Monthly Archives: April 2010

Style Me Struggling

If you know me well – and perhaps if you’ve been following this blog at all – you know that I have a sort of ridiculous amount of trouble getting dressed in a very basic way.  I am well known by my fiancee and college roommate for wearing my famous “I can’t figure out what to wear today” outfit: starting from the bottom and moving up, we have slippers, socks, underwear (that’s right, no pants), and my Vassar sweatshirt.  Depending on how cold it is, I might also be wearing a hat.  It’s sort of like this picture, minus the sunglesses, and in just socks, slippers, and underwear.  To be completely honest, it’s usually just one sock.  I’m not sure why.

also, i'm usually not in a car during this process.

Sometimes I think I have spent so long working in the veterinary field because I know what I’m wearing every single day: scrubs.  They are comfortable, they are interchangeable and all match each other, and they require no thinking whatsoever when getting up in the morning beyond, “Is this clean enough to wear?”  Yes, I just admitted that to the general public.

When we were little, my sister and I were polar opposites when it came to clothes. I’m really, really sorry I don’t have pictures to illustrate my point, but here it is: While my sister spent a good couple of months (at least!) insisting on wearing her pink headband and her pink necklace and frilly dress or other nice-looking clothes, I wanted something that was comfortable, and I would happily wear it every single day until my mother made me wear something new.  I didn’t care how it looked, as long as I felt good.  My sister, on the other hand, wanted earrings so badly that she wore the clip-ons until her ears turned red (my mom finally decided that if she wanted them badly enough to put up with that pain all day, she could probably handle actual piercings).  In retrospect, my attachment to comfort rather than style, and my pleasure in wearing the same thing until it was taken away, probably factored into my not being one of the popular girls.

Now that I’m all grown up… not much has changed.  I still don’t want to wear anything uncomfortable – at all.  I find a pair of shoes that fits and those are the shoes I will wear until they are dead.  I don’t do well with heels, no matter how pretty they are.

The problem is, I have no idea what my sense of style is.  Sometimes I feel attractive and confident – but it’s often in completely different kinds of clothes, and I can’t find a pattern, and I have no idea what I want to wear.  Case in point: Today we went to a consignment shop and I bought a very pretty dress.  It looked lovely on me, and I know I’ll wear it a lot.  It is kind of like this one:

see? i can look nice in a dress!

Now, in the exact same shopping trip, I bought pants and a shirt from the guys’ section.  And I look and feel totally hot in them, if I do say so myself.

Here is a picture of me dressed in my (male) friend’s clothes, feeling totally attractive (though I realize I didn’t look as good as I felt – and also this was about 5 years ago):

dressed as my awesome roommate for a costume party in all his clothes - convincingly, if i may say so

I am perplexed.  How is it that I love feeling dykey in my boy’s jeans and polo shirt AND I love feeling pretty in my dress?

I mean, yes, I know that this is totally allowed, but I have no idea where to start looking for something to wear when it’s time to dress up: a button down shirt? A dress? A button down dress?  I can’t figure out what I’m entirely comfortable it  – sometimes it’s the dress, sometimes it’s the pants.

And don’t get me started on shoes.  If I can wear Chacos with it, I’m happy, and if I can’t, then I am lost.  As Kate commented yesterday, “Just because we’re girls doesn’t mean we can’t fail at footwear. Shoes are hard!”

Does anyone else have this complete fashion struggle?  This is why I am wearing a suit and a dress at my wedding.*  How do you know what your “style” is? How many of you spend a good chunk of time in your socks, slippers, and underwear throwing various clothes around the room? What is the key to looking good and feeling comfortable, if it is even possible?

*I ordered those shoes I liked! The ones that you all said you liked too!  But, um, they’re heels, so we’ll see what happens.  They shipped today! Look at me, being all decisive.
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I hate shoes.

All you naysayers and supporters, what do you think of those?

Really I’m in love with these, but they’re out of stock. Argh.

Ugh, I hate shoes. I can’t find anything.  Suggestions? Anyone?

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Mrs. and Mrs.* Sparrow-Bird-McTurtleson

Today, Meg at A Practical Wedding brought up (hesitantly, I was amused to see) name changing.

This has been something of a struggle for us.  Changing our name – sharing a name – has felt important to me during this entire getting-married/becoming-a-family process.  As I’ve written before, we aren’t planning on having children, and without children to unite us to the public as a family, the shared last name feels like a big deal.  Otherwise, we could just be friends or roommates or coworkers you see hanging out a lot.  Who hold hands. And kiss on the mouth.  Okay, so maybe not just friends, but still – without children or a name, it feels like a mistake that could be easily made.  We will be family and I want that to be obvious.

