Exhausted

I’ve been spending a lot of time with my mother lately, mostly doing things for the wedding (or talking about them). It feels good to be productive and my social activities score on the Burns Depression Checklist has been extremely low (which is good). Things are getting done, it’s all coming together, and for the most part I’m happy and optimistic.

On top of wedding stuff, I’m doing my best to be supportive of Fox: giving him massages, making sandwiches, doing my best to be responsive to his needs. It can’t be all I am, but for now I find it empowering because I can make a difference for someone I care about and he appreciates it. (He’s working full time in a job that has him on his feet all day to support both of us.)

The only catch is, all this stuff doesn’t really leave a lot of time for me.

The time with Mom usually starts out good. She gives useful suggestions and feeds me and we talk and we get stuff done (admittedly, more than I probably would if left to my own devices – but don’t tell her that!).

But over time she gets to me. She’s freaking out about every little thing – and freaks out even more if someone tells her she’s stressed and she needs to calm down. From what she’s told me, they send mixed messages: “You have to do this! Actually you can do whatever you want, stop worrying about what people say you have to do.” Something about goodie bags for hotel rooms, I tell her “don’t sweat it,” she thinks I mean don’t do it and gets angry because she’s already gotten all the stuff and I have to explain myself. (It’s great she’s doing them and what she has is overly generous, so she can just do what she’s planning and not worry about it – i.e. please stop talking about it.) This person’s saying this to her and that person’s afraid of that and I don’t have any of the context so I freak out because I want everyone to show up and have a good time and congratulate me.

She’s talking about it constantly and she can do whatever she wants for the wedding, but I can’t do this idea because it’s not appropriate for the type of event I’m hosting or that idea because it’s “too much” or whatever. It’s my fucking wedding, what I want should be law, but that’s just now how it works in the real world (or at least my world). She thinks we should list the buffet selections on the program, Fox thinks it’s tacky, I don’t even know what I want except for him to happy with it. Finally she agreed to make separate menu cards and we adjusted the spacing on the program so now it’s perfect. Let’s move on!

I feel like it’s her wedding and she’s constantly telling me what to do for it. I feel like my life is her life and she’s constantly telling me what to do for it. I say “I need to ______” and she says “You need to ________” like I don’t know or “Well? Why aren’t you doing it?!” – the answer is usually “because you’re in the middle of a sentence.” Planning my own wedding shouldn’t feel like I’m constantly being assigned homework.

There’s so much going on and so much that’s been done I don’t even know what I need to do anymore! I feel like I’m going to forget the most important thing, like writing my vows. By the time she decides to call it a night and stop randomly invading my space to talk about this and that, I can’t think anymore. I’m literally too exhausted to think. I kind of want to… oh please don’t say “die,” I’ve gone 13 days without any suicidal urges and I want to keep up my streak! Have some time when I don’t need to think, especially not about wedding stuff. Time when I can just exist, rest, relax … maybe meditate?

On a related note, my whole experience of life has shifted quite a bit. I’m a lot less depressed, and despite being stressed out about everything above and more I think I’m less anxious and irritable and whatnot, too. Okay, maybe not less irritable, I have been fighting with my mother quite a bit – but I consider that an improvement over being a doormat. Well, okay, I’m kind of still a doormat. I’m a doormat with at least one corner that rolls up and trips people. But I have reasons to fight with my mother, I’m not just angry at the people closest to me for no reason. That’s definitely an improvement.

I used to be depressed pretty much all the time, except for really good days when I was considerably less depressed. Now I think there are times during the day – occasionally, whole days – when I’m not depressed at all. (There might be some symptoms of depression, but not enough or severe enough to be problematic.)

Ironically, I notice my depression more because it’s a significant change in my functioning: sadness I can’t explain or that comes on stronger than I’d expect, feeling like all my energy has drained away, losing interest in engaging with other people and the world, trouble concentrating or focusing (nor not wanting to think anymore because I’m so exhausted)… I can almost say, “at about noon I was feeling happy and I had energy and I was focused on doing this and that and asserting myself and knew I could achieve what I was setting out to do, etc. … but at 6pm I felt depressed.” I’d feel a lot more confident saying that – and especially giving specific times – if I were writing down significant shifts in my mood throughout the day.

