Friday, June 13, 2008
But that has absolutely nothing to do with what I'm about to talk about.
No. I'm here today to talk to you about, in a word, paper. Paper, for some reason, dominates my world. It covers my desks and tables and floors. I file it and stack it and organize it and save it and write on it and make things out of it and buy way, way too much of it. Indeed, the catchphrase for my little etsy store is "because you like paper, and we like you." And of course when it comes to a wedding, paper is a major consideration.
See, as far as the wedding stationery goes, I'm being very, well, me about it all. I'm doing everything myself. You didn't really think I was going to walk into a stationer and just pick something from a book, now did you? Ha. No, that would involve infinitely less work than what I currently have planned. So, I'm sure you're wondering, what has my fevered paper-obsessed little brain cooked up? It goes like this:
First will go out save the dates. Of my own design, of course. In my palette of greens, of course. And as a postcard, because I didn't like any of the magnet options and anyway that would have required an envelope, which I'm trying to avoid. I thought I had this all worked out, and then a minor catastrophe happened... but we're getting to that.
Next will come the big envelope- one envelope, no interior exterior nonsense for me - to include the following:
*The invitation, again of my own design and very possibly of my own making. Possibly stamped, possibly linoleum printed, possibly letterpressed if I can get access to a press... It might end up having a ribbon on it, or a vellum overlay, or some other such fancy nonsense. I can't decide. I change my mind every day, and I'm counting on my darling mid to set me straight when the time comes.
*A response postcard (again with the no envelope having), any one of a number of the vintage-design Cavallini postcards that I've been buying up like a madwoman. I think I have all of the designs now. I didn't want any two people to get the same design. See, I got custom stamps made to turn them into response cards, and there'll be a space for the guest to write a note to us for when they send it back. I'm going to put them all in an album that shows both sides of the card, so you see the pretty vintage design one the one side and the note from the guest to us on the other... What can I say? It's just something I thought up.
*A zine-style booklet, but polished, hand bound with ribbon, containing all of the information that guests will need regarding the wedding weekend: schedule for the big day, hotel where we've reserved rooms, probably a menu listing of the food we'll have, tips on visiting New York like how to use the subway and how to hale a cab (we'll have a lot of out-of-towners), et cetera, so on, and so forth.
Again, all will be in my palette of greens, not the same color for any piece but coordinating and complimenting.
*For wedding party members, invites to the rehearsal dinner... assuming that we're having either a rehearsal or a dinner.
*For anyone with any kind of job during the wedding weekend (which will be plenty of people, believe me), a little note reiterating what's expected of them and expounding upon our undying gratitude for being our ipod dj or whatever.
Then of course at the ceremony itself will be the wedding program. Oh, yes, I must have a program. It's an excuse to make another booklet, for the love of god! Like I was going to turn that down? Again, ribbon bound, with all different green ribbons so they'll look beeutiful all together in a basket.
And we can 't forget correspondence / thank you notes; etiquette simply won't allow it. For this, I'll get the smallest envelopes you can mail (3.5" x 5", I've checked with the U.S.P.S.) and fold the beautiful 100% handmade cotton paper that I already happen to have on hand in half, (with the bone folder I finally found that's actually made of plastic - why the hell do they still make those things out of bone!?) and then stamp the front of it with my tree design... I haven't figured out whether I'll make a lino print or get a rubber stamp made.
Ok. So that's a lot of pieces of paper. And I want them all to be different colors that go together. But you wanna know the real kicker? I also want them to all be 100% post-consumer waste recycled. With the obvious exception of the cotton paper that I already have. (See? It's not just food that I worry about.) This may strike you as crazy, but to me there's just really no other way to do it if I'm going to be putting so much paper out into the world. The universe of recycled and otherwise "earth friendly" paper has gotten exceedingly complicated and greenwashed in the past few years. There's tree free, plain old "recycled" in any percentage you want, post-consumer recycled also in any percentage you want, forest stewardship council certified paper, chlorine free paper, and so on, and so forth, and any combination you might care to dream up. It's really enough to make a girl dizzy.
