For Diette on her birthday.
Congratulations! One of your best friends has asked you to be her maid of honor! Here’s what you do.
1) Start planning for this in high school. Save all notes passed in class, letters sent from summer camp, and embarrassing photos. You will be glad to have these for speech planning purposes and slide shows. If you are not a natural archivist, go back in time and tell your high school self to get organized. She might be surprised to see you, but she will also be pleased to see that your skin has finally cleared up.
2) When your bride says her wedding will be in a few months, don’t act like this is crazy. Don’t remember your own sister’s wedding and the months required to test cakes, find a dress, sample food, haggle with the florist, try on shoes, and so on. She says she does not care about all that stuff! Tell her this will work out totally fine.
3) The wedding will be at the beach? No big deal. Invest in sunscreen for your transparent skin. Resign yourself to looking sweaty in all photos. After all, it’s not about you. Make this your mantra, “IT’S NOT ABOUT ME.”
4) Try not to have five other weddings in the same year. If you must have five weddings in the same year, try not to be single. If you can’t help being single, try to have some of them in the town where you live. If this is out of your hands, get used to apologizing to people about missing their weddings. Also, you should really have started budgeting for all these weddings about two years ago. Remember that time machine from step one? Use it again here.
5) As long as we’re on the subject of being single, you should start bolstering your self esteem now. Make a playlist of upbeat girl power tracks and get yourself a spirit animal or whatever.
6) When you go with the the bride to try on wedding dresses, take pictures of every dress from a couple of angles. Take notes about price and reactions. Also, make the bride take some goofy pictures too to keep up her spirits. Later, you can use these photos for your own amusement.
7) The ladies at the dress shop will try to push champagne on you. This is s a dirty trick to either get you drunk so that you like everything and choose the most expensive dress OR a ploy to make you spill on a pricey dress that you will have to buy. Sip on one glass only. This is an order!
8) When you attend the out of town engagement party, you will meet a lot of people. These people will all remember you, but you will remember about three of their names. Start teaching yourself memory tricks now. Note: “the one with the camera” will later turn out to be a bad memory device.
9) Get friendly with the other bridesmaids quickly. You’re going to need their help planning stuff and (spoiler alert!) getting the dress to zip up on the big day. These ladies are with you in the trenches and it’s better for everyone if you can all play nice.
10) Ask the bride what she actually wants for her bachelorette weekend. I know we all want to be drunk and embarrass the bride in some way, but you actually do want her to have fun. Hopefully, she wants something that is not lame.
11) Choose a theme for the bachelorette weekend. If you are lucky, it will fall the same weekend as the Opening Ceremonies of the Olympics and you can use this in many puns to your great advantage. Let the Games Begin! Olympic Rings! And so on!
12) You are allowed to embarrass the bride at least a little bit. I suggest a leotard and cut offs for maximum effect. Glitter should be involved some how.
13) For a good night out, enlist the support of strangers. Get them on your side by bringing them gifts. Stickers and medals work well in my experience. Hand them out. You want everyone in that bar to be sporting a sticker with your bride’s name. You want the other maids of honors for the other bachelorette parties to feel embarrassed by their straggly boas and genital-themed head gear.
14) Choose a bar with the kind of music you used to hear at frat parties. This will usually be a hole in the wall. But… the drinks are cheaper and people are actually dancing. WIN.
15) Things you definitely want for the weekend of the bachelorette party: multiple people with cameras, a lot of water, at least one person who is extremely motivated to go out, something that will make the bride cry, someone who is willing to give your conservative bride some lingerie that will make her blush, snack food you would not eat sober, and nasal decongestants for yourself because you will have an extremely powerful cold because the universe hates you.
16) Good news: your bride is totally low maintenance and will not register or pick bridesmaids dresses! She does not care! At first, this will sound like good news. But then you realize you are actually going to have to pick a gift and a dress on your own. Look, just engrave something for the gift and be done with that. For the dress, make a game out of it for yourself.
