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We’re All Mad Here: On ‘Un-weddings’ and Forging a New Wedding Culture

 “If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t. And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?” –Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass

A very merry un-wedding. That is what I am going to call it from now on.

I’ve always marched to the beat of my own drum, and I suspect my lovely fiancé has always done the same. Or maybe we are just contrarians living in our own wonderland — which is also very likely the case. In any event, our un-wedding is going to be…different.

But, as I am beginning the initial planning stages of what our un-wedding might be like, I have really started to wonder:

What’s the price that we are  paying for weddings in this age of conspicuous consumption?

And I don’t mean the monetary price.

Weddings have become commodities. And who can blame us for wanting to take a drink of the white silk taffeta wedding Kool-aid? Celebrity gossips rags inundate us with the latest wedding news. Celebrities sell their wedding pictures for hundreds of thousands of dollars because there is a market for them. Kim Kardashian’s infamous televised wedding garnered record viewers. Can’t just blame Kim K., folks — we were the ones setting our DVRs. We buy the gossip mags. Heck, celebrity gossip even appears in the New York Times. Let’s face it, we like this stuff.

Likewise, wedding websites allow us to endlessly consume wedding details to our heart’s content – satiating our appetite for a glimpse into an “ideal” affair, a fairytale ending. While those pictures are pretty, I think that by over-saturating culture with a curated wedding world, we lose sight of what makes marital unions truly special in the first place.

Let’s think about the impact of media imaging in another way. Did you know that there are over 100 published studies on the impact of ‘thin’ perfected body images on girls and women? (There are a number on the impact on men, too.)  According to nationaleatingdisorders.org, evidence has found that exposure to thin-ideal images taken directly from fashion magazines produced significant increases in self-reported depression, stress, guilt, shame, insecurity and body dissatisfaction relative to women exposed to images of average-weight women from magazines. And this is just the tip of the iceberg. There are so many studies like that.

Undeniably, media’s (this includes internet) saturation of what is “ideal” – be it a Victoria’s Secret model, or Mario Lopez shirtless on the cover of People, or a wedding featured on StyleMePretty – has a significant detrimental impact on cultural consciousness.

So, here on WelcometoAdulthood, I am going to provide a counter-discourse about weddings. I’m not sure how I am going to do it yet, but I am setting out to do something big. Something big and something that makes people feel great and empowered, not that makes people feel less-than. Here on WelcometoAdulthood we shall forge a new reality. This is a reality which is wholly constituted by us, not by the media and by those who profit from the wedding industry, and this new reality will forever impact the cultural conception of what a wedding is: a union of mutual love and commitment between any two adults (note the very deliberate use of the world adult here, rather than ‘man and woman’), an acknowledgement from the community that it will support the couple on their life path, and a legal contract between these two committed adults. And all the unique joy that follows.  The joy that follows is the best part! Union+joy first, aesthetics second (or maybe somewhere like 7th or 8th.)

Impossible, you say?

Well, in Alice’s words, “Sometimes I believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”

[photo by Jill_M_Casey via Flickr.]

Our Engagement Year: On Sapphires, the Vow of the Wedding Website Boycott, and the Next Chapter of Adulthood

“Like you’re trying to fight gravity
on a planet that insists
that love is like falling
and falling is like this” – Ani Difranco

Hello my dear Adulthooders! I knew I was a hopeless romantic for a reason. Believing in Epic Love made my heart open and ready to find it. Low and behold, Epic Love wooosshhhheedd right in like a perfect warm breeze and swept me off my feet at the time in my life when I was most ready to embrace it in all its wonderful epic glory. Then my dear Epic Love proposed! And I squealed and said, ‘Of course!’

So now I have a lovely fiancée and a lovely sapphire engagement ring that was handmade by my dear friend Maura Green.  And I have learned a lot of lessons in the past few days of being engaged:

1) If you are going to have a sapphire engagement ring, you should be ready to have the following conversation with many confused, but mostly kind, friends and acquaintances:

What is that?

A sapphire.

But that isn’t really an engagement ring.

Yes, it really is an engagement ring.

(blankly) Oh. Did you want that?

Well, I wanted a wonderful partner and the ring is really just a little bauble compared to the prize that is my fiancée. But yes, I wanted a sapphire too and I love it. Princess Diana had one, as did Helen of Troy.

Oh, ok. Cool.

 

2) I am taking a vow, right here, in front of all of my dearest blog buddies, to never look at another wedding website (or wedding print magazine, for that matter) ever again.