I still kind of hesitate to attribute the improvement to the Lamictal, but I am pleased to say that I’ve been taking it consistently at about the same time every day. Continuing to do so is important to me, especially with all the stress around the wedding and the crash I expect to happen afterward (based on past experience; multiply that by about a million). My scores on the Burns Depression Checklist in the week after the wedding will be the real indicator of whether this medication is helping me. In the meantime, I’m encouraged by the improvement in my scores since my dose was increased and the lack of significant side effects.

If you’re in the U.S. and you haven’t voted yet, please do so!

Vampire

My mother seems to have a special talent for draining all of my energy. She starts talking and I go from feeling alive and motivated to do something and in a relatively pleasant mood to, well … exhausted. overwhelmed. very, very angry. And then it’s harder to do anything.

Over the weekend, it was my aunt and uncle. I thought all three of them, plus my cousin, were draining my energy. Or rather that their 4-way shouting match was overwhelming me. It certainly didn’t help, but I’m pretty convinced my mother was the one actively draining my energy. If nothing else, she’s the one who insisted on talking about the topic that prompted the argument, even though the conversation wasn’t going very well.

Slurp.

Yesterday Fox and I were going about our business getting ready to visit with Banji, who had come back to her parents’ house for the weekend. Mom called to say she was bringing home some soup for me; that sounded delicious so I decided to wait for her so we could enjoy the soup before leaving. When will I learn that “free food from Mom” isn’t free?

She comes in my (part of the) house and starts talking about the wedding celebration we’re planning to have with both my and Fox’s large, noisy, chaotic, wonderful families. I grab a notebook and start making a list in hopes of having some semblance of organization, and so my head won’t explode. She’s concerned about / we need to:

  • find a hotel near the venue that offers complimentary breakfast for out-of-town guests
  • contact the venue about
    • coming to their next food tasting
    • viewing the room where our event will take place
      • including possible layouts
      • and measurements so we can hold our own rehearsal if necessary
    • asking when the buffet will be set up
  • decide what I’m wearing and acquire the necessary items
  • decide on a color and send swatches to members of the bridal party with guidelines
    • guys in black pants and dress shirts, vests of desired color
    • female-bodied individuals who are willing to wear a skirt in dresses of the desired color
  • coordinate transportation and hotel rooms for the bridal party
    • I should spend the night before the event with Banji, Fox with his best man
  • clearly communicate expectations/responsibilities to bridal party
  • contact our photographer
    • negotiate costs including meal, travel, and accommodations (if necessary)
    • what, specifically, we want to photograph
    • written contract
  • music for the procession, dinner, and dancing
    • be sure to include songs she likes
  • officiant

You have to understand, my mother does not give me organized lists. She does not create PowerPoint presentations to separate her ideas into manageable chunks of related information. She does not allow for a Q&A session at the end. She does not give a 15-minute break. She just starts talking, and I have to listen. I have to have answers. I have to follow her as she moves from one topic to another without warning and goes off on tangents. I have to do something to show her that some action will be taken to ease her anxiety about whatever it is.

I made the list to try and salvage my own (and Fox’s) sanity – and so I can show it to her the next time she tries to plan my entire wedding in one conversation. Maybe instead of talking about everything again, we can focus on and accomplish something.

The conversation was actually a lot shorter than I thought, but to look at Fox and me you’d think a small tornado had come through. He said he was very frustrated. He looked exhausted. I felt exhausted. Derailed. And pressured to do something right away, never mind that we’d been in the process of getting ready to go somewhere. Never mind that someone was waiting for us. Someone I care about deeply.

I searched online and found several hotels within 5 miles of the venue, five of which offer some kind of complimentary breakfast. I emailed a list to Mom and told her she’s welcome to contact them with her questions. Why she couldn’t do the search if she was so concerned is beyond me, but it’s done. I’ve thrown her a bone to chew on instead of my sanity.

She’s like a cat who’s been thrown into water clawing her way on top of a flotation device (me). Or a spider with a fly caught in her web. I’m her worry stone, and soon she’s going to wear a hole in me.

I love my mother. Really, I do. I have so much to be grateful to her for. And I truly believe that she loves and cares about me.

Honest.

But I just have enough of my own shit to deal with without her draining all my energy. I’m already on a roller coaster; it’s intense enough without her making the drops taller and the turns sharper and the upside-down loops more nauseating. The last thing I need is for her to disable the safety bar that’s the only thing keeping me from flying off in some random direction, probably to my doom.

I need to feel safe and have some stability in my relationships. Is that so much to ask?