So the first thing I discovered in my search is that it's ridiculously complicated. There's lots of paper that says it's 30% recycled (not post-consumer, mind you, just recycled) - well, isn't that nice? They've followed the government mandate and saved themselves money by picking the scraps up off of the floor and throwing them back into the paper mix. Not impressive. The second thing I discovered is that while there are several companies making nice, stationery-type papers and tree-free papers of many colors that fit my parameters, most of them are just ugly as sin. And do I want ugly paper? Oddly enough, no, not really.
So after my initial researching, I decided that 100% post-consumer waste was the way to go. I spent probably a dozen hours on the internet, and at least half as many in Kate's Paperie (a primo crackhouse for us paper junkies). And I thought I'd come up with a solution that worked perfectly. Domtar had a line called Sandpiper, 100% pcw, chlorine free, so on and so forth, and some of the colors were absolutely gorgeous and within my palette. Speckled, yes, but in a way that worked. I also found and purchased a couple packs of plain old white office paper (100% pcw, chlorine free for you and me) off the internet - for the insides of the invitation booklets, and for just general home use. I found some stock at Kate's that had some pcw content for miscellaneous pieces, and I can live without complete perfection (I suppose). Everything was moving along just swimmingly.
And then, yesterday, it happened. I went to order my Domtar Sandpiper papers. 24 lb. writing paper in Mint (for the interior of the wedding program and the cover of the invitation booklet) and 80 lb. cover stock in Robin's Egg (for the cover of the wedding booklets and who knows what else - it's so pretty!). And guess what I found out? Domtar has discontinued the line!
This little revelation threw me into a paper crisis. According to my fiance, there is no such thing as a "paper crisis" unless you run a newspaper or a paper mill. He just doesn't understand. Boys don't often contract the paper sickness. Or the ribbon sickness. Or the pretty box sickness. They just don't get it. But he behaved, and spent a solid twenty minutes with me last night going over the possibilities of What To Do.
I'd spent all afternoon trying to right the wrongs that had been done. I'm pretty sure I found and ordered the Mint color, though I think it's in the 80 lb. cover thickness instead of the 24 lb. writing thickness, so I don't know if it will work in my printer. As for the Robin's Egg, it's gone daddy gone, which is slightly heartbreaking. You just don't even understand how pretty this paper is. I will cherish the samples forever. Or just be slightly peeved for the next couple of weeks. Whichever.
For the giant envelope, an A10 that fits a 5 1/2" x 8 1/2" booklet inside, I'm using a line called Synergy. I thought I'd be using the Citrus Green, but instead now I think I'm using the Peaceful Blue. The Synergy stuff is not 100% pcw, but it's got a respectable amount, and it's really hard to find envelopes this size unfortunately. My main concern is / was the booklets, which will be the biggest use of paper...
And the moral of the story is that, in yet another way, I've lost my freaking mind.
Does anyone want to remind me that my wedding is still almost two years away, and that maybe it'd be alright if I didn't have this all hammered out by the end of the week?
Just as well. I wouldn't listen to you anyway.
Thursday, June 12, 2008
My answer to this question, as you may imagine, has changed fairly dramatically since I was twenty (and thank god). Back then, the reasoning was an ever so co-dependent "because that's how I'll know that he'll really stay with me" or "because that's how I'll know he really loves me", something along those lines. As if marriage is a solution to a problem, a universal Mr. Fix-It to my severe emotional disruptions and fear of abandonment. Luckily, none of the boys that I dated were foolish enough to go for it... for very long, at least.
In my mid-twenties, for a minute or two, the answer was simply, "I don't." I'd learned enough to know that I didn't want to do it the way that a lot of other people do it, and wasn't empowered enough to realize that I might be able to do it in a different way entirely.
And now? Now that I have a sparkly ring on my finger? Now that I've put a deposit down on a gorgeous venue and I'm scouting out dresses and caterers, not to mention trying to figure out how mortgages really work? Well, now it's a much bigger answer. But it needs some backstory.
