Saturday, March 29, 2008

Married


The 41-and-a-half year-old spinster and the 45-and-a-half year-old bachelor are finally legal.

On Tuesday, March 25th, Bob and I went down to city hall in Chicago with a few friends where a very nice judge did the ceremony, which was surprisingly quick. We were aiming for a 10 a.m. ceremony, with plans to jump in the car afterwards and try to make Wisconsin by noon or so. But since we all got there early, we were walking out of the judge's office by 10:05 a.m.

Afterwards, we stood on the sidewalk, outside of city hall for a little while. It was just another Tuesday workday for the people who very nicely walked around us as we snapped photo after photo. I loved getting married on a regular day with the bustle around us. It was kind of like sharing the excitement with the whole city.

By 10:25 a.m. my brand new husband and I were in the car, heading north to Lake Geneva. Bob loves Lake Geneva and spent a lot of time there when he was growing up. He took me there for the first time a year ago and I never wanted to leave. It was February and the lake was frozen solid. We could see (crazy) people sitting on it and fishing. Winter is my favorite season and Bob's too, so it made sense for us to head to where the temperatures are even colder than in Chicago.

Our tradition when driving to Lake Geneva is to have lunch at The Brat Stop ("restaurant, bar and cheese mart") in Kenosha, Wisconsin and this time was no different. Bob and I shared our first meal as husband and wife at the bar: brats, fried shrimp and coleslaw. A nice couple next to us bought Bob's first beer, the bartender bought his second (and Bob bought his third). After we ate, Bob went to the car and brought in the cake I'd ordered: white with white frosting, lemon filling and red roses. It said, "Congratulations, Bob and Regina." We took great pleasure in sharing it. The bartender brought extra plates and forks, I cut pieces and Bob handed them out to the nice couple, the waitstaff and other patrons sitting nearby.

He walked up to the hostesses: "I just got married."

"Congratulations!"

"And you get cake." It was fun. It was just as I'd imagined it: our wedding lunch at a bar, sharing cake with strangers.

I have always hated spring and March in particular. I've also never liked Tuesdays. I chose to get married on a spring Tuesday in March just to take the curse off these things. I love the fall and winter holidays and spring has always been so dreary to me (with its pathetic little Easter). I've often felt that the only good thing about March is that it's only nine months away from Christmas. I wanted to put something good in springtime, some special day I could look forward to each year. This should do it.

Because winter lasted so long this year, I got to "have my cake and eat it, too": I got my springtime wedding date and a honeymoon in the snow! Lake Geneva was still frozen solid, the weather was chilly and as we drove back to Chicago it snowed. It was beautiful.

We spent Tuesday and Wednesday nights at The Geneva Inn (I LOVE the Geneva Inn) and drove back to Chicago on Thursday. It was just a quick honeymoon, just long enough to practice being married. That is, I practiced saying, "Did you hear me?" and Bob practiced saying, "What?"

Friday, March 21, 2008

Plain Endings

I'm amazed when a friend tells me she thinks she's found the guy she's going to marry. Even if they've been dating for six months or a year, I'm amazed that anyone is able to predict whom they will marry. I had no idea I was going to marry Bob when we'd been dating for six months, nor when we'd been dating for a year, nor after we'd been living together for several months. Three months into our engagement, I still find it hard to believe we're going to end up married. How can anyone possibly have the optimism to say, way before the guy has even talked about marriage, "I think he's the one?"

When someone who longs to find a life partner asks if I believe it will happen for them, I don't know what to say. Do I believe there's someone out there for everyone? No. I believe finding a life partner depends on persistence and luck. If you don't give up AND you have luck, you might meet someone you can be happy with for a long time. But plenty of people never have that luck. And many people give up before they get to it. I've heard the following many times, "If it can happen for me, it can happen for anyone." This is said by people who never thought they'd find someone, but then finally they do and they take this as evidence that it can happen for anyone. That's crap. Just because one pathetic loser, such as myself, finally makes it to the altar, doesn't mean we all can. It just means one pathetic loser made it.

This blog has clearly stated in the past that I am an atheist. My wedding ceremony will have no mention of "God." But I also don't believe in the concept of "forever." "Forever" is a theoretical construct, often invoked to express intensity of emotion, as in "I'll love you forever." But in practice, no one living can ever experience eternity and I doubt anyone who's dead does. People experience their lifetimes and this is often what they're referring to when they mention "forever." There's a common notion that marriage lasts for the rest of your life, although I don't know why since the divorce rate is so high. Do I believe marriage lasts for life? Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. I believe every marriage could go either way, including mine. So it goes.

