Now feels like the time to break with tradition: waiting the painstaking hours-minutes-seconds until the clock strikes 12AM on March 17th to blog something–
Instead, it’s 9:16PM on Thursday, March 15th.
I realize that time is but a construct and the day-counting is more like a superstition at this point than an actual measure of my recovery.
So with the grace and pre-supposition of a power greater than myself carrying me over the line, I will turn four years sober on Saturday. This anniversary means everything to me.
And nothing at all.
Year three created a new paradigm of sobriety for me. I married my favorite person. I discontinued my studies to become a teacher. I moved. I started a new cooking job. Saint Bonaventure beat UCLA despite the shadow of a 48-year heartbreak. Any one of the above entitled items, in and of itself, is life-altering (well, most of them). But stats over time don’t really do it for me. I am accustomed to these types of changes. More to the point, I am comfortable with the chaos that accompanies turmoil. I know what it is for my actions to precipitate reactions in others–to my words and behaviors. I have intimate knowledge of the fallout when my ambivalence toward, say, my career, causes confusion in others and panic in myself. It’s tough stuff, but it’s kind of my wheelhouse.
Time is neither friend nor foe. I am the same person I was last year, except a lot more honest. I forgot to doubt myself. I am at peace. It has been exactly two months since I felt the familiar pangs of extreme anxiety. My brain is neutral and my heart is full. I am still clumsy in my intimate relationships and messy in my day-to-day planning. My 2018 planner and my station at work are nothing if not a perfect reflection of a hyper-active mind.
The process of planning our wedding caused my husband and I stress unlike any other we’ve known. Granted, I (technically) caused this stress–I did say ‘yes,’ but then, so did he–asking me to marry him and all. We signed up for it, enthusiastically.
We found ourselves a newlywed nest, but not without months of searching what seemed like every apartment in the city up for rent. I switched jobs two months later on what felt like a whim, but was really a moment of gumption. As a result, we run on opposite schedules like two tired, creaking ships passing in the night. This break in our routine surprised even me–I’m not certain what came over me. Perhaps a smidge of impulse and a little selfishness. I stopped mid-shift and swiveled my Danskos in the direction of my restaurant’s kitchen manager to switch from Front of the House to Back of the House.
I had a lot of nerve this year.
See also: I am someone’s wife. A wife and a prep cook. A former playgirl turned lush for commitment. I did something I promised myself I would never do: I followed a man’s lead. I came home that night with the overwhelming desire to tell my husband his delight and love for cooking to nourish others inspired me–enough to start all over again, again. From politicking to freelance writing to classroom teaching to oyster shucking–I am dizzy from the trip. I never imagined I’d be elbow-deep in condensed milk or grilled asparagus, yet here I am.
My work mentor (second only to my chef-husband-mentor) taught me some kitchen basics, least of all how to make a biased cut. Visions of celery, onions and jalapenos dance behind my eyes, all reminding me to cut identical sharp angles for continuity. My instinct was to scoff at the peculiarities of this new kitchen jargon, but I held my tongue. I remember all too well entering the rooms of recovery, ambling around the confusing vocabulary of hope in my beloved 12-step program. I am humbled by the temperatures and textures I have yet to learn. I have been here before. I recognize the need to know nothing in order to learn something. My recovery has taught me the precise need to know that I don’t know. Every heartening moment of growth is a direct result of ignorance terminated by experience. My higher power has protected me in more uncertain times than these. I’ve made it this far and I am in the company of some greats.
Anxiety is a cheap trick. I admit I get a high when I feel the wheels in my mind turning, churning and burning for resolution to untold fear. My adrenaline revs up and I feel hyper-aware. However, I don’t usually realize until it’s too late that my body has already decided that the Sky is Falling. I often mindlessly dismiss my “ticks,” like when I start picking at my lips until they bleed or breathing with shallow gulps, that something is very wrong. I wore bright lipstick several times this week without admitting to myself that I was trying to cover my lips, as opposed to showcasing pure fabulousness. This can lead to me internalizing everything until it all comports as anger and I implode (in private), or I just burst out crying (in public). Both scenarios visit me with alarming frequency, especially around the holidays.
All told, I feel sucker-punched every time anxiety attacks.
