Thursday, June 26, 2008

See, this is why church and state are separate.

Okay, so whenever I post stories about the wedding planning, people are quick to jump in and pat me on the head and tell me they're sorry things are hard. I love the head patting. You guys are so nice. I'm good, though. No head patting needed today.

So here is the Story of The Marriage License Adventures.

Joel and I have an officiant for our wedding. She is a teacher at Joel's school, a warm, effervescent presence. She's one of those people who move through with the world with a sense of grace and humor. She was raised Italian Catholic, officially lapsed several decades ago, and began a spiritual journey that I could listen to her talk about for hours. But oh- she still has that Eucharistic way about her. We couldn't be happier to have her preside over our nuptials. We don't want anyone else.

Here's the thing. She's a spiritual leader affiliated with the Interfaith Council of New York and can legally solemnize marriages in New York state. Not so much in Pennsylvania. Unlike Massachusetts, where individuals can apply for a permit to marry two people on a given day, Pennsylvania doesn't have that option.

What about the Internet, you might ask? We don't want to ask her to get ordained on the Internet for two reasons. 1.) She's already ordained, a spiritual leader in her faith community. We respect that too much to ask her to add on a "Universal Life Church" label for the day just because our wedding isn't in New York. 2.) Pennsylvania is fighting Internet ordination left and right. Marriages are being overturned for couples who were married by a friend ordained on the Internet.

I think getting married by a friend is a lovely, lovely option, by the way. I know a lot of couples who have gone this route. It's beautiful. That said, I'm personally nervous, just for us, about the thought of having our marriage overturned. I like the idea of our marriage, you know, not being turned over. Right side up, please and thank you.

So, what to do? Pennsylvania has something called a self-uniting marriage license. It's been on the books since 1681, perfectly legal. The notion of the self-uniting marriage license comes from the Quakers, who do not have a hierarchal structure in their churches. Basically, Quakers come together to worship, sit in meditative silence until someone feels moved by the holy spirit to speak, and take turns talking and praying. No one person is considered closer to God than anyone else. It's nice. When Quakers get married, basically, the couple makes vows to each other. They unite themselves. Two witnesses have to sign their marriage license to say, "Yup, we saw them do it."

Now, even though William Penn was a Quaker and founded the state of PA (Hi, Mr. Crownover!* I wonder if you're still alive!), the self-uniting marriage license is not exclusive to Quakers. Anyone can apply for one. You just tell the clerk you want Form B instead of Form A, and voila! You're all set. Done!

In theory...

So I have been doing lots and lots of research about this. It seems that many town clerks are unaware of the law, that any couple can self-unite. I found some excellent resources provided by the Pennsylvania Freethought Society, which is an atheist organization, explaining how and why they can't do that. Under the law, the marriage license bureau can not deny us a self-uniting marriage license due to our religion or lack of proof thereof.. A federal judge recently ruled in favor of a couple, upholding the statute. The ACLU has a special 1-800 number for Pennsylvania couples being denied self-uniting marriage licenses.

Joel and I are going to PA on July 3rd to kick off Alissa and Todd's wedding weekend extravaganza. You have to get your marriage license in PA within 60 days of your wedding, in any county in the state. We want to get our marriage license first thing on the 3rd, so we can get to the rehearsal later that afternoon. I do not want to be crying or arguing Pennsylvania's marriage statutes with a Clerk of the Orphan Court who insists on a recommend from a Society of Friends. No way, Jose. So I've been calling around, trying to ensure that the necessary state government offices will be open the day before the July Fourth holiday and make sure we won't have problems.

Alissa warned about her experience getting a marriage license: "Uh, be prepared for the part where you put your hands on the Bible and swear you aren't cousins." I laughed. "What!? No! Really?"
Liss: Yes.
Me: Oh, well, we're doing the self-uniting thing, so I don't know...
Liss: Oh, no. The Bible lives right there on the desk. You walk up, fill our the form, hand over the money, and swear on the Bible that you aren't cousins.
Me: Wow. I love Pennsylvania.**

Famous. Last. Words.

I called the marriage license office in a town very close to Alissa and Todd's house to a.) make sure their offices were open during ordinary hours on July 3rd because it's the day before a big holiday and I'm a neurotic little cookie and b.) to make sure we weren't going to get any crap when we apply for a self-uniting marriage license because we're not Quakers.

It was remarkable. Every close-minded, pain in the ass thing that you can imagine happened. It was just like all the articles and informational websites and the ACLU said it might be. You have to be Quakers. No, we don't, actually- Yes, you do. You have to have a signed form from the Society of Friends. No, we really don't. I have researched this. I know what I am talking about. You need to speak to my supervisor, who actually had the nerve to say to me, "Just because one judge agreed to let that one couple do it doesn't mean it's legal for everyone."