Update

I kind of fell apart after Thursday. I got a new world for The Sims 3 and began playing yet another new family. They started out as a young couple sharing an apartment in the city (Bridgeport), and eventually saved enough money to move into a rather unique house in the suburbs (Dragon Valley – the new world I just acquired). Their son (born in-game) just grew up into a child and had his first day of school.

The wife/mother is having a midlife crisis because her career/passion (trying to become a hit movie composer/mastering violin) takes up so much time she’s missed many of the milestones in her son’s development. The husband/father is quite happy with his life despite giving up his dream of becoming a “fashion phenomenon” (i.e. reaching the top of the fashion/stylist career). He’s been a stay-at-home dad for most of his son’s life.

I think the above scenario reflects what I fear happening to me in real life, especially if I pursue a career in music therapy. I question whether I can develop the piano and especially guitar skills I’ll need to successfully audition for an internship, never mind sustain my career. If I do manage that, I’m afraid I’ll be too busy working and practicing to really be present for my (someday) children. Being a good parent is important to me, but I don’t really have a model for how to make that work with a full-time job.

Alternatively I guess I’m also afraid that I’ll never find a career I find satisfying and can be successful in. Of the two adult sims, the stay-at-home dad actually seems to have the better life … but there’s a reason I haven’t had the working wife/mother quit her job (even though they have enough money that she could). She’s well on her way to her goal, and I want her to achieve it. I need to see her have a successful music-centered career; to do no less than climb to the very top of that career ladder.

I’m also hoping she might find a way to balance work and family life. Is that even possible?

I’ve also been having a bit of an existential crisis regarding marriage. All of a sudden I feel like I’m running headlong into something I don’t really understand. Fox keeps saying we’re already living like we’re married, but signing the license turns our personal agreement into a legal contract. Do I really want to be legally bound to help make living together work? Am I ready for any financial repercussions that might result? Am I ready for my identity to change, not only in the name I go by but in my status under the law? What will my new email address be?

And, as if all this weren’t enough, I’m stressed out by wedding planning. We’ve decided to go with the venue we visited on Monday; we’re just waiting to hear back from our contact person so we can book our date. I tried to schedule an appointment to meet with him in person, but he said that wasn’t “immediately” necessary and that he could answer my questions about pricing over the phone. Not really a fan but I need the information before I can feel comfortable signing a contract. Another contract! So I’ve given him my number and now I get to spend a day with my fingers crossed that he won’t call when I’m in the bathroom or something.

Finally, my mother is driving me crazy. (What else is new?) We need to spend at least $50 per person to book the room we want, so we were looking over the menu to select “premium” items we might want to add. The prices for these items aren’t listed on the menu, so we need to ask our contact person over the phone (since they refuse to give numbers via email). Mom took over the conversation; she selected which non-premium items we’re going to have, insisting on a selection neither of us like (but are willing to have because it’s popular among our families) and all but vetoing at least one selection we’ve been seriously considering. All this, months before we actually need to determine our menu! – before we’ve even reserved our date!

Then she asks me if this is what I really want. NO!!! I want to decide that I like a potential venue, then find out her opinion of it. (she likes it. good.) I want to talk to the contact person at a time that is convenient for me, when I feel prepared to go over the information, ask intelligent questions, and make note of the answers. I want to have final say over important things like what goes on the menu. I want to feel like my voice is being heard during conversations about MY wedding! When someone asks what I want, I want to be able to answer them, not feel so overwhelmed all I can say is, “I don’t know.” Because I do know, but I lose my sense of myself as a person with opinions that matter during these conversations and it hurts like hell.

And now I’m questioning everything, including whether I really want to spend the rest of my life with Fox … even though the thought of asking him to leave is unbearable. I made this decision two years ago and yeah, people change, but we made a commitment that we will work together as we change and grow to keep our relationship healthy. We can go for premarital counseling and couples therapy, we can get advice from other married couples, we can make mistakes and learn from them, we can even get into arguments. And sure, yeah, we – or at least I – can question this decision every day … and renew our commitment to each other every day. What matters is that it’s done in love.

And as much as I’d love to end on that hopeful note, I need to share something that’s been scaring the carp out of me. Today, with much encouragement and prodding, was the first time I’ve been able to talk about all this. I’ve wanted to update this blog many times, but found myself unable to get the words to come, unable to even try and let them come. It’s anxiety. I don’t know what I think will happen if I let it out but I’m afraid to do so. I feel my muscles tensing, my throat tightening, my voice shriveling away. I open my mouth but there’s nothing. It’s too painful, I need to get away …

In other words, some internal process is keeping me from speaking up for myself, and I don’t like it. I want it to stop!