I know–somehow, someday, someway–I will become a more seasoned mental health practitioner. For now, it is enough to recognize what things trigger my anxiety and alcoholism. If you are like me, you know that this is a major feat. Panic, too, shall pass–
Alcoholics are highly sensitive people. I, for one, feel like a bruised mango at the bottom of a heavy load of fresh produce–and that’s on a good day. This fact about myself kinda sucks, as I work in customer service. But over-sensitivity has been cruel in every job I’ve ever had. I am not surprised that I used alcohol as a solution. Alcohol bites back, though. Much harder than the sting of rejection, boredom or hurt feelings ever could.
I believe that the spiritual solution to my malady is a Higher Power. I take the 12 steps plain, no sugar and no room for cream. But sometimes it’s hard to admit out loud that I have to follow through on self-care, too. The way I have been taught to feel better is to help other people. Eating regular meals, meditating and exercise are some pretty basic measures that help, too. But sometimes all I can muster is putting on a face–smiling, with contoured cheeks and matte-finished ruby lips. I acknowledge that some of us in recovery and many others of us on a different path need to know that the burden to “feel better” is not ours to carry alone. There are some groovy people out there who are willing to work with you, even though they might not understand exactly how you feel. But it is our responsibility to speak up, sooner rather than later. It can feel embarrassing to show what people might view as “weakness” when we admit that situational depression or overwhelming feelings are getting to us. I can promise you that it is worth speaking on it. People might surprise you. Time and time again, I have found that when I expect no one to understand, someone always shows up to defy my expectations.
The dividends for being honest pay handsome rewards.
Today, I had an anxiety attack at work. This time, it came out in tears rather than anger. My default was to quickly run outside to cry it out. But before I excused myself, I paused to tell someone in the kitchen–albeit through broken sentences–that I was having a panic attack. I don’t know why I did this; I just needed someone to know. To my fear’s dismay, two managers came outside to see if I was okay. It made me feel safe and protected, not judged. Not for one second. I feel like that was the first/best Christmas gift I’ve gotten this year. Their compassion and kindness grounded me enough that I could finish my shift with a non-bullshit-fueled smile on my face. It is not often that I am humbled enough to be (almost) speechless.
It is a curious thing to be forceably made vulnerable because of mental illness. The -id in me hates that my shit is laid bare like that. But the super-ego of my psyche is straight up grateful. I do not think that I could last more than a few days in any job if it weren’t for people who attempted to understand rather than to be understood. Groovy people, I tell ya.
Yesterday, I changed my maiden name to my legal married surname, just like that. With one simple stroke of a pen, I went from Miss to Missus.
Yesterday, Danica Roem changed the political landscape of our entire country. With one simple election day, she went from Miss to State Assemblywoman.
I remember when Danica legally changed her name from Dan Roem to Danica Roem. Her task was not so simple. She encountered loads of leading questions from state offices, misidentifying her gender AND her name. The process took months. Pronouns became paramount–and evidently too difficult for people to manage. Nevertheless, she persisted.
Two summers ago, Danica came to visit me in Petersburg, VA, presenting for the first time (at least in my presence) as female. True to form, she flashed me almost immediately. I felt an instant pang of jealousy: this bitch was prettier AND bustier than I was. We spent a couple of hours catching up, uncovering the fact that according to my endocrinologist and hers, I actually had more testosterone coursing through my blood than she did. She also joined me for a 12-step meeting to support my recovery. In a predominately conservative crowd, I felt protective of her, yet she was the one who made me feel comforted. She joked that during the circle-up at the end of the meeting, she was wondering if anyone noticed her jangling male parts protruding under her skirt. No one did. Since then, the Serenity Prayer circle-up makes me laugh every time. Throughout our visit, she was more amped to hear about my recovery than she was concerned about touting her own transformation. I guess you could say I was presenting as a sober woman for the first time, and she was THERE. FOR. IT.
Danica and I met in college at Saint Bonaventure University. She sat next to me in my junior year (her senior year) Government class. People gave her shit for constantly raising her hand. I thought she was brilliant. At the time, she was Dan. Not many people knew what to do when this metal head vocalist in a band called Cab Ride Home schooled pretentious co-eds about parliamentary procedure. Dan had long hair and a wide range of opinions on literally everything. I’ve never told her this, but I actually took notes on what SHE had to say, not our professor. I felt like Dan knew more about the issues that mattered to me.
