Friday, August 29, 2008

McCain Picks Palin: Better than a chick flick

I'm trying not to have a happiness induced stroke. This morning, Sen. McCain announced his running mate in Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. It came as a huge surprise to this campaign watcher, but a most welcome one. I was okay about the Pawlenty speculation, but am over the moon with this unexpected turn. I can't help but be excited to have a woman gracing our presidential ticket, a fact that I hope will not be lost in this already historic election. But mostly, she represents the conservative ideals but also has a history of standing up to the old guard in her own party when it was necessary, which puts her way over the top in the pro-column for me.

I'm holding back on writing a a full-size post on the virtues of the McCain/Palin ticket because political-punditting isn't my strength, but on a personal level, I couldn't be more excited and optimistic about our chances. Oh yeah, and chicks who wear glasses are taking over the world. Finally.

I have to go do cartwheels now.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

It's a Wedding, not a Coronation

I take it back. I take it all back, on behalf of every overly ambitious wedding planner, indulgent mother and brow-beaten bridesmaid, I want to rescind the following statements:

“It’s your wedding; it’s your way or nothing”

“This is the one day in your life for you to be treated like royalty, so make the most of it.”

“It’s your day, yours is the only opinion that matters.”

Sure, if you don’t care about anyone else’s feelings. But first, let us clarify. It is not only your day. A wedding day is not a day devoted to prostrate worship of the bride. It is about a marriage. It is a celebration and public declaration that two people who love each other, intend to spend the rest of their lives together, and are for one another alone.

There is a disconcerting trend, perpetuated, no doubt, by brilliant marketing strategists, popularizing and even glamorizing the “bridezilla.” Certainly it behooves retailers and vendors of all kinds to convince brides (and grooms) to believe they are entitled, perhaps even expected, to have every item, amenity and luxury their hearts never knew they desired for one glorious day of marital reverie. The wedding rituals are so bloated and cumbersome that young couples (and their parents) are spending well beyond their means and deeply indebting themselves in order to finance an illusion. Perhaps “delusion” is a better word. What these people really need is for someone to tell them the truth. Let me be the first. It’s sort of my thing.

To whom it may concern;
Despite what the Bridal magazines and your enabling loved ones have told you, you are not a princess. You Are Not a Princess. You are not the first person ever to be married. You aren’t even the only person to be married that very day within your city or even your neighborhood. You are special to God, your groom and your mother, but your VIP status ends there. Congratulations, someone fell in love with you and wants to marry you. It is truly an honor. But it does not warrant a hero’s welcome. People fall in love every day. And they have been for thousands of years. The day deserves to be filled with beauty, romance, solemnity and joy. However, it is not bestowed upon you alone. Your groom is your equal partner in this occasion. Perhaps he isn’t interested in the plans, or even the execution, but I assure you he is looking forward to showing his loved ones all the wonderful traits he sees in you, that seem to have been swallowed up in tulle and satin as you endeavor to create a “perfect wedding.”

Allow me to simplify that process for you. There is no such thing as a perfect wedding. Not in the sense you seek, anyway. Flowers will wilt, or the DJ will get drunk, your heel might break, the flower girl will get distracted halfway down the aisle and decide it’s the perfect time to sing “boys are rotten, made out of cotton” to the tune of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March. But a day filled with genuine emotion, understated elegance without pretension, and a true desire to share your overflowing joy and affection with the people you love and who love you in an inclusive, sincere and civilized way will be remembered with lasting fondness not only by the bride and groom, but by the other participants and the guests as well.

Does that mean you can’t have everything your heart desires? Of course not. You are only restricted by your credit limits and your own wishes, but as you’ve been learning since you were a toddler, actions have consequences. If you put your bridesmaids in sequined shepherdess dresses the color of gangrene, you’re going to face resentment, and possibly mutiny. If you disinvite children, the young families who don’t live nearby won’t come, and their feelings might be hurt. If you get married in Hawaii, your best friend with $30K in student loans won’t be able to spring for the Monique L’Huillier and the four-star hotel, if she can even afford the trip at all. So you might consider some self-imposed limits, taking into consideration propriety, the feelings of the people you love and the possibility that you might one day find a better use of your money (or your parents’ money) than monogrammed toilet paper for the reception hall. I’m just saying.