As should be evident by this point, I have a lot of issues with marriage. Similar to my take on many other subjects, my contentions range from the macro to the micro. There are the big, universal issues like the federal regulations prohibiting gay marriage and the legal ramifications on each other's finances. And then there are the superpersonal, relationship specific details like the way that many couples, and it seems to me women in particular, try to use marriage to fix whatever intimacy problems exist in a relationship. Let's examine some of these items, shall we?
The subject of the prohibition against gay marriage is one that I cannot help but consider when thinking about my own marrying possibilities. Since high school age my circle of friends and acquaintances has always contained gay people, and (as very few people are completely straight) there have been a few women have who moved through my life that drew me strongly to them, so much so that I questioned my own sexuality for a time.
More to the point, though, is that two of my very close friends are lesbians. One, we'll call her H, is my oldest friend. She revealed her sexuality to the world in her 11th grade year (my 12th) and has never looked back. And recently she's fallen madly in love, and she and her new partner want nothing more than to marry. But of course they can't. They could maybe travel to one of the states that has made it legal for a moment - I believe California is the latest? - but of what use? It wouldn't be recognized in their home. And so they're talking about having a commitment ceremony and a big party, because isn't that what a wedding really is anyway? What is all this craziness with making it a legal contract? Ahh, but we'll get to that.
The second of the two aforementioned friends, we'll call M. She has strong feelings about the concept of gay marriage, and does not want any part of it, especially not a commitment ceremony that strikes her only as a "fake wedding". To her it feels like mockery; yet it makes her sad that she will not get to experience that rite of passage, even when she is ready to commit herself to a lifelong partner. In what might be an ironic twist, I've asked M if she would like to be our officiant.
I've heard two opposing arguments on the concept of straight couples who support gay rights and what we should do with our own options. One camp declares that if we truly believe that everyone should have the right to marry and that it is unfair that this is not the case, then we should not take part in this unfair system and therefore should not become legally married until everyone has the right to do so. The other camp, upon hearing of couples who refuse to marry for the sake of gay rights, blink their eyes incredulously, shake their heads sadly, and muse on the irony: that people who have the option would turn it down, while so many who want it so badly can't do something so basic as commit themselves to one another (at least, not in the eyes of the law).
And there it is: in the eyes of the law. What is that? "We love each other - legally! And our sex is legal too!" How perverse is that? The thing is that it isn't really like that at all. In reality, the legal aspect of marriage has nothing to do with the relationship itself. It has to do with agreeing to let that person all up in your junk... in a paperwork kind of sense. Marrying legally intertwines your finances, lets you get on each other's insurance and file taxes or apply for a mortgage jointly, and allows for visitation in medical emergencies - that last one is a big part of why the legal aspect becomes important for gay couples.
So when you think about it, a legal marriage is merely two adults agreeing to open their files to each other. A scary proposition, no doubt - if things go awry, you can end up liable for debt that you didn't even know your partner was accruing. But it has nothing to do with romantic love; it has to do with trust and fiscal responsibility, an important but quite different part of the whole. Oddly, this is the part that many couples seem to gloss over entirely, focusing instead on some ludicrous notion that "love is all you need". Oh, if only.
Other issues? Well, let's talk about the wedding ceremony, shall we? Enter guests. Representatives of the two families sit on opposite sides of the room, a throwback to days when this would not be a friendly or happy gathering but when they'd rather be at each other's throats. Enter the groom: he who has the most money wins. Enter the groomsmen, who originally played the role of literally holding back the "bride's" family as the groom kidnapped her from her house. Enter the bridesmaids, who originally were dressed up like the bride in order to confuse evil spirits, and who are now mostly just puppets in expensive, ugly dresses that will never be worn again.
And now enter the bride. Or at least we assume it's the bride; she's lost any identity that she may have once had now that she's wearing that white dress with that veil over her face. Good thing she's wearing white, too, or we wouldn't know how rich and privileged she is. She is of course being escorted by her father, the man that owns her, so that she can be properly handed to her groom, the man that is purchasing her. After all, this is really just an exchange of property - and that property damn well better be a virgin too. Because later they'll have to hang out the sheets with the bloodstains on them, and if they don't, well, she might just get herself stoned to death for being a whore. But first get that wedding ring on her - they won't actually let you put a tag in her ear, and tattooing "mine" on her forehead would probably make her less valuable. Oh, the groom? Why would he wear a ring?