I don’t know the exact moment we became friends. I think it was after class one day when I had finally mustered the guts to raise my hand and participate in the discussion. I was, of course, extremely insecure and self-conscious. She approached me after class to tell me she liked what I had to say. I felt so flattered; here was this loquacious and learned journalism student who knew more about legislation than most Congresspeople with paid legislative staff could ever pay to know. How did I catch the attention of such a special person?
We kept in touch after she graduated. We texted each other with a couple of emails sprinkled into our communications. Then Facebook messenger came around, and we became closer. In 2009, a year after I graduated, Danica and I reconnected. We met at a bar in Richmond to share a few beers. She was back from touring with her band in Germany. I will never forget when she sheepishly reported that she had something to tell me: she was gay. I was thrilled to hear this news, as my best and most entertaining experiences in friendship life were almost exclusively with gay men. It was at this bar where she recounted a story I will never forget. She described hooking up with a dude while masterfully inserting the infamous Mortal Combat catchphrase “FINISH HIM!!!” into the anecdote.It had been a long time since I laughed that hard.
In 2013, I received a major phonecall. I was visiting with a friend in San Diego. We had just gone swimming while drinking, one of my most favorite ill-advised activities at the time. I saw that “Dan” was calling, so I immediately answered. Dan was on the line to tell me that she would be transitioning to Danica. I remember squealing so loudly that I thought we might get busted for waking up the apartment complex. We talked for over an hour about what this meant for her identity, her livelihood and her politics. She was candid and eloquent about her transition process. Counseling, hormone therapy, gender identification, fears, hopes and ambitions. I felt so lucky. It took me a few fumbles with the pronouns “she” and “her,” yet she made the effort to make me comfortable. Her selflessness has never wavered.
On Christmas Eve 2016, I got engaged. Danica was one of the first people I told. She called me almost immediately. She was thrilled, lovely, gracious and adoring. A couple of months passed, and Danica had some news for me, too. She would be running to unseat Bob Marshall. After a few minutes of gushing settled our excited shrieks, she asked me to be her campaign manager. I nearly lost my shit.
But it wasn’t the time.
Danica offered me the most precious of campaign positions, short of being someone’s spouse. She believed in my abilities when I had long since abandoned my political organizer status. Her faith in our friendship was one of the greatest gifts I’ve ever received. I gave her proposition a lot of thought, but I realized that finishing school, waitressing and preparing for a wedding had me by the proverbial balls. I would not do her extraordinary candidacy the justice it deserved. She understood–of course she did–and she continued forward.
As most of us in the campaign world accept with a blistering resignation, the two weeks before E-day are the hardest of all. With that intimate knowledge, I stood awestruck when I glanced up from my fateful walk down the aisle to see her smiling face among the guests at my wedding ceremony. Danica had battled the rush hour DC Beltway traffic to witness the marriage of me to my husband. In essence, she suspended her campaign for one afternoon–an action considered incomprehensible to campaigners and candidates alike–to watch one of her very own friends have her day. She sacrificed a crucial weekend day on her campaign to be there for my E-day, with her signature rainbow bandanna adorning her head like a crown.
Danica, you are one of my very best friends. I am honored to know you, because to know you is to love you. In mine, and now the world’s eyes, you are love.
And with that, I will sign off as Danica always does, reminding us to rock on. Go forth and prosper, my Queen.
We started our luna de miel with a missed connection in Atlanta. There were tears–there were many tears. But they dried when the dude at Delta’s customer service counter upgraded our seats to First Class on the last flight of the day leaving for San Jose, Costa Rica. The subsequent eight-hour layover resulted in our first Atlanta 12-step meeting. My husband insisted on getting a good start on our photo-journalism tour of Central America with an airport picture for posterity:
We made it to San Jose in roughly five hours. The internet did not come with us. Though Waze was available every now and again, we felt supremely confident that we could mesh our Rosetta Stone and Kitchen Spanish-speaking skills to ask for directions if we needed them–WHEN we needed them. I’ll spare you the details of our trip from Hertz rental cars to the phantom toll booth peaje de fantasma where we were forced to drive backward on a one-way highway. I don’t know why I didn’t hit “avoid tolls” on Waze, because here in Los Estados Unidos, I firmly believe highway tolls are unconstitutional. I refuse to pay them in dollars or colones. My stubborn streak forced us to learn the word and deeper meaning of “change” in Spanish: cambio. We had to, considering we only had a $100 bill to pay a $2 toll. Lady Luck would have come to visit the teller if we chose to surrender to our own ignorance.