Good News

Fox and I have been comparing costs at different venues, including one we have an appointment to visit next week. We’ve decided an a la carte wedding is a bit more of a headache than we’re up for, and that local inclusive packages aren’t really that much less expensive than the venue we fell in love with last weekend (Too Good to Be True). If we’re going to spend ridiculous amounts of money on a wedding, we might as well have it at a positively gorgeous location with really awesome amenities and a superb day-of coordinator, where we know we’ll be the only event happening that weekend. To me, that’s worth some extra cash – and it might even be worth asking nearby family and friends to come out to a “destination” wedding as well!

We’ve found a number of ways to cut over $2,000 off the budget.

* The owner of the venue offered us an exclusive, very generous room rate specifically for the weekend of our wedding. Although we’ll be leaving it to guests (including bridal party) to pay for their own rooms, we’re still saving hundreds of dollars on the rooms we’ll need for Fox & me, my mom, his parents, and his sister. (Our parents are helping to pay for the wedding, so it seems only fair to include their hotel rooms in the budget.)

* We’re telling the caterer it’s an “anniversary party,” not a “wedding.” In a way that’s true – if all goes according to plan, it’ll take place about a year after our legal marriage ceremony. We’re still waiting to hear back from them, but based on the information available online we’ll save at least $1,000 – for the exact same service and food.

* I found a beautiful dress that happens to come in white but isn’t technically a “wedding dress.” It’s a lot more practical than I’d been going for – no lace, no train, no beading. But it has long flowing sleeves, that should make up for it! The dress itself is less than $100; I’ve budgeted an additional $100 in case I need to have a professional make some minor adjustments (e.g. reducing the bust measurement). It’s a grand total of $1,000 less than I’d originally planned to spend on my dress!

To be honest I’m a bit torn about this decision. My inner little girl who wants to be a princess keeps yelling at me and stamping her feet. This was the one time I had an excuse to get and wear such a dress, and now I’m blowing it! I don’t know if it’s possible to get her to see the practical perspective (after all, she specifically wants a dress that isn’t practical), but I’m hoping maybe we can come up with some kind of compromise. Maybe we can play dress up more often – and yes, we’ll do it right – but with clothes that don’t cost $1,200 and then you can never wear them again. And this dress is quite different from what I usually wear, and I genuinely like it (at least as much as others I’ve seen with much heftier price tags). It will be special and mark me as special – which is what I think she‘s truly going for.

And it will be comfortable. I have an outfit in the same material and I love the way it feels against my skin. I’ll be able to move in the dress without catching on things. I’ll be able to use the restroom without an attendant. I won’t have to worry about the shenanigans stores pull when you buy a “wedding dress” from them (such as adding wedding accessories to the bill that you didn’t buy!). I won’t have to wait months for the dress to arrive. If there’s something wrong with it I can return it no questions asked and buy a new one. It just makes so much more sense. I’ve liberated myself from perhaps the most crushing part of the bridal industry. It feels good!

Or at least it would, if Miss Princess would stop glaring at me!

* Another thing that’s really nifty about our venue of choice is that we’ll have access to a grill and fire pit for the “rehearsal” dinner, which will really be the OMG We Haven’t Seen You In Forever Let’s Catch Up! dinner. I priced barbeque foods for about 50 people online and it came to about $250. Good luck finding a restaurant or caterer that will let you get away with that price!

[Update: Oops, I forgot to include drinks in the barbeque budget. There are other foods we might want to add, too. So it’ll be a bit more than I expected – but most likely still a lot less than a more traditional dinner!]

In other news, I’m starting to get a bit antsy. I want to be more active – physically, creatively, and so on. I keep feeling motivated to get a job, then doubting whether I’ll be able to find and keep one. It’s hard for me to follow through on my thoughts that it would be good or fun or interesting to engage in favorite hobbies. But I want to do them, and I no longer think there’s no point to doing them, and I no longer think I can’t do them. It’s more a matter of getting up the energy and convincing myself I don’t need permission to do them.

As frustrating as wedding planning number crunching has been, it’s shown me that I can feel motivated to do a task, remain focused on it, keep trying despite frustrations, and have at least some success. That’s a good feeling. And it’s forced me to question long-held assumptions (e.g. I’m going to wear a traditional wedding dress; we have to say it’s a wedding and pay wedding prices) and to be more creative in my approach to problem-solving.

