16 08 2010

Six weeks from today I’ll be a married woman. Again. For the most part my path to the altar with Kelly hasn’t been all that much different than any other bride and groom…or bride and bride…or groom and groom. We’ve debated the merits of marinated asparagus spears versus warm spinach puffs, we’ve alternated between hard and fast “That’s. It. No. More. People.” discussions about the guest list and spontaneously inviting people we just met at a party. We’ve ordered and returned at least two or three wedding ensembles between us and grappled with the realization that, as lesbians, we somehow missed the straight girl shoe-shopping gene and have no idea what to wear on our feet on the big day. We made a half-hearted attempt to register at Crate and Barrel but abandoned it when we conceded that two middle-aged women who already live together really don’t need a new set of salad bowls. We’ve curiously fielded some petulance at not being invited and a few out right requests (and an occasional demand) to be invited, and threats of “oh I’ll just crash.” We realized it’s flattering so many people want to be there with us but I admit to feeling more than a little befuddled at the forwardness. (After all my mother quoted Emily Post like the Bible – it would no more occur to me to demand to attend someone’s nuptials than it would to ride my bike naked through the town. I’ll give you a minute to get THAT image out of your head…) And through it all, like most couples on the threshold of matrimony we’ve had moments of looking at each other and thinking “Are we SURE about this?”

Of course we’re sure. I’m sure as can be that Kelly is my lobster, my mate for life. I can’t imagine a life without her humor, her ability to finish my sentences, her reassuring presence at night, her penchant for spending eons in the produce section, the way she always lets me have the big chipped Tiki Lounge coffee mug that used to be hers, and her random “how’s my lady?” text messages. (I could however, do without her continuing insistence that taking photos of me from behind is a good idea). I’ve even made the big name decision and am eager to start referring to myself as Katie Collins. (The minute a co-worker told me it sounded like a talk show host I was sold). I’m sure about the marriage part. It’s the wedding part I’m starting to get scared about. What if I look like Moby Dick in my white suit? What if I spill Shiraz on my white suit? What if all the things we’ve planned that we think are funny…aren’t? What if we’re not taking this seriously enough? What if we’re too flippant? What if my penchant for making fun of myself makes others think it’s open season to do the same? (Hey it’s the fat girls first line of defense, mock yourself before others have the chance to. But sometimes it backfires).

You see, this weekend we attended the wedding of two of our best friends in the world. It was a picture perfect day full of color and flowers, the brides looked drop dead gorgeous and the ceremony was thoughtful and earnest (and hopefully not ruined by the insecure fat girl in the corner who couldn’t stop giggling). It seemed full of meaning. It seemed important. Ours? Is kind of shaping up like a Saturday Night Live skit. Oh sure eventually vows will be exchanged and I’ll finally get to wear my amazing new wedding ring, but for the most part? It’s one big joke-fest. Now it’s true we are those kinds of people. For us humor at our wedding is as important as making sure everyone has plenty to eat and drink. But it’s more than that. Humor for both of us is a defense mechanism when we’re feeling uncomfortable or as a means to deflect attention away from actual deep feelings. And no day is inspiring deeper feelings that my approaching wedding day. I’m to-the-bone afraid of how I’m going to look on my wedding day. I’m not pretty, never have been. I hate myself in photos and am slightly nauseous at the prospect of so many of them. I’m easily 60 pounds overweight with a strangely put together set of features. So I’m hoping if I cover up that particular terror of being on display with a few good one liners no one will notice that I had to have my outfit made because I’m basically too big for retail. (Kelly and Liza of course will be gorgeous, THAT goes without saying!). I know this seems at odds with my work as an actress but that’s different. It’s not me up there then it’s the character. This time it’s allllllll me baby…and that terrifies me.

So I grapple with my doubts and lie awake wondering what I’ve gotten myself into when we just as easily could have waltzed down to city hall, gotten hitched and taken Liza to TGIFriday’s to celebrate. (Hey c’mon, their deep fried green beans are pretty awesome). Why did we think this was necessary? Think of what I could have spared myself — all the angst over the outfit search, the worry over having enough money to pay for a great party, the gnawing cold hole in my heart where my mom and my sister should be during all this planning (oh please my dad would be on the deck with a manhattan). I haven’t been to a wedding in years, now suddenly this summer I’ve been to one with another looming in a few weeks, each one making me wonder if I’m somehow doing this the wrong way, if I really have it in me to pull off a wedding. If that hard edge I have so carefully cultivated can withstand that much well-wishing.