The policia took pity on us, too. Our language barrier resulted in a telephone call to the b&b bungalow we reserved for the night. Two ex pats from Germany–a retired couple–answered the call in sleepy tones, asking if it was John on the line. The officers thought this whole thing was hilarious, but neither we nor the Germans found a phone call from the police in the middle of the night amusing. We followed the police van for a few minutes through Altenas, arriving at Apartmentos Altenas. The couple showed us to our bungalow, all the while explaining our late-night intrusion gave them no time to prepare for us as they typically would have. All things considered, it was perfect.
When I asked the husband proprietor how long he and his bride have been married, he replied, “150 years.” I knew right then that my being a directionless wonder, leading my new husband down one-way highways to avoid tolls at all costs, got us exactly where we needed to be. This humble and intelligent couple not only cooked us desayuno the next morning, they told us all about their journey from Germany to Costa Rica while giving us a tour of the property. They showed us this elaborate garden with a homemade irrigation/mini-drip mechanism, where they grew vegetables alongside exotic herbs. The only word I remembered was Bohnenkraut, meaning Summer Savory. Smells like oregano, taste bitter like something else (I’m not the cook here, John is). Evidently it’s a German must-have, akin to cilantro for Costa Rica. An herb I despise but also wish I loved because IT IS IN MF EVERYTHING.
We were sad to say goodbye to this place. But we had three-point-something hours more to drive through weaving mountain roads with the ever-present possibility of mudslides and/or detours. Not to mention the abundance of stray dogs who don’t seem to mind oncoming traffic. We learned the hard way that stopping for puppies is not welcomed, though hazard lights are; that motorcyclists care little for their own safety or for ours.
The best part of our trip was the free coffee with a view. Another impossibly generous couple offered us coffee and dulce de leche on a mountaintop perch. We literally sat with our heads in the clouds watching the winds take shape … bosque nuboso.
Our first resort stay was one of the prettiest and loneliest places I’ve ever visited. We stayed at El Establo, where the Pizotes outnumbered humans 2:1. The Hydrangeas everywhere balanced the flora and fauna considerably, though.
Monteverde, turns out, is a city/town/province that is enormously influenced by Quakers. We were psyched to know this mini-colony has a Friends Meeting House. Too bad we showed up for a scheduled meeting that Wednesday to an empty wooden play house. Empty of 12-steppers, that is. We read to each other from the literature out loud while two actors practiced stage direction and lighting for an upcoming Halloween-themed production. It was weird, but it was enough to keep us sober and pleasant enough.
The Monteverde leg of our trip was designed for us to “explore” the area. We got lost a lot. That’s what helped us transmute our sense of panic and doom to wanderlust and an electrical humility. John drove us using 4-wheel drive down and up every calle. The roads were rife with pendejos, but the locals were incredibly gracious and warm. We ate olla de carne and casado at places like Sabor Tico and Tico y Rico; drank coffee at Cafe Besos, Stella’s Bakery and Choco Cafe. The air smelled like chocolate and coffee. The rain was barely chilly or obstructive. The nights were clear and quiet. We may have stumbled over our spanish words a bit, but the locals continued to speak to us in the most charming and calming way. Not much was lost in translation.
There were many frijoles, but not much touristy activity on our part. If one more effing person asked us if we were going zip lining, puede haber perdido mi mierda. We opted for hiking at the Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve, instead.
I think our hike(s) amounted to about five miles. At one point, we paused to take a picture of this giant tree that seemed to sneeze out a glorious flurry of butterflies. Seeing sanctuaries for all of the mariposas made me remember the nickname one of the cooks at my old restaurant job gave to me, mariposa traicionera, roughly translated as “treacherous butterfly.” I still am not sure what to make of that one. Alas, the hike was brilliant.
So brilliant by design, this hike was, that we ended it at the mouth of las cascadas.
There were besos–there were many besos.
But as is our way, the fun didn’t stop at the cascades. There would be more driving. Lots more driving.
We spent four nights at El Establo, with awesome service and spotty internet. The channels were all in spanish, so we did our best to reckon with Netflix, taking it as an opportunity to watch Mindhunters (give the series a chance, it gets really good midway through the first season).