How wonderful! How romantic! Boy, do I want in on that! Um, no. Granted, I'm taking the worst of a bad lot, but my point is that wedding "traditions" don't come from a warm fuzzy place. We made all that up later, when society decided that we'd better start pretending that women are actually people. (By the way, we're not all the way there yet.)
This is why I have a mini panic attack every time I try to think about my ceremony. There are a lot of "standard" things that I don't want involved. No one is giving me to anyone, because I'm actually not property. Vows obviously need serious work from the traditional script (must I even bring up that whole "obey" shtick?). Past that, I just have no idea how I'm going to handle it yet. Thankfully, I have time.
So, under all of these dark and foreboding clouds, why the hell do I want to get married? As I said, that answer is complex, but it's all rooted in one very simple fact: I have found my partner, and he his, and we want to celebrate our partnership with each other and everyone we love and make our commitment formal.
Do I want everyone to have the same rights? Of course. But giving up our opportunity will not create one for anyone else. Can I abide the dogma of the wedding ceremony as it is commonly carried out here and now in this country? No, and I don't have to, and I won't. Do I think that a legal marriage makes us legally bound to love each other? No, I think it makes us legally able to file joint tax returns. Am I wandering into marriage with naive notions that getting married will be the ultimate solution to all of the problems in our relationship, and indeed in my life? To the contrary, I'm making every effort to walk into it in full consciousness of the potential pitfalls and failures, willing to take the risks, confident that we will keep loving each other and acting as equal parts of a whole as much as we are able.
Sound scary as shit? Well yeah, it is. So was moving to New York, and so was starting college, and so was everything else worthwhile that I've ever done.
When you realize that your ceremony can be what you want it to be, and decide that you will make it represent only what you believe; when you understand that a marriage is not a "marriage", something that fits in a box that someone else put a label on, but simply a partnership between yourself and the person that you know and love, and it is nothing less or more than what you decide it will be, then all of those dark clouds part. And nothing that society says about what a "wife" is or a "husband" is matters anymore. The things that your parents did to each other within their own marriage melt away. Because none of that has anything to do with you and your partner.
The day after you say "I do" (or "I will" or "Yes!" or "Hell yeah!" or "Totally"), you will still be the same two people that you are today, and you will still have the same relationship that you do now. That moment is not the one at which you devote yourselves to each other forever; that devotion should have long been in place. The wedding is had simply to state it out loud... where a whole lot of people can hear you. Because it's a wonderful thing to feel and say and share. If you make it legal, you make it legal for practical reasons, and you can do it at the same time or not.
A few nights ago I asked an acquaintance, who happens to be gay, what she thought of my engagement. After some discussion of above-mentioned subjects, she said she thought it was courageous. I have to agree. This is one of the most terrifying things I've ever done. And yet, somehow, I've never been so happy, and really, I've never been so calm.
Thursday, June 5, 2008
And yet I'm still stressed about the fact that I haven't written the program yet, because I don't know exactly how the ceremony is going to play out. And I can't decide what to do about centerpieces - to have or have not? - this almost feels like a crisis. And what will I put in the gift bags that will go in the hotel rooms of out of town guests? And what about the baskets for the bathrooms at the reception site? I haven't even made the lists yet; I don't even have a list of the lists I need to make! I'M SO UNPREPARED!
And it goes on like that. I don't just want to be working on it; I want to be working on all of it all at one time, and I want it all to be finished RIGHT NOW.
All this, despite the fact that part of the reason we're going with a date so far in advance is so that I'll have time to do all of these things. Now, granted, this is just the way I am. With everything, always. I obsess, I organize, I micromanage, I excruciate over details. It gets to be a bit worse in this instance, since it's a much larger event than I'm usually a party to. I won't go so far as to say it's the most important day of my life, because how depressing would that be? What about the day that I finally get an exclusive show at a real gallery? What about the day that we adopt a child? But it is a day that I care about, one that many, many people will be witness to. And they'll all be looking at me. So I'm worried. But is this just me? Or does every bride do this? Do some enjoy the beginning and freak out just at the end? Or do we all freak out from the start?
