How to Get Married in Twelve Easy Steps

Step One: Get Engaged

I don’t know how your story goes, but mine is a little something like this:

I’d threatened him long ago that if he ever proposed at a sporting event that I would say no, but if we wound up on the JumboTron I would not only refuse but also be forced to kill him and bury the body in a shallow grave, which is really more work than I’m up to on any given day. It wasn’t something I worried much about, considering the fact that I once had him 85% convinced that Quidditch was a real sport, but still. Better safe than sorry.

When it happened, it was in our living room. There were no candles, no rose petals. He didn’t get down on one knee. The cat, involved as she was by having the ring box nestled between her paws, looked at us contemptuously as I somehow breathed in the affirmative that yes, I would, of course I would.

We spent a blissful hour as an engaged couple. And then we told people.

Step Two: Tell People

Congratulations! This part is so much fun. Everybody was thrilled for us, and they will be for you too. We’d already decided what we wanted to do. A simple morning ceremony, followed by dinner with our parents and a casual party later in the evening with assorted family and friends. What could be more charming?

Step Three: Have People Tell You All the Ways In Which You Are Doing It Wrong

“What do you mean, no dance? Where are you having this, a Russian gulag?”
“Your grandmother will throw a fit if there isn’t a proper reception. She’s already making noise about haunting you once she’s dead.”
“You’re not legally married in this country if someone isn’t crying with frustration by the end of the day. You’re marrying a lawyer, you should know that.”

Step Four: Eat a Pillow Out of Anxiety

Wash it down with a nice bottle of wine. I personally chose a cabernet sauvignon, but I don’t want to tell you how to live.

Step Five: Give In Compromise

Okay. So G’s dad only asks that his (seven) brothers be invited. Great. And yeah, maybe the morning wedding isn’t convenient for getting ready. Maybe this would be a good opportunity to get all the family together for a happy occasion instead of a sad one, and who doesn’t love dancing?

This is how it starts. If this isn’t how you want it to go, I suggest you shut down your computer right now and run to the nearest city hall. No, faster than that.

Step Six: Ask Your Bridesmaids

You will find out that it is popular to find cute ways to do this, including keepsake handkerchiefs and handmade paper dolls. What actually happens is a little closer to pouring a shot for your oldest friend and saying “SO YA WANNA BE MY MAID OF HONOUR OR WHA?”

Like the trouper she is, she pounds the shot back and gives you a hug. “I FUCKIN’ LOVES YOU AND I WILL DESTROY ANYONE WHO GETS IN THE WAY OF YOUR HAPPINESS SO LET’S DO THIS, BITCH.” Later, at the wedding, she will give a speech that makes all your aunts sniffle, but this one, just between the two of you, is the one closest to your heart. You might not be sisters by blood, but sisters by blood alcohol count must mean something.

Step Seven: Get Vendor Quotes

Bridal etiquette books will tell you that it is not polite to laugh until you cough blood when you receive a catering quote of roughly the GDP of a small country. I say etiquette books lack imagination and must come from old money because seriously, fuuuuuuuuuck that. BBQ buffet it is.

Book a great photographer. The rest will come together later, once you start running out of pillows.

Step Eight: Say Yes to the Dress (and Various Accessories)

Here’s your chance to be the fairytale princess you’ve always wanted to be, if you were the owlish kid whose parents read you all the German versions. Some of the shoes they try to sell you on will put you in Aschenputtel territory quick-smart.

You’ll promise yourself not to get caught up in the whole thing, but the look on your mother’s face when you step up onto the pedestal make you think there’s something special about it, underneath all the ridiculous fuss. Once the veil goes on, it’s all over. You’re a vision in lace and there’s no turning back.

Step Nine: Pinteresting

You’ll find many beautiful wedding ideas on Pinterest. You will, however, have to wade through people who think carving a lace pattern into a watermelon is a perfectly valid use of one’s time.

time

Tread wisely. Gaze too long into the abyss, and the abyss will hand you a glue gun.

Step Ten: Be Our Guest

I will say this now: there is literally no way to do this without a) going way over budget or b) mortally offending a family member. My advice is to cut something inconsequential and pony up the dough for an extra chicken dinner for that great aunt nobody ever sees. She’s not starting the Seven Years’ War with your mother-in-law, you get a nice card out of it, everyone feels good. Life is too short.

Have pillows on hand for snacking when you do your seating chart, because some relatives won’t sit with other ones on account of the whole feud started at the last goddamn wedding. Thanks a bunch, Cousin With Strong Feelings About Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays That You “Accidentally” Unfriended on Facebook. Thanks a fucking bunch.