We off-roaded for our third hours-long trip, heading toward Guanacaste. The rain never stopped falling because we were in the rainy season for the region, but we kind of enjoyed it. Never were there more appropriate circumstances than these to continuously hum “I’m Only Happy When it Rains,” by Garbage. And we got miserably lost, this time to an excellent soundtrack. We anticipated no connection while driving, so I downloaded one of my favorites, The President’s Summer Playlist 2016 (PRESIDENT OBAMA IS THE ONLY PRESIDENT FROM WHOM I’D TAKE MUSICAL RECOMMENDATIONS). We stopped to ask for help reading un mapa, got some fried pork rinds and unwittingly used someone’s home toilet, mistaking their storefront for a tienda rather than a casa.We took the Pan American Highway/Route 1, where instead of stopping for stray dogs, we were halted by giant livestock.
This leg of our journey marked the first time we truly stopped taking ourselves so seriously. Up until this point, we were so wrecked from all of the travel and lost-ness. It felt wonderful to laugh at how clueless we are as a unit. We solidified what I so lovingly refer to as our travel trauma bond. In spite of the chaos that unrelentingly ratcheted up our stress levels, we have never been more kind to each other throughout our entire relationship. If we got nothing else out of our honeymoon, that alone would have been worth it.
But we did. We got massages, aromatherapy, home-cooked meals, enormous surf at la playa El Jobo, poolside beds and coconut virgin daiquiris. We felt like royals at Dreams Las Mareas. That ish was fancy.
We arrived at night, skidding into the parking lot breathless from the insane roads and parrots in our periphery. The staff greeted us with two full champagne glasses, which we promptly insisted they (kindly) get the fuck out of our faces. They didn’t really understand, and we didn’t need them to. We simply can’t afford that kind of luxury.
We ate seafood, steaks, salads and plantains aplenty. The fruit at breakfast was unlike anything I’d ever seen or tasted. There were tourists from all walks of life on their honey moons, birthday vacations and retirement trips. We felt happy, but the continuous service and attention felt uncomfortable. Not too uncomfortable, as we stayed for three nights, walking the grounds for hours and returning to our suite each night to wear our swanky plush bathrobes. We ordered room service and watched the ID channel in English. There simply is nothing better. We gifted the room service guy with our free bottle of wine. We spent too much money on getting our clothes laundered and we used the balcony Jacuzzi, but not before we thought we broke it. This was opulence at its finest.
We ended our stay with the gift of a gorgeous sunset. The next day, we schlepped through our final road trip. When we arrived at Liberia airport, I realized we left all of the beautiful souvenirs purchased at Don Juan coffee/chocolate tours in the trunk of our Kia rental. THERE WERE TEARS. Those tears quickly turned to anger then defeat. We hugged each other, then shut up. There was nothing more we could do to change the situation while lining up in zone 2 to board our plane. I cried and prayed until we were seated then greeted with Starbuck’s coffee on the flight. It’s like they knew what would settle me down.
Our trip to Costa Rica changed me. I am a little less fearful, and a little more willing to trust the person I am. My husband was the real MVP of the trip, thank god. If you’ve made it this far through the blog post, you’re probably almost as exhausted (if not more) than we were when we arrived home this past Monday. Thank you for reading. There is more to come, there always is.
Do you ever get that feeling that your dreams are there simply to remind you of who you are not? I do. Almost every night. For instance, when I dream that I am back in high school and on the verge of falling off of bleachers that turn into cliffs over top a New Zealand seascape, I know that I am A) well-past high school age, B) that I have never really had a huge fear of heights and C) I have only ever traveled to two different countries outside of the U.S., neither of which was New Zealand. But then there is that suspicion that I am not unlike an insecure adolescent who fears yet another “jumping-off point” in my life. Anxiety haunts me in my waking hours as well as my slumber. OH, good.
There is this news, though: The Wedding Dress was Won. I found it, and then some. It took about 10 minutes after posting my blog when I walked into The Oak and discovered my dress in a lacy display of Fuck Yes. I basically live-Facebook-commented with some newly-married friends as I tried on the dress clearly meant for me. One more item checked off The List.
Back to those dreams, though. I posted this on April 7th:
Last night I dreamt that I pulled out all of my teeth while I sat on a dentist’s chair. Then I sobbed and begged for this lady dentist to give me false teeth, so she did and I was dissatisfied. Then the other dentist dude refused to make my teeth real and he turned out to be a pervert. So naturally I performed on stage in the scene from The Bodyguard with no teeth.