Oh jesus, Bride. That word. It feels almost as weird to call myself a "bride" as it does to call myself an "artist". It just doesn't fit. Those words are for other people, people that fit into roles that can be defined and do things right and aren't weirdos. When we made the announcement to our parents over the weekend, my dad ordered champagne. Once it came and we all had glasses, my mother declared that the "father of the bride" should make a toast. I knew she was referring to my dad, but the bride? Who the hell was that? Oh. Right.
I'm assuming my insanity will continue its ebb and flow, its wax and wane. As far as I can tell its intensity is not linked to anything specific, save maybe how tired I am. I've read stories of "brides" who have really simple shindigs in their friends' backyards or whatever. Well, I don't know anyone with a backyard, and simple is not really my M.O. Freaking out, obsessing over minutiae, and making the impossible happen (and then having no one notice) - that's what I'm really good at. I'm pretty sure my darling knows what he's in for... Lord, give him strength.
Tuesday, June 3, 2008
The Challenge: to dine out every night, most afternoons, and some mornings for a week... with our parents.
Jonathan's parents arrive in the afternoon. We head down to Little Italy for an early dinner at a place Dad remembers from a previous trip. I order spaghetti al pomodoro, Jonathan orders linguini with maranara. Translation for each: pasta with red sauce. We lucked out here: the bread was not covered in garlic butter, the tomato sauce was not cooked with any kind of meat stock, and cheese was added to the dishes at the table, not in the kitchen. So alright, one down.
Met the parents at the hotel around 1pm. Mine were to be arriving around 3. In the interim, we went to lunch... at Johnny Rockets. Jonathan's parents love a good diner, and they think the JR is just great, with its shiny counters and its nickel juke boxes at each table. New York is really not quite their speed, since they actually live deep in the mountains of western Virginia, so we like taking them places that they're really comfortable. So. Being extremely nervous about my parents' impeding arrival, I only ate onion rings. (I later found out that they contain whey, which is aggravating, but I'll probably live.) Jonathan had "the streamliner", a Boca burger piled high with lettuce, tomato, and grilled onion. They do, supposedly, use the vegan Boca. (And anyway why, pray tell, is there a non-vegan Boca ? But that's a discussion for another day.) We escaped largely unscathed, and hey, at least we're encouraging them to keep the vegetarian items on the menu.
A side note... Checking it out later, I found this on their website:
A Note for our Vegetarian Guests
At Johnny Rockets we strive to meet the needs of all of our guests. The Boca Burger patty that we use in our Streamliner is their Original V35 and is manufactured as a vegan product. Our spec hamburger buns should not contain any dairy nor other animal-derived ingredients. Our American fries also should not contain ingredients which are of animal origin and are always cooked in 100% vegetable oil. Beef tallow, or flavorings derived from animal sources, are never intentionally added during the manufacturing or cooking process. However you should be aware that, due to the proximity of the manufacturing equipment to sources of animal protein or oil from animal sources there is the slight, though extremely unlikely, possibility that traces of these unwanted products may be accidentally transferred to our American fries during their production. For this reason, and this reason only, we feel compelled to list beef tallow as a possible (however extremely unlikely) ingredient.
Please be aware that we designate a special area of the grill on which to cook only the Boca Burger and we do everything in our power to keep the area free from other materials. We also have special color-coded turners and tongs which help to keep cross-contamination to a minimum. However due to the limited space and tight kitchen layout at Johnny Rockets we cannot guarantee that there will not be unintentional contact with some small amount of material from an item which is of animal in nature.
You know what? I appreciate the fact that they seem to be trying, and that they're fairly forthright about what they're doing. I'd like to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they're on the level and are actually doing what they claim here. They do, of course, mainly exist as a business that thrives on selling animal products. But I'd still rather people eat there than at, say, McDevil's.