You heard me right. No more wedding websites. This is just a choice I am making. There is nothing wrong with those websites, and more power to those who enjoy them and find inspiration from them. However, they are not for me. I am going to try to have the most authentically ‘Mara and David’ wedding I can have, and that means that I am not going to feel bad or less-than or not as cool or not as hip because I don’t have calligraphy on my [*] recycled-paper-from-vintage paper plate-Save the Dates, or because I can’t hire a really expensive photographer, or because I don’t have the money to buy chair covers.

[*] Not that I have a problem with anything recycled!

Along those same lines, my good friend Luke Williams once told me early on in my blogging career that my blog had more to offer than focusing too much on weddings. Since receiving that creative feedback, Welcome to Adulthood has been able to grow roots in a monumental way. Here, we explore issues affecting adulthood in so many parts of our life. And marriage and weddings and coupling is just ONE of those parts of our full life — not the whole part. To that end, I will continue to blog about all the varied and complicated and fun parts of adulthood, and maybe once in a while I will blog about lessons we are learning in [*]Our Engagement Year.

[*] Did I mention my fiancée is also a writer? I think I have convinced him to start a new side-blog called Our Engagement Year (inspired by Harvey Pekar’s Our Cancer Year.) He seemed excited about this new project! Stay tuned!

Anyway, needless to say that I am over the moon! Also, for some reason I feel more like an adult now than ever before. Maybe it is because when someone asks you to marry them it is possibly the most important question of your life, and when you answer that question in the affirmative the path of your life is forever changed — for better or for worse, in sickness and in health, as long as you both shall live….

I know our life together will be mostly for the better, mostly in health, and hopefully with a very long and happy life. And that feels amazing.

Welcome to Adulthood.

 


Guest Blog: Fairytales and Fantasies

“Had I known then what I know now, I would have played less fantasy games like mermaids and house, and played more Monopoly and pushed myself to learn Sudoku.”

 

 

Fairytales and Fantasies

By Brooke (currently) Tarkington (en route to) Stamper

It’s funny how, as little girls, we have already mapped out every detail of our lives. From the flowers and dress at our weddings, to the names of our future children, to the type of house and career we will have. It never crosses our mind that these things just might not pan out for us.

 

I grew up believing I knew how every last detail of how my life would end up. I would daydream about the name of the man I would one day call my husband. I was obsessed at a very young age with every detail of the fairytale life I was bound for. Had I known then what I know now, I would have played less fantasy games like mermaids and house, and played more Monopoly and pushed myself to learn Sudoku.

 

After my fairytale wedding at age 26, my future children’s names picked out, house hunting, and making enough money to consider ourselves comfortable, I found that the tides can change very quickly.

 

I am a 28-year-old woman facing divorce and moving back in with my parents. It seems that in all of my careful planning, I forgot one thing: quality. The obsession with my fairytale blinded me to truth. The idea of being an adult, a wife, a mother, a partner shielded my eyes from the reality that I was living. I have a mediocre job, making just above poverty, which I seem to be addicted to. I am currently packing up my one bedroom apartment to move back into my parents’ “very large but with the least amount of privacy” home. I face the stigma attached to a 28-year-old divorcee, and even worse, the pain attached to it. I don’t want to use this as an open forum to bash my soon-to-be ex-husband, but I don’t think I could have picked a person less like me. Goals, mannerisms, ideas, abilities, functionality, family, intelligence — some of the most important things were overlooked in order to appease my appetite for the perfect life. The crazy thing is: I knew this. I KNEW when I married him that I was settling in order to achieve my fairytale. I thought that once I married him, eventually, we would live happily ever after. I mean, I’m a good person. I try to live honestly and kindly and genuinely. I deserved the happily ever after.

 

So, after years of adulthood, I am resorting back to childlike tendencies. Living with my parents, while they pay the mortgage and the utility bills, coming home to see my mom has cooked dinner, finding less and less of the world I was creating for myself. I should mention that I know that I am blessed to have parents who have taken me back in with open arms and have been a driving force in my emotional recovery. It seems that even when you’ve finally figured out how to be an adult, you realize how unequipped you are to deal with the realities of it.

 

Fantasies and fairytales are fabrications.

 

One day, in the future, when I have my own children, they are going to be able to read fairytales and fantasize about their future lives, but with mommy’s realism as a grounding force…….wait a second……”One day, in the future, when I have my own children…..”

 

It seems that I will never learn my lesson.

 

Dreaming of the future awakens and excites the soul. I know now to dream differently. I am not dreaming of a name or face of a man to share my life with. I am dreaming of attributes and qualities that complement my own. I am not fantasizing about the perfect career that makes me financially gainful. I am looking for one that makes my soul happy. I have seen the outcome of dreaming realistically, and it is more fulfilling than the fairytale I was pretending to live.