Um, hello? Do you not know what "legal precedent" means? I got on the phone with the supervisor, then the town attorney, who- upon hearing me say that the ACLU has a 1-800 number just for couples who've been denied secular self-uniting marriage licenses- said, "It would be nice to talk to the ACLU. At least they know what their talking about." I thanked him for the implication that I didn't. He accused me of threatening him with a lawsuit. I told him he should be aware that the PA Dept of Human Services is starting an outright effort to educate state employees who are ignorant about the law, and he should expect to hear from them. He asked me who told me that. I told him it's on the Pennsylvania Freethought Society of Greater Philadelphia's website. He was clearly googling while listening, and asked me who came up with the idea of an organization for atheists. I told him Thomas Paine. He asked, "Wasn't he from New Hampshire somewhere?" Having spent the last five consecutive Flag Days shooting costumed re-enactors talking on cell phones and using Port-a-Potties at the Thomas Paine House in New Rochelle, I told him Thomas Paine was from New York but collaborated with Ben Franklin, hence the Philly connection, shortly after the Continental Congress held the Virginia convention in 1776.

It was fun. Not.

I asked him what that had to do with my upcoming marriage, and he said he was trying to help me "even if [he] didn't agree with [me.]" I told him, never mind, I called because I wanted to make sure the office of the orphan court knew the law and would issue us a self-uniting license. I clearly had my answer, and would apply in another office. He told me he had to do some research at a law library but would be on vacation until the end of July. He took my name and number.

Meanwhile, I called the main marriage license bureau in Philly and asked if they were open on July 3rd. Yes. Could my fiancee and I come in and get a self-uniting marriage license? Yes.

"You don't need anything special," she said. I told her we weren't affiliated with a Society of Friends, and she said she wasn't allowed to ask about my religion anyway. "How come they gave me such a hard time in the office of the orphan court?" I asked. "How come they don't know this in Bucks County?"

"Honey, I have no idea," she said. "You need your driver's license, though, and $90 in cash. If either of you has been married before, you need proof of divorce or the death certificate of your previous spouse." Got it. Fine. We will just drive into Center City for the marriage license before Liss and Todd's rehearsal. Whatever.

"There's one more thing," the clerk said. "He can't be your cousin!"


* Mr. Crownover was my 8th grade social studies teacher, a bigtime PA History buff.

** Actually I said, "I love Pennsyltucky," which is what this guy from college drumline called my home state, implying we were backward and hillbillies. Then again, everyone called him "Big Daddy Parmesan," so you know... That says something right there.

For "Mikey"

Go congratulate Shannon, Ernie and Gaby! They're having a girl!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Welcome, summer.

I think summer is the loneliest season. Everyone talks about how the holidays are hardest for those who "have nowhere to to go," but it seems to me that more people make an effort to reach out to the lonely at that time of year.

June is a hard month. Everyone is graduating, saying goodbye, looking back but moving forward, starting boot camp, getting a new job, departing, taking off, starting over, making transitions. And around here, they're driving drunk and jumping off bridges. They always do, in June. It's just that time of year.


So we all know about my photographic memory, the way I remember all kinds of things very, very clearly. I know, too, that it's not always reliable, particularly as I get older. I recently heard about a scientific study that found all new proof that memories are malleable. The study worked with subjects who witnessed crimes. The less people described what they saw, the more accurate their memories were. The witnesses who went over and over their memories of the events, the less accurate they ultimately were. It seems that the very act of remembering something changes the way we remember it.

I think that explains a lot about me. I sometimes feel like I'm living forward and backwards at the same time. I spend so much time out in the communities I cover, so much time meeting people and observing and documenting their lives that my own personal experiences and my own past bubble up all the time.

I'm not just photographing a swim meet; I'm remembering that I was the 8-and-under quaking with fear on the starting block. I'm not just shooting the fireworks; I'm the teenager on the blanket with her friends. I'm not just getting dinner from the snack bar because it supports the Little League, and anyway, my newspaper sponsors the tournament; I'm the girl counting out all the pennies, then the penny candy, for minimum wage minus tax. I'm not just grabbing a quick hot weather photo of kids getting ice cream from the Good Humor truck because layout says there's a hole on A3; I'm a delighted 7-year-old asking to leave the dinner table puh-lease?!? I'm a 19-year-old falling in love with an actor who sells ice cream during intermission, I'm an engaged woman who has seen enough Shakespeare in the Park to last a lifetime, thankyouverymuch.

All it takes is one whiff of gunpowder and sparkler smoke, the biting scent of chlorine, the jingle of the ice cream truck, the raisin-y smell of fireflies in a plastic container: I'm 5, I'm 15, I'm 29, and I'm late for my next assignment. Welcome, summer.


Today is Stephen's wedding day.

Yes, we still talk to each other. I haven't actually seen him since the night he walked out with my guts all over his shoes, but we chat on the phone every so often. We talk about work; about how to use PhotoShop in quick mask mode. I ask him questions I know he knows the answer to.

Voicemail, 6:59 p.m. *Beep* This is Stephen L!bby. Please leave me a message.