I won't get into the story of my parents not turning on their cell phone, or my father's trepidation about riding the subway. Suffice it to say that they did arrive, and we introduced two and two, and once all hands were shook we corralled them all down to Spring Street Natural at the corner of Spring and Laffiette . We like taking parents here, since it has food for us and food for them and it's also nice and big and fancy. It also has a full bar.
Now, my parents are from New Orleans, and all my father ever wants to eat is seafood. I've tried to explain to him that New Orleans restaurants have different cooking and serving theories than do New York ones; basically that if you opened up a new restaurant in New Orleans and tried to get away with the serving sizes and cooking techniques that are commonly perpetrated in NY, the restaurant would go out of business in about a week. My mom saw the light of reason and got the goat cheese ravioli; goat cheese is something they know about in New York. She loved her dinner. But Dad, he can't stop trying. So he proceeded to order the shrimp bisque, (which he hated - there's only three shrimp in here!), and the mussels (which were no good), and the soft shelled crab (which was rolled in cornmeal, a deadly sin, and which there was only one of). (Hey dad, don't say I didn't warn ya.) Needless to say, he wasn't thrilled. And he wasn't quiet about it. Nor was my mother, the queen of tact.
So it's probably a good thing that this is the dinner when we told them about our engagement. Everybody forgot about their food, and my dad ordered a bottle of champagne.
Me and Jonathan, we had the corn crusted tofu, this time served with broccoli rabe and shaved jiccama salad. And it was delicious as always.
Sunday began with all four parents at Ess-A-Bagel. Now, I introduced all four of them to this place, because I freakin' love it. It's my contention that these are the best bagels in New York, which would actually make them the best bagels in the world. Literally. It's a classic Jewish bagel joint, and in New York there's a bit of a trend in Kosher establishments to offer tofu cream cheese - to dodge that whole mixing-meat-and-milk hedge law. Now, for me it has nothing to do with religion, but I do consider it a small miracle that I can walk into a place on third avenue in Midtown and be confronted with a choice of 6 different flavors of tofu cream cheese. (They actually have seven, but one of them is lox. And, um, no.) My parents, of course, went for the classic lox and cream cheese on a plain bagel. Jonathan's parents went the sausage and egg route. But me? I got my standard: whole wheat bagel, toasted, with herb tofu, lettuce, and tomato. A more perfect breakfast (or lunch or dinner, for that matter) never has been had.
We were planning to take them to Wave Thai in Astoria, but we never made it. Lunch was basically skipped that day; those bagels pack a wollop , and they weren't eaten until about 11am anyway. Dinner was had after the City Lights cruise that took us around the bottom half of the Island of Manhattan, with a crackpot tourguide who told us all about how the "graffiti movement" was started by Andy Warhol in the 70's... fascinating stuff.
We needed to eat close to the hotel, so we went to China Dynasty, the Chinese place that's actually the hotel restaurant for the Radisson down the street from where the parents are staying. The waitstaff there take themselves very, very seriously, hardly ever cracking a smile. But the service is good, and the food is excellent. There's one thing that bothers me immensely, though, which is that they serve shark fin soup. Granted, I don't know if it's the genuine article, but to even have it on the menu seems wrong. That's probably why I never consider eating there unless I'm desperately trying to feed parents who happen to be staying on the same block. (Oddly enough, Vegetarian Dim Sum house in Chinatown serves a vegetarian version of The Soup That Shall Not Be Named, an anomaly that I find just bizarre. Maybe that's why I've always preferred Buddah Bodai.)
Dynasty has a dim sum style menu as well as entrees, and what always makes me happy is that they have those little steamed bread buns with the stuff in them. They even have two for us - one with red bean paste and one with minced vegetables. They offer two kinds of bean curd, but when we tried to order the Ma Pau , the stoic waiter said, "with pork?" D'oh! "No!" Oh well. At least they told us - that's not the kind of thing you want to find out when the dinners are arriving at the table. House special bean curd times two it is.
And as this post is now officially excruciatingly long, I'll leave it...
TO BE CONTINUED...