Okay, so let’s share a last name, no big deal, right?  Except, have you met us? Why would we do something that would be simple?  When my parents got married, they both took each other’s names, so my parents, siblings, and I all have the same, hyphenated last name; it’s DadsName-MomsName.  Let’s say it’s Sparrow-Robin, for simplicity’s sake.  So my siblings, parents, and I are the only Sparrow-Robins in the whole world.  If you look up Sparrow-Robin online, you’ll get hits that are only people in my immediate family.  I am the only Bird Sparrow-Robin, and I think that is really cool.

Turtle’s last name is McTurtleson.**  This is not the last name she was born with, nor is it the last name she grew up with.  It is her third last name, and it is one that she picked out, and it is very meaningful to her.  Plus, it’s a nice name on its own.  She has made it very clear that she is not going to give up McTurtleson, and that she is reluctant to change it.  This makes sense to me, and I support it.  That said, if I were to take it, I would be Bird McTurtleson, which makes no sense in funny blogspeak, so I’m sorry about that, but it’s a relatively common name.  Yes, Dr. McTurtleson is a nice name, but I have always loved how unique my name is, and I don’t want to give that up either.

Dilemma.

such a repetetive, boring debate that jake cant keep from yawning

We have two couples that we’re friends with who recently changed their last names, and I’ll say their actual last names here because I can’t come up with other cutesy fake names.  Sorry, guys. (Let me know if you want me to take this off and I will be happy to).  The first couple is a man and a woman who started out with the last names Fulmer and Anderson.  I think they had many conversations about the name changing before settling on creating a new last name… they combined both last names and took a section out: fulmeranderson became Merand (pronounced Mair-and).  The other couple is made up of two kickass women whose last names were Smith and Leonard – and they combined them to become the Leonardsmiths.

I love the idea of being the Somethings, the FamilyNames.

At some point recently, we came up with an option that might work.  I will shift my name over, and we’ll take the same last name!  I’ll drop my middle name and change my full name to Bird Sparrow Robin-McTurtleson – the future veterinarian Dr. Robin-McTurtleson. Yes?  And Turtle will be Turtle Robin-McTurtleson.

This all feels complicated, and difficult, and there are so many ties to our names and to our families.  I worry that my dad will feel like I dropped him because I won’t be using his name as an obvious part of my name anymore.  I worry that my mom’s feelings will be hurt because we won’t share the same initials, as we always have.  I worry that no one will be able to pronounce the Robin part of my last name, and that Turtle will have to share in the misery of always having to correct the way someone says half of your name. AND, I want to create a clear connection to the woman I am marrying, but I also don’t want to lose the obvious connection to the family I came from.

What are you doing? Have you thought about this? Does it seem to make a difference if you’re in a relationship with a man or a woman?

*Oh! And it turns out that you’re only a “Mrs.” if you are a woman who marries a man. And takes his name? I don’t remember that last part. But if you are a woman who marries a woman, you are just a Ms.! These things are so complicated, guys.
**Blog-friendly alternative last names include “McBestFianceeEver” and “McSexyPants”

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No Yoga Today, Honey

Sunday, our big plan was to do yoga.

I hate yoga.  I don’t stretch.  I went for a 20-mile bike ride Saturday and considering stretching, so I did, in the shower. For about thirty seconds.  That counts, right?

But my chiropractor says stretching is to your body like flossing is to your teeth.  He said, “Did you hear about the guy who complained about flossing his teeth? And the dentist said, ‘You don’t have to floss all of them – just the ones you want to keep’.”  Stupid dentist.

Anyway, I just thought I should share that my wonderful fiancee took a break from putting together our new Ikea table to announce that we are not doing yoga because putting a table together is hard work!  Our electric screwdriver ran out of batteries, but it has all the right sized screwdriver heads (er, um, whatever they’re called), so she is using it manually.  Right now, my wonderful fiancee, who keeps declaring what a dyke she is to use all these tools (plus she’s looking pretty nice in jeans and a tanktop) is on her hands and knees screwing a screw into the table by turning the electric screwdriver – with her hands.


(she says: “and looking dyke-y while doing it! God, Bird, don’t ruin my image!”)

Our life is such an entertaining adventure.

“Why can’t I screw this in there?! Figures, I volunteered myself for the most screwed project.”

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Tea is for Take Me

Get it? “T” is for take me? But I’m going to talk about tea? Oh I’m so clever I can hardly stand it, and I’m sure you can’t either.

So, tea.  For the past several years I have been an herbal tea addict.  You can only drink so many cups of coffee before you get jittery, and herbal tea comes in a nice variety of flavors and doesn’t give you the shakes.  Plus it’s a nice warmth when you live somewhere without heat (thanks, Mom, for raising me at a steady temperature of 55 degrees).  Anyway, you get the idea – I liked herbal tea.  I drank coffee for that whole being awake thing.  I considered myself a coffee person with a healthy appreciation for tea.

