Saturday, 2 March 2013

The Final Countdown

I'm getting married in 50 days.

There is no better way to start this Blog - and believe me, I have tried. The magazines, married friends, my parents have all warned me about the tricky final stages: "It'll go really fast."

In fact, my wedding planning time has gone whizzing by faster than Sonic the Hedgehog, on Speed, desperate for the toilet, while riding The Flash's special time-paradox-causing treadmill. SHUT UP I'M NOT EXAGGERATING.

The big ringer came a week ago when a client at work was booking in an appointment. My boss offered her the 20th February and I suddenly squealed like a moron, "Woah, that's two months before I get married!!!" My colleagues looked at me as if I couldn't do simple maths, and the customer looked confused before wishing me congratulations, and then I felt like the biggest boast in the world - I hadn't meant to draw attention to myself. It just fired out of me like errant post-nacho gas. In fact, maybe I'd rather have just cut a loud wet one right on the shop floor, although I probably would have sighed loudly afterwards and exclaimed "THANK GOD!" from sheer relief which is the sort of weird and depraved behaviour that would get you fired on the spot. 

Let's just say I'd rather not have done either of those things.

Let me explain the significance of the two-month mark. 

Think of it as a kind of eternal Christmas Eve. Even if you're the most anal retentive Christmas planner, the kind that has all of the gifts by July, there are still things to do on Christmas Eve. Even if you've wrapped all of the presents and egged all the nog by 10AM, there might still be things you want to do. Say you want to bake cookies with the family, watch one of the many flavours of Christmas Carol*, head to midnight mass, hand-deliver a card, or even just spend a little bit of down time with your other half. Try as you might, you'll never get it all done in the short amount of time you have left. Why? Because you might be able to control your universe, but you don't control the whole universe.

Traffic, weather, bees, health, bad luck, oil slicks, giant apes, other people, the economy. That's just a tiny selection of things that no individual can control, and all it takes is just one of them to ruin someone's plans. OK, you get the point.

So what do you do at 11PM on Christmas Eve when there's no cookies, the DVD player doesn't work, and you have to leave right now to get to Mass because you have to go the long way around due to a giant ape pouring oil upon some bees on the motorway? 

You have to decide. Decide which of those things is the most important, AND the most accessible. If you have the means to make cookies but it's going to take you until 1AM and cause a rotten Christmas Day, don't make the cookies. Come up with a compromise, or better yet just kiss the thing goodbye. And don't beat yourself up about it.

So here at <two months, I am bidding farewell to a few things I had planned for the Wedding day that I just could not do: ambitiously big projects that would have been AMAZING, but meant I would have achieved nothing else. And I'm not just talking about on the day - I mean, I would have spent too much free time on them, missing time to catch up with friends, or time to just sit on the sofa and watch an episode of Gavin and Stacey that I've seen 600 times. Because sometimes that's just what needs to be done.

It means I also have a little time to do a bit of thinking - those of you with diabetes may want to skip this part of the Blog, because I'm about to get syrupy. If it all gets too much, I can think about all of the nice stuff that's happened in my planning so far. That time a project I was nervous about turned out really well. My favourite client squealing with joy when he heard I was getting married. My smart phone-phobic Dad texting me to say he'd booked the pre-Wedding week off. Mum and I making a dress shop owner (and her assistant) cry. My boss opening her invitation. Seeing my brother and future brother-in-law getting excited about the possibility of being (slightly) related.

Yes, I'm scared. But I'm scared about the things that are out of my reach, like weather and sasquatches, not about my relationships or things I've left too late. Plus, a little fear can't hurt - providing it doesn't lead to anger, hate, suffering, or disappointing prequels. I'll be trying to enjoy this fleeting time while it lasts, and I hope you lot will enjoy it with me too.

Friday, 15 February 2013

Here Comes the Pride

It's time to address a weighty problem.

Recently, I've been trimming the fat off the meats I eat, grilling foods and counting calories, all in the name of...well, what really??

