I’m Sorry My Name Change Inconvenienced You. Oh Wait, Nope.

Changing my last name to my husband’s was a decision of convenience. My maiden name is almost impossible for anyone who does not speak Welsh to pronounce and after a lifetime of correcting people’s pronunciation of it, I was relieved/exicted to change my last name to something that was easy for everyone to say because it’s so recognizable (Holla is you share a last name with a notable historical figure everyone learns about in school).

But then actually doing it, changing my name, became one of the most frustrating and painful processes of my life. The entire thing is impossible and ridiculous and probably qualifies as cruel and unusual punishment. Like, if someone keeps committing crimes, you should punish them by having to change their name every 6 months because then they will never commit a crime again. Basically, I just solved habitual crime in America.

This process has been excruciating. Between filling out all of the forms (so so many of them), and mailing things, and showing up for pictures, and providing proof that I am who I say I am and that I did in fact get married, and then waiting the exact number of days you have to wait, and then getting a letter that the powers that be got my letter and are sending me a letter in acknowledgement of that letter and that in 2-8 weeks I will be the proud owner of all kinds of new cards, and oh yeah, once you get them here are a bunch of other forms you have to fill out to notify everyone of your new name, and WHEN WILL THE MADNESS STOP?

I could have bought a gun every 4 hours for the months it took me to do all this and I would have had all of the guns in the world and no one would have so much as asked what my maiden name was. I’m just sayin.

But finally, finally, I got through it. At least, most of it. I’m at the part now where I have to notify insurance, banks, etc. of my name change. So, I email HR at my job and let them know about my new legal name.

And then I got an email that went a little something like this:
“Do we really have to do this? Can’t we just leave your name as is? This is a huge hassle for us.”

Oh. I’m sorry. I didn’t realize changing my name was a hassle. Is it a hassle? It’s been as pleasant as eating peach pie for me. I’m so sorry this inconveniences you. Oh wait, nope, I’m not. MOTHERFUCKER.

- Mae

Nancy Drew and the Missing Abracadabra: A Halloween Rant

ea5e7f6c7b25c4e0a62f607ccea409e5There is a building down the street, white brick with cheap black window coverings, that plays host to terror. It’s not the zombies that bother me, mind you, as I believe the undead are unfairly besmirched by the living media. No, it’s something altogether more frightening. I am being haunted by the polyester impostors of Halloween present. There is evil in the Halloween Shoppe’s costume section and it must be destroyed.

Shockingly, I’m not talking about sexy costumes. While I think it’s a disgrace that Halloween has been reduced to a night when women are expected to expose our goodies to the cold, October chill, that’s well trod (hallowed) ground. We have a bigger problem. It’s not that we are overrun with sexy costumes, friends, it’s that we are deprived of interesting, well-made costumes at all. We don’t have any other options than sexy and, even those, are not truly sexy at all.

I want to stand next to a lightbulb, without fear of melting! I want to enter a costume store and have legitimate terrifying, gorgeous, or alluring costume choices! Why have we let Halloween descend into a night of cheap, ill-fitting suggestions of costume? This most wonderful of holidays, when a girl can dress up anything she delights in, has become one big avalanche of poorly made, poorly fitting, polyester swill that should never touch human flesh in the first place. We look cheap, darlings, whether or not we give into being Sexy Funshine Bear or not.

If I had any start-up capital whatsoever, I’d go into business selling one thing: well-made, fabulous costumes for women. When a woman wants to be scary for Halloween, she doesn’t want a plastic spider glued to a high school graduation robe, she wants realistic blood and an eerily deconstructed confection of gown. That Marie Laveau turban is so terrifyingly lovely, Hillary! Sure, we have our pick of supposedly “sexy” outfits from Harold’s Halloween Shoppe, but there’s nothing sexy about a polyester swimsuit covered in fake skunk fur. Just because I can see your bubbies, doesn’t mean you look hot, it means you might catch Sexy Woodland Creatures pneumonia. If you actually want to feel sexually empowered for the night, might I suggest that silk-lined burlesque costume a la Gypsy Rose Lee? Oh, wait. THAT DOESN’T EXIST.

d049df5b9fecbd8fb70a8c31f47ba1e1Halloween is meant to be a night of magic and mystery. Every October 31st, people step out of their houses clothed as something other than themselves. Why have we been driven away from that desire for whimsy and hoopla? It’s not that sexy costumes are bad, it’s that they’re barely costumes at all. No one actually thinks you look like “Sexy Rainbow Bright,” they think you look like you, wearing as little clothing as possible. That’s not sexual empowerment or fun, that’s being prey to an industry that wants to sell you cheap shit for lots of money. We can be sexy, but let’s also have some quality standards. More over, there should be options for women who want to leave our houses looking pretty, or horrifying, or breathtakingly repulsive. 

