional wedding*, acknowledging either the RSVP request or the polite follow-up note might put you on more solid ground.


*Yes, yes, the groom and bride and their wedding, but predictably the bride is the only one getting blowback on this.

bridal blog

morning, indeterminate time:
Rise hazily out of sleep. Wonder what time it is. For the first time in months, you have awakened without the wedding to-do list blaring itself into your consciousness. Sigh happily and fall back asleep.

morning, later:
Wake up for real this time. You still have no idea what wedding chores you have slated for today. Freedom, horrible freedom!

Today is the RSVP deadline; surely the outstanding 25% of responses* will come pouring in by nightfall. Laugh hollowly.
*That percentage is not really fair. The Fella’s co-workers need to see their completed schedules before they can accept or decline, so we expect some of their responses to come late. It’s the other 15% that rankle ever so slightly.

Have a cappuccino and a peanut butter toast. Vow to have no more caffeine today; you’re on edge during the day and restless at night.

Search for camera. It’s around here somewhere, right in plain sight. You’ve lately been suffering from an odd inability to recognize common objects even when you’re looking at them. Mentally label this phenomenon “object aphasia.” Aha! Found it!

Upload venue images from camera to email; send to your brother overseas, who foolishly agreed to take some photos on the wedding day. Prepare similar emails to send to other volunteer photographers.

Check email for RSVPs. Nope.

The Fella leaves for the gym. You are sitting on bed writing emails and making lists for self-catering.

The Fella returns to get ready for work. You are sitting in exactly the same spot, writing feverishly. Do not even consider looking at the table chart; everyone will just have to fit into the rented hall, which once seemed enormous but is suddenly a tiny mousehole.

The Fella calls from work to announce that [friend] and his family have sent their regrets. You both say, “Awwww, that’s too bad!” and you mean it. From the corner of his mouth, The Fella adds, “…but that’s four seats right there,” and you mean that, too.

Hanging up, decide that you have just time to drop into the cheap salon and get a haircut. You’re overdue. Just have a quick shower and you’ll be on your way! You deserve a treat!

The toilet overflows. This is not the treat you had in mind.

Intermittently plunge, dose the bowl with detergent and hot water, and search the internet for advice, which is both plentiful and suspect.

So much for your pretty haircut.

More plunging. Think how much nicer this would be with a tiara. Maybe a trip to a bridal shop is in order after all.

Admit that the the cup plunger is not working. It always has before; something might be seriously wrong. Try not to think about snakes and plumbers.

Head to the local hardware store. Hustle, because it closes at six and you move slowly when your back is wracked up. A) Stress and B) jerky movements exacerbate your back problem. The plugged toilet and vigorous plunging qualify nicely for A and B.

Check the mail for RSVPs. Nope.

Hurriedly rounding the corner, you stop, back up a step to the lilac bush, and breathe in deeply. If ever you needed to stop and smell the flowers, this is the day.

On your way, notice: the wobbly girl on roller skates, who waves and almost falls over as a result; the kids racing on their bikes; the fresh dark dirt in the schoolyard garden; the Rowantrees creamers in the antique store window. This is nice, this is okay. This is nice, this is okay. Keep telling yourself this. You’ve been prone to anxiety lately.

Notice your shadow. With the purse on your shoulder and a big soft scarf wrapped around you, you look like a lumpen hunchback. Your limp intensifies the image. Wonder if the devastating body consciousness from which you have been suffering will end after the wedding.

Ask yourself earnestly what the heck wedding-related tasks you were supposed to be doing today. The remaining tasks are either so small that you forgot them or so large you lost sight of them.

Realize that you haven’t eaten since your morning peanut butter toast.

Intent on your mental list and your body horrors, you shot right past the corner for the hardware store. Double back, double quick.

Hey, the local hardware store is open ’til seven! Good to know!

The clerk shows you right to the plungers and helps you find one with a proper flange lip on it. It’s nice and cheap, too.

One the way home, stop by the local grocery and pick up some essentials. And some inessentials, too. Have a nice chat with the butcher, his friends, and the cheese lady. The checkout woman calls you “Dear.”

Stop near the corner and smell the lilacs.

As you round the corner to head home, the bells a few blocks away start ringing their carrillon. This is nice.

More plunging and hot water with detergent. This is getting discouraging.

You are a genius. A plumbing genius. A tenacious, stubborn, very sore plumbing genius.

Preen and revel in your smug cheer. Now, for the love of all that’s holy, pee.


Unpack the cake and Dr. Pepper you got at the neighborhood store; lie down with an ice pack on your back and another on your shoulder; have cake and soda for dinner. Toilet trouble trumps your resolutions to eat better and drink less caffeine, just for tonight.

Reflect that you’re no pretty pretty princess bride, but you’re pretty handy. Feel like maybe you deserve The Fella after all.

edited to add: Erik wrote me to say:

I loved your ‘bridal blog’ post. I read it all in Google Reader where there wasn’t any formatting, just the times were bolded. The lack of formatting really added to the hectic stream-of-consciousness feel. It’s cool when a computer error accidentally makes something better.