When I started this Blog, I also started a weight-loss regime, and I detailed my exploits under posts named "The Wide Bride". And last week, I complained that a lot of people have been mentioning my weight and how it will affect the way I look on my wedding day.

If I'm trimming the superfluous stuff off of the things I eat, maybe I should stop trimming down the things I say to make them more digestible.

Right now, I am very overweight - according to both my Doctor, and the bathroom scales, who we will call 'mutual observers'. I have always been on the bigger side of slim: the smallest I have ever been was during my College years, where I ate less, practised Karate and went to the Gym three times a week. I wasn't always happy during that period - what 16 year old is? - but I had a pretty good time, good friends and a mostly positive attitude.

I'm going to be honest - I am about four stone heavier now than I was at College. I still have a positive attitude, I'm more adjusted, I have excellent friends, a healthy social calendar, a loving family and I'm very comfortably in love. 

If you plotted the last seven years on a graph, the only line going downwards would be my weight. See?

Not pictured: Level of Romantic Conquests (plummeted after age 17; didn't recover until Present Day)

My point is: why is this a problem? The short answer is "it's not" - being overweight hasn't stopped me scoring a great job, a gorgeous husband-to-be, and made me a possibly better daughter, sister and friend.

All of the "watch your weight" comments have come from people who don't know me: clients at work, people from church, random strangers. They don't know that I'm happier now than I was when I was slimmer. They see a fat person, and then they assume that I follow all of the common tropes of a fat person: that I eat because I'm unhappy, that my home life must be difficult, that my parents must be overweight too.

I admit, there are things I would like to change about myself: I don't like certain parts of myself, but I'm aware that losing weight won't remedy that: I need to change my attitude. When I was 16, I never liked my figure. When I look back at photographs, I realise that there wasn't really anything to dislike. 

If you're reading this, and you agree with me, there might have been times where you decided to lose weight. Was it for the right reasons? 

  • My friends make fat jokes and I don't want to be the butt of them
  • I feel uncomfortable in my own skin
  • I can't wear the clothes I like
  • Everyday activities cause me discomfort
  • I want to be able to keep up with my kids
  • I cause my family embarrassment
  • My partner will find me unattractive
These are all reasons I have used to justify weight loss in the past. Clearly, not all of them are healthy.

Healthy is a good word - if you're healthy in body and mind, that's universally a good thing. I know overweight people who are happy, successful, dress gorgeously and don't spout negative body talk, and I know slim people that are exactly the same. Jealousy and negativity don't come in sizes.

I acknowledge that I have a choice - I know that eating well and exercising make me feel good, but going a day without sit-ups or having the odd burger doesn't make me feel bad.

I'm going to make a promise to you all - I promise that all of the negative talk, all the "Wide Bride" jokes stop here, because I can't complain about being judged if I'm judging myself. In turn, my dear readers, please promise me that you won't judge anyone with the harsh terms I have used. While it's easy to remember not to make a racist or sexist joke, for some reason, overweight people are acceptable targets, and that isn't fair. Please think and think again the next time you consider making a fat joke.

I look forward to you seeing me in my dress! It's going to be awesome - whatever shape I am underneath. 

Monday, 11 February 2013

The Parade of Ugly and Stupid

There’s a quote from the brilliant John Waters film Hairspray (the recent remake) that can be re-tooled to fit any everyday situation, but that I have kept close my heart during these crazy-hazy-wedding-planning days:

“You two better brace yourselves for a whole lotta ugly comin' at you from a neverending parade of stupid.”

Within our wedding party, we are surrounded by amazing people who are super-cool and powerful, like The Avengers, but marriage is such a hot topic and everyone else has opinions. Throbbing, barely contained opinions. And just as it is with other hot topics, some people will step beyond the boundaries of taste and common decency to share theirs.

I know that you know, upstanding moral citizen that you are, just how to speak to someone who is getting married. Just so this isn’t a wasted exercise, I’d like to share with you some experiences I and other brides I've chatted to have had.

“Don’t invite any children to your wedding!”