And then Turtle ruined everything.

You see, she didn’t have coffee at her apartment.  Once I started staying there (after date 3, in true lesbian fashion), we bought a French press and some coffee, but it wasn’t as good as the drip I made at home.  She tolerated my coffee habit, but loved a good cup of Earl Grey.  So I tried it, and I was hooked.

magnet on our refrigerator

We are definitely tea people, and even tea snobs.  We like Earl Grey, Lady Grey, and PG Tips like whoa.  I haven’t had coffee on any regular basis in two years now, and I’m not sure I’ll ever go back.

And not only do we just drink tea: she handed me a cup of tea at the walk on April 6, 2008; we went out for tea on our very first (5 hour, and unofficial) date after the walk; we went to a pretty little tea cafe for our first official date (the next day… a long wait); every day that we worked together we bought two venti cups of Earl Grey with two teabags from Starbucks before work; we went out for fancy tea after getting domestically partnered.  I mean, we did lots of other things too, but tea has been something important for all this time.

So it seems fitting to incorporate our tea habit into our wedding.

We are getting married fairly early in the day (sometime between 9 and 10 am), so we will have tea and coffee available first thing – and, of course, we’ll have a good variety of teas.  On top of that, we are considering some tea-like favors.  So here is what I’m thinking – tell me what you would like!  Or similar ideas…

First, my mom and sister decided that some prints from my print class would be nice favors – possibly framed, possibly not.  I can make a lot of them in a fairly short amount of time, and it’s fun work, and they do look nice framed.  Anyway, my teacher was saying that someone in one of her previous classes had done a lot of work with empty tea bags, and they looked really nice.  So I might try that.

Second, we might have a tea custom made and order loose tea in bulk, like an Earl Grey with hints of something else (TBD).  Then we could package them in pretty little boxes (I love boxes!) or in pretty little teabags with pretty little tags that say something nice about getting married and thanks and all that.  We could even do some bags that are coffee for all you crazy coffee folk (you know who you are).

What do you think?  What would you want?  If you’ve done this, are you doing some sort of themed gift/favor?

And, in closing: Us, with Tea.

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This is not about poop

Dear readers –

Today has been a good day.  I do not, per se, have a cat who routinely defecates on the study floor, regardless of the cleanliness levels of her litter box, the type of litter used, the depth of the litter, the location of the litterbox, or the location of food near her preferred pooping non-litterbox-location… but if I did have such a hypothetical cat, we could all rejoice in the fact that there was no hypothetical (or actual!) poop on the floor when I hypothetically got home.  Hooray!

hypothetically annoyed

Cat poop, however, is not what I want to talk about – I do that all day at work (seriously, I spend a lot of time talking about poop professionally).  What I want to talk about is friends.

When Turtle and I met, we both had a really solid group of friends.  Well, she had a group, I had some really close relationships with several different people who didn’t really know or weren’t that close to each other.  I’ve never been a “friends group” kind of person – I’m more of a one-on-one kind of person, just with lots of different people. Or something.

Anyway, when we first started dating, we drifted a little from our friends.  I think that this is normal – you meet someone, you fall hard, you spend all your free time with them instead of with the people you would otherwise be spending time with… normal, right?  And then you re-establish the bonds with those friends, and with new friends, as you settle into your relationship, and you make friends, often, as a couple.

I think I kind of suck at this.  Friends, I am so, so sorry.

It’s not too hard to keep your friends when you work with them.  You can take a coffee break and chat in the office, you can go out for lunch, you can grab a drink after work – but if you stop working there, it starts taking more effort.  And – duh – it’s easy to have friends in college, especially when you live with them; but when they move to stupid New York City for stupid law school or move to stupid Colorado for stupid grad school (yeah, you guys know I’m talking to you!) or just live all the way two towns away, it takes work!  And sometimes I suck at work.  Sometimes we all suck at work.

this is a good picture of friendship, even if it is a terrible picture of me.

When Turtle and I did our fancy little pre-marital worksheet together, one of the things we both said needed “much” development was our friendships.  We have become very insular.  We are both people who very much prefer staying in and reading or watching TV or playing board games to going out to a party on a Friday night.  We are tired on a Friday night!  But this, dear readers, is not conducive to maintaining friendships.

Some people with whom I am very close are going through a really hard time right now, and I, in turn, am struggling a little bit.  Now is the time when I am leaning heavily on the wonderful woman who is going to promise to do all the good stuff and the bad stuff and the hard stuff and the *work* with me for always, and she is doing a fantastic job practicing (well, not practicing, this is the real thing – you know what I mean).  But the thing is, now is also the time when I need my friends.  And my friends have appeared, ready to help, ready to talk; we’re setting up coffee dates and video chats and sending emails.