What if our literal dreams were actual reality? It would be madness. I’d be a toothless pop star, a would-be murder victim with a deadly fear of heights, a lesbian lover with Lady Gaga and an active alcoholic who cheats on her husband. One of these is not like the other.
In October, I will be married ::inshallah:: In one million years +, I never dreamed that could happen for me. I never dreamed it, because I never acted as if I wanted to be married. I did what it took to work this time–it will be different this time. I desperately wanted a relationship from the time I was 14/15 to my late twenties, never coming close to achieving it. Notice how I used the word “achieve.” It was something else to check off The List. I had no earthly idea what it takes to be in a loving, committed relationship. That is, if you exclude my devotion and heartache relegated only to King Alcohol. In a twisted way, drinking alcohol gave me a free pass to avoid dreaming and having nightmares–I simply passed out.
Dreaming tends to cause me heartache. For the most part, I dream about relapsing (why don’t we use “nightmare” as a verb? Like, “I nightmared about my test last night.”) Every so often, I dream of my dad. One scenario that stands out the most is when I saw him appear at the house where we grew up. He was in front of the garage puttering with some plants. He stood up to say “hi” to me, then he slowly vanished before my eyes. I woke up crying and sweating. It felt comforting to see him, but the reminder ended up costing me more than a little joy. I think I dreamt/nightmared on that one.
For me, dreaming is lying. I far prefer my associations with waking hours (when I can, at the very least, choose my own lies!). Maybe that’s why I stay true to being a night owl. But now I am sober, which means I am breathing and walking among The Living. I need sleep like the rest of us. We all know that sleep-deprivation can cause poor health, bad choices and in extreme cases, hallucinations. When I first got sober, sleep deprivation caused sleep paralysis, something you should definitely read up on (maybe when it’s light out). There is a bugged out documentary on Netflix about the phenomenon. Mine happened when I lived in my gorgeous apartment in LA that I have definitely not stopped thinking about (nether the experience nor the apartment itself, it was beautiful). I was meditating while slowly drifting off to sleep. Above my head hung the best nightlight I’ve ever had. My neighbor, Annie, gifted me with a handmade chandelier, made of woven sticks of wood, lace and twinkling lights.
Beside it, ironically, was a dream catcher. I remember feeling comfort and peace as I lay in half-sleep. My eyes fluttered, then I felt something like human hands shove me. My entire body jolted forward. I tried to get up to see who was in my room, but I could not move. I lay there panting silently, trying not to make any noise. A few seconds passed, and I realized I was not dreaming, not at all. Something pushed me because I felt its hands between my shoulder blades. I then felt what I can only describe as someone’s lips press against my back. Then it started sucking in air. GROSS. I felt in that moment I might die at an intruder’s hands. For an instant, I stayed stuck. But I summoned up courage and jumped out of my bed. When I turned around, no one was there.
I later investigated this experience with my friend, Monty. He told me it might be incubus. I swore I was awake when this happened, but apparently I was only dreaming. In my life at that point, there wasn’t much difference between wake and sleep. My life was a waking nightmare and my dreams were an exhaustive necessity.
But today I feel the difference. I guess you could say that my dreams, nightmares, waking experience and ambitions don’t blur so easily these days. I don’t fear sleep because I want to wake up in the morning. I don’t fear waking because I want to be alive. I don’t fear who I lie next to because I know he’s the same man (whose name I actually know). Mostly, I don’t fear who I am, albeit she does confuse me sometimes.
There is nothing I hate more than trying on wedding dresses. And for my faithful readers, I will cut right to the chase as to why that is.
Ten Things I Hate About Wedding Dresses, The Musical (I also hate musicals)
I am a different size for LITERALLY EVERY STYLE / MAKE / MODEL OF DRESS.
The internet is a giant rabbit hole for wedding looks, i.e., Modcloth, JCrew, Pinterest, Wedding Wire, The Knot, etc., into which I’ve fallen for hours and hours.
One look at a dress and I’ve decided this HAS to be the one. Has to be. (It’s not.)
It’s almost June and I cannot stop sweating enough to zipper / button / clasp a dress.
Wedding dress material is extremely uncomfortable and impractical.
Nearly every dress I’ve tried on, on-site, requires alterations.
Alterations, I’ve discovered, cost almost as much as the dress itself (sometimes more).
Every single person has a differing opinion about what is flattering on me and what is not. By every single person, I mostly mean me.
My shoes are the only thing I have ever cared about getting right about the outfit.