Me: Hey, Stephen, hope you're well. Listen, I have a question for you. I was hoping I'd catch you after work but before it got too late. What is the, I don't know, the theater term, I guess? for when a show starts with a very specific opening scene that then repeats itself at the end. You know.. like in Julien's play "Roger and Tom" but it's usually slightly different the second time. Okay, like in the Broadway musical "Curtains," right? It starts-

Robot Lady: You have exceeded the maximum amount of time for this message. To erase and re-record, press 1. To keep recording where you left off, press 2.

Me: (presses 2) So it starts with a scene from a play within a play, and then the star gets murdered and the show is all murderer mystery-esque, and THEN at the end of the musical, they show the same scene from the play within the play AGAIN, but it has all new meaning because the audience knows all this stuff that they didn't know before. Yeah. That. What's that called? Okay, bye!

Cell Phone, 9:46 p.m. You have a new text message.
Me: I have a new text message!
Stephen via text: I think the term you're looking for is "coda," like in music.
Me: (texting) Coda! Yes! Thanks, dude.

There was a brief, awkward period of time where I was advising him about picking a good wedding photographer, and I thought they were going to ask me to shoot their wedding. I've done it before for another Big Time Ex Boyfriend. Stephen knows this, he was my anchor and my date who got me through it. I was seriously considering it, at which point Amanda told me she'd have me hit over the head and taken out of the country. Jo said she'd pick my unconscious body up at Heathrow if it came to that.

I am not their wedding photographer.


We *are* in close enough contact that we know the basic details of each other's weddings. I shared what I had found aboutthe pros and cons of different honeymoon registries, wedding website templates. He's been to Joel's and my wedding website; I've been to his. It's cute.

I know they're going to London and plan to more or less repeat everything we did together in 1999, right down to the day trip destinations, the long weekends, the shows on the West End. I asked him if he's trying to erase me, a European do-over. He shouts no! You're insane! it's just that his bride-to-be has never been there before. They made their honeymoon registry out for the things he knows they'll like. He tells me to go take my crazy pills.

Ahem. I think he may have lost the right to tell me to do that. I laugh, but I change the subject to his nephew.

Andrew is good. Andrew is still dealing with some sensory-integration issues. He's been tested by everyone for everything, but they say he's extremely intelligent. He just processes things differently. You can tell him, "Andrew, go put on your shoes" and it just doesn't get through. "It's weird," Steve says. " He's not ignoring you. Basic instructions like that just don't click." Steve's brother's family speaks both Polish and English at home. The phrase "Go put on your shoes" more or less translates phonetically as "Shadzee Ladzee Me Boo-Tee."* It's one of the few Polish phrases I had picked up when Andrew was little, but I had completely forgotten about it.

Completely forgotten. The un-remembered memory, true to the scientific study I mentioned above, is pure, unchanged. Wham.

On the other end of the phone, Stephen starts up with a bit about a robot. The robot is saying "Shadzee Ladzee Me Boo-Tee" in "a robot accent." He's cracking me up with the Polish robot voice, saying if "Robot" were an ethnicity, his "robot accent" would be offensive, and I'm laughing into the phone, laughing so hard I almost can't breathe.

He's laughing, too, delighted at how well this bit is going over, and somewhere in the mingled sound of me laughing and his pleasure at my laughter is the faintest echo of a sound I would have once described as the sound of "Us." If this laughter is all that's left of our once-very-tangible-love that lasted, in its own way, in good times and bad, in sickness and in health for so long... Well, it's a pretty good part to keep. The work we did to get here, to construct a friendship out of our house of fallen cards... It feels worth it.


I went to see the "Sex and the City" movie tonight by myself after working the late shift. Joel has no interest in seeing it; he had other plans. I got a Coke and a bag of popcorn. I haven't done that in years. I settled in the air-conditioned theater with my snacks and watched the oh-so-romantic tale of two lovers who beat their relationship like a dead horse for six seasons on HBO, on never-ending sanitized re-runs on TBS, and now, for two and a half hours on the silver screen. I felt true compassion for Carrie when she shrieks "Get me out of here!" as she realizes she's been left at the altar, but part of me wanted to smack her upside the head. Duh, it's Big. He's punks out. It's what he does.

I had to smile, though, as I watched Charlotte and Miranda and Samantha hold Carrie together with both hands throughout the movie. My girlfriends scraped me off the floor with a spatula three-and-a-half years ago. Not long after I got engaged, my mom was talking about a few of her friends' daughters, their cautionary tales of "the starter marriage." I told her, "My experience with Stephen taught me the difference between feeling sure and being sure."

I came home from the movie and greeted Joel with half my heavy gear, to be schlepped up the last of the stairs. It's after midnight. I say, "Today is Stephen's wedding day. I need to write."

"Oh," Joel says, with genuine gentleness. "That's hard. I'll leave you to it" he says, as I boot up the computer. He brings me the power cord to my laptop and a glass of ice water. He kisses me once on the forehead, twice on the cheeks. I lose count on the lips.

