Agree to the Party, But Not All It Represents

I don’t know what happened. I was in a pretty good groove. Writing, exercising, budgeting, things were going pretty well. Then, I went and got engaged and literally the entire situation that is my life changed.

All of a sudden, each and every of my thoughts have changed to the singsong of fairytales and hummingbirds, blissfully cheering “Weddddding, wooooo!!!” The books went from Lean In and Awakening Your Inner Giant to Bridal Bargains and The Big Book on Weddings. My budgeting goals have shifted from, “budget to get rid of student loan debt fast,” to “budget to have a beautiful wedding and fantastic honeymoon in Italy.”

What is wrong with me?! I’m progressive! I don’t like princess fantasies! I’m an independent woman whose education, attitude and work experience prove that she is self-determined, goal oriented, and committed feminist.

So what IS it about weddings that is the great equalizer, bringing women to the same altar of veils and flowing dresses, sparkling rings, promising that she will be the most beautiful bride that there ever was? I’m no damn princess, and I wasn’t the kid who always dreamed of her wedding. I had soccer practice to go to.

…Although I do know I’m going to look dashing in a casual beach wedding dress and a flower crown….

Anyway, back to my question. What is it about weddings that is so enchanting? I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, but in all honesty, there has been a lot about this experience that is very annoying. All of a sudden, people assume that I will follow the marching orders of brides before me. I am asked if my Dad will “give me away.” Really? Am I held captive somewhere and unaware of it?

Or how about the naming of the female attendants on the bride’s side, “bridesmaids,” or “Maid of Honor.” Am I the only one who hears how ridiculous those names are? Are they going to go milk a cow after the ceremony? Or perhaps hide back in the maiden’s quarters hoping and praying that their time too will come when they are rescued by His Highness?

My point is I have been sucked willingly into the world of white, which includes being assaulted with some troubling truths. While the whole institution of the wedding is steeped in tradition, most of the tradition in this world is steeped in patriarchy. And for some crazy reason…women LOVE it. This is their “one chance” to be a princess. Come on ladies, have you never really paid attention to those Disney films? Those princesses were often slaves of some kind or even locked in dungeons.

DUNGEONS! I myself have never seen a dungeon and I hope to God I never will. But even if they weren’t in the dungeon, they were slaves to their parent’s, often father’s, wishes for their lives, with little to no self-determination. They had zero rights or means to get themselves freed from their bondage and were dependent on Prince Charming to get his shit together and save her. Wouldn’t you rather have the opportunity to save yourself?

I digress. But I think a lot of women fall victim to the dangerous thinking that, YES, I finally found some guy who is going to take care of me and financially sponsor me for the rest of my life. While I know few of us would really say this out loud, that’s very much a huge female fantasy these days.

Don’t believe me? I have some examples.

I was watching a Modern Family re-run yesterday, one of my favorite shows. In this particular episode, Gloria was one of the main characters. Born in Colombia and from a life of poverty, beautiful Gloria met and married her American husband, a man twice her age with a bank account that could make Wall Street bankers blush. Her life is depicted as a dream. She is spirited and free, has a no nonsense attitude and speaks her mind at will.

In this episode, Gloria and her husband Jay just had a baby, and Gloria’s Colombian family came to visit the new infant. Gloria’s sister, also beautiful, never found her prince and is still living in Colombia. When said sister visits, she behaves like a slave – doing laundry, cooking, cleaning, and is clearly oppressed. However it is explained that these chores makes her feel good and normal in this rich country. Gloria feels bad for her sister, and offers to give her some of her clothes. The two walk into what looks like a small designer boutique, which in reality is Gloria’s expansive closet. The sister is overwhelmed with awe, and clearly jealous that her life isn’t as wonderful as Gloria’s.

Later in the episode, Jay gives a speech at their son’s christening, and decides to talk about when he met Gloria. He mentions at the end of the story that the beautiful woman he first saw and desired from behind wasn’t in fact Gloria, but he later learned was her sister! This was news to everyone, and the sister filled with rage and jumped from her pew to strangle Gloria, shouting, “You stole my life!!”