17) The wedding is almost upon you! Quick: start telling yourself that the bride is always right. In the coming days, she is going to be irritable even though she says she is totally cool and definitely does not care if things go wrong. She says this but she is currently delusional and you need to remember that you are dealing with someone with an altered mental status. I’m not saying she is crazy or even a bridezilla, but she will be more anxious than usual and she will snap at you when you say something totally innocent. For example, you might casually mention that she’ll need to eat something before the wedding, and she will act like you’ve said this thirty times already and you’re being really obnoxious. And you will be tempted to snap back and tell her to calm the eff down and how dare she speak to you like that, but you need to let that shizz go. For this little season, she gets to be right. She gets to be snappish without consequence. You will get your turn. Smile and nod and keep your mouth shut.
18) A corollary for Point 17… find your happy place. Go to that place in your mind when you are tempted to get puffed up and self-righteous. If the bride is really being unreasonable or abusive, you can deal with that as needed. But if she’s just straight anxious, you need to find your happy place and stay there.
19) For your speech at the rehearsal dinner, write it down. I know, I know– you just need to write down the high points and you want to appear casual when you speak so you don’t want to write it word for word. And you’re going to make fun of the Best Man when you realize he was serious about using a teleprompter app on his iPhone. But when it’s your turn and everyone is staring at you, you’re going to lose your place in your notes and stumble over your words and suddenly the Best Man will look like the smartest man alive. WRITE IT DOWN.
20) For the day of the wedding, have a survival kit prepared. Include: the bride’s favorite candy, a sewing skit, band aids, a Dr Scholl’s Rub Relief Stick for uncomfortable shoes, Listerine Pocket Mist, chalk (it helps with stains on the dress… who knew?), Pums or pepto Bismal, Advil or Tylenol, tissues, nail polish remover, a nail file, moisturizer, lip balm, deodorant, anti- bacterial spray, nail scissors, double stick fashion tape for dresses, and this deodorant removing sponge that will help with some other stains too. A bridal playlist is also appropriate.
21) While the bride is having her hair done, insist that she make a list with you of things that need to happen before you all leave the hotel. She will act like you’re being a little silly, but you’re going to be glad you have that checklist later when you’ve had too much to drink and can’t remember what you were supposed to do. Things you might consider: is there a priceless family heirloom attached to the bouquet? Does someone need to make sure it’s given back to the bride’s mother for safe-keeping? If the bride and groom are leaving for the honeymoon the next morning, how is their stuff getting home? Does someone have the cake knife? What about the veil and the dress? You need a plan! Make it now!
22) Get the bride a drink. Just one. But still. This will benefit everyone.
23) Get your own hair put up, unless you’re one of those really annoying people with perfect, thick, glossy hair. The rest of us normals are better off with a mountain of bobbi pins and hairspray shellacked on something simple and classic that will definitely not move for 8 hours and will look nice in pictures.
24) You might think that since you were trained as a therapist that you will be very good at calming anxious people. This training is worthless when you are also anxious and in the wedding. Just have a drink and keep your mouth shut and do what the bride says.
25) Carry a hanky wrapped around your bouquet. When the bride starts crying during her vows, try to be graceful when you hand it to the groom to give to her. You won’t be graceful, you’ll be awkward. But try.
26) Oh, you should have done this earlier, but if you’re picking your own bridesmaid dress, choose one with pockets.
27) You are now free to enjoy the reception! When the bride and groom have their first dance, have your camera or cell phone poised to record the whole thing. Chances are they’ll just do that awkward and really long slow song dance that makes everyone bored, but they might do a choreographed dance that they didn’t bother to warn anyone about and it will be hard later to find the whole thing from start to finish. Just get in position and hope for the best.
28) Keep your eye on the cake. If it’s humid at the wedding location, it might start leaning. The bride will probably not care, but it makes a better picture if the cake has not collapsed already.
29) You have to set an example for the other guests and dance. Do the awkward bobbing head thing if you must, but the reception is better if people dance and you need to get that ball rolling.
30) Suggest early on that the bride not throw the bouquet. We’re 31 now and that is some BS. Instead, suggest she give it to the woman married the longest.