The term ‘bridezilla’ actually exists, which describes me the second I walk into David’s Bridal–but only because I want to burn it to the ground in a taffeta blaze of glory.
Now I realize, dear friends, that wedding-dress shopping is most definitely a thing. Otherwise, why would there be several shows about The Quest for the Dress that most women I know watch with rapt attention? It’s an event, a group excursion. Except everyone is tired and I am fickle. Not to mention my attention span is short for shopping as-is. I just dislike any kind of shopping that is not for gifts, jewelry, perfume or books, and all of those I can get online.
Which brings me to my most favorite part of this post: photos. Lest I invite some weird curse for being seen in a white dress before the wedding, I will attempt to fly in the face of my own superstitions. Below, I have compiled a few of my favorite dress failures for your viewing pleasure. And without further ado, here are the dresses I said ‘no’ to (just not to their faces):
The Sponsor’s Dress.
This one gets me. In my high school, traditions were big. One of those traditions was to get young girls in white dresses to parade around in a cotillion-like ritual with guys and their ROTC companies. The irony is not lost on me that as a “sponsor” to my guy’s company–baking cookies and pretending to care about their chauvinistic rituals–I would actually be foreshadowing my role as a real-life sponsor to women in my 12-step program. In a panic recently, I decided to try on this dress to a). see if it still fit and b). attempt to lock down a dress without having to put forth any effort. Shit didn’t fly.
2. The ModCloth Dress
I don’t even know with this one. Even though I exchanged it for a size up, this shit just did not feel good on. Also, it felt juvenile. And the need to get a bigger size launched into effect an ego-feeding frenzy until I finally stopped trying to squeeze into the tinier version.
3. The Mommy Dress.
Because I am a sucker for nostalgia, I tried so hard to want to wear this dress. Alas, the 80s have come and gone. I cannot wear this in good faith to fashion.
4. The $20 Dress.
I mean, it was $20.
5. The Random, Unplanned Bridal Store Drop-in Dress.
I drove around town with my mom in a fit of willingness/inspiration, which almost never happens. We stopped at a bridal store in Chester, VA, where I tried on dresses in front of someone else’s family. They oo’ed and aww’ed.
When my mom snapped this first photo, I was literally in the midst of saying, “fuck this.”
I guess the answer to this dress saga will eventually be solved. If it doesn’t happen soon, I will choose a white bathing suit and proceed with a mixture of false confidence and madness.
Needless to say, I give a resounding NO to all of the above atrocities.
More to come,
P.S. Please Google “ugly wedding dresses” immediately.
Alcohol was the master I served for over a decade. But like most alcoholics and addicts of my type, I often take orders from other afflictions. In fact, I’ve written about that for AfterParty Magazine.
I suffer from disordered eating.
There, I said it. Let me be clear, though: I do not identify as an anorexic, nor have I ever purged as a result of binge eating. But I struggle, every day, with the obsession that I am not the size, weight or body type I am meant to be. According to whom? That remains to be seen.
I wait about two weeks in-between “weighing sessions.” I allow that amount of time to elapse because every time I step on the scale, my heart sinks into my feet. The act itself ruins my entire day. It’s disappointing to self-report that I’ve gained another two pounds; it’s devastating to admit that I lost even more control over my weight. I never cared as much about such a small amount of El Be’s (=lbs, pounds) as I do right now. Not even when I was 16, tortured by the idea of going to Lake Mary for my sweet sixteen, forced to be bikini-clad in public. The idea that anyone other than my immediate family would see me in a bathing suit horrified me.
The first time I knew I had a problem with eating versus drinking was the first break I came home to visit my family freshman year of college. I studied at a small liberal arts college in Vermont, where I discovered the delights of Rolling Rock, 99 Apples and 10-foot glass sculptures from head shops. I mostly remember the -47 degree weather and the fact that one cannot step outside with wet hair without icicles forming. My family took notice that I gained weight, the dreaded Freshman Fifteen. It was actually the verbiage they used, saying my face looked “puffy.” That was code for fat, I thought. Looking back, i’m positive that what they saw were the first physical signs of my alcoholism. It stuck with me, despite their obvious love as evidence contrary to my negative thought processes. I spent the subsequent two weeks fasting on Yoplait and black olives. Fucking disgusting. Yet, effective–
I dropped 12 pounds in two weeks.