Poor Gloria’s sister. She wasn’t picked up by a dude who thought she had a nice ass to spend all his money on her. What a dream to sit around married to an old guy and his money. Do you see what I mean?

What I am finding is that the wedding seems to be a symbol of many things, but a very strong idea is that men are the moneymakers, women are the fair helpless maidens. One other show I’ve gotten into lately is called, Rich Bride, Poor Bride. I like it because it is all about the budget for the wedding, and I like to see how couples choose to spend their funds.

But sometimes I am ready to slap those brides. So many of these women fall into the role of, “this is MY wedding,” and “I’ll talk him into paying for it,” and “he always gives me what I want.” I even heard one bride say, “I have no respect for a budget or saving. That’s for him to worry about.”

!!!!!!

I realize that television is an exaggeration intended to shock audiences. The words and behaviors of these women are appalling and that’s why they made the cut to be aired. But these attitudes are not locked in our televisions. They are deeply ingrained in our society and they are, in my opinion and experience in planning thus far, most prominent around a ceremony like a wedding.

My point is, when planning a wedding it is important to not get wrapped up in the hoopla. Everyone tells you what you “have” to do. May I remind you, there is almost nothing in this world that you HAVE to do!

Sure I am excited and a bit wrapped up in planning this big beautiful day, but that’s because I like planning parties, being a host and can afford it myself. I refuse to get an attitude over it or demand that someone else foot the bill. If I didn’t have the money, Vegas isn’t that far and I could run up there and get ‘er done around $100 with a sweet Elvis pic to boot.

I’m a woman who is going to take advantage of this opportunity to throw a bigger-than-your-average-Saturday fiesta for my friends and family to celebrate Scott’s and my love. Yes, I’m going to look damn good in whatever dress I choose. And while it will probably be white, long and somewhat traditional, that does not symbolize submission. Wearing it and participating in the cultural tradition of a wedding does not mean that I buy into everything it could be perceived to represent. Tradition can often be a very bad thing, and in the case of weddings, the bad thing is the tradition of the helpless bride – which has now morphed into the bratty, selfish, spoiled bride. She was traditionally a piece of property, the currency transferred from father to husband in the wedding ceremony. Yeah, I don’t celebrate that.
By wearing my white dress, I am wearing it because I like it. I have olive skin and it will be August so I’ll have a great tan. Besides that and a few other items I’ll borrow from the weddings of yore, Scott’s and my wedding will only represent one thing. Love….as celebrated by the best party you’ve ever been to.

Mission Accomplished: Challenge Accepted

Image

About a week and a half ago, my world turned upside down. Actually, it turned right side up. It was Sunday morning and I woke up at 3:30am, excited, nervous and energized. I had all my clothes laid out the night before and semi-quickly threw them all on. I popped my sprouted wheat bagel in the toaster and a minute later slathered it with peanut butter. By 4:15am I was out the door and headed to the train that would take me to downtown San Diego.

Sitting on the train, I munched away at the peanut buttery pastry and gabbed with fellow passengers about the event of the day. “I see you’re doing the full,” stated the woman who sat in the seat facing mine, “how many have you done?”

“This is my first,” I replied with nervous yet confident energy.

“Wow! What time are you going for?” asked the friend who sat next to her.

“Honestly, I’m just hoping that I don’t die.”

We laughed. That joke was my standing reply to just about any question regarding the marathon I was about to take on that day. Along the train ride to the event, I was comforted by waves of strength, allowing my muscles to assure me, “We are ready.” Conversely, I was assaulted by waves of concern, as I recalled images of marathoners collapsing from years before.

But alas, I arrived at Balboa Park, where behind the starting line 30,000 participants in the ½ and full Rock and Roll marathon were collected. Music was blasting and the buzz in the air was exhilarating. Everyone was friendly, from the medics dressed as Elvis-es, to the lady wearing a garbage bag to keep herself warm in the porta-potty line.

I eventually found my boyfriend, who 6 months earlier had agreed to follow me in training for the event. We made way to our corral, 4, and met our two other friends who we had done our training with. All of us had the same look on our faces – unbelievably excited but also realizing 26.2 miles is crazy…so a bit mad-hatter.