My score on the Burns Depression Checklist has dropped dramatically since I wrote Planning A Head, even with some very painful experiences thrown in. I’m hopeful that this trend will continue.

No Space for Me

Sad person with phrases all around

I spent yesterday searching for potential wedding venues that were similar to, but closer to home and theoretically less expensive than, the one we’d visited over the weekend (Too Good to Be True). I found a handful that I really liked and contacted them.

One got back to me today; I learned that their minimum number of guests was much higher than the number of people we would want to invite. The per-person cost was so high we couldn’t afford it even if we only invited the number of people we’re prepared to. I emailed back, asking if there was any room for negotiation. No. They need to “make the most of their time” – which apparently means turning up their noses at my (sane) budget. To put things into perspective, for about the same amount of money we could either a) have the wedding at the venue we visited over the weekend – including clothes, gifts for key people, a photographer, flowers, a website, save-the-date magnets, invitations, and a short honeymoon – or b) have the wedding at this new venue, naked and with no guests, because we couldn’t afford invitations.

I didn’t even get to finish telling Fox the disappointing news; he finished my sentence for me with a cutting finality. They’re off the list. They have to be, I know that, but I would like to finish my sentence, thanks. (And express my indecision about whether to respectfully decline, or just never respond to the most recent email.)

Fox’s mom supports us in our decision to get legally married at the courthouse within the next few months (with the intention of throwing a big party later) – but wants to invite her many siblings. A sort of reasonable request, I suppose – except that some of her siblings are close enough to just pop down for dinner, but none of my mother’s are. It kind of sends the message that my family is less important in this whole affair than Fox’s family is, and that just kills me. She wouldn’t listen to me – to either of us – when we said we just want to bring our witnesses and immediate families, no more than 10 people total. And then Fox’s sister took it upon herself to tell me how to think!  :-/

My mom thinks we should wait 1 year to get legally married (2014) and 2 years to throw the big party (2015). I’m not really crazy about that idea. Either we wait a year to get legally married so we can realistically invite everyone, or we go to the courthouse now (we could just go with our witnesses, but we’re being nice and inviting our parents) and throw the big party when we can afford it (and give people enough time to make travel arrangements). I’d prefer to have the party next year, but I’m willing to wait 2 years if that’s what it takes to get what we really want.

Fox and I decided over 2 years ago that we want to spend the rest of our lives together. We’re eager to acquire the legal and other benefits that come with being recognized as a married couple. I plan to change my surname; I’d like to be able to begin using my new name within the next few months. Especially as we’re hit over and over again by the insane prices of the bridal industry, we find it more and more tempting to enter legal marriage sooner. It’s a choice we can make – and act on! – without spending tens of thousands of dollars … as long as we’re willing to do so without our giant family physically present.

Though, to be honest, I’m torn. I feel like I’m giving up my identity. The new identity I’d be taking on is my choice, but I guess I’m starting to question it a little bit. I’m happy to join Fox’s family and I see taking their name as a symbol of that affinity. But I don’t want to be eaten up by them, given no say in my own life and told how to think. We’re a family, not the Borg. I need them to respect my boundaries.

I need everyone to respect my boundaries. They all seem to think I’m a doormat. Telling me what to do, what to think, finishing my sentences for me. You say the word “wedding” and the vultures all swoop in. You have to do these things in this order. You have to pay thousands of dollars for this and that – never mind whether you want or need it. You have to drown all your guests in insanely expensive food and booze. You have to invite everyone I want to have a party with; if you don’t I’m going to guilt trip you. By the time we’re done talking you’ll fear that if you don’t to what I say, no one in either of our families will ever want to speak to you again, because “they’ll be hurt.” Suddenly it’s not our wedding anymore. It’s the industry’s wedding first, our parents’ second, and if we’re lucky then maybe we’ll get to make our own decisions about what to wear.

(To be fair, something just came up for Fox’s family that would stress anyone out; as my mom said, Fox’s mom usually isn’t like this. She’ll probably be more reasonable once she’s had some time to breathe.)

It got to the point today where I felt like I couldn’t do anything – not because I’m incompetent (I’m perfectly competent, thank you), but because it’s not allowed. Fox is here, so he became the embodiment of some hostile authority. If I left the bedroom to get something, if I became visible to him, if I even made a sound, he would be there. Questioning me. Judging me. Making me question myself and feel guilty. I felt like I had no privacy. I was under a microscope. And all I wanted was permission to live.

