Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Dress

“Custom has decided, from the earliest ages, that white is the most fitting hue, whatever may be the material. It is an emblem of the purity and innocence of girlhood, and the unsullied heart she now yields to the chosen one." --Godey's Lady's Book, 1849

I started my wedding planning with the most logical step: trying on pretty dresses. It's no secret that I'm a 36 year old woman planning my second wedding. Both of these things made my perspective different than the 20-somethings with whom I shared dressing rooms last Friday. Because I live 2,000 miles from my sisters and mom, I asked my mother-in-law to-be to accompany me to the dress shop and offer second opinions. We were greeted by three saleswomen as soon as we walked in the door. They immediately asked to see my ring and the gushing began. As I perused racks and racks of gowns, I got caught up in the excitement of it all. I'm going to be a bride! I'm getting married! Every kind of wedding dress, from less formal destination gowns to real-life princess dresses with poofy skirts and cathedral trains, hung in waiting! Thankfully, the 30-something in me remained in tact and I narrowed my search within minutes, ruling out anything with big skirts or big price tags.

There were two other brides in the dressing area and both appeared to be early-20s. I wanted to say what my biology professor said on the first day of freshman lecture to drive home the idea that it was a hard class designed to weed out the not so smart kids: "Look to your left, now look to your right. Only one of you will be here next semester." With only a fifty-percent marriage success rate, this dressing room was like a freshman lecture hall--one of these dresses would no doubt end up on e-bay within two years. I returned to my own fitting and ran interference on the over-zealous clerk who tried to bring a $1,700 dress into the room. I told her I didn't want to try on anything over $500 because I would end up liking the most expensive one. "Maybe just to see the style?" she replied. I smiled and channeled Emily Post, saying, "I have a specific price point in my budget that I'd like to stick with."

I tried on five dresses that afternoon and discovered that I liked sleeveless bodices with ruching on the waistline, a-line skirts, and just a sweep of a train. The wily saleswoman slipped in a $700 dress that indeed turned out to be my favorite. It was a good start!

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

The Arrival

I've told everyone but the AP wire service by now that I am engaged to be married. I'm stil in that giddy, starry-eyed phase before the real planning begins; the perfect time to pause and appreciate the moment. Sometime last year--it's hard to pinpoint exactly when it happened--I crossed the threshold into a balanced and happy, quasi-normal life. The better part of my 35 years has been spent pursuing perfection and feeling like a failure. No matter how hard I worked, or how much success I had, I felt like a fraud waiting to be discovered. I drove myself, and at times all those around me, crazy. Finally, after much wailing and gnashing of teeth, combined with some really great therapy and a change of scenery, I truly believe what my parents told me: that just being me is enough.

A dear friend once told me that I needed to view myself as a woman who stands at the doorway of a beautiful home that I call my own. And when a man wants to meet me, they have to walk up the driveway and knock on my door. Sitting by the window, and then rushing down to meet the first person that pauses at my mailbox will never work. This was the best advice. It was only when I felt at home with myself that I could invite someone over. My fiance is just that person. He is good and kind and warms my heart and hearth with love and laughter. I feel as comfortable with him as I do with my friends and familiy. In short, I finally feel at home.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

My Political Crush

I am in love with a complicated, charismatic man with a very high profile career. As such, I have to share him with audiences around the world, his constituents both local and across the globe, and wait hours on end just to have a little, as they call it in the business, "face time." So, when President Clinton made a stop in Iowa City to campaign for Hillary, I was beside myself. He was coming. To my city. No admission fee. I started planning my wardrobe immediately. I wanted to look classy but liberal; feminist chic. My boyfriend is a fervent democrat as well, and, though he'd never admit it, has a secret crush on Clinton as well. He got the night off so we could go see Bill together. I felt like a girl with two prom dates; one would pick me up and I'd meet the other at the dance.