I live forward and backward. I am the pre-teen me poolside with the Danielle Steele novel, the girl with the broken heart, the woman with the new life, the sweet fiancee, the best of things to come. When I really get down to the heart of the matter, I want all the best for Stephen and Anna, too, for them to have the beautiful midsummer wedding they've been dreaming of.

After all, it's June. It's just that time of year.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Please call me, I can't call you...

Hey there! So in true Idiosyncratic fashion, my cell phone disappeared in the course of my very busy weekend. Luckily, my New Every Two contract was up, so I got a free phone. Unfortunately, all of your numbers were more or less stored in my old phone, so if we're chatty phone friends, call you please email me your contact info?

Craptastic, I know. You are all super special shining stars, and I hate that cell phones have destroyed my ability to memorize phone numbers...

Sunday, June 15, 2008

We, literally, partied up a storm.

Where to begin about my shower? Oh, man, did we have fun.

My day began, actually, with an engagement session with Lauri for Joel and me all around Rye Town Park. I know she was nervous about the shoot, (because limited time + mid-summer afternoon light + shooting two photographers= scary!) but the praise is well-deserved! Check this out, right?

This is the best picture ever taken of us. EVER. I can not thank you enough, Lauri. The photos are great.

The shower was held at Seaside Johnnie's, a lobster/crabcake/burger joint on Long Island Sound where Joel and I had our first date. My mom, sister and bridal ninjas planned a beach party clambake for me, and it was, literally, just what I wanted. I didn't take any pictures personally, but Lauri did (see entry below.) I'll post those as soon as I can. :) They rented a pavilion adjacent to the restaurant, which handily kept us out of the sun at the start of the shower and kept us dry when the thunderstorm hit.

I just want to thank everyone. It'll be like my own little personal Oscar acceptance speech. Here we go. I want to thank the Academy and my agent and God and Tom Hanks... and...

• My sister, my maid of honor, my hostess and MC, who- OMG- made a Mad Libs game out of my blog entries about me and Joel. HI. Larious. This entry about our first date went from this:

"I suggested we go to Seaside Johnnie's, an overpriced beach shack on Long Island Sound where you can blow $16.95 on a cheeseburger if you aren't careful. Ordinarily, I wouldn't suggest it for a first date if dinner is involved, but since we were only going to have drinks, I figured it wouldn't be too pricey."

became something like....

"I suggested we go to Disney World, an overpriced armpit on Long Island Sound where you can blow $0.05 on a cheeseburger if you aren't sparkly."

Absolute genius, AJ. Best. "Bridal Shower Game" Ever.

• My mom, who made all this work, who did the tedious shower-related labor (helping build a game board, gift-wrapping favors) to bring my sister's ideas to life, from getting the lights in the party pavilion turned on as the storm clouds darkened, to making sure a present from one of my Like-a-Moms from East Pete who couldn't attend in person actually arrived, to assisting my bridal ninjas every step of the way... It didn't go unnoticed, Mom. I can't say thank you enough.

• Kelly and Sarah, who helped plan despite going through massive life overhaul changes, including but not limited to finishing nursing coursework, selling homes, job-hunting, doing a long-distance marriage. They ran present after present to the car in the rain- IN KITTEN HEELS, Sarah, my GOD, woman!- passed out towels to the guests (excellent beach-theme shower favor! Also handy in a torrential downpour!)

• Andrea, for pouring your heart and time and talents into my headpiece and cake topper, for keeping me calm in the hours beforehand, for carrying a quilt and sunglasses and wallets and lip gloss throughout the engagement shoot, for the give and take of creative energy, for knowing me and getting it.

• Heather and Liss and Gwen, for showing up early, and helping set up, and running my flower girl to the bathroom just in time. For singing Girl Scout camp songs to a huddled group of women as lightning crashed all around us, for leaning across the table and saying to me: THIS. IS. GREAT! LOOK AT HOW MUCH FUN EVERYONE IS HAVING and MEANING IT as the rain blew in sideways, for getting through wedding planning and gift-opening just a few weeks ahead, reminding me that I'm not alone, that I'm doing great, too. If it were easy to have the same best friends you had when you were 14, everyone would do it. I am so lucky.

• My co-worker girls, the reporters who negotiate my security clearance at West Point despite my pesky NSA profile, who carry my tripod when I've got to do videos AND stills, and oops! Sen. Schumer's people have spontaneously relocated the press conference! who ALL came and rearranged weekend shifts around at not only the Nournal Jews, but also the Jall Weet Strournal and the Aten Stisland Advance, who were the last to leave, who did so well on the "Angie's Life Quiz" that I realized something I already knew in a whole new way: I spend more time in the newsroom than I do at home. ;) Thank you.

• Oh, HDL, I know it must have been a little lonely without the rest of the '97 peeps. Thank you for taking the subway, to Metro-North, to a taxi to the beach. Yours is the wafflemaker we're keeping... Shhh... :)

• Thank you, Kristen and Mrs P and Table #2, for knowing me the the longest (and loving me anyway.)

