Not "we" as in me and you and not the royal we. "We" as in me and THIS guy.
And slowly, but surely, we are recovering. The balloons have deflated, the flowers are dead, and there are only about a dozen cupcakes left in the freezer. (Okay, two dozen.) I intend to wash them down with left over champagne. In front of the television. Wearing pyjamas.
Here's what I'm calling our "official wedding photo" from City Hall. (Not pictured: our witnesses Patty and Gid, and the lovely Officiant, George).
I've been pretty lax in my blogging duties over this period, but I promise to get back to it this coming week. In the meantime, here are a couple of amusing search phrases that have brought visitors to the site in the last couple of weeks:
vintage children and french
a certain amount of purposelessness is necessary to lead a full life
Planning a wedding, even a small wedding that you hope will be as little like a wedding as possible (ha ha), is a dangerous business.
I knew this already. I've always known this. But there's a big difference between knowing something and experiencing it.
In my case, things have already gone far beyond what I initially planned. More guests are coming, we'll be serving far more booze, (and more varieties of booze), and I've tried on actual bridal, which I never intended to do.
Nathan, being a weirdo Marxist, is helping. Like me, however, he's a people pleaser with a tendency to give in when pushed, so we have to bolster each other regularly with rousing exclamations of "Just say no!" and "We not doing that!"
Sometimes, we just won't answer our phone.
But I admit, there have been moments when we've been swept into the river. As I said, I tried on "real" bridal, and once you head down that road (or any of these wedding roads) all the cliches come to life. It really IS a slippery slope. Within an hour of dress shopping, I found myself thinking, "Well, $900 isn't really THAT much for a dress, is it?" And "maybe I DO need custom-dyed shoes..."
(I know that there are people for whom $900 would be a major bargain, but practically my entire wardrobe is from Goodwill... for me, it's insane.)
Insane or not, its just easy to get caught up in the bullshit. It wasn't my fault! The bullshit is powerful and hard to resist.
Luckily, when I got home, I came to my senses, found a $5 dress at the thrift shop*, and moved on (at least emotionally).
But still... despite our little rebellions, expectations continue to weigh on us.
Interestingly, I find that what helps the most is the Internet. All it takes to remind me of what is inauthentic, saccharine and vile about so many contemporary weddings is a quick visit to Pinterest or a Google search of the words "best wedding traditions." The results are truly horrifying. From those "suddenly we're doing choreographed hip-hop!" reception dances to people who engrave their wedding bands with phrases like "I will wuv you for eternity" and "Love you, Shmoopie" (Shmoopie, being the most disgusting pet name ever and very likely what you'll be forced to call the devil in hell), the internet is rife with helpful aids in aversion therapy.
Thank goodness for the modern wedding ick factor. Without it, I think I might have been suckered into a lot more hoopla.
My wedding (or rather, marriage) is just a few weeks away, so I don't have to resist for much longer. Soon this will all be over and we can go back to answering our phone and being our regular selves.
All we have left to do is ... a lot actually.
In fact, I don't want to think about it. Ugh.
*Yes. I am wearing a $5 wedding dress. It's fuschia. Why not, right? That's who I AM, dammit.
Hey! Tomorrow is valentine's day! I don't tend to celebrate this strange "holiday" but take a look at these vintage cards from the generally amusing folks over at Funny or Die. They've been all over the place lately, but I'm not feeling very creative, so forgive me for sharing them one more time.
Most of you have seen this already, but in case you haven't, I wanted to share the silly website I made in honour of my upcoming nuptials. The site doesn't contain any details about the time or place, so I figured it was safe to put on the interwebs.
I was a superstitious kid. I'm not sure why exactly. Some combination of my anxiety-driven nature and a catholic school education maybe.
For whatever reason, I was the sort of child who started out whispering curse words, in fear that GOD might strike me down (with a lightning bolt, of course). I read my horoscope religiously and coveted those pastel-coloured new age scrolls they sold near the cash at the grocery store. (I think they still sell those, come to think of it.) I believed, as a Cancer, I was a "moon child" and a "water baby" and that there were certain inalienable truths about my personality. (I was a crab. I had a hard exterior. I was sensitive. I was loyal.)
I held my breath when we drove past cemeteries in the car. I lifted my feet when we went over railway track (can't remember why, though). I stepped on or avoided cracks in the sidewalk, depending on how I was feeling about my mother on any given day. This sort of thinking took up a great deal of my time.
Superstition seeped into my teenage life as well. I gathered talismans - good luck charms, found pennies, broken bits of jewellery, things I thought might be imbued with goodness or power. And I attached significance to dates. My first real romantic relationship started in the new year of 1995, my second in January of 1997, my third in January of 2002. And to this day, January sort of whispers at me.