31) Look for quiet sweet moments and snap away with your camera or cell phone. The photographer will get most of these anyway, but the bride might hoard the pictures and not show them to you because she’s computer illiterate and so you will need to rely on yourself.
31) After the reception, get late night pizza with the bridesmaids and assorted significant others. Resist the urge to tell them this is just like the end of The Avengers where they all went for chicken shawarma. You’re a huge nerd and these people probably already know that, but they don’t need to know how big of a nerd you are.
32) Book a flight the next day that will be at a reasonable hour. Do not pick off all your nail polish in the airport lounge. Take the next day off work and spend the day alternately sleeping and watching crappy TV.
Happy birthday, Spaghetti. Your wedding season was a great time and I loved spending so much time with you this year. Here’s hoping 31 will be equally awesome!
You know who is a total treat this Halloween season? My grandmother, better known as Grandma. Today she turns 93, and this blog’s for her.
Imagine it’s World War II. You’re a good looking gal in your early 20s and you live on Long Island and work in the City. You’re engaged to a young guy who went away to war, and you grew up in a Catholic German family. The logical thing for you to do is meet a younger Protestant farmer at a gas station and agree to marry him, forcing you to mail your engagement ring back to the mother of the boy away at war. Then you obviously move to a South Georgia farm within months of that first encounter, and this is where your Yankee ways are observed with raised eyebrows by members of the Glass Menagerie. Then you have five children, help found the Catholic Church in your predominantly Methodist town, and develop a particular taste for Old Grand-Dad whiskey. In short, you’re a pretty tough broad and a total badass.
As a tribute to Grandma and her long and excellent life, I’m sharing some of my favorite things she says. In her 93 years of living, she’s developed some verbal tics and I think you’ll agree that most of it is worth stealing.
Jesus-Mary-and-Joseph. Any good Catholic school kid knows that it’s a sin to say the Lord’s name in vain, and you can get points off your conduct grade at school if you slip and say the most innocent little, “Oh my god!” Even typing that now as an adult, part of me immediately flinches and silently says, “Sorry, Jesus!” Years ago, Grandma informed me that if you say all three members of the Holy Family, it’s a prayer and not a curse and it’s totally fine. Seeing as my Grandma helped found a Church and says the rosary daily, I feel completely justified in using this exception to the rule. When my devout mother purses her lips at me when I say it, I can always use the Grandma defense and there’s no argument for that. This expression is best used when something unbelievable is happening, but it can also be uttered under your breath when you want to strangle some one. For example, tonight I realized that 30 Rock aired a day early but I didn’t have my DVR set up for it because I forgot about the switch, and so I snapped at my TV screen, “Son of a bitch. Jesus-Mary-and-Joseph.”
Speaking of religious swears, St Christopher! gets slung around quite a bit as well. I suppose it’s not as bad as taking the Lord’s name in vain, but I have a hunch that the nuns at my old high school would frown on this. I’m not totally sure why this particular saint gets special consideration, as he’s mostly known as the patron saint of travelers and Grandma doesn’t much care for traveling these days. Anyway, this one is most frequently used in place of other expletives when something is not going your way. Maybe this one is used when Grandma doesn’t want to call God’s attention to something but still wants some divine intervention.
The Dag Blame Thing. This is what you say when you want to say, “the Effing (insert noun here)” but you’re too much of an old school proper woman. I’ll use it in a sentence for you. “I tried to use the clicker to turn off that trashy reality singing show, but the dag blame thing wouldn’t work. So I had to sit there and listen to Miss Tutsi Frutsie sing, and lord-a-mercy was she bad.”
Big Ole’ Joker Most frequently used in the sentence, “He’s a Big ole’ joker, isn’t he?” The meaning of this expression changes with tone of voice. It can be used in disdain, with affection, with disgust, and even with delight. I’m not clear on the origin of this one. I Googled it and didn’t come up with anything, but I suspect it’s slang from years ago. It’s a good catch-all. See a darling but mischievous boy? Coo, “He’s a big ole’ joker, isn’t he?” Hear a politician tell a big whopper? Spit it out with venom. Spot an enormous roach crawling on your wall? Gasp it out and then smash the thing. I particularly like using this one in conversation and it never fails to delight.