Not even the supposed “deluxe” costumes sold in Halloween shops are well-made or lovely. I refuse to believe you feel like a Clottette: Vampire Princess in that velvet faux-corset. There is no imagination in that outfit or any other sold next to it. Our magic—our fucking abracadabra— has been traded for cheap non-sex-appeal and flimsy construction. We’ve let our most spectacular holiday become just as shoddy as everything else we buy. Fast fashion has ruined Halloween and we should all be furious. We must demand quality, for Elsa’s sake!

Personally, I’m putting on a pinafore and penny loafers, tonight. Nancy Drew will be handing out candy to children, not fearing that a pumpkin might tumble over and set her aflame. Perhaps next Halloween, she will have solved the mystery of the missing abracadabra, or started her own damned costume company.

- Grace

If you’re trying to find a last minute costume, I’ve also suggested some easy, empowered costumes over at The Queen Latifah Show. Interesting uses for bananas, anyone?

The Sewist Bride Buys a Wedding Dress

Two months.

Two months! In precisely sixty days, Professor McGregor and I are going to trot down the aisle and tie the proverbial knot. Woohoo! As you know, I’ve been a rather casual bride. We’re having a simple wedding: Sunday brunch, lovely low key little venue, lots of balloons and flowers and bunting. Thanks to a close held hatred of rigmarole, I’ve officially cut out a lot of the typical American wedding shenanigans. There will be no DJ or releasing of the doves or—just kill me now—garter toss. We can all agree that the marriage is the important thing, not having a gigantic sparkly princess day of wonder. That’s never been my dream.

Except, of course, for The Dress. The very small list of important Grace concerns in planning this shindig were, in order: Professor McGregor, the dress, cake. Since the dear professor is consistently the most lovely man alive and the (three) cakes are being made—fondant free!—by my longtime favorite bakery, the dress absorbed my worries. So, so many worries.

As an advanced sewist, there was one question to be answered. Will I make the dress myself? 

It’s a completely legit consideration, especially in this day and age. Not only are modern dresses hilariously over priced but they are, as I’ve recounted here before, remarkably homogeneous. If you want a strapless A-line white dress, no problem! The shops have rows and rows of neatly hung poofy confections for strap-haters. However, when you start swaying away from the herd? Fat chance. The section with sleeves is minuscule, colors other than white are unheard of, and no one who’s anyone gets married in a short dress.

For sewists, this is enraging. One trip to the bridal shoppe—they can never just be a simple shop, kittens—is enough to start even the most sainted bride plotting the doom of Badgley, Vera, and that hawker of polyester swill, David himself. Sewists are used to taking matters in their own hands. If a pattern doesn’t have sleeves, add them. If you hate the feel of flammable, melt-prone fabrics against your skin, don’t use them. Sartorial beliefs, we have them in spades! All it took was a couple of post-engagement internet browsing sessions for me to know the usual bridal shop was not my destiny.

So, I compiled a list. What was my dream dress, exactly? If I couldn’t find it, sewing was a viable option, so I could afford to be mindbogglingly specific. Thanks to vintage fashion catalogs, a vision quickly coalesced.

Note: Professor McGregor, if you’re reading this, stop right now! Your superstitious side demands it. 

Grace’s Dream Dress: A Bulleted List

  • Bottom-of-knee length
  • Lace bodice
  • Sleeves, preferably 3/4
  • Button back. Not a zipper with buttons over it, either. Silk-covered buttons with working loops or death!
  • Color featured somehow
  • Layered circle skirt for a 1950s silhouette
  • Natural materials, preferably silks
  • Lower neckline

Surprise! This dress doesn’t exist at David’s Bridal. Initially, I considered going with one of the oft-pinned, retro dresses of Dolly Couture, but I had serious doubts about their quality. Reviews were spotty, their standard offerings are all polyester, and no design perfectly fit my vision. Sewing was looking like my best option. And yet…

Y’all, I’m going to be straight up here. I didn’t want to sew my own wedding dress. Down that path lived stress and obsessively washing my hands while sewing and time-consuming muslin fittings. People kept asking me if I had a “clean room” to store it in, while I sewed. Fuck that. I can barely keep myself clean, much less my sewing room. Someday, I would love to make a complete couture gown for myself, but that day will come when there are no dissertations to finish or moves to make. So, I started finding vintage patterns, but dreading what my autumn would be like.