• The New Yorkers who crossed bridges and tunnels and braved traffic and highways that are treacherous in the best of times, let alone on a rainy Saturday when the Mets are in town, who made me a member of the "framily" (friend + family= framily), who have always, always treated me as so much more than their husbands' friend's girlfriend. You guys are the best.

• All the out-of-towners who drove in from PA and Jersey and Boston and Baltimore, my mom's friend Linda whose laugh fills a room, my mother-in-law's friends who've known Joel for his entire life but whom only just met me, the cousins who remember holding my future husband as a baby and not wanting to leave for Hebrew School because "the baby" was so cute, the new (and newish) moms who decided that the best Father's Day gift would be to leave the under-2 crowd home with Daddy so they could enjoy the non-stop frozen tropical drinks (yum!).

• and my mother-in-law, who wrote me the sweetest card, made me a wedding cake out of bath towels, and raised the love of my life. Thank you for Joel. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Friday, June 13, 2008

More Fun with YouTube

A raccoon sneaks into a house through the cat flap and steals the floor mat. And it's set to the Pink Panther theme. If this doesn't brighten your whole damn day, well, I just can't help you.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Mostly Sunny With 100% Chance of Showers

Last weekend, I drove to PA for Lauri's shower. (Lauri is my friend Andrea's younger sister, but I officially claim her as my friend now, too.) Last spring, Lauri started emailing me about shooting weddings, and- since photo geekery is like my favorite thing ever to talk about- I started opining about lenses and flashes and digital cards and web templates. By the time I came up for air, it was October.

She came out of the box with a BANG! at her very first wedding job, and hasn't stopped since. Seriously, Lauri got so good, so fast, I had no reservations about asking her and then business partner-now-fabulous-autonomous-photographer in her own right Katie to shoot Joel's and my wedding immediately after we got engaged.

But Lauri got engaged about five minutes later, and we found ourselves with weddings dates within a week of each other. I'll be on my honeymoon when she gets married, and she'll be running around like crazy with last minute details, so we agreed to shoot each other's showers and engagement sessions as, like, a barter-y thing. (And then we booked our respective hetero photo girl crushes to shoot our weddings.)

You can see the rest of the photos from Lauri's Shower here.

She and Andrea are driving up here this weekend for my shower, which- yes, I know about it; and no, I didn't want it to be a surprise. I don't like surprises anyway, and I frequently dribble things down the front of my shirt. I just wanted to know WHEN it was, so I can decrease the likelihood of having a stain on my chest while 30 people watch me open gift-wrapped kitchenware. It's me, so I can never *guarantee* that I won't have, say, ketchup on my pants, but at least this way I can *try* not to.

I AM really excited about many, many of my favorite women being all together at the same time, AND I get to see Andrea and Lauri two weekends in a row. That, like, never happens. Ever. :) Safe travels, everyone.

Monday, June 09, 2008

Part Three

I go into the dressing room and put my regular clothes back on. I seriously think about walking out of there and not giving them my business. I think about my mom, how pleased she was to give me this amazing gift, how my parents would be out a significant chunk of change for the deposit. I think about the store owner going to church and telling everyone about this crazy liberal bride for whom she jumped through all kinds of hoops to get the right dress who ended up not taking it in the end and why. I imagine them telling her she did the right thing not to do business with a sinner, closing her mind even further. With an eye toward self-preservation, I think about scrambling for a new dress with exactly two months to go.

I call my mom, who says she'll eat the cost of the deposit and support me if that's what I want to do. She also says she thinks that honoring my contract with the business would be, well, honorable. She reminds me of the videographer Joel and I didn't hire. She reminds me that here's only so much anyone can do ensure you're working with people who share your values and points out that nobody goes to pick up their dress expecting a homophobic outburst.

I call Kelly, who shares a story about working for Planned Parenthood and finding out that they get a lot of supplies from Sam's Club, when the Wal-Mart corporation has a terrible reputation for being anti-contraception and anti-woman. She tells me about the debate in the office: putting their money where their mission is vs. not being able to operate at all if they only want to do business with people who agree with them. She asked me who gets the bulk of the money from the sale of my gown: the designer or the store?

The designer does, and damn, she earned it, having eaten the cost to reship the dress back to Canada overnight and back. I understand she fixed the dress herself, which was probably an enormous time commitment involving sleepless nights.

The store probably only gets a 10-15% commission if I go through with the sale, which is several hundred dollars less than the deposit they would keep if I walk, AND they would profit from re-selling the dress to the next size 14 bride who walks in the door. Their profit margin is the smallest if I complete the sale. Ultimately, that's how I make my choice to stick with this gown and never patronize the store again.

And so we move forward, with two months to go, toward a wedding for which the site fee supports a botanical garden, toward a wedding cake made by a breast cancer survivor, toward a DJ, photographer, and videographer who are all women running their own businesses out of their homes, toward a feminist officiant who will unite us with fair, equitably-traded and mined rings, and most importantly, toward a wedding that brings two families, three faiths, and diverse friends together for a man and woman who love each other very much.

