Friday, January 23, 2009

I Get A Kick Out Of You

I have a new best friend: his name is Michael.

I go to his place at least once a week. While I'm at Michael's, I wander around aimlessly. The air is soft and peaceful, thick with the artificial, yet oddly calming, smell of silk flowers and scented candles. I can drift up and down the aisles, gazing at the endless possibilities. I know there are others who love him too; sometimes I catch their eye as we both spy the last silver ink pad at the exact same moment. But we're not competitive. I'm content with buying gold leaf paint and she is just as happy to buy multi-color yarn. We exist together peacefully. Michael has enough room for all of us.

I love the way he cares about me. I know it from the way he offers me deals for just one dollar as soon as I walk in the door. And he reminds me about every upcoming holiday - just in case I was going to forget. Just yesterday he reminded me that Valentine's Day is near and St. Patty's is mere moments later by providing a shelf of pink and red ribbon, with heart wooden boxes and cupid-imprinted stamps. Shamrocks galore wink playfully, begging to be affixed to a decorative bag, should I feel so inclined.

Unfortunately, for all that he does for me, Michael can be hurtful at times. Michael is gifted with the ability to be crafty, whereas I am not. So when I am at Michael's I sometimes find myself moved by the siren song of scrapbooking. Or knitting. Or necklace making. Or perfuming. There are so many appliques you can buy! But I know (from experience) that I will glue my fingers to the cotton with the hot glue gun or drop the fragile glass jar and Michael will be ashamed of me. So I scuttle away, empty-handed and embarrassed.

The other problem with Michael of course is that I suspect Mr F is a little concerned about our relationship. And perhaps he should be. Because I spend a lot of money on my new friend (more than he even knows). But I don't have much to show for it. I have ribbon, and a calligraphy pen, and some cardstock. And moss and flower foam. And a hot glue gun. And 32 glue gun inserts. Which are sitting in my closet. And will make a cameo appearance at my wedding. If I can figure out what to do with them.

But Michael made me bring them home! He knew I would take good care of them. Like he has taken care of me.

I can't wait to visit Michael's again next week. If only his handmaidens of checkout weren't so slow. (Really? Ten minutes to try to wrap a mason jar? Come on, people.)

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Papa's Got A Brand New Bag

A few months ago my Future Mother in Law asked how she could help with the wedding. As I've mentioned previously, to say that my FMIL and I have different tastes would be an understatment. To me, simple is better. To her, simple is just...simple.

So upon the suggestion of my MOH, I decided that a good way for her to "help" would be to lift the mammoth burden of filling the out of town bags from my shoulders (which were carrying so much mental weight these days they made Atlas look like a lightweight). I told her I would create a label that she could just peel and place on the bag. A perfect situation - she would just have to buy the bags and fill them up.

Except that FMIL is rabid. Like a wedding dog. She emailed me asking what exactly it was I wanted to put in the bags. But between holding down a full-time job and rushing back and forth meeting with vendors and mailing out invitations, I didn't have time to focus on the out of town bag contents.

Then she called.

And emailed.


Asking what I want in the bags.

Mind you, this was months ago, before Mr F and I even bought a wedding band. Or had written vows. Or created programs. In the hierarchy of wedding planning, I firmly believe that out of town bags are somewhere between the color purse I will be holding at the rehearsal dinner (don't know) and the name of the signature cocktail (no idea). Important, but not to be focused on prior to, say, determining what song we will use as a processional.

Nonetheless, I had a general inkling of what I wanted in the bags, so I sat down and spoke with her about precisely what I wanted (which was her request - an exact list).

I wanted to fill our bags with healthier options than the typical "out of town bag" fare. While I love a chocolate molten flourless cake, I loathe vending machine snacks (Twinkies make me ill). So I gave FMIL a list of healthy-ish snacks. I also told her a few items that I would love to include to celebrate the fact that we were getting married in Baltimore; it was a nice way to introduce people to the flavors of the city.

I explained to her that I just wanted to put the stickers I created on a very simple bag - brown, preferably recycled, paper bag. Simple. Low key. Put the stickers on the bag and presto - done.

FMIL visited a couple of weeks ago and excitedly told me that she had gotten "options" for the bags.

My mind tried to comprehend the statement. "Options?" I was pretty sure that there weren't a lot of variations on the brown bag theme. It's brown. It's a bag. The end.

As we are sitting at my kitchen table, she pulls six gift bags out of her bigger plastic bag.


Each bag is more fanciful than its predecessor. One has pearls, another has lace. One is white with some sort of hologram on it (I swear). And the grand finale was a giant shiny white bag with wedding bells on the front in glitter. FMIL's eyes sparked and she grinned. "Aren't they great?"