Your friendly local Wedding Consultant/Realist/Voice of Reason

The reason I can speak with authority on such matters, beside the obvious familiarity with this phenomenon which my occupation affords, is that I have seen this from all sides. I have been a bride, and I have witnessed every kind of bride, from the crazy, selfish harpies to the easy-going and full of grace. There are brides who are so full of love and hope that they light up a room as they are intended to, and there are those that suck the life out of it as they implode under the pressure of their own expectations.

A little perspective does wonders for the complexion, so my heartfelt advice is to focus on the marriage rather than the wedding, keep it simple, remember that this is also celebration for your families and that in a matter of weeks, you won’t remember if the table linens were a shade lighter than your “bridal white” satin gown.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Nevertheless, Elizabeth - for realsies

I have a short "letter to my readers" that is less blog than it is a disclaimer. First of all, I have noticed a pattern of a lot of repeat readers checking back on my blog every couple of days, which makes me feel really guilty for not posting more often than I do, because I really appreciate the unlikelihood that perfect strangers (as well as those perfectly acquainted with me) take the time to read my frivolous musings and the occasional ultra-frivolous list.

Anyway, here's the problem. As much as I wish I could post every couple days, I simply don't get inspired that often. For me to write something worth reading, I have to have a unique combination of inspiration, subject matter appropriate for public consumption and time. Time is a big one, because I am the mother of a toddler, and staying up all night either painting or writing was just not doing my skin any favors. Okay, I jest, but seriously, sometimes I do decide to sleep instead of pursuing one of my many creative endeavors. But even more than that, my problem is that when I get excited or worked up enough about a topic to hammer out 500 words in 15 minutes (which is usually how this goes, although, I'll be honest, its more like 1,000) it is usually a somewhat controversial topic, on at least a superficial level, and in some cases not superficial at all.

Its one thing for me to say I don't like Hilary Clinton, but its another for me to write an essay taking her to task as inhumane and unpatriotic. Its one thing for me to jovially harp on bridezillas to my friends, but its another for me to write a 10 paragraph diatribe about selfish brides and ridiculous consumerist bridal customs that is sure to make me sound like a bitter and jaded wedding pro to those who can't see my tongue permanently planted in my cheek. I have drafts and partially written posts about the female body image, abortion, bad parents who think they're great parents, MEN, men and MeN, Christianity, Married People Sex, a couple more pseudo-nouveau-retro-feminist rants and several posts that read more like journal entries than the somewhat detached from my person blogs I usually publish.

Now, I'm finally approaching my point: I realize, this isn't of great consequence, but I do have genuine writing aspirations, which is why all of this matters. The part that mystifies me is that in general, I don't mind making people mad, and I'm not particularly private. I suppose I am pretty selective about the people to whom I disclose personal info, but I'm never one to shy away from expressing my point of view but for some reason this seems like a more public forum than it probably is, hence my hesitation. I've been debating about posting the more personal stuff here or on a separate blog, and the debate lives on, but I think I'm inclined to start posting a little bit more of the stuff that is really super-duper me. Yes, Super. Duper. Me. Case in point. I just think it is a little silly that I have twice as many unpublished blogs and drafts than I do published ones.

So. We'll see if I chicken out, but phase one of my plan is to give some of my older, never-before-seen passages the once over and a healthy dose of editing to serve up like reheated day old bread just for you.

Mmmm.... something smells good.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

On Signature Style and the Artful Outsider

In junior high, I had an entire wardrobe of castoff old men’s blazers and sports jackets. I had a couple that had been my moms in the sixties or seventies, but several came from the thrift store. They had to be tweed to make the cut, but I didn’t care how they fit. On the best days, I’d wear them with jeans or jean skirts (if the skirt was recycled from old jeans, so much the better) and either combat boots or Dr. Martens sandals. You know the ones, clunky, leather and extremely comfortable. Then there was the occasional tartan skirt with the giant safety pins, to be worn with the combat boots, obviously.