Bless her little heart. Most Southerners equate, “bless her/his heart,” with passive aggressive behavior. It’s like saying, “Oh, I love her to death, she is completely awful.” You use, “bless her heart,” to excuse whatever horrible thing you will say next or whatever horrible thing you already said. However, when Grandma says it and adds the “little” she really means it. It’s usually what she says when she hears a story about a baby or small child being frustrated in some way. It’s accompanied by a drawn out, “awwwww…..” It goes something like this, “Awwww… the little angel was up all night screaming her head off and making her parents crazy… bless her little heart.”
Tutsi-frutsie I apologize in advance, Grandma, I have no idea how to spell this. Grandma is still pretty with it, but her memory isn’t as sharp as it once was. I have a near legion of younger male cousins with revolving doors of pretty girlfriends. My grandmother, wise woman that she is, doesn’t generally bother to learn names anymore unless someone is likely to get engaged. When face to face with said girlfriends, she sort of plays along. When they’re not around, they’re collectively known as “little tutsi frutsie.” Note to Pretty Girlfriends of Male Cousins: I promise she’s not saying something nasty when she says this. It’s just easier to remember this one expression than remember all of your names. You’re all quite charming and pretty and your hair looks great today. Also, she totally remembers YOUR name. It’s everyone else that gets the nickname.
Various terms of endearment:
Doll Baby: General address for female grandchildren. I don’t think the boys get this one, but I’m not sure because I’m not a boy. In fact, I don’t think the boys get anything special. Sorry, boys!
Shugah: Obviously, this is how “sugar” sounds in her combination Yankee/Georgia accent. You get this one when she’s happy to see you or when she is saying hello.
Huh-ney: This one is most frequently used with her children or when she’s about to lay down some knowledge. As in, “Now, huh-ney, I wouldn’t worry about your ass. Boys like it.” (Grandma, you did say this, I swear. It was years ago in your kitchen and you were re-assuring Allyn and me. It’s possible there was some Old Grand-dad involved. It was fantastic.) It’s also a dead giveaway for a forthcoming command. Once you hit 90, you can ask people to do almost anything for you and they can’t complain. Something to look forward to!
Boopsie Boodle: Exclusively used for babies and always, always said in a baby talk voice. Grandma loves babies more than basically everything and you can’t have an important conversation with her until after she has adequately greeted and fussed over the boopsie boodle.
And my favorite and perhaps the most lasting legacy in our family: Make it a good jigger full. I can’t remember any family dinner that didn’t start with cocktail hour. We’re not a bunch of lushes, but we like a good time. We get a little loose and breezy, sit down to eat, and then lean back in our chairs and talk around the table for hours. It’s one of my favorite things we do. Grandma, ever mindful of her health, knows she can have about one or two drinks, and she fully intends to get her money’s worth. While my mother pleads with my dad to make hers weak, Grandma is no shrinking violet. “Make it a good jigger full, huh-ney,” and then she hands over her flask to the evening’s mixologist. (What? Your grandmother doesn’t carry a flask of her favorite whiskey to make sure she gets to drink what she wants to drink when she gets to the party? Your grandmother doesn’t care what brand you give her? Too bad for your grandmother.) It’s a good party philosophy and delightfully old school– “make it a good jigger full” sounds much better than, “I want a good, stiff drink.”
She’s a wonderful, strong lady and I’m so glad for her sense of humor and her wilfulness I don’t ever have to wonder where my sense of humor or my love of language originated. Happy birthday, Grandma! I love you so much.
Yesterday, I wrote about the list of 30 things I was supposed to do during my 30th year. I didn’t have much success thanks to my own slacker behavior, but this year I’m committed. I’m posting my list online to make myself accountable to my readership. All 15 of you. As I finish more interesting items on the list, I’ll post about them here.