But if I wanted to live, I’d have to do so on his terms. And whatever they were (I didn’t know) they didn’t leave much room for me to express myself. I was lucky they allowed me to breathe!

All I could do was sit on the bed and cry. (“The” bed. It used to be my bed! But now I don’t even have that to myself!) I texted Banji; she did her best to assure me that I’m loved and that she’s here for me, but I couldn’t internalize her kind words. I had an overwhelming urge to hurt myself; finally I gave in by scratching my arm with my fingernails. All it does is leave a slight mark that fades within a few hours; it doesn’t even break the skin. The pain rushed up and calmed me down to an almost alarming degree. While I was crying it felt like I was struggling against something, fighting for my right to live. But the pain, the calm, it subdued me. It suppressed me. It told me I didn’t need to fight, there was no point to fighting, I should just accept my fate. And then I fell asleep.

The real Fox came in, put a blanket over me, kissed my hand, and left so I could rest. When we talked later he expressed that he’d wanted to come in and comfort me while I was crying. But I had said I wanted to be alone.

He respected my boundaries.

I don’t know what to do. I want to keep planning the wedding but I’m afraid that, the way my mind has been working and with the horribleness it’s bringing out in people, it just isn’t safe right now.

Too Good to Be True

Fox, his parents, Mom, and I spent the past 2 days at a potential wedding venue – a wonderful bed & breakfast on absolutely beautiful grounds. Fox’s mom had recommended it, believing it would be an affordable alternative to more traditional wedding venues.

The place was magnificent and we fell in love with it almost instantly. A cozy but open atmosphere, comfortable furniture, a wonderful heated pool, breakfast included, and the most breathtaking views from every room. The owner was extremely nice and friendly. She seemed to love our ideas and expressed a desire to work with us to make a wedding on her property affordable, as long as she’d still make the profit she needs. We all had a positively wonderful time. I’d recommend the place to anyone who needs (and can afford) to get away.

And therein lies the rub: money. I had been under the impression that renting the venue for the weekend (Fri-Sun) would cost $X (where X is a multiple of 1,000). When we sat down to talk with the owner, I asked about the rental, how much it would cost, and what was included. I was unpleasantly surprised to learn that the cost was 175% what I’d initially thought. It included the owner’s services as day-of coordinator – which I wasn’t expecting – but it still came as a bit of a shock. I’d already been worried about being able to afford anything else after we paid for catering (a separate expense) and the venue at $X – never mind $175%X!

I asked for the information in writing, which the owner provided this morning. As we were going over it, I learned something that inspired me to want to take my business elsewhere. I grew quite angry, though I don’t think it showed.

Not only is the actual cost to rent the venue $175%X + $500, but we also have to fill all of the rooms in the bed and breakfast at (a reduced) cost. We had thought this would be a great deal because (we thought) the cost of accommodations for members of the bridal party and other important family members was included in the cost to rent the venue for the weekend. Instead, we learned we’d have to ask those guests to pay more to stay at the bed & breakfast with us than other guests would pay for other accommodations in the local area. There’s no way we can afford to pay for all the rooms in the bed & breakfast for 2 nights at the rates the owner is charging, on top of the rental fee and everything else we need to make the wedding a success! The most we could do is maybe split the cost with some of the key people.

Talk about a slap in the face!

The owner has said she’s willing to work with us; this week she will determine how much she can reduce the price of the rooms. We’ve been brainstorming ways to make the entire affair more affordable. The venue is so beautiful we really don’t need to worry about decorations. We could only serve non-alcoholic beverages. We don’t really need a DJ. We could give ourselves an extra year to save up the money. Etc. etc. etc.

We can’t go cheap with the caterer – delicious food is essential – but we can try to be smart about who we go with, what we get, and knowing what we’re actually paying for. Decorations, alcohol, and a DJ are things I’m willing to drop, though with differing levels of enthusiasm: I’m set against hiring a florist, but I think it’s nice to have the option of alcoholic beverages at a wedding, and I’m on the fence about the DJ. With a little bit of extra effort, we already have the equipment and technical expertise we need to provide an awesome personalized auditory experience. All we need is to ask a member of the bridal party to announce things. Maybe I can let go of the DJ after all …

I’m also not that crazy about waiting another year to have the wedding. I like the energy I feel while planning, and I don’t want that to dissipate. At the same time, we’re going to need more money than our parents are able to provide; taking the time to save gives us a lot more options and financial stability. Just to clarify, we’d be pushing back the giant party, not acquisition of the marriage license. If there’s some way to still have the energy from planning while taking all the steps it will take to save the money, I might be able to make this compromise. But right now it’s a hard one.