In high school, the look evolved into more hippy-prep than preppy-grunge. It was hemp necklaces (which I macraméd myself), crocheted vests, jeans and still the jeans skirts, Dad’s old sweaters (moth holes were a big plus) and floaty dresses when it was hot. The Dr. Marten’s sandals were still in rotation, as were the combat boots, but now there were Birkenstocks too.

Midway through high school, I changed schools. In the neighboring town the kids seemed to have more resources and maybe more exposure. It was definitely more diverse. Which is why I was surprised to find much more homogenized fashions. The groups were very well defined, yet the only ones who really dressed differently were the ones who sat out on the lawn and smoked and played their guitars and stashed their skateboards in the bushes next to the school so they wouldn’t be confiscated. I desperately wanted to belong with them. They had style. It was artful and outsider and unselfconscious, but I was pretty sure there was a secret handshake I didn’t know, so I didn’t try. Everyone else seemed to shop at the same place that I had not yet discovered. I tried to adapt but couldn’t, or perhaps wouldn’t. I never did nail the Abercrombie & Fitch look. In fact, I didn’t even try for long, but the damage it did to my style equilibrium took years to repair.

Now I’ve been out of school and away from the pressures of dressing to fit in for about a decade, and only in the last couple of years have I figured out what my personal fashion philosophy is.
I have a pretty recognizable look. It varies of course, depending on the occasion and the tides of fashion, but there is a common thread that has turned my taste into a signature style. I’ve finally discovered that I already knew what I liked. I know what looks good on me. I know what is comfortable (and what is too comfortable). I know, basically, what makes me feel like me, and not like I’m trying to zip up a Somebody Else Suit 2 sizes too small.

First and foremost is the Black Dress. It is my closest ally. I could -okay, I do- own an entire wardrobe of black dresses: linen for the summer, to be worn with sandals and minimal accessories; cotton and jersey for the cooler months, with leggings and assorted boots, maybe my leopard print cardigan or a gorgeous trench coat. But this is not an homage to the LBD (that’s a little black dress to fashion neophytes and men). Those are for evening. I wear them during the day all the time, which I’m sure would be enough to make a southern belle swoon, but this is California and convention has very little to do with fashion around here.

What I’m talking about is all of the components that add up to a style that’s uniquely mine. Its about the staples of my wardrobe… the pieces that transcend trend and season and ever-evolving fashion logic and lore. This is a tribute to the things that make me feel lovely, comfortable and confident; the outfits that shouldn’t work but do, because they’re all me: my trademark pieces, my signature look. Its what would happen if some Goths got a tan, the country club set was forced to shop at Target and all the world’s pin-up girls gained 30 pounds and found religion, and then they all got together to open a boutique especially for me.

In it you would find lots of black tops and bottoms in addition to the ubiquitous black dress. And a very few pairs of jeans that fit like they were made for me.

But my true love is accesories. My shelves are heavily laden with vintage red clutches, horn-rimmed glasses and giant tortoiseshell shades. There are the pearls. Strands and strands of pearls (real, fake, old or new) and for contrast there’s the chunky jewelry; my favorite pieces manage to marry black metal and chains with feminine ribbons and bows. There are peep-toe pumps and flats -I even had a tattoo on my foot placed specifically to compliment the low cut shapes or the quintessential pin-up girl shoe. And there are black boots in every shape style and height you can imagine. There are trenchcoats and knee-skimming sweaters and of course my trademark leopard print cardigan.

And while not everything I wear falls under these categories or descriptions, there is a sensibility and feeling that is evident in every piece of clothing that I mindfully purchase, and the end result is almost always a style that looks like me.

The beauty of having a signature style (besides making gift-buying easier on your friends and family) is that fashion “rules” get to take a backseat to my personal style. It doesn’t have to be trendy. You might like it, but you probably wouldn’t wear it. And that’s okay, because it’s my look and not yours. What I find now when I venture out into the microcosms that succeed high school and college is that I do belong with those kids with style because I have found my own version of the unselfconscious artful outsider. There never was a secret handshake. The only secret was being comfortable in my own skin. And four inch heels.