I've turned into an atheist and I'm not really superstitious anymore, but it's been hard to shake my attachment to dates. There's something about January in Toronto, about looking out at the night sky glowing reddish, ready to snow. There's something about seeing the flakes fall through the halos around the streetlights.
The other morning, I went for a walk through Cedarvale ravine, which is a small woody path near my house, and I was struck by the white light and the general quiet and the seemingly extreme sound of ice being brushed beneath my boots. It felt like something magical was going to happen.
Of course, nothing magical happened. Not unless you count depositing my pay cheque and visiting the local Starbucks as magical.
Still, I felt like something was going to happen. And that's what makes January bearable, I think. At least for me.
Today's photos are from my walk through Cedarvale ravine.
_Yep. Married. Not today, but soon. In a couple of months or so.
This was a hard decision to make. Nate (who has a website now, by the way) and I had been talking about it for awhile, but neither of us was sure we really wanted to go there, as it were. We agree that we've been married in every way that matters for awhile now, and for various reasons, political* and otherwise, neither one of us was sure we wanted to make it "legal."
But here we are ...
Anyway, I decided to announce it here on the blah-og, since I think we've now spilled the beans to most everyone who would have had a problem with finding out online.
Don't get fussed about invitations or anything like that. It's going to be a tiny City Hall type thing -- no guests. I figure (and I've thought this for a long time now) that marriage is a pretty private thing between two people (more than two people if you're that sort of Mormon or whatnot), and it seems weird to me to enter into something private in front of a whole bunch of onlookers. (Or maybe that's just my social anxiety talking. Who knows?) I know some people feel that weddings are important, that "standing up in front of friends/family/jebus/whomever" helps in some way. That's cool. It's not for me, but it's cool.
Regardless, we're not doing the whole wedding thing. But we are getting married.
And best wishes are, of course, welcome.
Love and Stuff, Jen
_* In my mind, there are serious problems with the "institution of marriage" including, but not limited to:
1) The fact that only about 10 countries allow same-sex couples to marry legally. 10. Out of more than 190. That's bullshit, right there. Disgusting.
2) Historically (and even today) many marriages put one partner into a position of domestic servitude. In other words, one partner offers up domestic labour (and sex) in exchange for the so-called "security" of marriage (which is to say, the basic human rights of food, shelter, etc. that everyone should have anyway.) Not sure I like the idea of endorsing this kind of problematic history.
3) Divorce rates remain ridiculously high. I'm not going to bother to quote statistics, but we all know this is true. It's not like the "institution" has been impressing anyone with it's awesomeness of late. So no matter how you feel, it's not a great bet to make.
I had another dream about high school last night. Nothing dire. I was back at old OCI, (that's Oakwood Collegiate Institute, for those not in the know), but I was doing my PHD at the same time. And it suddenly occurred to me that dropping out of high school might be okay (I mean, I'd made it to my PHD and all) so I was rollerblading (WTF?) to the administration office to drop out. Along the way, I ran (rollerbladed?) into my old drama teacher Marla Percy, and she didn't remember me. That part was sad.
It's Valentine's Day. When I was a little girl, store-bought Valentines were still of the punny variety (see example).
At first (say, kindergarten to Grade 3) you were supposed to give a Valentine to each person in your class. Once unconscious homophobia set in (around Grade 4) you were supposed to limit your Valentines to opposite-sex members of your class. After that, if you were smart, you'd limit yourself further still, targetting only "cute" or "cool" boys as your recipients. In highschool, you'd just wait. You'd wait for some brave boy to send a Valentine to you. And you'd worry about getting none at all.
Sigh. Valentine's Day was hard. To do it right, you had to understand the vagaries of self-conscious love and social politics. Few did.
Like most people I know, I think Valentine's Day is pretty stupid, but I remember when it meant something to me. Kids think all "holidays" are the same. They don't distinguish. Halloween, Christmas, Victoria Day. It doesn't matter. Holidays are about celebrating in whatever way is "traditional." There's not a lot of critical thought involved.
Nonetheless. I have some fond Valentine's Day memories and with those memories in mind, I bring you this cute video. It's not new and you may have seen it before.
And, because I'm still a bit of a sicko/cynic at heart, here's the treacle-cutter:
It's been about a month since Nate and I returned home from the Bahamas.
It's hard to know what to say about the trip without sounding like a big braggy pants.
We rented a little cottage on Great Exuma, one of the out islands. We took food with us because groceries are wildly expensive there. We lay out on the beach. We read a lot of books. We made friends with the house geckos and gathered shells. We daydreamed about owning one of the abandoned properties along the waterfront. We ate fresh conch (raw), watched LOST and went to bed early. It was lovely.
Image from travel.webshots.com by farmahgibby.
By the way, live conch is pretty ugly (as evidenced above), but it's not bad. A little rubbery.