But then in the midst of an ordinary Sunday night dinner of Shake ‘n Bake and asparagus, with the iPod on in the background, Kelly calmly comments that she put the song “Hot Stuff” on her iPod wedding mix and that she’s thought of several new additions to our program, each one more hilarious than the next, and she’s already worked on her vows and wants to go first so she can ‘take all the good jokes”. And I realize that if she’s all in then I’m all in. Jitters or no jitters, fat girl complex or no fat girl complex, insecurities or no insecurities, meaningful ceremony schmeaningful ceremony, this is the right step. I want to marry this woman just the way we planned, with a lot of laughter and in front of a large crowd of our favorite people. Because nothing in this world makes me happier than watching my Kelly make people laugh. And I never ever want to miss a laugh. Here’s to marriage and here’s to laughter and here’s to the lady who has brought both of those things into my life. Cheers.


There’s Always Time for TV

23 06 2010

Last week a friend of Liza’s, a delightful and studious young woman, was over for a visit. As we hung out around the dining room table the talk turned to the most recent season of American Idol. Much to Liza’s shock, our young guest confessed she had never seen the show, announcing she “didn’t have time for TV.” “Oh my dear,” I responded, “the rule in our house is that there’s always room for ice cream and there’s always time for TV.” My proclamation was greeted with smiles from Kelly and Liza and nervous laughter from Liza’s friend, as if she didn’t quite know what to do with the knowledge that we were an unabashedly TV-loving family. Later we chuckled over her reaction, but it got me thinking about my lifelong love affair with TV and how at times it’s an addiction I hide like my love of Little Debbie Donut Sticks.

When I was a kid, growing up on an island, with much older siblings, I was on my own quite a bit. Fat, awkward, and constantly confused by the fast friendships of kids my own age I discovered a new set of friends on the sitcoms, game shows, and buddy cop dramas of the 70s and early 80s. They were always there for me when I’d come home from a day of being called Elephant on the playground. I’d fix a snack (of course) and settle in for an afternoon of Hollywood Squares and Match Game (looking back on my young fascination with Paul Lynde and Charles Nelson Reilly is it any wonder I grew up to surround myself with gay men?). If I was lucky there would be a Star Trek repeat on, and then following dinner I could settle down with the CBS comedy line up of Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda, the ABC Saturday night one-two punch of Love Boat and Fantasy Island. I read TV Guide’s like they were novels. I could explain in detail who had replaced whom in the squad room of Barney Miller or the kitchen of Mel’s Diner. I stayed up late crying the night Carol Burnett went off the air, and lived for the Emmy’s or better yet the fabulousness that was the Battle of the Network Stars. To the fat lonely girl on the island waiting for her brother and sister to come home from college, these characters became my friends. I knew them better than I knew the girls who sat around me in grade school or junior high, with their alligator shirts tucked into their khakis. I felt sure that while these girls would never understand me, it was ok because at home my real friends waited: Julie and Barbara, the teen daughters on One Day at a Time, or Kelly, Jill, and Sabrina, those angels of Charlie. I knew that Starsky and Hutch, or Kirk, Spock and Bones could rescue me from anything, but most of all from the crushing weight of my loneliness as all around me my friends developed social lives and worldly ways that left me baffled. I wanted a best friend who would run through a burning building for me like Johnny would do for Roy or a best friend that would make me lose my composure the way Conway did to Korman. I wanted someone love me the way Luke loved Laura, or heck, even the way Mike Brady loved Carol (talk about acting!).

My clandestine love affair with TV continued in the safe confines of my family until I went to college. While I was happy to escape my tiny town, I was still that shy fat girl nervous about making friends – so I took the best ones I had with me. Armed with my tiny 13 inch black and white TV, I entered my dorm room where I was alarmed to find my roommate (who would actually become one of my best friends and stay so ‘til this day) was an athletic type, majoring in science and clearly not one to have time for television. I continued to nurse my addiction in secret, sneaking in shows when she was out of the room or at the library studying. Time and a bit of maturity intervened though and as I spent more time in rehearsals I spent less time with my TV friends. And it was finally in college that I met Joe. Joe was that best friend I’d been waiting for, that person who cracked me up with a look or a word, but who more delightfully could also work references to Shirley Hemphill, (the sassy waitress on “What’s Happening?”), name all the kids on Eight is Enough, and most of all would so wonderfully play Charles Nelson Reilly to my Brett Summers. (And while I’m fairly sure either of us would run into a burning building for the other I hope we never have to find out). With Joe, it wasn’t weird that I knew that former Broadway hoofer Betty Garret played Laverne and Shirley’s landlady or that the youngest girls on Little House on the Prairie were played by the Greenbush twins. In fact, my secret love affair with TV, which once marked me as a major high school loser, became something I could celebrate with Joe. Nearly twenty-five years later, we can still make each other laugh at inappropriate moments just by invoking Bea Arthur or quoting our favorite Carol Burnett movie spoof (which we feel strongly was “Mildred Fierce”, even more so than “Went with the Wind”). I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t found Joe and I can’t even imagine how grim life would be without him.