I think that being a good friend sometimes takes more patience than being a good partner, and sometimes takes more work – and on top of that, I think it can take awhile to realize that friendships are work (but good work!).  Here we are, entering this marriage, knowing that it is work to be a girlfriend, a fiancee, a wife… but the thing is, it’s work to be in any relationship, including friendships.

I’m realizing this cool thing – if you reach out, people reach back; if you tell people you care about them, they’ll let you know they care about you too!  And this is something that is so worth remembering when things aren’t hard, when I’m not struggling – but it is the struggle that emphasizes the importance of all of you.  So thank you to everyone who has checked in, emailed, told me it’s going to all work out, and thank you to everyone who still cares about me even if I suck at answering my phone and listening to voicemails and I return your phone call after you’ve already been on the second date and I missed the first one.  I’m working on it.

So say hi, okay? Okay.

Love,

Bird

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No one wants to talk about it…

…and “it” is money.

I was talking to a good friend of mine a couple of years ago, and she pointed out that there are two major topics that everyone is always in some sort of tizzy about, and they happen to be the two topics that we all have to deal with in some way, at some point: sex and money.  In general, our education around these things is briefly touched upon in school, but mostly left up to our parents, and often parents don’t know how to talk about it, either because it’s awkward or doesn’t come up.  So for both issues, we are left to figure things out ourselves.  Which, if I may say so myself, completely sucks.

You make a lot of mistakes and have to do a lot of experimenting to make things work for yourself and for your partnership.  No one rule works for everyone – and that is really frustrating.  Why can’t someone just give me all of the answers?

Another friend emailed me recently and said that a lot of her couple-friends are keeping their finances separate, even after they marry.  I think these were all straight couples she knew, and she was wondering how that worked for us.  So here you go: a peek into the great money issue of Bird and Turtle.

talking about money makes her want to bite me.

Here is our background: I make very little money.  I qualify for the state-sponsored health care because I am so poor (but I get better health insurance through work, so that’s what I do*).  Turtle was making about twice as much as I was when we first got together, and even after she left that job and was receiving unemployment, her income was quite a bit more than mine.  To even things out, we split our rent unevenly – she pays a little bit more and I pay a little bit less, and we are both saving about the same percentage of money now compared to what we were paying before we moved in together.  For everything else – utilities, groceries, Zipcar – we decided to split things evenly.

And therein lay the problem.  We ran into “I’ll get this one and you can pay me back,” and “Can you get Zipcar for my job? I’ll pay you back” and so on, but we only remembered to settle up every couple of months, and then we were a little freaked out because “You owe me a thousand dollars!” sounds like a really big deal.  Even if it evened out (which it usually did) and one of us only owed the other one ten dollars or something silly like that.  It was a huge stressor in our relationship.

a healthy reaction to a relationship stressor

So I got us a credit card.  An REI credit card, because we like to shop there, it’s a co-op, and we thought we would get some fun rewards from it.  If you already shop there a lot, it’s totally worth it.  And this made things so much easier.  Groceries? I’ll just put it on the card.  Gas?  That goes on the card too!  Out for dinner (back in the day)? REI card!  And once a month we sat down and paid the whole thing off.

Besides that, we have a joint checking account that we don’t really use (since we each just pay off half of the REI card) and a savings account that we’re using for wedding savings.  Other than that, we keep things separate.  I have my cards for certain things, and I have my systems for transferring money into savings (I set up an automatic transfer every month, then move it if I’m desperate for it) and she has hers (not entirely known to me, but that’s okay).

I suspect that once we’re married, things will merge a little bit more, since we’ll be saving for even more things together.  It seems to me that figuring out money is a huge part of having a non-stressful relationship, but also something that we’ll be constantly working on as job situations change (she should be getting a first real paycheck soon, and I will go back to school full time in a couple of years – big adjustments!) and life goals change (pay off the car, buy a house, move across the country, get five more puppies, adopt one well-behaved puppy).

One point in all this that has been a big struggle is something that my therapist finally hit on the head after a year or so of talking about it: for me, money is a way to safety, a means of security; for Turtle, it is a way to comfort, and a means of self-care.  These two approaches often cause us to butt heads – I say things are tight, and to feel better we need to save; she says things are hard, and to feel better we should go out for a nice dinner.  We’re working to find a balance, and now that we have named this, it is easier to understand, but again, I suspect it is something we’ll be working on for awhile.

hard at work, working on our relationship. can't you tell?

I have absolutely no idea how this compares to anyone else.  What have you done in relationships, financially?  How do you balance things and not feel taken advantage of, or like you’re not pulling your own weight?

*and Turtle got her health insurance card in the mail from my employer today! Mission accomplished!
**i’m pretty sure that as soon as Turtle sees this post, these pictures will have to disappear – so enjoy them while you can!

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