We both liked it better raw than cooked. And we even ate the "conch pistol," a clear, slimy, dangling bit, considered to be the conch penis. (Don't worry, it isn't.) The pistol is said to increase libido and serve as a sort of viagra. "Put some more lead in your pencil!" declared the signs.
It tasted a bit like jellyfish. Did it work? Can't say. I'm a lady!
The best part of the trip was probably when we hopped a boat to Stocking Island (home to about 11 people).
From the bay side of Stocking, we hiked (and waded, with our clothes tied around our heads and our bags held high in the air) around this rocky point to the open ocean to play in the massive surf on one of the wildest, most deserted beaches I've ever seen.
In addition to the awesome surf on the abandoned beach, just a little way inland, we discovered a grotto full of angelfish and queen triggerfish. (We only found it because Nate had to pee and was looking for somewhere out of the way.) What a serendipitous bladder he has!
Anyway. I don't know why I'm telling you about any of this. Maybe because it's freezing in Toronto right now. Maybe because I had nothing else to write about. Maybe because the Speaks blog has been filled with a lot of drama and old wounds of late, and I thought it was time to brighten things up.
I dunno. Maybe I'm just obnoxious.
The trips I've taken with Nathan have been the best vacations of my life. I've been a lot of places, with a lot of different people, and looking back on my old pictures, you can't really tell the difference between then and now. We all look happy on vacation, don't we? We all have photos of ourselves with our partners, wearing wetsuits, holding drinks, squinting into the sunlight... blah blah blah.
When it comes to holiday snaps, we all look happy, happy, happy.
But these are the only vacation photos I have where the pictures actually tell the truth. My Nathan trips are the only ones that left me feeling as good as the pictures make it seem.
Disgusting, right? I know. We're gross. I promise not to brag again for awhile.
P.S. The only downside of our trip to the Exumas is that we're now forbidden to give blood for a year. Malaria warning, apparently. Very annoying.
P.P.S. There is ONE way in which my pictures don't do the Bahamas justice: the water there is a deep turquoise colour that I couldn't manage to capture on film. Supposedly it's a result of reflective microscopic coral in the water. I don't know about that, but it's pretty effing neat.
When I was 20, ten years ago now, I wrote a poem. It was part of an assignment for a poetry composition class I was taking at Queen's, and it kicked off a little jag of poetry writing that I went through in my early 20s.
Looking back, I think the poem says a lot about what the decade was going to be like for me. It's so very juvenile, so rhyming and earnest. So... heartbreaking in a way.
Ten years ago, I was just out of my first significant relationship and I was having a hard time. The whole decade was hard, in one way or another. Not that a ten year period really means anything. I know that such divisions of time are arbitrary. Nonetheless, ten years feels significant. Nice and round and solid. It feels good to put it behind me.
For Nathan and I, 2011 came in with a whisper. We spent New Year's Even in a small cottage in the Bahamas. I was alseep by 10:30 p.m. I made no resolutions. It was the best start to a new year I think I've ever experienced. A good omen.
That said, I think it's always worthwhile to look back. To constantly drive forward, with no examination of where you've already been, seems like a waste..
With that in mind, I'm going to share my little poem. It was inspired by a novel I read as a young teen - Paula Fox's A Place Apart. (If you haven't read any Fox, you should. Here's a good article about her.) I remember, at 13, being so caught up by a moment in A Place Apart that I held my breath. For minutes. I held it until my heart heart, without even realizing what I was doing. And it was that memory, I think, that made me write this poem
Be kind, blog friends. I know it's bad. I can see my many errors. It was a first effort. And remember, I was still practically a baby.
tierra del fuego
sheets lifted above our heads as we lie in bed and consider the morning
you’re wondering what i’m doing
i’m offering you a dream with my bare feet and our cold sheets, warm now, with you and i inside them
this is our house on Tierra del Fuego where we live, all alone, you and i high, high in the mountains away from everyone
this is our house on Tierra del Fuego where we have a bedroom painted in gold to catch the light of the bold afternoon sun an encompassing auburn brought to life by our walls
this is our house on Tierra del Fuego where we grow vegetables and have enclosed a small cow named Daisy who gives us milk
we have given up meat, which is easier here remember, before? that time that we tried, but weren’t satisfied? and didn’t succeed and you, especially were filled with the need for the taste of blood in your mouth?
this is our house on Tierra del Fuego where we want for nothing because together we make somethingwholly satisfying
later much later thinking about those sheets on our bed, back in place now, i read a little about Tierra del Fuego
the island is cold and the Patagonian Andes are, i’m told, harsh and unwelcoming
Tierra del Fuego is an island that’s vulnerable, exposed to the competing winds of the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, bringing nearly constant rainstorms
we had a house on Tierra del Fuego but i’m renting it out because i can’t take the rain anymore, or your snore, or the cold that even the gold of our bedroom isn’t warming and the Yagans of old have left Fireland and the tourists are coming
this was our house on Tierra del Fuego i’ve opened the pen and let Daisy go and if there’s only one thing i want you to know it’s that Tierra del Fuego’s a lie it was always remote and too difficult for us so i’m saying goodbye
on the Isle of Fire, Tierra del Fuego the winds can blow a house down but just so you know, i’m not waiting around i’m burning our house to the ground
I had an interesting experience last week. I realized I couldn't remember the name of a man I'd dated in late 2007 -- early 2008. Couldn't remember it at all. Not his first name, not his last.