In my youth once a show had aired it was over – until the summer repeats, and the excitement of syndication. But in my early post-divorce days, feeling lonely and scared I discovered a wonderful new development. My 70s shows were out on DVD and they were all there for the taking on Netflix! I’d get Liza settled to bed and hang out with a few Wild Wild West episodes or Starsky and Hutch, (who really always were my go-to guys). They connected me to a time when my problems could be solved with a good cry in my mother’s lap or a walk with my dad and their familiar opening credits were like visual comfort food. Now, comfortably ensconced in my mid-forties and on the cusp of a new life married to Kelly, I still love my TV. And while Kelly will occasionally greet one of my TV references with her patented “nope I didn’t see that I had a LIFE in high school,” I know she understands. We’ve worked our way through seasons of Mad Men and Big Love and House, and don’t even get me started on all the incarnations of the Real Housewives My love affair with television is perhaps one reason why I, unlike many moms my age, don’t fret about Liza watching TV. We’ve cuddled together for nine seasons of American Idol, shared popcorn during our Sunday night Amazing Race nights and recreated the best musical numbers from that week’s episode of Glee I used to turn to TV to find friends or a little comfort, but those early days in front of our Panasonic did something else for me – it helped me take life less seriously, made me a force to be reckoned with at pub trivia nights, honed my comic timing and gave me a lifetime of zingers. So fire up the set my friends and enjoy. There’s always time for TV.

Well, Since You Asked….

18 03 2010

No, actually, I haven’t any idea what I’m going to write about next. Oh I have snippets of ideas that come to me in the shower or in the car and I think “yes! That’s it.” But then the day goes on and I get caught up in work or driving Liza to rehearsal or, let’s be honest, hanging out with Kelly on our groovy new sectional sofa watching reality television. Then before I drift off to sleep I think, “oh shoot. I meant to write today.” But by then the idea is gone as fleetingly as it arrived and I’m left to realize that I’ve hit a dry spell.

This is where you should feel free to ask me if I’ve run out of dead family members to write about. True, my pieces about my sister and my parents are among some of my favorites. And while it is tempting to regale you with stories of my Uncle Frank, the Colonel, who parachuted behind enemy lines on D-Day, or my Uncle Billy who worked for Shasta soda, which seemed like the coolest job ever to my10-year old self, or my Aunt Rose, who smoked endless cigarettes and wore glamorous blonde wigs, there’s only so much publicly-sanctioned mourning one can endure so I think I’ll let my dead relatives be for the moment and move on.

But move on to what? What’s on your mind Katie? Well since you asked, my wedding for one. Oh sure we have the caterer booked, the tent, tables and chairs reserved, and even our wedding rings bought but the question that occupies my mind the most these days is this. “What does a 44 year old, gray-haired, 60-pounds overweight lesbian ‘wear to her wedding?” For it never fails that immediately following “congratulations,” Kelly and I hear ‘what are you wearing?” And you know, I’m not someone who gets easily flustered but that question can send me straight to stutter-ville. “Uh…uh… “ I stammer, ‘I have kind of an idea of silvery gray.” “Silvery gray what?“ is really the question. Oh I’ve seen photos of things I’ve loved – wide legged suits with snazzy full backed vests, or long, flowy, empire-waisted dresses with beaded spaghetti straps, but putting those outfits on this body is where the problems start. You see I have a classic fat girl problem when it comes to clothes, I think I’m skinnier than I am. When confronted with the reality of what I look like in an elegant gown I’m slightly confused. ‘Who is that old lady?” I think “and why does she look so ridiculous?” I’m not a very “girly girl” as my daughter would say. I like nice jewelry but rarely wear make-up and my short gray hair is hardly conducive to dramatic tossing or classic up-dos. Of course the one day Kelly and I ventured out to a bridal store we were given a dressing room smack in the middle of two different bridal parties of 20 something women who collectively probably weighed less than I do. Oh sure, our sales associate was sweet as can be and extremely excited about our upcoming nuptials, and the girls outside my dressing room parted helpfully every time I took a hesitant step out to look in the mirror but I have a feeling they were thinking “aww…someone’s mom is here!” I found a photo of a suit that seems right up my alley, but it’s from a British clothing catalog that stops at size 16. That’s right peeps…sixteen is just a size I dream of seeing again someday. I know myself and there is no way I’m getting this body into that suit by October. So, right now I’m deep in classic denial about the fact that eventually I’ll have to come up with something to wear unless I want to get married in my usual weekend outfit of jeans and a 3 button Henley from the Gap (size XXL). I’ll keep you posted on the great wedding outfit search of 2010.