Step Eleven: IT’S HAPPENING

Before you know it, the day will be upon you. You’ve hunted people down for their RSVPs, you’ve sold a kidney (not your kidney, but a kidney) to pay for everything, and you’ve buffed your skin to that new car shine. It’s time to get married.

Of course, the morning of the wedding you will be so nervous that you inform your maid of honour that you are about to hork. She will pitilessly throw you, fully clothed, into a cold shower. You will be reminded of why you chose her for the job.

Your hair will be kind of awful. One of your bridesmaids will hand you scissors to fix the raggedy bits. Your photographer will note that not many brides can be found cutting their bangs an hour before the ceremony.

Your dad will cry when he sees you in your dress. Your mom’s hands will shake as she fixes your veil.

You will be late to the ceremony. Your husband-to-be will check his pocket watch at the altar, but you won’t know until later when your father-in-law confides that he had a moment of panic. Just a little one.

You will see him at the end of the aisle and wonder how you ever lived without him, this man with the green eyes who knows your heart like no other. When you say your vows, you will feel an invisible thread that connects you not only to him, but to everyone who’s ever stood in front of their loved ones and said these words, this covenant of something so much older and more sacred than you have ever imagined before this moment.

You will laugh during all your photos, toasting with chicken nuggets procured from Wendy’s by the best man’s brilliant wife. You will laugh harder still at the toasts and jokes and Bill Cosby impressions at the reception. You and your entire bridal party will rap the entire theme from Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

You will cry during your first dance. It will only get worse when you dance with your father.

You will dance until the lights come on and they kick you out, guests partying all the way out the door in their glowstick bracelets and crowns.

Step Twelve: Happily Ever After

wedding2

Step Thirteen: “So When Are You Gonna Have a Baby?”

Buy more pillows.

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

In every age of mankind, philosophers and scientists have pondered the unknowable nature of reality and the universe. Though I cannot lay claim to being either, with all our paradigms shifting into post-something, I find myself holding steadfast to the several irrefutable and objective truths I have come to know in my life.

The Drunk Girl Theorem: As the value of x (the number of drunk girls in a group at a club) increases, there is a positive correlation with the value of y (the amount of shots taken). Where x reaches a value of 3 or higher, the probability of z (at least one girl crying in the bathroom) approaches 1. If the y value represents Jägermeister, the z value expands to include physical aggression including, but not limited to: pushing, slapping, weave-pulling, eye-gouging.

Fig. 1: "Why isn't Chad texting me back?"

The “In Both Cases, Directions Help” Law: Nobody drives or gives oral sex as well as they think they do. Present company included, since the way I do both tends to involve me mixing up my right and my left. That trick of the left hand making the L-shape will only get you so far and some people become offended.

Fig 1.2: Yeah, it LOOKS easy.

The Nice Guy Paradox: I’ve gone over this before, but if he has to say he’s a nice guy, he probably isn’t. The corollary of this is that if he says he’s messed up/bad at relationships/a serial killer with mommy issues, he almost assuredly is. In either case, not worth the aggro. Just buy your own drink and invest in some AA batteries. (For the men screaming “But wait! What should we say about ourselves then, eh, smart guy?”: I don’t know. Just don’t say anything. Go find a guy doing and saying things that make him look like a goatse-level gaping asshole and then don’t do or say those things. I’m barely spinning my own plates here, dude.)

Fig 1.3: An all-too-common refrain.

The Long-Distance Problem: Long-distance relationships suck. They just do. You’ll find yourself missing all these things about your partner that you didn’t know you ever noticed, like their handwriting and the way they pronounce the word “delightful”. Over the winter months, you will begin to feel that body hair maintenance is a pointless exercise and you need it for the extra warmth in your empty, empty bed so what’s the damn point? You will start questioning all you ever knew about the concept of home and start thinking it could just as easily apply to a person instead of a place.

Fig. 1.4: Bigger than you think it is.