I think what really appeals to Fox and me about this venue is the possibility of having our wedding / family reunion be a 3-day affair, with plenty of time to spend with our loved ones. We don’t want to feel rushed through the mill that is the wedding industry. But I think this particular venue is just too expensive; we can see if there’s someplace similar that’s closer to home and more affordable. Spending less on the actual venue will allow us to do more with our guests, whether it’s part of the “official” (catered) wedding or takes place in the time surrounding it. I love the idea of going back to the place we just visited for our honeymoon; if we’re smart about spending for the wedding, we can escape for at least half a week at that glorious place and enjoy some of the extra amenities. And just because we start looking at other possibilities doesn’t mean we can’t decide this venue is actually worth all the extra cost and effort and compromises we’ll need to afford having our wedding there.

Mother-of-the-Bride Zilla

Fox and I have had our eye on a potential venue for some time now. It seems like a great deal, near a delicious and affordable caterer, with places to stay nearby … pretty much everything we could want in a wedding venue, plus breakfast at no additional cost. We just need to visit the place, ask some questions, and make a decision: yay, nay, or let’s look at some other venues and compare.

I’ve been itching to go check it out. Planning a wedding might not be the wisest decision right now, but it’s something that helps me feel energized and motivated. It gives me something concrete to look forward to in the foreseeable future. An outlet for my creativity. A goal. We need to secure a venue, so we’ll have a definite date, so we can do everything else.

Fox’s folks asked to come with us when we go visit the venue, which is a couple hours’ drive away, figuring we could make a mini vacation out of it. That sounded wonderful to me, I just wanted to invite my mother to join us – largely so she wouldn’t feel left out. Based on past experience, she’d be quite miffed if she found out we’d gone to see a potential venue with Fox’s parents but without her. She’s my mother, I want to try and have a healthy relationship with her, so I figure part of that is reaching out and including her in important things like this. She might even have something useful to contribute – she’s smart and has a lot of experience in the world, so I value her opinion highly.

Mother of the Bride and Bride arguing

idoidoweddingplanning.com

But when I asked Mom about her availability on Sunday, all hell broke loose. She didn’t seem to want to commit to a date and time at first. She raised a myriad of concerns:

  • Was this really my idea, or was I just going along with Fox and his parents (who suggested the venue)?
  • What about the venue she had suggested? We should get an updated quote from them.
  • Can they accommodate our entire guest list, even if it rains?
  • What’s really included in the deal? Are there extra expenses we’re not aware of?
  • Who’s paying for this and how?
  • Pretty much everyone will have to travel a distance; most people will want/need a place to stay. That will reduce the amount they’re willing to spend on gifts and/or give directly to us – if they come at all.
  • The places to stay near the venue are small; the nearest big-name hotel is 20 miles away.
  • What do I mean I don’t plan to wear makeup?! I don’t want my face to look red and splotchy in my wedding photos, do I?
  • My new haircut is too short. There aren’t enough layers.
  • We should call and ask questions before taking a long, expensive trip out to the venue location.
foal hugging mom

too cute not to share

I think some of her concerns are legit and I appreciate her raising them.

  • Getting an updated quote from the other venue is a good idea, but there were a few things about it that rubbed me the wrong way.
  • The wording on the website is a bit ambiguous, so it wouldn’t hurt to ask whether the indoor space alone can accommodate our whole guest list.
  • Always ask about additional expenses. Tax and tip can make the difference between “affordable” and “too expensive.” And I intend to get as much in writing as I possibly can.
  • We’ll need to make extra-specially sure there are sufficient accommodations for guests near the wedding venue; we intend to look into securing a group discount from one or more of the closer inns, possibly also the big-name hotel.
  • She definitely has a point about calling to ask questions first. It can save us a lot of time and money, especially if we don’t like the answers we get.
    • But I hate making phone calls and really want to see the place in person. Road trips can be fun and worth the expense, if you do them right. Fox’s Mom is treating us and she already called to make reservations.

I think some of Mom’s concerns are actually an attempt to manipulate me, regardless of whether that is her conscious intent.