I looked inside the bag to see if perhaps there was a mini bottle of Stoli. Because that was the only way these bags were going to achieve greatness.

"Uhm. Well, they're very fancy."

I racked my brain for a way to say, "These bags are fugtastic, but you are truly such a sweet and loving mother that I don't want to hurt your feelings or strain our future relationship. But these bags make me want to retch."

I realized there was no way to politely convey this message, so I kept my mouth shut.

She looked at me. I think she looked into my soul. And saw a deep hatred of the wedding aisle at Michael's. Or she wasn't looking at my soul and just saw that I was frowning and giving the glittery wedding bells the evil eye. Which is generally also considered a "give."

"You don't like them?"

"Well...they're just not my 'style'... I prefer a simpler look."

She looked confused. "Less lace?"

"No lace."

A light went on in the attic. "Ohhhhh. Simple. Ok."

So to ensure that she understood what I meant, I went out and bought a bag and put on the sticker and sent it to her back in New Jersey. My aching back was not feeling un-burdened.

A few days ago I got an email that told me the following:

"Honey - the bags are done!! I used the brown bags. I couldn't find all the things you asked for so instead I just bought other things!! I included the following: oreo's, M&M's, potato chips, and peanut butter and cheese crackers."

My cholesterol doubled just reading the email. Hey, what's a little trans-fat between friends?

But the email went on: "I didn't know where to get that Baltimore stuff - so I guess that's out or you can just get it on your own."

Yup. This was helpful. I took out my "to do" list and erased the line I had drawn though "out of town bags" so it could reclaim its rightful spot on the list. Still, I'm awarding FMIL an "A" for effort. Just cause I'm feeling benevolent today.

Time Keeps on Tickin Tickin Tickin....Into the Future

One month from today.

One month from today at this time I will be sitting in a hotel room chair, having my hair and makeup done by dueling professionals, just hours away from walking down the aisle.

One month from today I will be chugging Red Bull and coffee (though hopefully not together) since I will likely have accumulated only 8 hours of sleep over the previous 7 days (if past insomnia is any indication of the future).

One month and one day from today I can throw out all of the wedding magazines.

One month and one day from today I will have my own Bonfire of the Vanities. I will dispose of the ribbon, the ink pads, and the cardstock. I suspect they will be deliciously flammable.

One month and two days from today I will sleep.

One month and fourteen days from today I will wear my wedding dress for the second time and have a sequel to my wedding.

One month and fifteen days from today I will sit on the couch and eat the top layer of the wedding cake that is supposed to be eaten exactly 13 months from today.

One month and sixteen days from today I will sit on the couch and watch "Say Yes to the Dress" and "Whose Wedding is it Anyway" without anxiety. I will sip Chardonnay as neither a shield nor a sword.

One month and seventeen days from today I will balance my computer on my lap while trying to think of a new name for this Blog.

I can't wait.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

My Words, Like Silent Raindrops Fell

I've been thinking about how to write this post for a couple of days now, and I'm still not sure I'm going to do it right. But like everything else in life, you just need to jump in, so I will.

Over the past year, I have heard the same refrain over and over again: "Just relax and enjoy this time", "It will go by so quickly," and most frequently, "In the scheme of things, all the little details aren't important."

I hate when people say that to me.

I would love nothing more than to relax. I would relish the opportunity to not stress. I wish I could heed that advice, but my brain truly won't comprehend it. I just can't, no matter how hard I try, let all the little things go. I try to tell myself that I don't need to create menus (and, intellectually I really know that I don't) but I can't just not do them. I don't know why; it must be the way I'm hardwired (which is apparently with the red and blue wires crossed so that I could blow up at any second).

But this past weekend I actually experienced something that put things more into perspective than all of the advice in the world. It's one thing for someone to tell you that "it's not a big deal in the scheme of things" and it's a whole other to see why it isn't.

On Saturday, my Mom and I were well into Wedding Trial Weekend when we went to the salon where I was to have my makeup trial. I was clutching my file of "wedding makeup looks" which the Makeup Artist suggesting I bring along with me. I was also psyched because the Makeup Artist had told me that she would do my trial for free. (For FREE? This is unheard of in the wedding industry! Even the bridal shows charge a price for tickets. Cake tastings come with the burden of a commitment to order a full cake for $600 and the trial for my hair cost the same amount that my hair will cost the day of my wedding.)

We walked into the salon and I breathed in the wonderfully relaxing smell of eucalyptus (the salon also happens to be a great spa). We sauntered up to the check in desk and mentioned that we were there to see Makeup Artist and we had a 1:30 appointment.

