Monthly Archives: February 2012

mardi gras + lent i

Since this year I’m giving up style for lent, for mardi gras I thought I should have one last day of color and fashion. I went as colorful as I could with bright teal jeans, peacock feather earrings, an over-the-top antique necklace, and bright purple eye shadow.

Truthfully, I did it out of obligation, glancing longingly at my pile of black T-shirts and just waiting for lent to arrive so I wouldn’t have to do this anymore.

So it’s no surprise for me to say: this last week has been easy. Great, even. Normally, I would have felt insecure that I wasn’t quite vintage/thrifty/hipster enough at a show. I would have wondered what to wear to an author speaking event where I knew I’d see classmates. I would have agonized over what to put on for my husband’s boss and her family coming for dinner (I want to look classy, but still casual, but …).

It’s a time saver, but more so, it’s a mental energy saver. I don’t need to think about how I look. I don’t need to evaluate my body at the start of every day. I don’t need to compare myself to others when I’m out.

This lent is a huge sigh of relief.

this lent

As for the practice of giving up or adding in something for lent, people hold theories from punishment to self-improvement, breaking an addiction to developing a habit, abstinence to cultivating desire.

This year, I’m giving up style. Well, as much as is possible anyway. For the weeks of lent I won’t wear makeup or jewelry, and my clothing options will be limited to a few pairs of pants and a stack of black T-shirts. Although that is considered a style for certain people, that’s not the case for me, who has a closet full of jewel-tones and a history of teal hair. It’s an abstinence. But also, a mercy.

I’ve gained weight since having moved to Seattle. It’s not entirely a bad thing: I’ve been learning to cook, and found that I love the intimacy with food, the layers of colors found in vegetables as they’re sliced, the scent of spices, the texture of bread from the oven. I feel connected to what goes into my body, in tune with the complexity of flavors, in a way that I never have taken the time to do before. I enjoy food.

The down side, of course, is that I spend a good amount of time every morning hating every item in my closet, hating having to make choices, hating the mirror, and most of all, hating hating hating my body. That added junk in the trunk, pockets inside my thighs, the slight layer of padding that makes an underwire sink into my chest. I spend most days in pajamas until I absolutely need to get dressed for school, dreading that moment.

Eliminating choices in clothing will free up all that time I spend hating myself, if it doesn’t alleviate the hate itself. I’m going to cover the mirror above my dresser with cloth to help direct my morning focus away from my appearance. However, it’s important to me that I don’t deny my bodily self. That would be both the easy way out and a hell of out-of-touch-ness that I know from my past. I thought about using the time to add to my work out – longer runs! more reps of weights! – but I recognize that as a temptation: it would make this season entirely about achieving a goal, of restoring my body to what it was a year ago. Instead, I want to love my body and my food. My time will instead be spent in yoga or meditation: habits that will invite and draw me into my body, cultivating gratitude for it as it is, without the ‘benefit’ of weight loss.

“Jesus says: ‘Be compassionate!’ He wants our compassion to begin at home, he wants us to be compassionate toward our own body and soul. Since friendly relations with another spring from friendly relations with yourself, you should meditate on how it is that the soul loves the body. And consider too how it is that the body is more in the soul than the soul is in the body.” – Meister Eckhart

 

giving away

“Who gives this woman to be wedded to this man?”

And the bride’s father responds: “I do.”

It’s still a tradition in many weddings, and yet rarely would the bride’s life reflect that her father had control over her. By the time most of us are engaged, we have our own apartment, our own bank accounts, our own social life. We usually meet and date our groom for some time before he’s introduced to our father, and yet we still ask that our father claim ownership of us and our relationship on our wedding day.

I left the lines out of the ceremony draft I gave to my officiant. I’ve seen some ceremonies modify the moment by asking “Who supports this marriage?” to give the father the opportunity to say “I do” or “Her mother and I,” but that didn’t feel right either. They certainly aren’t the only ones in attendance who support the marriage; our hope is the entire room would want to shout, “We do!”

At the rehearsal, the officiant asked “Do you want your father to give you away? It’s not in my notes.”

I hesitated before responding, “I’m not really his to give,” and immediately hear my sister’s hiss: “Kate! You have to! It’s tradition!”

Everyone discussed alternatives while I struggled with the question of tradition. In some areas, I fall into the category of traditional. Not tradition as a habit, but tradition as a cultivation of memory and faith, tradition as ritual and reminder. But in this case, my mind was reeling: what do we do with traditions that no longer serve us, that no longer reflect our reality or our values? How can we honor the past while shaping the content to call into question our assumptions about that tradition? How can we maintain the form while presenting the altered truth?

The next night my father walked me down the aisle. We paused to give me time to kiss my mom, took a few more steps, and stood for the musician’s final chords.

“Who gives this woman to be wedded to this man?”

“She gives herself freely, with our blessing.”

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the wedding day

Over a month after Keller and I’s wedding, I’m still piecing together feelings and memories. The day went by so quickly. Most everything during the ceremony is a blur of emotions, and everything post-ceremony is a blur of faces, smiles, and laughter.

I remember trying hard to be a relaxed bride while my sister had her hair done four times, and after that while waiting in line for lunch in a veil in with a restaurant full of onlookers. The girls and I had makeup done, laced me into my dress, and my nearly-sister-in-law walked me upstairs for Keller’s first look of me as his bride. He waited in the sanctuary as I took a couple deep breaths, suddenly nervous, and walked in to see his face light up.

Then, lots of photos, stuffing my dress into a car for more photos, cars and trucks honking and waving at the site of a white dress, a brief freak-out of time-anxiety during yet more photos at the church, and it was time to go into hiding as guests began arriving.

I remember standing at the back of the church, my dad saying something in an attempt to be calming, my whole body shaking as I got ready to step into a room of 130 sets of eyes that would all be on me.

During vows, I remember telling myself “it’s ok, you can take a minute, take a deep breath” as I tried to find my voice around my joy that couldn’t help but overflow in the form of tears.

After the ceremony before the guests were dismissed, being at the back of the church: Just energy and joy with the wedding party.

Worrying that my parents’ house would be wall-to-wall people, and walking in to find it intimate but open, better than we had hoped and exactly as I’d dreamed since a child.

When we were supposed to cut the cake, the knife was nowhere to be found, so I tried to entertain the waiting guests, awkwardly.

The rest of the reception was just circling and smiles and family and laughing and friends. Narrative memory doesn’t really pick up again until towards the end of the night, when one kindly discreet friend pulled me aside and whispered “You need to go, you need to get laid,” and two minutes later a louder coworker saying “What are you doing here? Go to the hotel!” and as we were preparing to leave, a parents’ friend shouting “GO HAVE SEX!”

Walking to the elevators of the JW Marriott and the loungers cheering for us.

And that’s as far as you get to come in my memory-piecing process.

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