Some notes on the list: this is no bucket list. These are things I might realistically accomplish in the next year given schedule and finances. So you won’t see, “Paraglide over Grand Canyon,” or “Buy couture gown.” There’s a variety here– big things and small things. I’m hoping by giving myself some easy wins I’ll be more likely to tackle the more intimidating ones. Big or small, they’re all things I actually want to do. Might as well do them this year.
If you read an item that sounds interesting to you and you want to join me while I attempt it, let me know in the comments. This obviously only applies if you know me in Real Life.
And away we go.
Item 1: Finish stitching the wall hanging for J. I told her I would do it well over a year ago. This is now ridiculous. It’s not like I don’t want to and it’s not like I don’t have time.
Item 2: Make French Macarons. They are very challenging and I will beat them.
Item 3: Get back into volunteering– at least a semi-regular gig. Choose something fun. I was doomed from the start with the hospice thing last year. When your Real Job is to listen to everyone’s worst day ever, you need your volunteer work to be more uplifting.
Item 4: Catch up with my unread book list. This is probably impossible.
Item 5: Read Anna Karenina. It just seems like something I should have read by now. Also- movie this year!
Item 6: Clean out and organize pantry. CONTAINER STORE. Bring LMac because she’s into that kind of thing.
Item 7: Visit Center for Puppetry Arts. MUPPETS. This is one of the weirdest things about ATL and I can’t believe I still haven’t tried it. All of my friends who grew up here went on field trips in elementary school. Maybe I’ll convince someone to join me for the Halloween puppet show?
Item 8: Finish watching Friday Night Lights. It’s stupid that I’m still working on it.
Item 9: Donate at least $31 monthly to charity. ($30 if they only take $10 increments) Readers, I’m open to suggestions! I know it’s not much to give, but everything counts, right?
Item 10: Check on SkyMiles situation. Figure out how to use them. Then I can have more airport Bloody Marys.
Item 11: Back up computer. Suck it up, get it done, get Harrison (Engineering PhD cousin) to help.
Item 12: Post to this blog 4x weekly. Posts to book blog don’t count, lazy ass.
Item 13: Host game night. You love board games. You have some that you’ve never even played. Make your friends play them. Some of them might even like it. Don’t worry, CK, I won’t invite you.
Item 14: Keep at least semi-regular journal.
Item 15: Make Book It t-shirt. I’m never going to the find this shirt in a store. It’s time.
Item 16: Do something really nice for my sister. Not posting what it is here because she might read this, but I have PLANS. These are her kids. Sooo…. you can see why she might want a break.
Item 17: Make all Christmas presents except books. This is crazy. Try it anyway. Put that Pinterest board to good use.
Item 18: Send Grandma weekly pictures of funny and cute things. Heidi should be featured often. Grandma just moved to a new place and she’s having some stress and cute pictures of dogs are good for the soul.
Item 19: Meet neighbors. At least the ones on ether side. Maybe the guy on the balcony over mine that talks really loud. At least to tell him to hold his deep philosophical discussions with his cell phone until after 9 AM on Sundays. Bring cookies to bribe them to like me.
Item 20: Find good reading chair for office. Something cozy and readerly.
Item 21: Go some where on this list: Boston, Europe, Hogwarts (in Florida), Canada. I recognize this is a strange list. I’m keeping my options open. Do you want to go?
Item 22: Visit Elizabeth in Statesboro. She just moved there and I miss seeing her.
Item 23: Read Volume 1 of Mark Twain’s autobiography. This will be an endurance test, but I did the math and it’s possible to get it done in 2 months if you read 10 pages a day.
Item 24: Take wine tasting class/ go to wine tasting/drink wine in some educational capacity. Bring Melissa… after she has her baby.
Item 25: See a musical I have not seen. Bonus points if it’s in NYC.
Item 26: Go to a book convention or workshop of some kind.
Item 27: Go to DC and do something really pop culturey with CK, Lennie, and Chris. I’m always jealous when they go to movies together or watch Community or whatever. (I know, Chris, “MOVE TO DC, M. NOBODY IN ATL LIKES YOU ANYWAY.”) I want to pick a good pop culture related activity and go hang out with them. Eric can come too if he’s not too busy being International.