 

Dreaming like a grown-up is much different than dreaming like a child.

 

I prefer the grown-up dreams.

 

***

Photo by Raymond Brown via Flickr.

Guest Blog: The Ties That Bind

“As the generally accepted signposts of maturity came and went for me (turning 18 then 21, serious relationship, college graduation, regular job, buying a house, even marriage) I was still driving along, looking for that maturity exit.  Then I became a father.  There was my exit!  Many of the other drivers on this road to adulthood exited before me and some were still driving by me, but this exit was mine.”

Today’s post-Father’s Day essay is brought to us by dynamic Kevin Robertson. Kevin’s piece about fatherhood is moving and insightful and challenges us to think about own own definitions maturity. Kevin offers us a rare insight on parenthood that is not often seen on Welcome to Adulthood[*], and adds another layer of understanding to our ever-evolving examination on what it means to be “an adult.”  He will also make you think twice about getting your dad a tie for Father’s Day!

[*] Note to parents: Inspired to submit? Add to our discussion with your thoughts on parenting and its relationship to adulthood, maturity, and/or personal growth. We’d love to hear from you!

The Ties That Bind

by Kevin Robertson

I did not get a tie this year for Father’s Day.  No barbeque apron or chef’s hat, no card depicting a lazy man sitting in a recliner with a remote in his hand, or any of the various clichéd items most men get from their children or spouse on the third Sunday in June each year.  What I did get was a 300 mile drive across the Arizona desert with my kids in route to a youth baseball tournament.  As the kids slept the drive away, I began thinking about fatherhood in general and how impactful it has been for me on the road to adulthood.

Unlike my drive across Interstate 8, the road to adulthood has few signposts telling you how fast to go or what exit to take.  Some people find their way easily, but I did not.  I always associated adulthood with maturity.  More specifically, maturity as defined by finally putting self interest aside-doing what was right rather than what you wanted.  As the generally accepted signposts of maturity came and went for me (turning 18 then 21, serious relationship, college graduation, regular job, buying a house, even marriage) I was still driving along, looking for that maturity exit.  Then I became a father.  There was my exit!  Many of the other drivers on this road to adulthood exited before me and some were still driving by me, but this exit was mine.

The responsibility for others was the key for me.  Fatherhood defines my maturity, my adulthood. It means constantly evaluating whether or not I’m setting the right example and teaching the right life lessons.   My week with was spent watching baseball with longtime fathers, new fathers, fathers-to-be, and found myself wondering how fatherhood was affecting their adulthood.  I work with children every day that grew up in homes where fatherhood was not the key to adulthood.  Everyone’s adulthood is different, which is what makes the journey so exciting, daunting, frustrating and rewarding all at once.

Our journey to the desert ended safely and successfully.   The trip was full of laughter and stories we will think about and remember all of our lives.  Just like my journey to adulthood.  So even though I didn’t get a tie to wear this year (and that’s a good thing!), ties are important to me on Father’s Day.  Ties to my father and the memories I have growing up as his son.  And ties, of course, to my two beautiful children, who are teaching me so much about what it means to be an adult every day.

P.S. When we got home, my teenagers presented me with my Father’s Day gift.  It was a new copy of “Kisses for Daddy”, a children’s book they loved and wore out when they were just learning to read.  After they left the room I did what any mature, masculine member of adulthood would do…I cried.

***

Photo by RunnerAlan2004 via Flickr.

 

What I Don’t Learn From My Parents…I Learn from William and Kate

My friend, a single twentysomething, has a theory. “People date people who ‘feel like home.’”

Her theory is that whatever your home life was growing up, that you tend to date people (albeit subconsciously) that reenact that vibe of ‘home.’

Her parents, for example, had a problem with addictions (alcohol and gambling, more specifically). When dating, my friend is on heightened alert to avoid men who may have any kind of an addictive personality, but (as it always tends to go) it seems that those are the guys she likes the most – despite her better judgment.

I’m not here to explore the validity of her argument. But, generally speaking, it does seem to make sense that subconsciously we mimic the patterns of our role models.  Undoubtedly, for most of us, our parents (or step-parents, as often the case may be) were our role models for relationships.

I don’t have very many friends whose parents are still married. With the divorce rate so high (over 50% — meaning, you might as well flip a coin as to whether your marriage will last), and if we accept the argument that ‘we seek relationships that feel like home’ –

Does that then mean we are doomed to repeat our parents mistakes?

It seems so….

This brings me to my next point.