The Red Wine Effect: If you have been used to liquor for all of your drinking life, you will not view wine as real booze. This will be your first mistake. At some point after your third glass, you will realize that the insides of your lips feel cottony and you will start thinking that it’s really weird that you know so many people whose names begin with the letter L. By the time the last few drops have been drained from glass number five, you will be telling all present, loudly and often, about your genius plan to build an entire house out of Legos. When the bottle is empty, you will be wearing Betty Boop pajamas and a paper crown and you will be crying about a childhood movie about a dog that you haven’t seen in fifteen years. You will forget your habit of chewing on the lip of your glass generally only works when said glass is not as thin and delicate as spun sugar, and you will wind up halting all conversation in the room with a shattering sound. Every head will turn and see you spitting shards of glass out of your mouth with an audible “pleh!” sound and a nonchalant expression that implies this happens every single day. You will pass out on a futon and wake up the next day wishing for the baby Jesus to come and hold a pillow over your face with his tiny, holy arms until you slip into a blissful oblivion that does not contain sunlight or the smell of bacon.

Fig. 1.5: JESUS TAKE THE WHEEL

Um. Yeah. Totally universal.

Nice Boys Don’t

Being single agrees with me for the most part. I get to plan my weekends without having to have the conversation of I Didn’t Know It Was Your Mother’s Birthday, You Need To Tell Me These Things More Than Two Days Before. I get all the pillows to myself.  No one makes fun of me for watching Colin Firth movies for an entire afternoon. I’ve had a couple of flirtations and flings in the last few months, but nothing too intense. I simply didn’t want to date.

Of course, it’s late May and spring has sprung, and with it came spring fever. The world is shiny and new and maybe, just maybe, it’d be nice to have someone to share it with. Unfortunately, I’m at that stage in life where most of my friends have paired off and are only friends with other paired off people. Not being possessed of the patience necessary to wait it out until people’s starter marriages begin failing, I dipped a toe into online dating.

It’s harrowing, of course. The city I’m in is relatively small and doesn’t have the selection that a place the size of, say, Toronto or Vancouver would. I get a fair amount of messages, but I don’t pretend that it’s because I’m special in any way. Sure, I’m moderately attractive and can string a sentence together, but anyone with a vagina can attract a certain amount of attention online simply by nature of having a place on the body in which to insert a penis. Frankly, I’d wager the same amount of success could be achieved by a sentient Fleshlight, or even a lukewarm bag of Spaghetti-Os. The messages are mostly unobjectionable, if somewhat lacking in good spelling, but mostly the problem is not having anything in common.

Unless, of course, the problem is the Nice Guy. Ohhhhh, how I loathe the Nice Guy.

A Nice Guy is not to be mixed up with a nice guy, of course. I know nice guys. I’ve dated some of them. They let me sleep on their couches when I’ve had too much to drink, bake me pie for my birthday, and send me animations of bouncing breasts when I’m feeling down. The Nice Guy is the guy who says and does all the things he thinks he needs to do to get in your pants and then considers you the problem when it doesn’t work. The problem clearly isn’t that they are either transparent as hell or that they never made anything constituting an actual move. Oh, no, clearly the problem is you, the fickle and stupid woman, for actually appreciating the more direct approach.

Courtesy of A Softer World

“All women want are jerks,” they grump. “They talk about how all they want is a nice, sweet guy who will treat them like a queen and then turn around and go for the hot guy who treats them like shit.” Oh, fuck off out of it, Lloyd Dobler. In the first place, I’ve never asked to be treated like a queen. I want a guy with a sense of humour and a spark and a personality that meshes with mine, a guy who will treat me with respect. Me, the person I am. Not as some generic woman. The reason I don’t want your flowers and sonnets is because that’s not who I am and if you’d bothered to get to know me beyond the fact that I have a matching pair of X chromosomes, you’d understand that. Romance is fine, but when you’re acting as if all women are the same, it’s not romantic. It’s bullshit, and we can usually smell it from a mile away. How is it respectful to me or you to live your life as though you’re holding a sign up that says “Will Act As Doormat For Pussy”? Is that what being nice means to you? Maybe that’s why you’re striking out.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend that women can’t be hypocrites or stupid or what have you. Of course we can. I’ve known some girls who were horror stories enough that they’d curl your hair. But seriously, don’t act as if I’m stupid and then be offended when I don’t swoon at you trying to clumsily pluck out “Crash Into Me” on your acoustic guitar. I have enough experience now to know what I want, and it isn’t someone who thinks so little of me that they assume I don’t know what’s good for me. Slow your roll, Prince Smarming. I have a weekend with Colin Firth planned and it doesn’t involve you.

No, YOU

Hypothesis: Any relationship between any two people lasting longer than a month will have at least one long-running argument that spans the entire course of said relationship.

Corollary: Said argument will be over something absolutely bone-fuck stupid. The level of viciousness of said argument will be directly proportional to the stupidity of the topic at hand.