Part Two

And so starting a year ago, Joel and I have gone about the process of planning a wedding that focuses on inclusion and comfort. Joel and I are planning a wedding that is "very us," but every decision has been influenced by those two priorities: from all kids invited to air-conditioning the reception tent. The thing is, yeah, I'm a wedding vendor. I know how the sausage is made, and I know very well how much a crazy wedding planner and/or pain-in-the-ass DJ can shape the entire tone of the day. It was really important to us that everyone who will have contact with our guests has the ability to accommodate and/or be kind to our friends and family.

We planned our wedding in PA for pretty much the purpose of including Nanny.

Joel: If Nanny's not there, you're going to cry; she's going to cry. Pennsylvania, it is.
Me: I love you.
Joel: I just can't break the old lady's heart.
Me: Please don't call her that.

We purposefully picked an officiant who was not only simpatico with our New Ageish fusion of Catholicism, Judiasm and nature-inspired spirituality, but is mainstream enough to fit right in with all the little old Italian ladies (there, I just called her that) in my extended family, chin hairs and all.

Venue: Dog allowed on premises? Great. Wheelchairs can go everywhere, even the Oak Grove? Including the bathrooms? Yes and yes. Caterer: Kosher options if needed? Done. Vegetarian available? Check. Meal option that doesn't originate with a cow for Hindu co-workers? Awesome.

And, frankly, I full-on, straight-out asked the videographer and photographer if they were comfortable with gay couples. I didn't hire the first videographer candidate because I didn't like his answer.

"Well, would they be kissing or anything?" he asked. I saw N&J in my minds eye, practicing swing dancing in the living room of our old college group house. J murmuring "No crying, no crying" when she first saw her bride in her wedding dress, kissing her on the back of the hand, even as she wiped away her own tears. I remembered Matt and Keith being hesitant at first to kiss in public during their own rehearsal, even though they were surrounded by the most supportive of fag hags.*

*Yes, I can say that, because I am one. You can if you are, but not if you aren't. It's like Carlos Mencia calling himself a bean-eater. That's a different entry altogether.

"I have no idea if they'll be kissing," I said. "I certainly hope so." The videographer hedged. "Oh, well, you know, I mean, I would never *say* anything to them. We shoot Indian weddings sometimes, and all I ever say to the bride and groom is, 'I won't bow to your gods.'"

I smiled to myself, thinking of the fantastic sari my co-worker Hema will probably be wearing, remembering the way a 101-year-old woman beamed when we entered a Sikh home for a story we did together, as Hema bowed and greeted her with a traditional "Namaste, Mataji." (Mataji means "respected mother.")

Sorry, I told that videographer. Joel and I are going to go in a different direction.

I never thought to have this conversation with owner of the dress shop. As I mentioned before, the bridal salon was incredibly pro-active and helpful in getting the dress situation remedied. They called with updates; they opened the new dress immediately after it was delivered and measured it before calling me. I rushed down there on Friday to try it on, and the owner of the store came flying out of her office when one of the associates told her I had arrived.

"I feel like you're my own daughter!" she said, even though she can't be older than 35. I strapped myself into one of four fat relocation suits I brought with me, and put on the dress. Ta da! It fits. Meanwhile, the older seamstress- a middle aged woman with a Russian accent that make her sound like a Bond villan- starts lifting and arranging fabric and hemlines, necklines and boobs.

I don't want it too tight, I said, even though I was delighted it needed to be taken in a little. I don't want any back fat spilling out out of the top. I can retouch my chins, I said, but retouching back fat is really time consuming.

"Oh, that's right! You're a wedding photographer," the store owner said.
"Do you shoot tings beside veddings?" the seamstress asked.

Me: Yup. Families, headshots, pets, news. Mostly news, actually.
Seamstress: Vat about babies and grandmas?
Me: Uh huh.
Seamstress: Be sure to leave card.
Owner: What about pictures of dresses for an ad?
Me: You mean like portrait-style?
Owner: Yeah.
Me: I don't see why not. Seriously, I do everything- kids, pets, quinces, gay couples, food illustration, you name it.

They never heard me say the words "food illustration."

Seamstress: Oh! Vat? No! Why you do gay couples? Don't say dat!
Owner: Ew! That's disgusting. It's a sin!
Me: Oh, come on guys. It's just love! It's just people in love.
Owner: I just think, you know, God made man to be with woman. It's a disgusting sin. It's in the Bible! The Bible says it's wrong.

She kind of scoff/gags. I am so pissed.

Me: Jackie, I am going to have to stop you right there. I am so offended by what you're saying and how you're saying it right now, that if this conversation continues in this way, I will walk out of here and you will lose this sale.
Owner: Okay, then we won't talk about it.
Seamstress: (trying to cut tension) You know, I am older voman. I know, it is a different generation... I am not an educated voman. I know, is different.
Owner: (to me) You have read what it says in the Bible, right?
Me: The Bible says a lot of things. The Bible says slavery is okay. The Bible says it's wrong to wear clothing made of blended fibers, so all the cotton-silk blends you have here (gesturing around at rack after rack of wedding dresses), the Bible says that's wrong, too.