I’d be more inclined to take her concern about whether this is really what I want – not just what Fox and his folks want – seriously, if she weren’t also trying to control what I put on my face. How can she claim to support me in making my own decisions and acting on them, if she’s choosing to interrupt a discussion about an important decision I need to make (and want her input in!) so she can criticize my appearance? That’s the last thing I need to be worrying about right now. It hurts extra because I had just stopped beating myself up over (my warped perception of) my appearance; just chosen to love and accept myself as I am and to focus on healthy things that are important to me.

I’m choosing to accept my face as it naturally looks instead of just going along with society’s obsession with female “beauty” – which is all about covering up one’s natural appearance with expensive products. Why do I have to wear makeup if Fox will be next to me in the exact same photos, his face naked? If Mom can’t support – or at least quietly accept – my decision to passively stand up against a faceless nameless “society” by not wearing makeup, how can she support me in actively standing up to people I love and admire?

Money is a very serious concern. Fox and I don’t have much of it; we need to be careful and we need to budget. But there is money set aside for the wedding – mostly promised by Mom and Fox’s folks. In the meantime we’re working on what we need to do be able to support ourselves financially. There are better ways to bring this up and have a conversation about it that might help us instead of undermining whatever hope and determination we’ve managed to muster. When I don’t have the answers I feel anxious and guilty; those emotions quickly turn into discouragement, the last thing I need if I’m going to get anywhere.

People will do what they need to do and will give what they’re willing and able to give. It’s important to Fox and me that people come and have a good time. We can use all the help we can get, but we’re not inviting our loved ones to the wedding because we want them to give us stuff. We’re inviting them to celebrate something that’s really important to us, and giving people who rarely see each other an excuse to come together. I really don’t want to exclude anyone because they can’t afford a hotel room – that’s why we plan on looking into group discounts. But the bit about expenses reducing the amount we get back in gifts just seems manipulative: it pokes at a basic human instinct (wanting to get stuff) and distracts from the bigger picture, for the purpose of making me question a decision I’m considering making.

Fingers with strings tied to them, controlling a puppet.

By the time we were done, I thought I didn’t want to do any of the wedding planning if it’s going to be like this. I felt completely wiped out and discouraged, all the energy and excitement I’d had gone.

I’m past obsessing over the tiny details that the bridal industry blows way out of proportion, so you think the fate of the entire universe rests on you picking the right design for your customized napkins. My goal is to throw an amazing party – which means we need a nice accessible venue, a variety of delicious food so everyone has something to eat, music people can dance to, some organization of the time (e.g. ceremony, first dance, etc.), access to places where guests can meet their basic needs (e.g. sleep), and clear communication about all of the above (e.g. invitations, a website). Everything else is icing on the cake.

This perspective is my armor in the battle that is navigating the bridal industry. But I don’t have armor to protect against what Mom threw at me. Her criticism of my appearance was an especially “low blow” because, try as I might to assert the contrary, I have internalized society’s messages about how important it is for a woman to be “beautiful.” I want to look good in my wedding photos, but there are other ways I can do that – such as wearing clothes I find comfortable so I’m not grimacing in pain, hiring a competent photographer, and having a genuine smile on my face because I’m enjoying myself. If my mother thinks all that isn’t enough, I still need makeup on top of it to prevent people from being tempted to burn my wedding photographs, what value does my life really have? If I can’t stand in front of the people I love and trust the most in the world and be accepted as I am – if the people I’m choosing to share this amazingly huge and meaningful transition with can’t wholeheartedly celebrate it with me – because I’m not wearing makeup … either she has a devastatingly low opinion of me, or she thinks the people on our guest list are incredibly shallow.

This wedding is a really big deal. It’s going to be the first, and very likely the last, time I’ll be in the limelight in the middle of a very large family (especially if you combine my and Fox’s families). It brings up a lot of anxiety. Will I be accepted as I am, having made the choices I’ve made – from as big as the building in which we’re celebrating, to as small as naked pores on my face? The whole wedding is a reflection of Fox and me: the people we associate with, our taste in food, music, fashion, our consideration of people’s needs and preferences, the degree to which we’re willing to perpetuate heteronormativity.

I think Mom’s scared because she sees everything I do as a reflection of her; from her perspective I am her reflection – she doesn’t seem to see me. She wants the model of what a daughter and her wedding should be, so she’ll be accepted by a family she’s afraid of disappointing. For some reason she finds it too painful to look at who and what I truly am. And often – far too often – so do I.