Item 28: Find make-up artist and learn how to make up my face properly now that my skin is clear. It’s time I learned how to use eye liner appropriately.
Item 29: Try that elusive and exclusive Holeman & Finch burger. Note to non-Atlantans: they only serve 24 of them and they only serve them at 10 PM at night. They are allegedly incredible.
Item 30: Play Shuffleboard at Twain’s. Play with Diette if possible. I always put it off because there’s a wait to play and I’m shy about getting in line for things because I’m a terrible, terrible introvert. Time to make myself have fun, dammit.
And the very biggest one:
Item 31: Write novel. Be ready to query agents by next birthday. This is it. I’m doing it. No excuses. It’s time to be who I’m supposed to be.
And that’s it. I’m reserving the right to change the list in the next week if something occurs to me, but I think this is it. Wish me well in the comments. 31 is 13 backward, so this year can only be great, right?
Thirty is not a particularly fun birthday. It feels like a turning point even though it’s not like someone hands you a card that says you are old. There’s no sudden shift in rules or weird restrictions. You just have this sense that it’s time to get serious and that options are now definitely eliminated.
But you go on. You keep going to work and you laugh with your friends and not much seems to change, even though you’re aware more than ever that you have mortality and what will you do with it?
A year ago tonight on the last night of my 20s, I made a list of 30 things I wanted to accomplish this year. Unfortunately, I only checked this list once during the year, so I didn’t have much success getting everything done. I managed 13.5 things on the list. I gave myself a half point for creating the Summer Reading Project because Item 9 was to read all of my unread books. I gave myself partial credit because I’m more than half way through that list. Also, Item 20 was to be something other than a super hero for Halloween, but then I decided that was really stupid because wearing a cape once a year is one of the best things I do. I didn’t give myself credit for that one, but I did lower my list to 29 items.
Here are some highlights of things I did manage to cram into the last year.
Item 1: “Leave the country. At least go to Hogwarts (in Florida). “
In May, I went to Germany and Austria. I blogged about it and went on a Sound of Music tour. Very successful!
Item 4: “Speaking of follow through, post 1-2 times per week on at least one of my two blogs.”
I didn’t manage this very well on this blog, but I was nearly perfect at my book blog.
Item 10: “Read a classic book I’ve been skipping.”
Read A Confederacy of Dunces. Was not disappointed!
Item 13: “Send actual Christmas cards. Pictures optional.”
DONE. Already planning new ways to exploit my dog for next year.
Item 19: “Try a food I have not tried before.”
I had many strange foods this year. This one sticks out because it came out of a food stand in Germany. Mustard helped.
Item 24: “Eat at Bacchanalia.”
In case you are not in Atlanta, this is an extremely nice prix fixe restaurant. It’s the kind of place your parents take you, but you could never go alone. Luckily, my mother wanted to go for her birthday.
Item 26: “Go to a social event that I would usually turn down and find a way to make it good. i.e. don’t be awkward.”
Considering that left to my own devices, I would just stay home and watch Netflix Instant and read books, I’m going to call it a win that I left my house at all this year. I’m sure I stretched my comfort zone at some point. Maybe when I wore sequins to a Taylor Swift concert?
Item 27: “See at least half the movies nominated for Best Picture.”
I actually did this! I loved The Artist, and Moneyball was better than I expected. The Help was WAY out of its league and The Descendants was really depressing.
Item 29: “Do something for New Year’s Eve. Do not just sit at home and eat junk food no matter how much you might want to do so.”
You will notice I’m not in this picture, but it’s only because I took it myself. UVA played Auburn in a NYE bowl game in ATL and I went with some friends from here. My friend Dave captured the general spirit, but UVA pants were sadly not the norm.
Tomorrow: 31 things to accomplish in the next year. This year, I’m keeping the list posted on my wall and I’m super serious about it.
Until then, good-bye, 30. You really weren’t as bad as I heard. In fact, you were basically okay. You have a bad reputation but you’re actually misunderstood. Like Judd Nelson on The Breakfast Club. But with less leather.