For those of you that don’t know, children are like tiny adults that don’t have to pay bills and are more likely to poo and scream than the average wedding guest. Because they don’t always fully understand that churches are not appropriate places to squawk and make fudgies, they are often not top of some people’s invitation list. And that’s OK. If children aren’t your thing, then don’t invite any at all.

But the great thing about children is that more often than not they come with Guardians, unless you live in 17th century London near an Orphanage (in which case, how are you reading this article? Are you a wizard?) And more often than not, Guardians will take them outside if they need to poo or scream or ask why the lady three rows in front is so fat. Although I don’t have any of my own, I’m perfectly aware that children are not the Plague. They will not deliberately trash your wedding, unless their name is Damien. So it’s best just not to invite any ‘Damien’s.

“Aren't you going to lose weight / Should you really eat that if you want to fit into your dress?”

Hi, I’m Neety. I work hard. I play hard. And that’s why every now and then I treat myself to A Bloody Massive Cream Cake.

As ambassador for Bloody Massive Cream Cakes, I’d like to tell you how relaxing it is to tuck into a stodgy mass of carbohydrates and processed hydrogenated glycerinated sugar. So, if you’re like me, and have just had to deal with a nightmare customer, or have period pains that resemble the finest Navy SEAL team picking away at your uterus, maybe YOU should treat A Bloody Massive Cream Cake.

Now that my imagine spot info-mercial is over, I’d like to state that I am human, and I will often eat something a little bit fatty or indulgent. And that shouldn’t stop just because my best friend put a shiny hoop on my finger.

Said best friend and I have always been a little on the zaftig side, and - sit down, this might come as a shock - we don’t mind that. It might come as a surprise to some people that there isn’t a little switch in peoples’ brains that turns on once they hit thirteen stone or so, making them suddenly desperate to join a Slimming World group, or face never being happy again. I’ve been the victim of this question at least twelve times, and only once was it acceptable: when Brawny’s aunt, who is a goldsmith, asked me so that she could size up the ring she is making us. AND ONLY THEN IS IT ACCEPTABLE, PEOPLE. Stop forcing your negative body image issues on me.

“Don’t invite your boss/ex/a divorcee!”

We gave a lot of thought to our invite list - it wasn’t like going through our phones and Facebook and just picking names. Generally, when planning a social gathering, you invite people who:
1: You think will enjoy being there
2: Make you happy
3: You think deserve a free meal Are nice

Pay close attention to numbers 1 and 2. If someone makes you feel that way, what does it matter if they’re your boss or not? And if I was playing by this rule, I’d have to not invite the ladies that are doing my hair and makeup, my Bridesmaid, and one of the Readers at the ceremony - simply because the former are my Boss and colleague, who are kindly doing my hair and makeup for free; my SIL who was a dear and trusted friend long before I started boffing her brother*, and my Ex-boyfriend, simply because we dated for a lovely yet short 6 months when I was 16. Seems a bit petty.

“Don’t invite anyone who doesn’t believe in marriage.”

Take a look at that sentence - doesn’t that just make the subject sound like the worst person ever? Saying that someone “doesn’t believe in marriage” makes them sound like the kind of loping misanthrope who goes around telling kids there’s no such thing as Father Christmas. Boo. Boo on that person.

I don’t think it’s a question of “not believing” - I’d rather say it’s more like “wouldn’t choose it for themselves” or “has a different view”. If they’re the sort of person that would try to push their views onto Brawny and I, I wouldn’t invite them anyway. But does that mean I have to not-invite my LGBT friends? After all, not all of them will choose to get married; some of them because they don’t want to, others because they sadly can’t have the marriage of their dreams.

One of the first people I told about our engagement was an old friend who is notoriously anti-marriage. He’s never said anything disparaging about it, only that it’s “not for him”. When I told him, he made a half-joking “yeuck” noise, but then he said something along the lines of “I always thought that if anyone could make a go of it, you and Brawny could.” Why wouldn’t I want someone as supportive as that at my wedding?!

“I’ve had enough! End the parade of ugly and stupid.”