After we parked the car, got frisked by security, and found a spot among the standing room only crowd in a ballroom adorned with "Hawkeyes for Hillary" banners, we joined the liberal buzz and waited for Mr. Clinton to arrive. He was 45 minutes late due to an early midwestern snow storm, but we didn't care. When he finally arrived, the crowd went wild. He was a rock star back in the days of MTV campaign appearances, and he was a rock star now, albeit a grayer, more work-worn version. I craned my neck and stood on tippie toes to see the podium while my 6'4" boyfriend snapped photos above the crowd.

For the next 50 minutes, we were taken back to the days of his State of the Union speeches. He spoke without notes, crafting an articulate argument for electing Hillary and demanding change for our country. In classic political style, he also led us down democratic memory lane, recapping some of his achievements in office. It was a brilliant combination of humility--"I'm just here to tell you what I know about Hillary" to the cocky, "Everyone knows I'm better than you, George Bush."

Because it was his last stop of the night, he promised to stay and shake hands. As the crush of democrat groupies made their way to the stage, my aforementioned 6'4" boyfriend cleared the way for me. I brought my copy of Giving, his latest book, and waved it in the air hoping to make eye contact. And we did! He raised his head (in recognition?) and beckoned me to the front with his large powerful hands. Oh my God, he is beckoning me to the front. People looked back to see who the President had selected from the crowd. I was Courtney Cox in the Bruce Springsteen video! My mind was racing, searching for just the right thing to say to my political crush. What could I say? "I really appreciate what you did for the Kosovars" or the standard Emily Post, "It's an honor to meet you Mr.President." I was almost within reach, flashing an expectant and giddy smile and passing my book to him, when a secret service agent stepped in front of me, grabbed my book, and said, "I need to take that please." But wait! I wanted a personal autograph! I wanted us to have our moment where I say my line and then he asks me my name. I wanted him to reach into his suit coat for a pen and inscribe my book with a personal message while I stood in deference. But Secret Service man left me flustered, so much so that when President Clinton reached out his hand, I pointed to the agent behind him and said, "He took my book!"

He took my book? That's what I had to say to the former most powerful man in the world? Not missing a beat, Bill shook my hand, smiled, and thanked me for supporting Hillary before moving on. I was frozen. I wanted it to be special, memorable. I moved away from the crowd, stood on a chair and searched for my boyfriend. I found him standing at the other end of the line, waiting for his turn with Bill.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Alone, together

Even though I live with my boyfriend, one of my favorite times of day is 6:00 a.m., when my alarm goes off and I have the house to myself before my partner wakes up. I know, I know--I spent years living alone and am so happy to share my life, home and time with someone else. But I still need my time alone. Just as he needs to wind down at night after I go to bed by killing Germans in an X-box simulation of WWII (News Flash: We won the war), I like to wind up by taking the dog for a walk around the neighborhood, pouring my first cup of coffee, watching the previous night's re-run of Sex and the City, writing emails, doing homework, and whatever my solitary self desires. I have never expressly told my partner that I have a morning "routine" that does not involve him; it's just what happens. He sleeps in, exhausted from the battle theater, and I wake up, ready to live a faux single life.

You can imagine my surprise when, a few days agoe, I returned from walking the dog to hear someone whistling in my kitchen. I peered around the corner and it was him. In the kitchen. At 6:30 a.m. He smiled and said, "Good morning, honey, I made your coffee!" I pasted on a smile and said, in a thin voice, "Oh, that's sweet. Aren't you tired?" Read: "What are you doing in my house?" He thought it would be nice to spend some time together before we started our day since we'd had an especially busy week. There was no way to counter that with, "I really prefer to be alone with my thoughts until I've had two cups of coffee" without sounding like an asshole. So, we made breakfast together, I took a deep breath and pulled two coffee cups from the cupboard, and spent the next few hours waking up with my loved one.

And this is the best and worst part about growing older. I spent my entire 20s doing anything to not be alone and grabbed onto anyone who would fill the space. And then, just when I have this whole "being true to myself" and being comfortable in my own skin thing down, I meet another evolved 30-something that I really dig. Ultimately, I feel that I have the best of both worlds. I have a partner with whom I am comfortable spending time together, doing things together, or sometimes just sharing a space. And I have to admit: Even when I am downstairs living my faux single life, it's nice to know there is a real partner upstairs.