And since you asked, no actually I haven’t lost weight. Although GOODNESS KNOWS I’VE BEEN TRYING! OK, both those statements are only partially true. I’ve lost a few pounds since I started seeing a nutritionist in December and I have changed a lot about the way I eat. No more bagels, no more pizza, pasta only every other week when Liza is in residence, lots and lots of protein and vegetables. And as usual when I make any attempt at changing my habits I discover my one true essential truth: I’m really, really good at being a fat person. When presented with communal munchkins at work or the prospect of an appetizer with my wine when out to dinner with friends I abandon those healthy eating resolves quicker than NBC abandoned Conan O’Brian. And you know, it’s not as if I’m not presented with daily evidence that changing my habits will result in a better body. I count among my best friends two women who have severely had to restrict their eating due to allergies and both of them now sport the bodies of teenage girls. Ok. Ok. I GET it. I’m just not sure I’m willing to DO it. Recently one very, very, thin acquaintance told me I got “too much blind support” for being as heavy as I am that allowed me to think my size was ok, and really it wasn’t rocket science I just had to cut calories and work out more. (DUH). And yes I realize the irritating contradiction about bemoaning my size when it comes to searching for a wedding dress and celebrating the joy of a really, really good cookie dough ice cream cone. And yes I’m human. I’m jealous as hell of women who have the ability to cut out bad things and be all outdoorsy and post on Facebook about their “awesome workouts” or their refreshing hikes. Sometimes I’m so jealous of them I could spit. (This is where you have my permission to say ‘ok Katie, we get it. Move on.”). Well, all I know is that I’m torn between just settling down at the age of 44 and loving myself already and constantly being reminded every day that I am just too large, too tall, too gray, too wrong. Yeah I haven’t figured out the answer either. I’ll get back to you when I do.

And since you asked, all this talk of my weight has put me in a somewhat fragile “place.” Oh please, I’m kidding. For one I’ve never been remotely described as fragile and two, I loathe the use of the words “space” and “place” to describe feelings. If I hear one more person say something like “wow…Tuesdays put me in a really, really bad space,” (which is usually accompanied by some sort of rueful head shake as if to indicate some deep dark pit of despair that only Tuesdays can trigger), I just might loose it. All this spacing and placing is just a way to avoid using actual descriptions of actual emotions. How about trying this on for size? Can we all get behind using words like “angry” or “sad” or “excited” or “frustrated.” I know I’m on the verge of sounding like Dana Carvey’s “Cranky Old Man” character but seriously…enough already. No more space. No more place. Deal?

And since you asked, yeah, do realize I come off as a cranky pants about 99% of the time. My pals on the Mothertalkers site call me the cranky Yankee, one of my best friends has had to explain to her friends that ‘really, I swear, she’s a nice person, she just writes cranky.” My young teenage pals humor me when I ask them things like “who is this annoying girl named Ke$ha, why does she have a dollar sign in her name, why is she on my TV and how can I make her go away?” Yes I realize that at some point I have to be more conscious of this lest I end up like Andy Rooney alone in my office with stacks of books ranting red faced about things like automatic paper towel dispensers or the fact that the world ‘small’ has lost all meaning at movie theater concession stands. Fortunately for me (and possibly unfortunately for you) I am surrounded by several dear friends who make my cranky ravings look like the mellow sounds of Doris Day singing to her puppies and who love me for the snarkmeister I am. But I’ll work on it and let you know how it goes.

And since you asked. I’m ending this piece with no more of an idea what to write about next than I started with. I often wish I were like my friend T. (whose most excellent blog “Uncharted Parent” is linked on the right hand side of this site) who writes gorgeous pieces on really relevant topics. When I try it I feel like a poseur. But, As Kelly has pointed out I do have an opinion on pretty much everything. So I’m open to suggestions. What would you like me to write about? Good Lord that sounded incredibly self-important didn’t it? Trust me, I don’t for one second believe that anything I have to say about anything is remotely important. But yeah, I do like the sound of the keys clack clacking on my Macbook so go ahead and, as Linda Richman would say, “give me a topic.” And no, wiseguy you can not use something like “The Holy Roman Empire was neither holy nor Roman nor an empire.” So throw something my way, and I’ll get back to you. And by the way, thanks for asking.