Example 1: The parking lot outside my office does not have delineated parking spaces. A co-worker of mine (I will call him Patrick, as that is his name) showed up one morning at the same time as me. I pulled into a spot next to the one he was backing into at a glacial pace. At halfway in the spot, I saw him mutter something and pull out to move several spaces down. I shrugged and gathered my stuff to go inside, but he caught up with me.

“You cut me off,” he pouted. “I was backing into that spot.”

“Er, no,” I said, “You were backing into the spot next to mine.”

He pointed back at the space between my car and the next one, asking testily how he was expected to fit his car in there. I looked at the sizable empty space.  I looked back at him. I looked at his car, a Ford Focus. I asked him which breakfast cereal he’d gotten his driver’s license out of, hazarding a guess that he was a Cocoa Pebbles kind of guy. Things only escalated from there, with a day-long argument involving impartial observers being pulled away from their desks to look at how I’d somehow prevented him from putting a mid-sized car into a space spanning roughly the size of Iceland. (Alright, maybe not Iceland. Equatorial Guinea, then.)

That was roughly two months ago. Now as we get coffee from the break room, he narrates his every movement to make sure I don’t cut him off. I tell him that his car, like so many other things in his life, is not as big as he thinks it is. I anticipate that this will continue until one of is fired or killed.

Example 2: My parents, desperately in love as they are, come close to divorce at least once a year over one of the following things:

  • Tinsel on the Christmas tree (my father says it’s festive, my mother argues that it looks like robot diarrhea)
  • Bubble wrap (my father says it’s fun to pop for hours, my mother has started to get a twitch whenever it’s nearby)
  • The video camera (my mother says it’s important to document important moments in our family, my father quite reasonably says that him drinking his morning coffee in a robe that leaves little to the imagination is NOT an important family moment)

Example 3: I have not even the words to get into the debacle from my relationship with J, but I assure you that if you ever play the word “za” in Scrabble for 24 points and triple word score, it’s probably best if you leave before the cops show up because shit is about to get very real indeed.

Conclusion: Long-running arguments provide a sense of comfort and familiarity in a relationship, a home base to return to when other conflicts get too hard to deal with. It can be about nostalgia, foreplay, or just plain fun, but the fact is that a relationship needs at least one good conflict to be able to survive.

Alternate conclusion: People are sort of dumb and za is NOT A WORD.

We Are Learning to Make Fire

I have never believed in soulmates. The idea of The One, the person put on this earth to complete you, has just never sat well with me on any level. Statistically, the odds of you even finding the one person you’re destined to be with in a sprawling world of billions of people are astronomical. You have a better chance of randomly finding your first grade teacher on Chatroulette, and the odds are even greater that if you do, he’s going to show you his penis.

Even leaving aside the logistical problems, I feel mildly offended at the idea that I need to be completed. I’m already a complete person, albeit a deeply flawed one. I do believe in love (“to the depth and breadth and height/My soul can reach”) and I’m not opposed to romance. I just don’t want to be the half of a whole, because what happens when your other half goes away? You can keep your souls meeting in divine union. All I really want is a partner.

And yet.

And yet, nothing is ever that simple. If all it took was mutual respect and shared life goals and a certain amount of fondness, we’d live in a very different world. There has to be something more. Even lust is just science, boiled down to bare bones of evolutionary biology and pheromones that often lead us terribly astray (“The lads I’ve met in Cupid’s deadlock/Were- shall we say?- born out of wedlock”), and even that is fleeting.

I’ve fallen in love before. More than once, but not often enough that you could call it habit. There’s no pattern aside from an obvious predilection for boys with glasses. The variables are all different. There’s no predicting it, that maddening rush that comes when a person walks into a room and says your name just so. It’s a poorly designed scientific experiment with the methods all wrong and inexact and the subject staring dreamily off into space, doodling hearts in a spiral notebook. This has happened before and it will happen again (“Let us go then, you and I/When the evening is spread out against the sky), but I don’t know when or how.

I think it’s backwards to think we’re only able to find true love with one person in the whole world. Isn’t it more romantic in the end to think that the possibility is there at any time, an unexplained phenomenon that most of us will experience at least once in our lives? If love is neither math nor chemistry nor biology, then maybe it’s alchemy,  spinning the ordinary and everyday into gold.

*Credit where it’s due to the authors of the italics: Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Dorothy Parker, and T.S. Eliot. Title comes from Margaret Atwood.