I came back to school expecting a huge reaction from my friends. There was none. I was bummed. More than that, I was super angry. Why had I gone to the great lengths I did in order to lose weight? Furthermore, why did I bother staving off my desire to drink in order to starve? I wanted someone to notice how much my hard work had paid off. I also wanted a goddamn potato chip. So I started working out, and I got both.
My best friend in college was my favorite person to work out with. We used to giggle uncontrollably anytime we came to the gym still wreaking of booze (amateurs.) I take most of the credit for that one, especially after I started sweating. It was hard to take much of anything seriously by that point, but we prevailed. My modus operandi was the elliptical. I loved that I did not have to go anywhere or do anything except move in the exact same motion for an hour in order to burn precisely 650 calories. What a gift. What a coincidence, too, because that’s how many servings of pretzels/chips/crackers I would eat later. The law of averages doing its due diligence, I guess.
I categorize my second semester of freshman year as the darkest few months of my life. Well, until sophomore year when my dad died. Oh, and grad school in New York. Followed closely by the San Bernardino/San Diego days. It’s been quite the ride into the depths! More to the point, I found that no matter where I was, I felt better about my drinking when I could manipulate the intake of food I’d give myself in a given day. I decided never to count my drinks, only my calories. I saw just one snag in this plan: I got hungry after a few drinks. That meant Oreos after hours. Speaking of which, and not to get too far off track, but there was one point during my senior year of college when I went home for Thanksgiving with one of my best friends and her family. We got shit-faced with her friends going out to all her old stomping ground bars. When we got home, I felt sick. Sick, like, I hadn’t eaten more than half a bagel all day, so my body didn’t have the ability to absorb the narsty amount of alcohol I dumped into my system. Lest we forget my affinity for Oreos, I got to a point where I had to throw up. Once I did, I saw that the contents in the toilet were completely black. I ran to my friend worried I was dying. She very sweetly tried to explain to me that what I was seeing were the Oreos I ate earlier, not sudden death. I laughed out loud, but inside I felt like a complete asshole.
Two summers ago, I saw a doctor for my anxiety. My counselor was sweet and helpful, and eventually responsible for helping me turn to yoga as a physical calming method. However, my body had had enough. I was a year and a half sober, deeply immersed in my 12-step program, yet suffering from debilitating anxiety. She prescribed me a medication that, long story short, made me very sick. I won’t go into the ghastly detail it would take to describe what I went through, but let’s just say my symptoms mimicked those of food poisoning. Twenty-four-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week, five-month-long-food poisoning.
I dropped 25 pounds in two months. I didn’t have 25 pounds to lose.
Once my symptoms let up, I had been on my medication for about six months. I felt so much better mentally. And eventually, I got my physical strength back. The one symptom I hadn’t anticipated remaining was the deathly fear I had of gaining all that weight back. So I began restricting. Multiple friends messaged me on social media, asking if I was okay after they saw a picture of myself I had posted. This made me feel exposed, guilty. Especially considering that the friends who said something were not in any way dramatic or critical, just worried. I felt embarrassed and stripped of justification. The medicine no longer caused me to lose weight. My doctor noticed, too. She confronted me about how much weight I kept losing. I told her what I was eating with about as much honesty as when I told my doctor in Los Angeles how much I drank–
The Limit Does Not Exist.
Another, little-known fact: my fiance is a cook at a swanky restaurant. When he moved home from NYC, he was taken aback by my appearance. If I’m being honest with myself, he had been concerned a few months prior. I chose to deflect then, but I couldn’t exactly swat away the truth with him standing in front of me, mano y mano. He expressed to me that there was deep irony in him dedicating his life to loving food, with a girlfriend who chose not to eat any. He was upset and worried. I came clean about how deep my obsession went, but I don’t think that allowed the worry to lessen. So I made it a point to eat every single meal he created. After a few months, I gained back nearly every pound I lost. I was at once proud and horrified.
It’s amazing. Amazing how the brain can convince you that you don’t need food, or love, or honesty. There is way more to this story than what I’ve disclosed here. But that’s because it’s an ongoing issue. I know there are people reading this–particularly women–who know exactly what I’m talking about. Those of us in recovery from anything know that there is almost always a long road to walk in order to heal. I am not sure what my road will look like, but I don’t want to know right now. If I knew what early sobriety would have required of me, I’m not sure I would have followed through with the journey. Thank God for blissful ignorance.