Why care about the royal wedding?

I made it a rule to hide every Facebook post that talked about the royal wedding. I boycotted my usual gossip websites. I didn’t flip through even one US Weekly in the grocery checkout line if there was even a mention of Kate or William. I couldn’t believe that so much money was being spent on this wedding when there is so much need in the world. And the fact that I was barraged with royal wedding details at every turn made me really irritated.

I get it. They are royal and getting married. But seriously, I don’t care to watch or hear anything about this lavishly curated production.

But on the morning of the royal wedding, my friend was visiting from Arizona. While I was making coffee and getting ready for work, she flipped on the replay of the wedding. It the part where Kate walked up to the alter and William whispered to her “you look beautiful.”

And then I realized it. The royal wedding, while lavishly curated, gave the world an opportunity to believe in love again. In my generation, our parental role models are divorced. We date people who are often reminiscent of certain patterns of behavior we witnessed in the home. And, frankly, it is really hard to believe in love.

It is hard to believe that getting married and having a family will ultimately prove to be a happy path of life-long love. But in that moment, when the world watched two young people (who inevitably will face extraordinary challenges throughout their marriage) pledge their lives and love to each other, William and Kate became our new role models.

And I became a little less jaded.

And I think it’s a good thing that we can a have renewed resolve (even if it is for one brief televised wedding moment) to believe that with hard work and compromise (and hopefully a lot of growth, fun, and laughter), we too can live happily ever after.

Thoughts??

*Photo by MikeBaird via Flickr.

50 First Dates: Epic Love

I have surpassed the “50 dates” marker [*], but I haven’t felt very compelled to blog about any of these dates, for various reasons. But what is worth noting is that I have learned something really significant during my months of singledom. That is: dating is pretty easy. What is hard is finding someone you like. And even if you do find someone you like, it doesn’t mean they are the right person for you or that it’s the right time to know them. Such is the conundrum of the single life.

Maybe I am too much of a hopeful romantic (I don’t like the term “hopeless” as it takes on too much of a passive damsel-in-distress connotation), but now that I’m wise enough to know who I am and what I want (and what I don’t want!), I am realizing that my standards are pretty high. And despite my optimism toward romanticism, these days my heart feels extremely defensive and skittish, so dating casually is ideal for me right now.

I read once about a girl in New York City named Jessica Delfino who posted an ad on Craigslist for a suitor. She listed all of the qualities she wanted in this person, all of the attributes she wanted them to have: everything from education status, to height and eye color, to interests and hobbies, to favorite movies, to sense of humor, to income requirements. She then invited men to “apply” to date her. She promised to respond to every applicant, but she would only meet men who matched every single one of her requirements. Sure enough, one man matched every detail, she agreed to meet him at a coffee shop in Midtown, and they were married one year later. Go figure.

Maybe this girl had the right idea. Perhaps I’m really going about this whole dating thing the wrong way by dating lots of people casually for the sake of good food and (sometimes) good company. Maybe I should take a lesson from Jessica Delfino and set strict guidelines for my suitors and then only date ones who meet the standards. […]

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Friendship, My Forever-Favorite Shoes

 

As an adult, I have learned some lessons the hard way. One of those lessons is that some friendships run their course. A friend may be in your life for a long time, or a little time – you serve a purpose to them, and they serve a purpose to you. Then, at some point, the friendship just…expires. Or does it?

At some points in my life, I would take this supposed-“expiration” pretty hard. I would personalize and think “how could they do that to me?”

I like to think I am never the one that “expires” the relationship. That I always try my best to be the greatest friend ever. But truthfully, I have probably done my share of expiring of friendships (though perhaps accidentally.) The reality is that adulthood is busy (and complex) and it is often hard to keep in touch, even if we may want to.

All in this week, I serendipitously reconnected with three old friends, who were all from different “eras” in my life. One was a friend from 1st grade (see photo above — that is really her!), and although she and I live in the same city, we are both busy and have not kept in touch. The second old friend I reconnected with was my best friend from high school, who moved many cities (and now states) away, and we have also not spent time trying to connect. A three-hour phone call later and we are high school girls again, laughing at old jokes and waxing nostalgic about midnight 7-11 runs (slushies!), and blasting 80’s music in her ’90 Ford Tempo. The third friend was a girlfriend from my early twenties — during our era we drank too much, dated the wrong guys, and really thought we were “adults.” Now, we laugh because we realize how much we had to learn….

When I reconnected with each one of these friends, I realized how easy it felt. How it felt like no time had passed at all. How we settled comfortably into our conversation like an old pair of my favorite dancing shoes! It felt so natural and fun to prance around for a few hours in those great shoes!