And then, a little Margaret Cho appears on my shoulder. Well, not really. But how awesome would that be? I borrow a line from her standup routine, the part in Assassin where she's talking about why she would love to parent a gay child. "Your gay son would never shoot up his school. That would interfere with yearbook!"

I looked the store owner right in the eye and said, "You know, I can't think of too many problems resulting from too much love in this world. It's your hate you have to watch out for."

The owner looks down at her feet for a moment, then looks up. "When do you want to schedule your first fitting?"


Sunday, June 08, 2008

June: Weddings and Gay Pride Month, Part 1

PREVIOUSLY ON IDIOSYNCRATIC LIFE: My wedding dress comes in to the shop all wrong. The store promises a new one will arrive in two weeks. The dress arrived Friday morning. It fits. It's gorgeous. It needs a few minor tweaks, a good steaming, but I was thrilled.

SPOILER: This is the first of two posts, that will, when all is said and done, come around to being about my wedding dress and a choice I just made. Please be patient with me, this first post is all about the background.

NEWS UPDATE: On May 29, New York state Gov. David Paterson issued a directive which required that state agencies recognize gay marriages performed in other states and countries that legally recognize same-sex unions.

DO SOMETHING: While you wait for me to finish the second half of this story in a future entry, click on the words "Take Action" to show your support for marriage equality. Oh, and be nice in the comments section. This is my blog. It is, above all else, a personal journal, a place for my stories, and a safe space. If you think I will tolerate bigotry or godbag-blowhardery for even one second, take my word for it: I won't. If you don't believe me, call the bridal salon where I ordered my gown and ask for Jackie.

A few years ago, Joel and I went to his cousin's wedding in Manhattan. Actually we went to the reception, because there was a huge back up on FDR Drive as rubber-neckers gawked at homeless man standing on a small round trampoline while balancing a watermelon rind on his head. Then Joel's car was hit and run in the parking lot, which I blogged about here.

With all the excitement, I never mentioned a quiet, but important moment that took place that night, a turning point, actually, in my relationship with Joel. Up to that point, Joel had a fairly typical liberal straight guy view of gay marriage and same-sex couples in general: Tolerance and acceptance with a "live and let live" philosophy. And although his friends are very racially diverse, he didn't have any gay friends at the time.

Well, I do have gay friends. A lot of them. And I guess, if you've never watched someone you love go through the process of coming out, you might not get it. If you've never seen the ladder of superficial cuts lacing up a friend's arm, because the pressure of staying in the closet hurt so much that they needed to feel that pain as a physical sensation- REALLY feel it- you might not get it. If you've never been to a wedding where the groom's mother wept uncontrollably not only because her son was getting married, but also because her husband refused to attend since their son was marrying a man, well... You might not get it.

Joel and I were already talking about getting married in September of 2006. We were talking about what kind of wedding we might want to have, who we might want to be there. One thing that I said was important to me, REALLY important to me, was that our wedding would be a celebration of love, a gathering not just for us, but for all the people who love us.

I had just gotten back from an old friend's commitment ceremony, just the best gay West Virginian wedding ever. I was adamant that Joel and I have a wedding where ALL our friends, including the gay couples, could feel comfortable slow-dancing together. Joel hedged on that, not because of his own views, but because he has some distant relatives of the born-again persuasion. Basically, I told Joel, "Too bad. My friends bent over backwards to include me in their wedding weekends, to treat me not just as their vendor, not even just as a friend, but as a member of their family. Your cousins will suck it up, or they aren't welcome."

Joel heard me, but he didn't quite get it. He countered with, "Well, I don't have a problem with it, but it's just not accepted yet. In 30 years, no one will ever look twice at a gay couple slow-dancing at wedding." So I told him that 30 years ago, no one would have accepted an interracial couple. As far as I was concerned, excluding our gay guests in any way would be as ludicrous as asking GB and Walter not to dance together. Oh, and if he really felt that way, then I would be perfectly happy to marry him in 2036.

We were seated at his cousin's reception at the Typical Coupled Adult Non-Wedding Party Table. We were, after all, the bride's cousin and his girlfriend. We were with the other cousins who are too old to sit with their parents, the engaged grad school friends, and yes, the groom's cousin and his life partner. As the DJ asked all the couples to join the newlyweds on the dance floor, the groom's cousin and life partner stayed seated.

Joel and I stepped out on the dance floor. He turned me around slowly, doing the 360 degree prom spin. He watched them watching all of us, and said, "I take it back." As the night wore on, the groom's cousin and his partner *did* dance together, then slow danced together. Joel took a long look, and said: "I take it all back." He got it.


Thursday, June 05, 2008


Whew! I had been searching for a way to get rid of the orange and purple for more than six months now. Blogger made it really, really hard to change things up there for a while. I credit Shannon for finding Lena and delivering us all from the dread orange and purple. Thanks, lady! :)

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Totally Hair Bling It Out Barbie Styling Head (Try to say THAT 5 times fast.)

