Autumn Rain

It’s finally autumn here, I’ve seen leaves falling today. This past summer has been impossible; hot, sticky and disgusting with little reprieve. We’ve had a drought locally, so the rain we’ve gotten in the last few days has been delightful.

Of course, when it rains (especially when the air is cool and I have nothing else to do), the urge to burrow under my blankets is strong. It’s this time that I feel the loneliest. I have no one to cuddle up to, listen to the rain and just be. I haven’t for a long time. I think the last time I was dating someone regularly in autumn was… 13 years ago. The last time I dated someone regularly at all was over 9 years ago.

The melancholy is strong with this one.

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Silliness (though apparently a long post).

So I have hobbies and interests. Some are mainstream, like art and music, some are a little esoteric (I’m a medieval reenactor, and I cosplay steampunk). And some… well, I don’t like using the term ‘shameful secret’ because I’m not ashamed, but it’s certainly not something I put out in ‘about me’ profiles.

You see, I have a deep and abiding love of all things… wedding.

Now, to clarify… I’m not married. I’m not getting married (probably never?). I’m not engaged. I’m not even dating (my last boyfriend was in 2009, last actual date from early in that relationship, even). And I know that wedding =/= marriage. Even still.

Weddings fascinate me. I love the frippery, the personalization, the celebration of love that’s involved. That said, there are some things about wedding advertising, absurdity and targeted promotion from the Wedding Industrial Complex that baffle and irritate me.

Wedding advertising is simultaneously beautiful and hilarious. Beatific brides in flowing white gowns grace page upon page of magazines, websites and reality television, giggling and bounding through whatever inappropriate (or unlikely) situation seems to befall bridal advertising. It seems that so many brides tend to find themselves fully gowned, coifed and primped while up on ladders, changing light bulbs, in dusty old barns (not the lovely converted or cleaned & decorated ones in which they might actually marry, but decrepit, manky old run down wrecks), or leaning on walls (so much leaning). Brides and their bridesmaids are always smiling, laughing, with someone glancing come-hither at the audience. Roving packs of brides cluster together in empty houses, looking somewhere between lost and wistful.

Real Life Wedding headlines like ‘Barefooted Boho Bride Bonds with Bowtied Beau in Barn’ implore us with their alliteration to find the beauty, the novelty and the interest in someone else’s idea of perfection. And so many websites, interest boards and planning tools all too lovingly oblige us in our quest for mental and emotional recreation and gratification.

When it comes to dresses, modern wedding dress (and bridesmaid dress) shopping has become a circus of appalling proportions. And I do mean circus. If you are any kind of curvy and wear anything over a size 8 street size, you’re treated like a side show. Mocked, belittled, treated poorly, and generally made to feel like you belong in a giant tent. This, thankfully, isn’t standard in ALL shops (some of them work hard for all women), but there are websites and message boards dedicated to horror stories, better business bureau entries and urban myths that speak to the horrifying experiences that curvy and larger sized women have had in bridal shops. The utter humiliation that comes of being told your size is not your size, having monikers attached to you like ‘plus size’ (I’m not plus-sized, I’m just sized thank you very much), being treated as less than other women whose genetics happen to have gifted them with thinner (or taller) body types. You’ve never known humiliation or anger until some chirpy, oblivious (or malicious) salesperson asks you how much weight you intend to lose before someone agrees to marry you. Or tries to sell you on some sort of ‘bridal booty bootcamp’ exercise plan, because obviously you don’t want to try and squeeze your fat ass into a dress that’s sized in such a way that your street size number is actually 2 sizes smaller in Wedding World. So if you aren’t forewarned and you ask for your size, you receive a dress that makes you feel like you’ll never fit anything. And then the selection for women over a certain size is smaller and usually populated with the Dresses That Time Forgot. As women in general, we’re supposed to want to ‘earn our white gown’ (more on that momentarily) while dieting to suit the ‘bridal silhouette’ and fit into a dress that makes us look naked but for some feathers and spangles, that will make everyone gasp and maybe make our partner cry when s/he sees us approaching. That’s a lot of weight to put on a dress.

On the topic of the white dress specifically, this is one idea that puts my hackles up the most. So many brides on a certain southern-flavored dress show spout the words ‘I’ve earned my white dress!’ (Or worse, one of her parents will). Now, I’m all for making your own choices in terms of sexual partners and activities (or lack thereof). I support waiting until you’re absolutely ready AND understand there why’s, the wherefore’s, the how’s and (very importantly) knowing the who’s better than, say, a teenager might know a chosen partner. Do it for more reasons than ‘my hormones said so’. But I also believe you should do it for more reasons than  ‘I’m married now.’ because that road leads to disappointment (and possible abuse, also creepy and inappropriate topics). Historically, the white wedding dress, despite popular belief, does NOT denote a virgin bride. Up until Queen Victoria, a girl would marry in her best dress (and the middle and lower classes after Victoria would still do so). It wasn’t until Victoria decided she wanted a white dress to go with some special lace she’d received that a mimicry trend began. And even then, she didn’t do it BECAUSE she wanted to state she was virginal. (She was virginal at her wedding because it was her duty as royalty to produce heirs with a royal spouse that had no hint of illegitimacy, but that’s beside the point).