My earliest concepts about love came from my family and from the Catholic church. Church was very confusing. I remember learning that I was supposed to love "God" and Jesus, but I never understood what that meant. How could I love someone who was completely absent? How could I love a person or an entity who was invisible, who was dead, who I'd never seen? It was easier to work with the idea of loving my parents or my sister. They were real people that I saw every day. I had had experiences with them, I had history with them, feelings about them. Whenever I heard that I was supposed to love my family, I might or might not feel like it, but at least it made some sense.

But if love was also supposed to be something I could feel towards an invisible being with whom I had no history or experience, then this love idea was just too confusing. How could I love an absence? Maybe other Catholics find, in the church service, rituals and traditions, an experience of "God" that invokes a feeling of love in them, but I never did. Maybe I took the teachings too literally. Maybe I failed to grasp the idea that through other people I could experience love and those experiences would lead me to a perception of a greater power, which would be "God's" love. I just know that as a little girl trying to give this god concept my best shot, I remained confused about how I could feel an emotion as big as love, for a Jesus who had died millenia ago.

Loving my parents often didn't go much better, but I knew "God" disapproved of me if I did not love these people, so I did my best. Ironically, I was working for the approval of a god whose presence I had never felt at all.

I eventually became an adult who is apprehensive about everything, never surprised at disappointment and easily discouraged. In my parents' house I learned that marriage was conflict, silence and distance. I think this is part of why I've taken so long to get married. Marriage did not look like fun to me. In fact, for a long time I thought love required giving up all my boundaries, all my oxygen, all my personality. I thought love meant being whatever the other person wanted. I thought I'd have to give up who I was for the payoff of being shackled for life to someone who might never stop yelling, or who alternatively, would never have a conversation with me.

Soon I will shackle myself to a man who has lots of conversations with me and treats me better than I'll ever deserve, and I'll see if we do any better than my parents. I hope we will, and maybe that hope comes from the success I've had at -- luckily -- winding up with him at all. As I accept him as my husband, I am willing to commit to him and to this marriage completely, one hundred percent, with everything I have. For today.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Barack Obama's speech

I'm torn between preparing for my wedding day (which is taking a considerable amount of time and focus these days) and wanting to just watch/listen to/write about/discuss/blog about the amazing events that are happening during this campaign season. I just read a transcript of Barack Obama's "A More Perfect Union" speech that he gave yesterday. As incredible as it is that a woman and an African American are the two Democratic contenders for the presidential nomination, it is even more amazing to me that one of those candidates has spoken about race, using the word racism -- because we often use the word "race" as a euphemism for "racism" -- in such a stark and honest way.

This historic speech deserves so much more attention than I have time for right now, but I'll say that the most startling part of it for me was his acknowledgment of white anger as well as black anger and the racist stalemate we have been stuck in for generations. He didn't deny the fear and resentment of Americans of all races and economic backgrounds or gloss over the roots of that fear and resentment. He pulled it all out of the shadows and placed it in the light of public debate. It was a speech that included everyone. He didn't just address white people. He didn't just address black and white people. He did a pretty good job of including all of us. For Barack Obama to give a speech on the racism of all Americans, in the middle of a close presidential race, shows a bravery I never expected of anyone running for office.

It still doesn't make him Jesus, but it does make him a unprecedented political figure making a truly historic statement.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Wedding Insanity

It's a good thing I didn't establish this blog with a "being single" theme or call it "Spinster on the Edge" or anything like that. As little as I was able to imagine ever getting married, when I created this blog I decided to highlight a quality I knew would never change. Well, two qualities: being a Chicana and being on edge, or on an edge, or on the edge.

It's a good thing because I am now engaged and looking at wifehood for the first time at the age of 41 (I'll never stop drawing attention to how old I am to be getting married for the first time).

I read this Newsweek article called The Incredible Shrinking Bride about women who drive themselves to extremes as they prepare for their wedding day. It's no longer enough to spend well over $25,000 on the wedding day itself, now we also have to whiten and straighten our teeth, get tans that are also blemish free, perfect our hair (all of it), laser treat our varicose veins and sun spots, botox those little wrinkles and, of course, lose weight. Lots and lots of weight. Apparently, some women order their wedding dresses several sizes smaller in anticipation of the transformation they'll make for their big day, and frantically have them let out again when reality hits in the days before the event.

I'm conforming to the weightloss part, carefully counting calories and cutting out sweets (I'm already at the gym every day). But I always do that in the spring. Besides that I'm not doing anything for my wedding day. No fluffy white dress, no tanning, no getting work done, no mani-pedi, no new shoes, no old-new-borrowed-blue.