At 6:15am, the gun went off and we finally hit the pavement. .2 miles into it, a man dressed as a court jester was dancing in the middle of our path. He was dancing and cheering, holding a huge sign that said. “.2 down, only 26 to go!” My friends and I all looked at each other and laughed.

About another mile in, we hit Hillcrest, and in the center divider 8 or 9 men were dressed as female cheerleaders, donning short skirts and having stuffed their shirts with huge boob-like balloons. They danced and flailed their pom-poms, cheering louder than probably any of the many, many groups of cheerleaders along the way.

Just after mile 7 we were headed out of Little Italy, and into a tunnel under the 5 freeway. A DJ was blasting just outside the front of the tunnel, and as I descended into the cave, her beats cascaded through the hollowed concrete like enveloping sound waves. The air was pulsating all around me as I ran through the normally dark tunnel. The darkness was no longer, as instead lines of LED lights flashed everywhere, whose coordinated movement made that Sunday morning feel like the late night hours of San Diego’s hottest club.

I was feeling great. The streets were lined with supporters, and around every mile there was a band or DJ blasting music. The bib pinned to the front of my shirt had my name on it, and supporters often took the time to read my name and cheer, “GO JONI!!!!” The support from complete strangers was honestly one of the driving forces that kept my legs moving.

And that was very needed by around mile 16. Up until then I had no trouble flying up and down hills, but somewhere around Clairemont I was starting to feel my legs. That’s when the real mental games began playing, as I came to realize there’s another 10 miles to go and I was really nowhere near finishing.

But that particular wave of fatigue passed, and I made it to Friars road. Friars is a long stretch of garbage nothing in Mission Valley, so that’s when I realized I had better put in my headphones. After a few songs in, the My Chemical Romance song Welcome to the Black Parade came on. I promise my taste in music is normally more sophisticated than that, but I do love that poppy-ass song. It very anthem-like and epic, so I let myself get into the lyrics and forget that I was still running:

We’ll carry on,

We’ll carry on

And though you’re dead and gone believe me

Your memory will carry on

We’ll carry on

And in my heart I can’t contain it

The anthem won’t explain it.

It took some effort to stop tears from falling down my cheeks, as I looked up and knew my Dad was somewhere in the clouds watching me run the greatest physical challenge of my life, cheering me on as he had all the years before. What can I say, I was on mile 19, anything was going to make me emotional. I instead channeled that energy and put it into my legs, stepping it up to hasten my pace a little quicker. I am confident he gave me that extra boost, with his hand on my back urging me to press forward.

At last I made it to the end of Friars but knew what was next…mile 20 and the 163. For months I had been dreading the 163, the portion of the race that covered the steep freeway, and the biggest hill of the marathon. This was certainly my monster to be reckoned with, as I really, really ridiculously am terrible at running hills. My hips lock up, my knees really start bitching, my breath quickens to the pace of gasping and my heart threatens to explode.

But dammit I made it and found myself in the last stretches of the race. Around mile 23 people started cheering that I was “Almost there!” I was ready to stop and slap each and every one of them, as I knew damn well there were 3.2 miles to go. But they handed me water and Gatorade so I let them yell their nonsense.

At last, I saw the jester from mile .2…but this time he was at mile 26. He was cheering and dancing with just as much energy as he had 26 miles ago, but this time I was happy to see that instead his sign said, “26 down, only .2 to go!” I smiled and laughed, and am pretty sure I have ever been so happy to see anyone again.

I looked up and in a small crane directly above me, cameras were flashing. I spread my arms wide and made peace signs with a giant grin. One of the cameramen gave me a thumbs up in approval, who I saw got the shot.

The crowd was now densely thick with people, as I learned later that 90,000 supporters turned out to line the streets with colorful signs and good will. Music was pumping, the commentator was screaming, and I could finally see the finish line. I reached deep into my now heavy wooden legs and with fury and exhilaration I stepped it up to a sprint. Complete strangers cheered me on those final steps as at last I crossed the finish line.