At the Center of our own Universes- Snarkwoman’s Adventures in Social Media

24 09 2009

A former trustee at an organization I worked at years ago once described me as having “a dagger of sarcasm a mile long.” Of course being a cranky Yankee I took that as a compliment. I often tell people that I don’t waste good sarcasm or really good zingers on people I don’t like — I save them for those I’m closest to. A former colleague and I shared native Maine roots and insulted each other on a daily basis with great glee. I remember chortling with laughter when he’d throw pocket change on my floor and say “here. add that to your annual fund goal” My boss at the time asked one day why we didn’t like each other? I looked at him baffled…”he’s my favorite office mate I said. I adore him.” “But you’re so MEAN to him,” he replied puzzled at my behavior. He eventually ‘got it” and we now laugh over his confusion.

But that was fifteen years ago. Before the internet exploded and changed our lives. Before message boards and chat rooms and instant messaging and of course “social media.” For me, a writer, the ability to snark on line has been a godsend. I’ve found other kindred spirits — a group of us even found common ground in the fact we’d all been banned from a “ahem” family parenting board -a DEBATE board no less — for ‘excessive sarcasm.’ Apparently it’s considered bad form to tell another poster that she was standing on the dock and the ship with the point on it went sailing past her.” The phrase “cry me a river” is also considered ‘offensive’ to the “mommy centered” powers that be at Ivillage. Who knew?

Then along came Facebook. For me, a compulsive “keeper in toucher” I love that I get daily glimpses into the lives of my nearest and dearest. I love that I’ve come to know casual acquaintances in a deeper more interesting way. I love that old friends have resurfaced and once again a significant part of my life. And of course I love that it gives me more opportunity to snark. After all I live my life by two major mottos: “It’s not a good day until you’ve made someone laugh out loud” and “A Day Without Sarcasm is Like a Day without Sunshine.” I love to banter. I love verbal sparring and have enjoyed some truly hysterical back and forth postings with friends new and old. I was used to my supportive communities at Mothertalkers and Banshees who understood my style — and who could give as well as they could take, much to my glee. I also knew that my sarcastic ways don’t define me…my friends in real life and in cyber space know that when support is needed I”m there. When kudos are called for I happily give them. And that my snark is only one part of who I am.

But on Facebook no one posts in a vacuum. A sarcastic rejoinder to friend isn’t just read by him or her it is read by all their friends — people who only know me as a face under someones status update – not as a living breathing complex human being. And until recently when I was told gently by one friend that her friends were concerned that I was some sort of Facebook bully for all my sarcastic posts — I didn’t realize the implications. I’ve tried to tone it down but for me toning down my sarcasm is a kin to giving up cookie dough ice cream. Realistically it will last for a day or two tops then I’m back in the freezer for a heaping dish of it.

I admit I was puzzled why my real life snark was greeted this way on the pages of Facebook. And then one day it hit me. On Facebook and other “social media” sites we are truly at the center of our own universes. We can tell everyone what we’re doing, thinking, eating, saying, reading, and watching. We can reach out for support in hard times and reach out to share the good times. But existing at the center of this world we also collide with OTHER people’s universes and the sometimes startling reality that it’s not all about us . If someone posts about a killer workout how many among us don’t think…”wow. they must think I’m a real slug”? If someone exults over career success how many of us think “wow, I must look like a slacker to them?” When in fact they probably don’t think anything of the kind, they’re in their OWN universal center not ours. But at the center of our own universes it’s hard to remember that. Once after a long night of wrangling with my checkbook I posted about feeling poor and was promptly admonished by several ‘not to complain’ because I still had a job. once after a frustrating real life exchange with a professional colleague I posted about my irritation and received a flurry of responses from people thinking I either meant a) them or b)someone I worked with when i fact it was neither A or B. Oh and lest you think I’m beyond placing myself at the center of my own universe I’m guilty of it too. I’ve had to work hard not to respond to every ‘fitness’ update with a snarky comment bout my obesity. I’ve had to face up to the fact that my responses were not always appropriate. Their posts about them should get to be about them and their fitness triumphs. Not me and my big fat ass. This is where my sarcastic nature is challenged I admit it. My sarcasm is and always has been my first line of defense when challenged or when insecurity strikes. But I’m trying to use it only for good… (I’ve always thought there was a superhero in me trying to get out, maybe I’ll name her SnarkWoman)… and to remember that my universe doesn’t always have me at the center of it….and neither does yours.

See you round the status updates…