Being a wife sounds like a cool new adventure for me. I'll try that one for a while. But I'm not going to pay $25,000 for it, torture my body to fit someone else's ideal image and sit down to my wedding dinner, starving so badly I'll eat anything that's put in front of me.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

My mother dresses me

I'm 41 years old and getting married (for the first time) in two weeks and I'm way too old to have my mother still buying me clothes. She said she sent me a sweater and I was prepared to open it, not like it and then graciously ask her to stop buying me clothes.

But it's actually kind of nice, so now what do I do?

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Barack Obama Is No Dennis Kucinich or Paul Wellstone, But He'll Do I Guess

In 1988 I started the Cornell University PhD program in English literature along with Rayfield Waller and a few other graduate students of color. I fled academia in 1992, but Ray finished his PhD and is now a professor, and vice-president of his union, at Wayne State University in Detroit. He keeps a blog called Olde School and the title of this post is the title of his latest post which makes me feel a hell of a lot better about supporting Barack Obama.

My enthusiasm for Obama was short lived. I posted about him hopefully about a month ago and even volunteered at his Chicago headquarters for a few hours, but have since felt increasing disappointment and discouragement about the kind of candidate he seems to be. A colleague who blogs at Musings and Migraines has knocked the candidate down to (smaller than) size repeatedly and these criticisms, combined with Obama's centrism and lack of a truly leftist vision, have made me mourn again the end of John Edwards' candidacy, which was my last hope after the end of Dennis Kucinich's. I've felt kind of depressed about it.

Ray Waller's post has been my remedy. In it, Ray addresses the vagueness of Barack Obama's speeches, the phrases that could be conservative codes and the lack of a truly progressive direction in his campaign. Ray expresses his own skepticism about the Obama bandwagon and the candidate's unproven record as an advocate of the left. Ray examines Obama's public language and gives the reasons he just couldn't support him.

But then Ray reveals his realization that although Obama might be a centrist who's heading towards another bitterly disappointing presidency for leftists like us, there are still compelling reasons to back him. Ray references an exchange between himself and Professor Kofi Natambu of Oakland, California, who points out to Ray that the long-term, historical significance of an Obama presidential campaign isn't about the cult of Obama or what he can do in the White House. It's about the mass mobilization that's happening. It's about the widespread grassroots network that is being put in place, a network that will be capable of producing its own change, regardless of what Obama turns out to be about (or what Clinton turns out to be about, although a lot of us pretty much have that part figured out).

Ray quotes Grace Lee Boggs, who he describes as a veteran left activist and theorist:

...we had charistmatic leaders in the 60's and they all got gunned down. And if we depend so much on charismatic leaders, not only are they in danger, but we do not exercise our capacities in relationship to our situations to create the world anew. And that's where we are. What I'm trying to do is encourage the capacities, the energy, the creativity, the imagination, that exists in people at the grassroots to redefine and rebuild our society. If we want to live in freedom from terror, we have to begin looking at ourselves, redefining who we are, redefining who this country is and reassessing what is within our capacity to do.

I feel so much better after reading Ray's post. I think I even have the focus now to take on someone who, like me, has grave doubts about an opportunistic, vaguely-promising, centrist who is going for the support of the Right as well as the Left and might be willing to exploit anything in his background (or anyone else's) to do it. I can say that supporting Clinton because Obama looks like a jerk and a slimeball is extremely short-sighted. Obama might or might not turn out to be worth a $10 campaign contribution, but a Clinton run for the White House will never turn out the Democratic vote as Obama already has and will. Clinton just doesn't have Obama's ability to mobilize the broad range of political consituencies that are currently organizing in a historically significant way and are ready to resume actively working on issues such as free speech, women's rights, gay rights and electoral reform. Clinton's got the Clinton machine, but Obama has people taking political action (like registering to vote) who haven't done so in decades. There's a groundswell and whether or not Obama can deliver on a promise to wear a gray tie, there will be a broad-range, grassroots, YOUTH-infused base in place at the end of his campaign that was not there a year ago.

And Hillary Clinton just can't do that. Indeed, she hasn't. So there.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Comeback

I KNEW IT. I should have posted my prediction that Clinton would pull off Texas and Ohio and the marathon slugfest would continue.

I'd like to point out that with the exception of Monroe and Coolidge, there has never been an American president whose last name ended in a vowel, and "Monroe" and "Coolidge" really just end in a silent "e." Foreigners have names that end in vowels and weird consonants like "z" (like mine) and we don't become president. "The Obama Administration?" I don't think so.

ADDITION TO THIS POST: I am not counting the silent "e" as a true vowel. Nor the consonant "y."