“I FUCKING DID IT!!!” I gasped to myself. One volunteer heard me and laughed as she handed me a water. I allowed another volunteer to place the coveted medal around my neck, and somehow I mustered out a “Thank you.” The area was absolutely packed with volunteers, supporters and runners. Everywhere I turned someone was trying to hand me something to hydrate or feed me, from Powerbars to chocolate milk to more glorious Gatorade. Camera people were frigging everywhere asking to take my photo. I realize they worked for the race and would try to sell me the shots later, but I decided to pretend I was a famed athlete and they were ESPN trying to get a good shot from my race. I posed and enjoyed the attention.

I decided I should try and find my friends. I knew from a Facebook invite my boyfriend had created weeks ago that many were going to turn out to support us. When I arrived at the family reunion section for letter S, I spotted a couple of my friends – one who did the marathon and one who did the half. “We did it!” I shouted as I approached. They turned around as quickly as they could, which wasn’t quick at all, and were both beaming smiles of pride. I learned the one who did the marathon had PR’ed (runner speak for Personal Record) and the other who did the half was handed beers that he accepted for the last few miles of his race. I was equally proud of both.

As the minutes passed, more and more of my friends appeared, congratulating me on my run. I was often asked my time, which I proudly could say was 04:18. Not too shabby for a first marathon in which you were hoping not to die. I chatted and bantered, but was anxiously looking for my boyfriend. He was nowhere.

“Where’s Scott?” I kept asking. I learned he was at the finish line and had wanted to see me cross. It was nice to realize that I ran faster than other people’s expectations.

“He’s on his way over here,” one of my girlfriends assured me confidently. So I chugged some more Gatorade and considered if I would ever bother doing another marathon again. While I was arguing with my exhausted muscles who pleaded with me never to put them through that again, I saw my tall, sweaty boyfriend approaching. “Finally!” I thought.

He was making his way through our now large group of friends and I couldn’t help myself but squeal, “WE DID IT!” I had my hands up in the air and gave him an awkward high five that somehow morphed into a hug.

He nodded, “Yeah” to my comment, but then didn’t seem to really want to talk about the race when I asked him about his time.

“Joni, there’s another reason why all our friends are here.” He said somewhat loudly and clearly nervously. All our friends heard and backed into a very neat circle around us. “Joni, we have been through everything together, highs and lows, we have now even run a marathon together.”

This is when I realized what was happening. My eyes widened and my already fatigued heart completely stopped. Out of the corner of my eye I saw my friends reacting similarly, holding up their phones to take pictures and slapping their hands over their mouths. A man with a giant camera was also filming, and I decided not to let my mind wander into what and who the hell that was.

Scott said some more words I honestly can barely recall, and then got down on one knee. All around me men were cheering and whistling while women were cooing, as I stood there with my jaw dropped and my legs about to collapse. Scott opened a box, exposing a gorgeous diamond solitaire, simultaneously saying the iconic words, “Will you marry me?”

I swear that I searched and searched for my voice, but it must have run off to the bathroom or something. Giving up I nodded as quickly as possible a “yes,” smiling and determined to make sure he knew how excited I was. Now for every other girl in my situation that’s not very difficult to muster, but I had just run a marathon and I was just trying to see straight.

My now classic head nod was accepted and he placed the ring on my finger. My eyes were still locked on his as he somehow was able to stand up and we hugged the greatest embrace I have ever felt. I forgot that there were other people in that general area, and when I came to, I realized that a crowd had formed about us. I started waving and stammering, unsure what to say but wanting to say it all.

Turns out the guy with the giant camera was a newsman from NBC, and I was happy to learn that the little snoop had caught the whole thing. Trying to hold back Anchorman jokes, I accepted when he promptly requested an interview. I am confident that I sounded like a complete moron, but I was thrilled that my emotions and moronic-ey were captured to always remember.

I am fairly decent at being able to articulate myself, but I will never be able to describe the cocktail of emotions I felt that day. After the newsman had left, my friends and I went to celebrate downtown. Somehow later I was at a rooftop pool, surrounded with amazing people, a diamond on my finger and a medal around my neck. In the same day I had met my greatest physical challenge and accepted the greatest love of my life as my lifelong partner. I don’t know how I have become so lucky, but all I can say is…YES.

Image