So I started picking up thank you gifts for the wedding, mostly for our two flower girls Gaby and Melanie, because I love an excuse to run amok in Toys R Us. Oh, who am I kidding? I spoil them both, and I love it. I am the Cool Non-Aunt Angie who suggests carving pumpkins into the shape of cats, Easter Egg dyeing in February, and trips to Nutcracker. I am the buyer of tutus, the sender of stickers, the assembler of intricate foam butterfly gardens. What can I say? I love them to bits and pieces.

So I'm hosting a thank-you lunch/spa outing for my mom, sister, mother-in-law, attendants, bridal ninjas, etc. before the rehearsal. It was really important to me to include both the flower girls. They're just going to get a basic nail polish as a special treat and then retire to the Garden Room to- hopefully- play with their presents..

My original idea was to get them American Girl dolls, which come with every possible accessory you can imagine, including their own salon chairs and carts of cosmetology supplies. This way Gaby and Melanie can play with the dolls' hair and makeup while their moms and the other "grown-up ladies" get their spa treatments.

I like the American Girl dolls, because each one has a related book or series of books. The company puts a special emphasis on diversity, and their historical dolls are interesting without being lame. The price that one pays for all this wholesome, educational fun (especially for two girls) rivals the cost of the wedding cake. Um, whoops. Back to the drawing board.

Amanda and I always got a kick out of this Barbie head with hair you could style when we were little. So I thought it would be fun to pick up the modern-day equivalent of that. But you know what? Mattel has gone kind of slutty. I blame the Bratz. You do know about the Bratz, yes? The freaky, bug-eyed prostitots that wear low-rise jeans, sleeveless corsets and tummy-bearing hoodies?

Even the Bratz Stylin' Head comes with hard plastic boobies and a bare navel. Like. Hell. Next!

One aisle over, in the Barbie section, I found these ever so slightly less slutty "Barbie Totally Hair Styling Head* - Bling it Out" set. I am not making this up. That's what it is actually called.

Pro: This Barbie is not white.

Neither of my flower girls is white. They may end up absorbing the ever-present societal expectations of beauty, favoring light skin, Caucasian-texture hair, and lithe, boyish bodies, but if either of these girls has an existential racial identity crisis a la Toni Morrison's "Bluest Eye," I will cry. A lot. I would also feel obligated to pay their parents back for all their therapy, should they find themselves on The Couch, shredding a tissue: "It all began when I was 5. I got this Totally Hair Bling It Out Barbie Styling Head as a present. Totally Styling Head Bling It Out Barbie was beautiful and blond and blue-eyed and perfect. I began saving my allowance for plastic surgery that very day."

But then... I saw that Totally Styling Head Bling It Out Barbie had on a leather choker. And she didn't come with very fun accessories. She came with some tiny black bows and sparkly barettes, but she was lacking in stuff to smear on her face and wipe off again. I mean, that's no fun. So... scary submissive-suggesting necklace AND lack of fun stuff = NEXT!

Which brings us to... The Island Princess: Princess Rosella Singing, Talking, Styling Head. What is this fresh hell?

Yup. An otherwise disembodied Barbie head WITH A MOVING MOUTH that talks, sings and comes with her own pet peacock and raccoon (Which? WTF? Are peacocks and racoons, like, forest friends now? What did I miss?) AND get this! A CREEPY, CROWN-WEARING ALBINO MONKEY PET. Absolutely not. No. Fucking. Way.

So, the path of least resistance, short of blowing $300 at the American Girl doll store, led me to the Trend Friends.

I have to confess, I was starting to feel my sanity ebbing away, particularly when another customer made the Princess Rosella Talking Singing Styling Head start to do its thing. The Barbie Trend Friends aren't a perfect gift. They come in one box, for one thing. My flower girls aren't sisters, so it's not like the present is going to the same house at the end of the weekend. I spent the evening trying to liberate the Trend Friends from their original packaging cellophane prison. They were shackled not only the Stereotypical White Lady Beauty Standard, but also by about 5 million twisty ties. (Down with patriarchy! Down with twisty ties!)

I put them in separate boxes, evenly divided the bountiful smeary fun goodies, wrapped them in tissue paper, and on August 8th WE ARE ALL GOING TO PRETEND THAT THIS IS HOW IT CAME FROM THE STORE, RIGHT?!? Ahem. The Trend Friends may not be ideal, but I think the girls will like them.

But! And this is of the utmost importance, they do not come with creepy, crown-wearing, albino monkey pets. Thank god for that.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Because I know a lot of people trying to buy and sell houses...

Okay, so I know I keep posting videos from BBC 3's Man Stroke Woman sketch comedy show, but I was watching a few more, and this one just KILLED me. Cindy and Kelly, this is for you. Keeping my fingers crossed for the Open Houses you have scheduled this weekend

Here's hoping that no demonic clowns or masses of malevolent energy manifest themselves today!