I took a look at the Google Reader text, and it exactly mimics the pressed, unstructured anxiety I was feeling. Thanks for pointing it out, Erik! (This comment is posted here with Erik’s kind permission. He also suggests “P.S. Maybe your comments could use some prodding with that fancy new plunger? :-)”

To which I can only respond: word.

“I do,” not “to do”

Presenting my to-don’t list, several things I won’t be doing in the remaining few weeks before the wedding:
– reading along with the Infinite Summer project. Sigh. Another month, I would have jumped on this.
– mastering the iPod in time to use it for the wedding playlist.
– getting a professional facial or a profession make-over or a professional anything. No, I take back the last one: I will probably go so far as to get a professional haircut.
– losing any damn weight, so please don’t ask. (Happily, because I’m not wearing a fitted gown, I have avoided the apparently rote question of dressfitters: “So, how much are you planning to lose?”)
– making a contingency plan for the eighty-bazillion things that could go awry at a DIY party of this scale. Why borrow trouble, especially when most of the likely disasters can either be shrugged off or solved with a cell phone and wad of cash?
– biting my nails or picking my cuticles to a red, ragged mess, as I often do when I’m nervous or on edge. No sir, nope, not a chance. No. Why would I? Yikes.

And, most of all:
– Clearly, I will not spend even one day between now and the wedding without a bout of teary-eyed gratitude to our families and friends, who have been so unstinting and creative in their generosity to us, and at my mindbendingly good fortune of finding The Fella in a whole crazy world full of people.


A selection of words and phrases used in a wholly positive discussion of our wedding day plans:
– “messy”
– “noisy”
– “ridiculous”
– “a whole mess of kids squealing all the way around!”
– “[Best Woman] promises to cram me full of coffee first.”
– “boisterous”
– “howling”
– “It might be hot as a crotch in that hall.”
– “barefoot”
– “whore’s bath
We are such romantics.

I do

I’ve been studying the giant listing of vows at [wedding forum redacted], and as I do, I’m struck by how many people’s vows make untenable promises about “always”: I will always keep this passion alive, I will always adore you, you’ll always be my beloved and most awesomest best friend.

And I’m thinking, “…really? So, you can consciously control your impulses, turning on and off your flow of oxytocin and serotonin like a tap? Coooooool*. But most people don’t work like that.”

The realist** in me suddenly sees why marriage services are so often three-pronged: a celebration of the present with its smoochy-faced love; a reminder that marriage is Serious Business; a sobering pledge of fortitude in the face of challenges. The couple vows to behave a certain way, because, duh, you can’t control your passions, but you can control your behavior.

Because emotions are slippery, fickle things, I can’t sensibly promise how I will feel in the future. The Fella is my bestest beloved most awesomest best friend, and I’m entering this marriage believing that will always be so. I will nurture and bolster my passion, my fondness, my adoration of him, and do my best to give him reason to do the same. I enter this marriage believing that our love, sympathy, and hard work will keep these feelings vital and growing, always shifting and changing with us.

I can hope and believe and, most importantly, I can strive to make it so; I can’t promise that my crazy hindbrain will follow in step every day.

But I can pledge to treat him as someone I love and adore, as someone for whom I am passionate, as my bestest beloved most awesomest best friend. What, then, does that mean? For me, it means a promise of respect, trust, honesty, kindness, sympathy, and a mutual assumption of good intent now and in the future — even if I’m hurt, even in anger, even if my lizard-brain hisses at me.

Surely this is the crucial part of the vows, in any case. Ardent love and bountiful affection don’t test our vows of commitment. Marriage (or any bond of love or friendship) is predicated not on the continuance of fleeting passions, but on the determination to honor our promises, even (especially) when loving kindness flags or falters.

*I would like to cut you up and study you. Please?

**Yes, The Fella is aware that he’s marrying an affectless robot.


I recently wrote about a friend’s potluck wedding reception, where family and friends fed each other, sharing their joy and love with the happy couple. The Fella and I aren’t having a potluck wedding, but for the past few months, I’ve been musing that our DIY wedding feels like a barnraising: our loved ones keep enthusiastically pitching in, lending their strength and talents to help us build something of value.

If you browse wedding forums or advice columns, you’ll soon bump into shrill warnings against this approach. Naysayers dismiss the handmade, homemade, shared nature of the event. It’s tacky, it’s rude, it’s cheap. It’s inconsiderate to expect guests to contribute to Your Special Day.

Of course guests don’t want to do your dirty work, but you can accept loving assistance (and even ask for it) without being rude or demanding. Some thoughts guiding our own requests:

– Our friends miiiiight enjoy showcasing their talents. They would not enjoy predictable drudgery; we’ll pay people for that.
– Any guest’s wedding-day contribution should be brief. Everyone wants to have fun!
– Things will go wrong. It doesn’t matter. If the cake falls over, if the photos don’t come out, if the iPod freezes… we’ll still be married at the end of the day.
-If anyone seems hesitant, for any reason or for no reason at all, we’ll withdraw our request.
If we ask you to consider helping out, it’s because we value your talent and we trust your judgment. That includes the judgment that leads you to say, “No, I’d rather not.”
In fact, we’ve made few requests so far; our family and friends keep amazing us with their offers of help, offers far more generous, creative, and serendipitous than we could have imagined.
Behind the click is a loooooong list of the help being offered, and a few requests we plan to make.

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