Enter Pinterest. On one of my random wedding dress pictures binges, I typed in the words “short British wedding dress.” The lovely designers across the pond are much more open to retro designs and lengths other than floor. I’d stumbled across a handful of designers with gorgeous not-quite-right-but-almost gowns.

Then I found her. Joanne Fleming, an up-and-coming wedding dress designer out of Brighton. She is famous for her craftsmanship, use of luxury French fabrics, and gorgeous twists on classic designs. If I wanted a bias-cut column gown, she had twenty amazing options. If I wanted a colored lacy confections, there were samples aplenty. And if I wanted a button-back, lace and organza, knee-length fifties confection with sleeves and a low neckline? Oh, that’s called the Annie dress.

Mine, custom made to my measurements and specifications, is shipping out next week. Next week! Yes, I have been ridiculously squealing “Wedding Dress!” at odd times, since getting this news. Professor McGregor is temporarily deaf from all the high pitched squees.

The only alterations I made were to add a blush pink back-bow sash and coordinating pink silk petticoat binding. It is lovely, it is wonderful, and I’m not slaving away in my sewing room, cursing the day lace was invented. Joy! 

What do you think, friends? Would you sew your own wedding dress or go with an indie designer/seamstress? I’d love to hear about what you chose for your own. Sure, it’s just a dress, but it’s probably the only one we’ll be asked about for the rest of our lives. It’s also worth noting that one of my favorite bloggers, Mel from Poppykettle, is much braver than I and taking the plunge on making her own. It’s sure to be a gorgeous, fascinating process.

- Grace

Note: Here’s a link to my favorite real bride shoot, featuring an Annie dress. Lovely, no?

The Things We Do For Pretty.

You guys. Have you ever thought about the thing you do to achieve that seemingly elusive “pretty”? I had never really given my “pretty” routine a good thinking on until recently – but then I did – and now….now I just can’t believe all the things I do for “pretty”.

I eat at least an ounce of walnuts every morning. I don’t particularly like walnuts. But I eat them because I read that they make your skin “pretty”.

I drink a tablespoon of apple cider vinegar in 8 ounces of water as soon as I wake up every morning. It’s not horrible, but I don’t love it. Again, I read this will make both your skin and hair “pretty”.

I spend hours upon hours researching tips/tricks/advice on how to be “pretty”.

I can not honestly remember the last time I wasn’t on a diet. Because it is so ingrained in my psyche that skinny is “pretty”.

I constantly fuss with my hair because I want it to look “pretty”.

I spend a disgusting amount of money on products that will make me “pretty”.

I spend hours hating myself because despite all of the above, in my eyes, I’m failing at being “pretty”.

FUCK PRETTY. Seriously, fuck it. What about healthy? What about confident? What about intelligent, and funny, and thoughtful, and caring, and compassionate, and kind, and loving? What am I doing to on a daily basis to achieve those things?

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to start neglecting my hygiene and do nothing but sit around watching old episodes of Veronica Mars. Ok, so yes, I do plan on watching a lot of Veronica Mars, but I’m also going to do other things. Things that fulfill my desire to be healthy, confident, intelligent, funny, thoughtful, caring, compassionate, kind, and loving. Because fuck pretty y’all. There are so many better things than pretty.

- Mae

Does This Plumcot Make Me Look Old?

0801caa12baeb21bb6648a232a5305e1Do not go to the grocery store, kittens. Sure, you desperately need a new jar of Biscoff after last night’s Buffy marathon, but is that cookie dip worth your self-esteem? The local mini-max may seem oppression free, but you’re wrong. So, so wrong! I have seen evil and it wears a Piggly Wiggly name tag.

I may be giving in to hyperbole here, but it’s hard to think through all the trauma. The last three times I’ve been to grocery stores in town, a horrid scene has unfolded. Why, my heart writhes, just recounting it here.

Clerk: Hello, ma’am! How’s you’re day?
Grace: Peachy, thanks There’s no sign of the apocalypse today, so I can totally bake cookies tonight.
Clerk: Uh ok. Paper or plastic?
Grace: Paper!
Clerk: Here’s your receipt and a Buddy coupon for the little one at home.
Grace: *screams, flails, runs*

The little one at home. THE LITTLE ONE AT HOME.

Kittens, people think I have a little one at home. What the fresh hell is happening in the world? Sure, when I turned 28, I joked about how it was all downhill from here, because of my depleting cellular renewal, but the operative word was joked. I didn’t actually think I’d go from being carded for pink wine to being offered free pacifiers overnight. The great grocery gods have moved me from one demographic to another and they must be punished.