Television tells us brides have to be either rapturously ecstatic, shyly happy or full-on guano crazy. We’re meant to envy those women, to root for the hard luck cases, to wonder what the hell about the crazy ones and to maybe feel hope for ourselves with those ‘At Last’ stories. Magazines tell us we’re meant to have voluminous white gowns, giant diamond rings, exotic honeymoon plans and no other thought in your head except your checklist (which begins a year and a half before your wedding, because everyone has a long engagement and time to plan, right?)

We’re meant to remain cool and not be a ‘bridezilla’ (but if you are you’d better go full-bore, cake smashingly, dress tearingly, groom haranguingly crazy) all while planning every single tiny detail without assistance (because it’s YOUR special day, not yours and your partner’s, JUST YOU), multi-task, never complain and craft a specific and beautiful event without actually looking like you planned it that evokes a combination of byte-worthy words: bespoke! DIY! Rustic! Romantic! Upscale!

And when it comes down to it, it’s all just words. Everything you’re told as a girl from the time you can understand speech is that you’re a girl, you get married in a big white dress, with a ring that cost your husband 2 months’ salary, you want a big party that looks just so and you have to Fit The Mold.

 

Break the mold. Defy conventions Be yourself. Get married or don’t. Wear jeans. Wear a bikini. Wear a suit. Go naked (even if you’re not Betazoid, I don’t judge). Just be yourself. Do what you want with your life and don’t let any part of society tell you you HAVE to look/act/be a certain way, in any aspect of your life. You are a unique creation.

 

Now excuse me while I go bury myself in a Martha Stewart Weddings mag. Oooh, shiny!

This Scepter’d Isle

So I am an American. Born and raised in NYS (upstate, and no I don’t mean Westchester, Poughkeepsie or Albany). I lived in NY for the first 35 years of my life. I use the term ‘lived’ loosely. I existed. I ate (poorly), I slept (sort of), I worked (stress stress stress) and I went through life like I lived in a fog (in some cases in an actual mental fog, but that’s a tale for another day).

Until I decided to change my university major and pursue it on another continent.

In September of 2012 I picked up my entire life (not as easy as it sounds) and moved myself (and my cats! No, there wasn’t a quarantine) to London, UK. I decided if I was going to chase a degree in Museum & Gallery Studies and History of Art (and Design & Film) I wanted to do it someplace that had the best museums and sources of research. My choices were Florence, Paris or London, and of those three in only one I speak the language fluently.

I got into my first choice (unheard of in my life, I’ve never had first choice anything before!), got my ducks in a row (or herded my cats, as it were… sure as hell felt that way) and off we went.

I had a lot of adventures, but I guess this rambly post is mostly to do with feeling at home. I miss England and London, since I’ve been back in NY for over a year now, so much so it hurts. Every day. I’ve never felt more at home anywhere than I did in England (except Pennsic, but that only runs 2 weeks a year, so… 50 weeks of out of place). I’ve never felt and been more capable, self-sufficient, more ME than I was when I was there. Sure, I missed my friends and family (though they say it’s hard making friends once you’re over 30, I don’t find that to be the case) but in the internet age that’s less of an issue.

I’m hoping to move back, though I’m not sure if I’ll end up back in London. Edinburgh is looking VERY appealing right now, between affordability and graduate school options. (And if you’d asked me 5- 10 years ago if I’d be looking at graduate programs I’d have laughed at you and said ‘I don’t even have my bachelors and probably never will!’ Never say never, right?) By the by, if you know anyone in the arts and cultural realms in either city that’s hiring and willing to sponsor a VISA for a keen American, please do let me know. Or mention me.

 

Someone please hire me in my field. It’s my passion, and it took me years to find it so you know I’m absolutely certain of my path and choices.

Home is where the heart is. And mine is in a museum in the UK.

An Untamed Shrew

“I see a woman may be made a fool,
If she had not a spirit to resist.”
― William Shakespeare, The Taming of the Shrew

Oxford English Dictionary defines a shrew as “A person, esp. (now only) a woman given to railing or scolding or other perverse or malignant behaviour; freq. a scolding or turbulent wife.” (It also defines it as a small furry rodent, but I guess Shakespeare didn’t take that into account).