Her eyes widened in surprise and she became silent.

My Mom and I looked at each other.

The receptionist began to speak slowly. "You didn't hear? ... Makeup Artist passed away two weeks ago."

My mouth dropped open and my stomach dipped. I conjured up Makeup Artist's face in my mind - she was a young woman - I was sure of it. Perhaps there was some mistake?

"What...what happened? Are we talking about Makeup Artist? I thought she was young...." I trailed off.

The receptionist's eyes filled with tears. "She was. She was only thirty-two. She died suddenly of an aneurysm the day after Christmas. She left an eleven year old son."

Thirty two. Exactly my age.

My heart started beating more quickly and I started to sweat. I had a lump in my throat that was making it hard to breathe, but I had no right for such sadness - I barely spoke with the woman for more than ten minutes.

I suddenly thought of the phone message I had left last week on her cellphone, reminding her of our appointment. It occurred to me that when I left the message, she was no longer even living. Did her husband watch the cellphone ring and ring, but couldn't bring himself to answer it? It was too horrible to imagine.

We excused ourselves from the salon and sat in the car in silence. I'm not a religious person at all, but I counted my blessings.

Do my parents drive me up a wall? Yes. Am I lucky to have two loving parents? Yes.

Do I think about hitting Mr F over the head with a frying pan at times? Yes. But I'm lucky I will have the chance to walk down that aisle and see him waiting for me at the end of it.

Will I continue to obsess over the little details of this wedding in light of what happened? To be honest with myself, probably yes.

But will I keep the image of this young woman, snatched away from life at the same age I am today, tucked into the corner of my consciousness, ready for recall when I start to dwell on the superficial? Yes. Truly, I will.

When I got home that night, I opened my wallet and pulled out the business card that Erin had given me when we met in mid-December. After a fun conversation about how much we both loved makeup, she scribbled her name and cellphone on the reverse side and the words "free makeup consult" on the front.

As the tragedy of it all bounced around my head, I walked over to the garbage, ready to toss it in. But I decided to keep it.

I placed the card back in my wallet.


Sunday, January 11, 2009

I Always Feel Like Somebody's Watching Me

My parents came to visit this weekend for the Law & Order of bridal weekends - full of trials. (Yes, I'm fully aware that was a terrible joke. But I just spent 48 hours with my parents and their Catskills-inspired sense of humor is contagious. Like the black plague.)

To clarify, my parents were in town for my floral trial, makeup trial, hair trial and dress fitting (i.e., dress trial). I was definitely nervous about all of the aforementioned trials, especially the hair and makeup since I selected my beauty professionals by closing my eyes and pointing at a listing in the phonebook. (OK, it was more like pointing at the Google results on the computer screen - but you get the gist.) Baltimore is an interesting mix of cultures: while it has a bunch of chic new boutiques, restaurants and bars, there is also a strong blue collar contingent that (let's face it - is less superficial than I am and) prefers spam to spumoni and smokes a pack-a-day instead of working on their six pack each day. I tossed and turned each night as I dreamt of a hair trial that resulted in a John Waters-inspired bee hive hairdo and eye makeup that looked like Cher's Vegas Show team had gone on a rampage.

Thus, I was actually very happy to have my parents coming along on these meetings, if for no other reason than they are certainly not known for keeping their opinions to themselves. (Not so helpful when selecting a wedding venue, very helpful when they need to tell a makeup artist that powder blue is NOT my best color.)

So no sooner had our Marathon Wedding Trial day began, then I found myself sitting in my parents' Volvo on my way to the mall. My mom started asking about her favorite topic - whether Israel is justified in continuing violence against Hamas in the Gaza Strip. No, not really. She started talking about the wedding. Which I must grudgingly admit was justified being that it was Marathon Wedding Trial Day. So we begin to chat about wedding details when she starts asking about my bachelorette party, which is next weekend.

"When are you going into the city? Do you want us to give you a ride?" [Incidentally, The City = New York City. If you grow up in NJ, there is only one City. And it's not Philadelphia or Baltimore.]

I was flabbergasted. It was so nice and so unlike my parents to drive me all the way into the city, only to turn around and immediately drive the hour back to central New Jersey. (They were the parents who used to always say to me when I was younger: "Can't you get someone else's parents to give you a ride to soccer / dance class / drama practice? We always have to drive."). And so, delighted that two old dogs had apparently learned some new tricks, I exclaimed "Yeah! That's so nice of you - to drive me there and then to turn around and go right back! That would be great."