Apparently, I look like a mom. Something about me—my hair, my makeup, my magic invisible scrunchie that only grocery clerks can see—screams that I am responsible for another human life. Damn it, I am not a mother. It’s not that I am against mothering, it’s just that I’m relishing these years of being decidedly un-mom.  I can wear low cut tops, without fear of toddler hands! I drink on weeknights! I never clean up soggy Cheerios!

It’s the contents of my basket, isn’t it? It’s no secret that grocery clerks judge what comes by on the conveyor belt. Just ask any thirteen year-old girl, when she’s confronted with all male cashiers and a pressing tampon quest. Priyanka knows you’re judging her feminine product strength, Bryce, she’s not dumb. If I had to guess what purchase was causing this phenomenon, I’d go with fruit. In my college days of Pop Tarts and Gushers, no one ever assumed I was spawning, but throw a plumcot in there and you’re basically PTA president. Care just a little bit about your dietary health and—poof!—it’s all nappies and child leashes. 

78238d97631b7de2fdfbfa1b037d52d9World, let me have this moment, okay? Stop trying to force your expectations of child possession on me. Just because my hips are wide and made for baby making does not mean I am currently making babies! Not every late twenty-something has or even wants children, you know. Unless you see a child or child-specific items in a cart, it’s best to not mention les enfants. I could be child phobic for all you know! If you came into my office, I wouldn’t assume you’re on Viagra, just because you’re over the age of sixty-five. I’d give you the chance to proclaim your testosterone level. It’s common courtesy! 

Sigh. I’m going to start wearing those low cut tops to the grocery store, in the hopes of ending this disturbing trend. Of course, then maybe they’ll just think I’m a trashy mom chasing her youth. That’s worse somehow, isn’t it?

- Grace

You Are Not A Before

lucky-ad-2Are you a woman over the age of twelve? You should definitely be on a diet. It doesn’t matter if you’re a size 2 or a size 20, there is always weight to lose or maintenance to be done. How will you ever find love and succeed in the world, if you don’t know your daily caloric intake? It’s not just about beauty, of course, it’s also about health. Everyone knows that health is a number on a scale. Today is the first step in a journey! You are a before now, but soon you will be an after!

We’ve all heard this message. As women, society expects us to be on a never-ending quest for perfection. If it’s not fat to vanquish, it’s wrinkles or cellulite. This message, this unyielding refrain of “Be prettier, already!”, makes me want to find the nearest dried up lake, fill it with full fat chocolate pudding, then wallow in its sugary goodness until I seize and/or drown. I am, it seems, alone in that. Lately, my Facebook feed has been overrun with women in their late twenties on a “journey.” Friends, of all shapes and sizes, are posting caloric counts and exercise logs and—worst of all—before and after photos.

You’ve all seen these pictures. On the left, there is a somewhat/slightly/vaguely chubby woman glowering into a mirror, while on the right is that same woman turned into a glowing, smiling health angel. The caption is, always, thus:

“I never thought I’d share this photo, friends, but it’s time for me to be brave. This was me three years ago: fat, depressed, and deeply out of touch with my health. Through hard work and hours of dedication, I’ve taken control of my life. If that girl can do it, so can you!”

Just last week, one of my old school friends posted an eerily similar photo-and-caption combination. When we were younger, she was always one of the chubbier girls in our class—not morbidly obese or anything, just somewhat out of the norm—which all changed when she went to college. She became a nutrition major, an avid runner, and is currently getting her physical training licence. That is all fantastic! She found her raison d’être and is super happy in life! What’s not fantastic, however, is that she completely disavowed the person she was before. By calling herself an after and raising up a picture of her teenage self as proof of what she had overcome, it turned that girl I loved into a negative. She’s now an after, not a before. 

girlancientprejudiceremovedLThere, right there! That’s my problem with before-and-after photos and the sensationalism of weight loss in this era. Losing weight doesn’t and shouldn’t make you a different person. More over, being overweight does not make you a before. A woman is not a butterfly, waiting to emerge from a cocoon of shame, with just a little diet and exercise. You are a real person, have always been a real person, and will continue to be a real person until you die…no matter what you weigh.

While I completely understand and support people wanting to lose weight, because of either happiness or health issues, a scale number shouldn’t be what defines someone as worthy. By framing our body image in terms of before-and-after shots, I worry that we internalize the narrative that after is always better. Weight loss doesn’t make you a better person and it certainly doesn’t make you a different one. You may be more confident, able to shrug off negativity more easily, or happier in your own skin, but you are still Odette. Losing weight is not a woman’s one great accomplishment. If we look at it as such, we are encouraging women who are not in perfect shape to hide away from the world, because conventional beauty is the sole characteristic of a successful woman. The message does not become one of inspiration, but one of shame.