It's perhaps not as bad as it sounds. We weren't in love or anything. But we saw eachother for a good few months. How could I have forgotten his name?
It plagued me all day at work. I couldn't stop thinking about it. What was happening to me? At 18, I berated a friend for not remembering the names of all the girls he'd kissed. "How could you not know a thing like that?" I asked. "How could you not remember?"
* Creative Commons image by Ronaldo Taveira from Stock Xchng
I tried and tried to pull up the name, but I couldn't. And I couldn't let it go. So I ended up looking him up. Yep. Right on the computer. My mild OCD and love for technology mean I have a pretty good record of all the dates I went on during the great dating experiment of 2008. I have almost everything written down. Names, dates, activities. It's a little creepy, actually. Maybe I had a sort of inkling. A feeling that I might one day have trouble remembering the details of that foggy, terrible time.
Anyway. According to my notes, the guy's name is S**** Waugh. Waugh, like Evelyn Waugh. That's what I used to say to myself at the time. To remember. Even then, I had trouble. He was... spoiled. He once took me on a date to the Rosedale Golf and Country Club (on his parents' dime). More importantly, he was (and I assume is) an incredible douchebag. Which is something I didn't realize at the time.
Waugh was the sort of person who thought it was funny to hang up on me in the middle of a phone conversation. When I'd respond to his emails with any immediacy, he'd tell me I was being "clingy." Though he was pushing 30, he'd never had a girlfriend he'd introduced to his parents or even his sister. (He once hustled me out of his apartment in a clear panic when he realized his sis was on her way over and that we might accidentally cross paths.) He had a expensive electric guitar that he didn't like me to breathe on, let alone touch.
Nonetheless, I was kind to him. I took care of him when he was sick. I helped him do his Christmas shopping. I even wrapped the gifts for him while he napped on my sofa. He responded by dumping me out of nowhere on New Year's Eve. (We had plans to go out of town.) I think his friends had been razzing him for getting too serious. It's hard to say.
* Creative Commons image by Pam Roth from Stock Xchng
None of that was the worst of it though.
It turned out that during our relationship, Waugh was not only actively pursuing other women online (by writing them emails filled with the same anecdotes and jokes he used on me when we first met... copy and paste style), but also meeting those girls for dates. During his work day. Lunch hours. That sort of thing. He may have been sleeping with them. That part I don't know.
Of course, I didn't know ANY of this until the end. I found out in February, when I was at his apartment helping him through a bout of the flu. I'd brought over a care package, but he'd barely spoken to me all evening. Mostly, he just lay on the floor, moaning. (What a baby. Eesh.) Finally, he asked me to look up "fever care" online, so off I went to the computer.
And there, on his compter screen, right out in the open, was an email to his most recent date. I think her name was Maria. That's how I found out.
Believe it or not, I didn't break up with him immediately. I just left, pretending nothing was wrong. It was days, maybe even a week later, when I finally ditched him. And even then, I didn't explain. I couldn't deal with a confrontation, and frankly, I was humiliated. Again. I remember thinking, 'There must be something about me that makes men do this.' That's what Darrell had said, after all. That the problem was me.
Even that isn't the worst of it. The real worst of it is that I knew, from the very moment I met this guy, that he was a bit of an asshole. On our first date, I texted a friend about it from the ladies room. I wrote that there was something off about him. THEN I went on to date the bastard for four months. FOUR MONTHS. How can I explain something like that?
Depression, I guess. Anxiety. Post traumatic stress. Horribly damaged self esteem.
At the time, none of this was clear. I suppose that's why his name faded. Nothing was particularly clear back then.
* Creative Commons image by Patrice Dufour from Stock Xchng
Now that I've pondered all of this for awhile, I've come to the conclusion that it's important that I don't forget again. The fact that I even spoke to douchy Waugh, let alone dated him, is an example of how crazy I can be when I'm sad. Of how I have a tendency to let people treat me like absolute garbage. Of how I seem incapable of seeing this happening in the moment. I wouldn't say I owe Mr. Waugh my thanks or anything. But his is a name I need to remember.
Jen Selk Speaks is the personal blog of ... you guessed it - Jen Selk! Random musings, self-indulgent rants, tmi moments, whatever your voyeristic pleasure, you'll find it here (within reason). Once in awhile, the blog may even contain something substantive.