I find it interesting that a word so small and tame can speak so negatively to one specific gender, and only that gender. So many words are used in this way, to directly and insistently denigrate and demean one specific portion of the population. I recognize my privilege to have been born a certain ethnicity that doesn’t necessarily get hit with insults. My gender, however, oh what another story.

I’ve been called bitch, whore, I’ve had my looks insulted (or criticized in a ‘well-meaning’ way like “you could be so pretty if…”), I’ve been spoken over, interrupted, disregarded and valued less than my male compatriots.

And yet, I don’t shut up. I have a lot to say. Some of it might be worthwhile (probably not, I tend to ramble), so I’ve decided to start this blog to just let it all out. Mostly so I can stop filling my phone with random notes and half-thoughts.

 

Am I a shrew? Maybe. But like a slut-walk, a bitch-fest or another feminist act of strength… I’m taking it back.

Petrucchio be damned, Katarina got shafted.

Scary Things

Right, well… many people have asked why I decided to move out of my father’s house so (seemingly) abruptly. I’ve been keeping quiet on some of the worst of it, though I’m sure my ‘toxic parents’ link posted yesterday sheds some light.

When I moved in, back in August, I – probably naively – figured I would only be there for a month, maybe two, and I could handle him for that long. When it became apparently I’d be here through the winter, he started getting more and more abrasive, manipulative. He would discuss my weight and appearance with his best friend and my grandmother, against my express request he not do so. I was told I didn’t have the right to complain because he and his BFF ‘talk about just about anything’ (and then went on to reveal something ridiculously private about her daughter that I DO NOT NEED TO KNOW. Thanks for making me complicit in your behavior?)

He would criticize my weight and appearance, my eating habits, my sleeping habits, my job searching habits. He commented that I ‘haven’t had that many jobs, so I don’t really have much experience in job searching’ (so obviously I’m doing it wrong). At one point I’d been awake all night (because unmedicated insomnia is a bastard) and decided to take a nap during the day for a few hours. When I got up later HE was napping, and I noticed on his computer screen a conversation he had with his BFF (I did it to myself for looking) in which he told her I was ‘sacked out’ and she called me a lazy bum, then went on to say ‘this is why she’s fat’.

The real beginning of the end was the screaming fight. I won’t go back over it here, but he said outright that potential employers (you know, the ones I hadn’t even met yet) were judging me poorly because of my weight, that I needed to take a job.. ANY job, even (or perhaps especially?) if it was low pay (not enough to actually save for a big move in a few months) and one I would be unable to perform (retail, food service, these are physically demanding jobs that I recognize right now I would make myself very ill attempting). When I attempted to explain what I was doing, where I was looking, etc, he would explode and accuse me of not trying, not wanting a job, and then when I called him on it he’d say he ‘just wanted the best’ for me and ‘was trying to help, because he’s been through it’. (At which point I was beginning to see why he’d never held a job for more than a year or two). He also kept making comments about how I’d ‘have to’ leave Leo behind when I moved, because he liked him so much. Thanks no.

Then he made The Joke. Almost all of the above could be looked past once I started working, if he hadn’t made it.
We went to a holiday ‘in memoriam’ party at his veterinary office (they took good care of Gus, and some of them asked how he was!). At one point we were both chatting with one woman who worked there, and I was telling her about my world travelers (they make for such great conversation) and he dropped another unsubtle comment about me leaving Leo and I casually said ‘not gonna happen.’

At which point he said “well a couple of days before you move I could sneak in and slit your throat.”

Out loud. IN PUBLIC. In front of someone who got very, very quiet.
I THINK he thinks he was joking. I didn’t call him on it, I didn’t want another fight. I know he’d have acted all wounded and insisted he wasn’t serious, and made himself a victim of the situation.

I like to think I’m a forgiving person, adaptable and can put up with A LOT, but I cannot live somewhere if I’m actively afraid to live there. I can’t live walking around on eggshells hoping to avoid the next bomb going off. I am very easily triggered into a panic attack by screaming, swearing, violence. Things that are part of his daily routine. I just cannot do it, and nobody I know (except perhaps him and his BFF, who are not happy unless they feel somehow superior to someone else.)

I didn’t tell him I was moving until this morning, which went better than I expected, but could have gone worse if I’d given him ANY warning. I waited until there was at least one person there for me outside in the driveway.

The fact that family AND friends were already discussing how to get me & my boys out, had speeches prepared to give my father in case he got out of hand and the absolute unwavering support I’ve had along the way has been what’s kept me from going stark raving mad, packing my cats up into a backpack (oh wouldn’t they love THAT) and walking down to Syracuse sooner.

So thank you, for patience with my ranting, understanding my situation. Thanks to Betty and Mark for letting me be the troll in their basement for awhile.
Onward and upward!