So you see, there is a fair amount of narrow-mindedness and ill will in there, but luckily it’s all come from people I don’t know telling me what to do. Everyone has an opinion, and as soon as you say “I’m getting married”, you may find yourself having to nod and smile politely while someone tells you that “You don’t need a piece of paper to show that you love someone”.

So just ignore the idiots, because the only person you DEFINITELY shouldn’t be inviting is them. 

*Sorry, Ro

Thursday, 7 February 2013

No Dress? No Stress (aka. The LADYBRIDE After School Special)

There are a few things that a bride never wants to hear, and one of those phrases is "I'm really sorry, but there's been a problem with your dress".

I had a great time picking out my dress. Sure, some shops treated me a bit like a walking money spewing machine, but Gerry undid all of that - she was everything you'd want from someone who plays such a big part in your wedding preparations. I'd made sure I ordered the dress in plenty of time, had my measurements taken, and was told to expect my dress sometime during the last week in January.

I phoned Gerry earlier today on my lunch break just to touch base and find out if the dress had arrived, and that was when she said a variant on the above sentence. Gerry was calm, but I could tell she had been through the emotional wringer that afternoon. She told me that the dress had arrived at the stockists a week ago, when it had been due, and they had found a fault in the material. She told me she had been very cross with them and had urged them to get a replacement to her as fast as they possibly could and then some. She said she didn't want me to have a dress that was anything less than perfect, and I told her that I was very grateful and the dress would simply get here when it gets here.

She then told me that I was the most chilled-out Bride, ever. I was highly flattered!

The shiny new replacement dress is due in early March, so there is still time to make any necessary adjustments. Come our wedding day, I will have a dress.

You might be wondering what my point is. Am I trying to give myself a big pat on the back? I honestly am not, and I actually cannot swear that I'm 100% settled - I am a little concerned, and my Mum was quite worried when I told her. After all, it could be late, or something else could go wrong. But there isn't any point wondering about something that hasn't even happened yet.

Recently, I had a nightmare which occurred a couple of days after Brawny and I had posted our invitations. I dreamt I was at home on my day off when I received a card from a relative. Inside was a card that simply said "We will not be attending your wedding". Then the phone went. On the other end of the line was a very dear mutual friend of ours. He and his girlfriend couldn't come to the wedding, either. I pressed him for details, and eventually I got an explanation out of him:

"The things is," he said sharply, "We don't actually like you. We don't like the way you treat Brawny." And he hung up. The telephone rang again and, you guessed it, another friend told me they wouldn't be coming to the wedding on account of the festering doucheturd that I was. As the dream went on I kept getting more and more rejections, each one more personal and painful than the last.

When I woke up, I couldn't shake the dream off for days. I thought back about all the horrible things I'd done over the years: dumping a dustbin over someone's head in Middle School, pushing my baby brother over, going out with a friend's ex-boyfriend just days after they'd broken up, stealing a tenner from my Dad. I went through my guest list and tried to find a reason that each individual guest would hate me. And when I couldn't find something, I reasoned with myself that it was only a matter of time before I pissed them off. It was only when I found myself convinced that my Maid of Honour would remember an argument we had years ago about a hypothetical motorbike (stop laughing, I'm serious) that I realised I was being a total idiot*.

There is no point wondering about what might happen because it just creates unnecessary drama. And everyone knows that: I'm not trying to win any prizes for my philosophising here!

But because prepping for a wedding is a high-pressure deal, it's easy to forget the unnecessary drama rule and get swept up in the apocalyptic reasoning. All I can say is that it pays to remember that nightmare scenarios are extremely rare in real life, and are often just little blips. If anyone is winding you up, step away; if you're worrying too much then just talk it over, and try to approach the situation logically rather than emotionally. Oh, and don't eat cheese before bed.

*(I know I joke around, but seriously, that dream has bothered me for weeks. If you're in a similar situation, I urge you to have a chat with someone sensible and level-headed, and they will help guide you back to sanity. I'd like to take this opportunity to recommend Offbeat Bride, who are a very helpful no-criticism no-bitching "wedsite" offering everything from friendship and advice to craft ideas and how-tos. Similarly their sister sites Offbeat Home and Offbeat Families are superb.)