So maybe instead of thinking about friendships “expiring” (though I think there are some that do expire – those are usually the toxic ones, like spoiled milk) it is better to think of friendships like fabulous dancing shoes. You may not wear them for a while, but they are always with you in your closet, and when the time is right, and the outfit is right, and the mood is right, you dance your heart out like no time has passed. You spin around and around, and the pain that the shoes may have caused you at some point (darn blisters!) have long since healed, and all you feel is joy and gratitude to have such wonderful shoes!

Adulthood and the Forever Friendship with…YOURSELF

 

“The person I am is forever with me.” – Louis Hay

When I was in elementary school, my mom would pick me up from school and ask me two important questions: 1) How was your day today? 2) What was one new thing you learned today?

These questions (though my answers were simple as a 7 year old) are still really fundamental to my life. So much of my blog (and my life!) is dedicated to recalling back on each day (“How was your day today, Mara?”) and then thinking about one new thing I learned.  

I remember one day in second grade when my mom picked me up from school and I was crying. “How was your day?” she asked in a consoling tone.

Between sobs I replied, “Baaa-aaddd! Melissa and Nicole wouldn’t play with the ball with me today!” I guess I was very upset that my two little elementary school buddies didn’t include me in whatever they were doing that day.

My mom, always wise and insightful, said, “Well, people aren’t always going to want to play with you, and that’s okay. Tomorrow why don’t you bring your own ball and you can play with it.”

The next day, I brought my own ball. I remember that day well. I was embarrassed to play alone with my ball, but I did it. And I did it the day after that, and the one after that, until it got pretty easy to play by myself (because it was actually fun). Luckily, Melissa and Nicole must have eventually played with me again (we are still best buddies 20+ years later), but in the recalling this little childhood experience I am able to learn a lot about adulthood. That is, no matter who plays with you, always be your own best friend.

This means, even during the worst times, be able to love and console yourself unconditionally. Be able to give yourself positive self-talk to remind yourself of all of your great attributes, and all of the awesome things you have to offer to the world.

This idea of “being your own best friend” came up yesterday with one of my girlfriends. This particular friend, a smart and beautiful twenty-something, was voicing concern about wearing her bikini in front of her serious live-in boyfriend during a vacation they have planned for the summer. “As strange as it sounds, I have never worn a bikini in front of him, and I really don’t know if I would feel comfortable.”

This is an instance where being your own best friend becomes invaluable. So, I gave my friend a challenge: “Every day tell yourself five positive things about yourself. Maybe things like, I am healthy and active. I am beautiful. I am smart and funny. I am a great catch. I love my [insert favorite body part here.]”

My friend wrinkled her nose at this challenge and blushed, “I’m going to feel silly saying that! Especially about my [insert chosen favorite body part here]!” (…)

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50 First Dates, Date #4: The Words She Knows, The Tune She Hums

Sometimes people come into your life for only a brief moment in time to serve a very specific purpose – to learn (or teach) a lesson.

I’ve encountered a few people over the years who have twinkled briefly in and out of my life: My friends from my study abroad program in Spain, whose kindness and adventuring spirit inspired in me a zest for life and travel. Or, a reclusive neighbor in my apartment building in San Francisco who randomly gifted my roommate and I with beautiful plants and some really nice furniture accompanied by a simple note that read, “Pay it Forward.”

My date with “New York” last night was one of those moments in time.

As you may remember from Dates 1 and 2, New York also just got out of a very long relationship right about the same time as I did. I think what happens sometimes after a relationship (and I think it can be a relationship of any length), is that we lose sight of our own awesomeness. Think about it, a relationship is pretty all-encompassing (though, I think it is always important to retain your own sense of independence even if you are in a relationship for continued self-growth.) If the relationship doesn’t bring out the very best in each person – and if your partner doesn’t really think you are the very best – it becomes hard to remember what “the very best” parts about you are anyway.

Some of “the very best” parts of me were dimmed in my old relationship, and I think that was also very much the case for New York. After years of being dimmed, what we both needed was some good laughs, good conversation, good food and drinks, and a dimly lit piano bar where the entire bar joins in on the chorus of “Tiny Dancer” in true Almost Famous-fashion.

And what was great about Date #4 was that we were able to remind each other that we are both pretty awesome, and we have a lot of great things to offer to the world.

And tomorrow he moves to New York. And with that a moment in time has ended, but with a really valuable lesson learned.

New York Friend, thank you for twinkling into my life. May we both shine on.

Photo via The Dream Sky on Flickr.

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