To which my Mother replied breezily, "Oh, we're not going back. We're going to spend the night in the city to belatedly celebrate my birthday."


My mother (rightly) took my silence as annoyance so she continued defensively, "There are eight million people in the city."

Indeed, there are. Which I was aware of. But still, when I lived in Manhattan, I always managed to run into ex-boyfriends while I was picking up a whole pizza to eat by myself, obnoxious girls from high school when I was wearing no makeup, and random cousins who I cared little for and wanted to have to pretend to make plans to see even less - all on a regular basis. Eight million is actually kind of small.

But I was determined to remain level-headed. She was right really. It was a big city and somehow I doubted that we would go to the same restaurants (or bars or lounges for that matter). My parents would stick to midtown and the Upper East Side and we would likely be in the Meatpacking district or downtown. I took deep cleansing breaths and began my wedding mantra. It will be ok. It will be ok. It will be ok.

And suddenly I would be. It's fine.

So I continued to chat with my Mom and realized of course I actually couldn't get a ride into the city because I was going to go early Saturday morning and they were going later in the afternoon. Foiled again. I was immersed in thought, trying to figure out whether I could stomach taking the super cheap and moderately dangerous Chinatown Bus to NYC or if I should just suck it up and pay an obscene amount of money for Amtrak, which was sure to be less dramatic and offered bathrooms and snacks onboard, when suddenly my Mom asked "Whose apartment are you girls staying at?"

I replied, "Oh, well we actually got a hotel because there are so many of us coming in from out of town that we decided it would just be easier and more fun. And besides, we'll all meet there before we go out."

"That's a good idea. Where are you staying?"

"The Murray Hill Shelbourne - I got a great deal on a suite so it worked out really well!"

This is the point where my Mom made what can only be described as a sort of "tsk-ing" sound.

My stomach sank. Was the place a total fleabag motel? I was picturing all of us huddled on a small shabby sofa looking around the room at rodent infestations. Gross.

But she followed up the tsk-ing with the following, "Isn't that funny? That's the hotel that Dad and I are staying at!!"

Eight million people, huh?

I lost it. I would love to say I acted maturely, like a 32-year woman about to get married. But instead I threw a tempertantrum. I'll admit it.

"WHAT?!? Come ON! I TOLD you I would be in the city that weekend! God, I can't get AWAY from you people!! I want to GET AWAY! I don't want to SEE YOU AT MY BACHELORETTE PARTY. Sweet Jesus."

I told you. I lost it.

I knew I was acting like an ungrateful brat and that my parents had just as much right to stay at the hotel as I did, but that didn't diminish the fact that I really didn't want my parents to see me stumble out of the hotel for dinner at 9 p.m. as they were coming home after their 6:30 dinner plans.

But I knew I was acting like a baby, so I shut up and stewed in silence. I had clearly conveyed my displeasure and there was nothing else to say. Well, on my part at least. I was definitely hoping my parents would realize that it was their responsibility to say that they would find another hotel.

Instead, my mother said "We booked this hotel 6 weeks ago."

I put on my Parental Translator Hat and pressed "Start." Just as I had suspected. According to my calculations, that sentence in parent-speak actually meant: "I know you're our daughter, but screw you - we want to stay at this hotel. Go find another one if you're not happy."

So I quietly sulked.

When we arrived at our destination (the mall to look for tuxes for my Dad), I continued to sulk. I placed a quick call to Mr F and told him to look for alternate hotels for me. And then I tried to move on with the day.

My Mother and I were looking at patterns when my Father excused himself (presumably because he cared about tuxes just about as much as Mr F did). About a half an hour later he reappeared and walked over to me.

"Mom and I discussed it and we decided to switch our hotel. So we won't stay at the one you're staying at."

[Pigs flying; Devil wearing snowboots; Cats and dogs living together; LC and Heidi hugging.]


He continued: "I made a few calls and we got another hotel to stay at..."

Wait for it.

Wait for it....

"... Instead, we're going to stay at the Marriott."

Yup. In an incredible turn of events, I have been saved by my nemesis, mon frere, Le Marriott. I never thought I'd utter such words, but I want to take this opportunity to shout from the cyber-hilltops: "Marriott, I love you!"

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Signed Sealed Delivered, I'm Yours

On Saturday night I once again found myself in New Jersey. Whoever said that "All roads lead to Rome" never had two Jewish mothers and an impending wedding.