I think it’s wonderful to share accomplishments, especially ones you’ve worked so hard for, but maybe we need to check which ones we’re assigning highest value to . It’s okay to be unhappy at a size 18, but it’s also alright to be happy as one. There are more important things to you than skinny or chubby or gaunt or fat. Are you kind to other people? Are you pursuing a long held dream? Do you make really awesome apple pie? All of these things make you more worthy than fitting into tiny pants. I wish there were more people posting before-and-after shots of academic success or pie baking attempts. If I’m going to be an after someday, I want to be the after of literary success and dressmaking skills.

In the end, however, I don’t want to be an after. I want to be Grace, living her life. I am not Before-Grace, just as you are not Before-Odette. This day, this person you are right now, is just as important as the one you will become. Neither one should be judged by the size of her pants.

-Grace

The Apathetic Bride Weeps Over Mini-Quiche

001Last week, I had a meltdown. One minute I was calmly sitting in my office chair, returning e-mails, then the next I was sobbing like a fourteen year-old Taylor Swift fan—loudly, accompanied by flails.

This crying jag was, of course, brought on by pancakes. It’s totally normal to have a prolonged breakdown over fluffy breakfast foods, right? RIGHT? Fine, I concede. It was crazy and I lost my damned mind. There is only one thing to blame: the wedding.

My impending nuptials to Professor McGregor are making me have heart palpitations. It’s not that I’m worried about things going well, or stressed over what sort of quiche to serve, it’s that I don’t want to think about any of it. These aren’t Bridezilla moments, these are apathetic bridal nightmares. Sending the catering costs to my father made my want to jump off a tall bridge. Reading the word “tablescape,” as if it is a real, important thing to be concerned over—like the Sudan or whether or not to cut my own bangs—has me reaching for the hemlock. I want to get married, not plan an event.

And yet…apart from chucking the whole thing and eloping to Vegas, there’s no way to avoid it. People want to know what your colors are and how it’s all going and whether or not they can bring a plus one. Everyone wants to talk about our wedding, but it’s the last thing I want to dwell on. Because if I were honest with people, they’d be horrified. My bridal concerns, the things that keep me up at night and create untold numbers of tears, make me sound like an evil, ungrateful scalawag.

Naturally, I’m going to share them with you.

Wedding Things That Make Grace Cry: A List

  1. People RSVP-ing Yes -  Too many people love us. Throwing a wedding, and all that entails, has turned me into a person who actively wishes for people to dislike her. The more people who RSVP yes to this shindig, the more money we spend and the more people will be there to watch it go down. When we were initially drafting a guest list, I was super smug about my methodology, having a list of invitees and a running total of likely yeses. People, it turns out, are totally unpredictable. Maiden aunts we’d never considered attending have already bought plane tickets. Family friends are changing vacation plans around our wedding day. People are saying yes and are so excited about participating, but all I feel is nauseated, then guilty about feeling nauseated. If I post a bigoted political rant on Facebook, will my college friends bail out, at least?
  2. Having Events About Us - Part of getting married is being a rare and sparkling jewel. As a bride, you get not only a day of marriage, but wedding showers and bachelorette parties and lots of people wanting to hear about your plans. This makes me super uncomfortable. Professor McGregor and I fell in love and decided to spend our lives together, we didn’t cure cancer or hike across Antarctica in swimsuits. I didn’t do anything to deserve such attention! I wish there was a societal program, which allowed you to decide which major life events deserved epic parties. I’d choose first book deal and perfect macaron baking every time!
  3. The Cost of Mini-Quiche - Each mini-quiche produced costs $2. Apparently, those little egg pies are made not just of eggs and cheese,but gold passed through the digestive track of a rare Australian water ostrich. I never wanted to know this, darlings, but now I do. I also know the exact price of peppermint sticks, rented champagne flutes, and maple syrup. All of these numbers, swirling around my mind in a budgetary conga line, make me want to hurl. There is a reason I didn’t go into finance. Money stresses me out; spending vast quantities of it on one day stresses me out even more. As someone having a relatively modest & simple wedding, it boggles my mind what more mainstream brides must feel. Congress, won’t you do something about the inflation of mini-quiche?

If you need me, I’m just going to be over there in that corner, curled into a ball. Any wails you may hear are probably me, not actually a dying, rabid bat. I’m told this is totally normal behavior for a bride. When you’re planning The Happiest Day Of Your Life Ever, Including Major Career Milestones and Birth of Spawn, “happy” tears are natural.

- Grace