As I sat eating pasta, meatballs, chicken, mini hamburgers, and meatloaf and potatoes (a typical Jewish mother's meal for her prodigal children) and drank a large goblet of Cabernet (a typical Jewish daughter's antidote to Jewish mothers) with my Future Mother and Father in Law, and Future Sister and Brother in Law, the conversation meandered on over to the wedding guest list. And by "meandered to the guest list" I mean that from the moment we walked in the door I was pelted by searing nuptially-focused questions and thus, the topic of the group's discussion transitioned only from the food at the wedding to the cocktails for the wedding and from the clothes to be worn at the wedding to the clothes to be worn the night before the wedding. I was an innocent fawn, slowly waking from deep slumber; its tender eyes open to a sunny and quiet meadow, until it's suddenly face-to-face with the first day of hunting season and the double barrel of a shotgun.

I looked down at the bulls eye on my chest as my Future Mother in Law said to me: "How many of our friends have not responded yet?"

I considered my after-life as finely prepared venison at a top restaurant. "Well..."

"Well what?"

"Well actually, almost none of your guests have responded." Anticipating her next question, I said "The responses are due in a week."

She became indignant. "Well if they don't respond, then I'm assuming they're not coming and well, we're not going to be friends with them anymore!"

Now I was the hunter. "What do you mean, you're assuming? Aren't you going to call them to ask if they're coming? You're just going to not talk to them? But we need a definite answer!" I was a hunter whose voice rose a variety of octaves to achieve a piercing decibel during the hunt.

At this moment, FMIL looked at me as though she were indeed welcoming a wild boar into her family. Her look said, now why in the world would I possibly call the people who are my so-called closest friends and those who I insisted we must invite?

OK, maybe her look didn't say that. But that's what I thought. Why in the world would she not call the people who she insisted we must invite because they would be so hurt if we didn't, because they are Such Good Friends? Doesn't she talk to these people anyway (if they are, indeed, such good friends) and is it really a big deal to call them?

Invocations of Verizon and T-Mobile aside, this is really just a symptom of the bigger issue at hand: why oh why, can these people not RSVP to begin with? Dear Lord, my Sauveur, what more can a person do to garner a response then send someone a self addressed and stamped envelope? Is it really such a burden to take a pen to the paper and check off "yes" or "no" and to take the envelope to the mailbox? This seems only moderately more rigorous than other taxing tasks such as breathing, walking, and sleeping. (I do feel compelled here to disclose that apparently there is an in-between option of just sending in the response card with no indication of whether you will, or will not, be attending and/or any corresponding indication of a food choice should you be coming. This possibility was presented to me in the form of a response from one of FMIL's friends who dumped the completely blank response card back in the mail to us. Not a speck of ink on that sucker to be found. I'd give you my two cents on that one, but since I already spent 47 cents on a stamp that served no purpose, I'll keep it to myself.)

Indeed, there is a part of me that is tempted to send over a courier to the homes of those who have yet to respond to solicit a yay or nay from those delinquent invitees - mostly because I am curious if they will respond, or just deem it too difficult to stand up and answer the door for the courier.

I'm aware how obnoxious and impatient this sounds. I assure you that it will sound even more judgmental in light of the following: I've been that person. I am the person who gets the envelope with the stamp on it and puts it aside thinking "I should really decide if I'm going to this wedding." And then I lose the envelope. Or I forget about the reply date. Or I go on a three-week bender and groggily wake up in Tijuana in the bed of a Mexican stripper named Carmen.

Man, I am so craving enchiladas and a margarita (on the rocks, with salt).

Anyway, needless to say, I won't be doing that again any time soon (turning in replies late; you can never be sure you won't find yourself in Tijuana). Go on, invite me to your wedding. Try me.

All that being said, that doesn't solve the problem at hand: my future In Laws apparently feel comfortable just assuming that lack of reply equals non-attendance. I, on the other hand, happen to know that many people believe that it is so obvious that they will be attending that they don't need to turn in an RSVP. Or if they're anything like my parents (which, being my parents' friends, presumably they are), they tend to firmly believe that they have said and done things that they have not, in fact, actually done (i.e., Mom assuring me that she sent me an email telling me the status of said RSVP list, when indeed no such email was ever sent. By the way, here's a hint - thinking about doing something does not actually make it happen. Or, as previously discussed in this blog, were that the case I would have a fridge full of ice cream, a house that sparkled like the Chrysler building and a closet that that boasted more Louboutin shoes than Saks Fifth Avenue.)

So where does this leave me? You guessed it. Eight days away from calling up 30 people I've never met and asking them point-blank if they are high-tailing it down to Baltimore in 40 days to attend my frickin' wedding. Somehow I suspect that this will not lead to much endearment by my In-Laws' friends; similarly, I suspect it will fail to lead to wedding gifts from said friends. Whatever. I didn't need a complete set of martini glasses anyway.