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Budget Bride VIII: Let the Good Times All Roll Out

My favorite kind of wedding is a joyful wedding. Who cares how pretty the pictures are if the day wasn't any fun? Perfectionism is a big old party pooper. Don't invite it. Instead, minimize fuss and maximize fun. Design your day so that the tasks requiring order and focus (such as formal portraits) come first and aren't too complicated, and build lots of flex time into the schedule so that the unexpected can be handled gracefully and everyone has time to actually enjoy being there, in each other's company. Put some laughs and silly surprises into the reception to signal to your guests when it's time to loosen belts and ties, kick off high heels, and hike up those bustles. You want to create a mood transition between the reverent ceremony and the raging celebration. My wedding day began with elegant, well-rehearsed precision accompanied by live cello and ended with unexpected combinations of people making out in an elevator to gay dance music. That's #goals! If y

The Book List of Champions

I don't always read nonfiction by male authors. But when I do... I read self-help comedy by true champions. After a decade in which I enjoyed reading stacks of great fiction by mostly women and also gulped down a sickening load of nonfiction texts by authors of assorted genders for social justice education and historical research purposes, I made a fresh literary start in the 2020s with three comedic "self-help" books that are hilarious, yet legitimately inspiring. I've always said that a spoonful of humor helps the knowledge darts go down (or something to that effect), and these three quarantine reads helped me to sort out a lot of thoughts and feelings. They also caused me and my husband to choke a few times when we tried to read passages out loud to each other. I haven't had this much fun with words since Amy Sedaris taught me how to keep house. For whatever reason, the books that resonated most with me over the past year have all been written by men. I have gr

Budget Bride II: Dress for a Mess

Something marked down, something askew, something old, something like-new--anything but a pretentious designer outfit you'll only wear once, with a four-figure price tag! Since my own wedding at age 24, I've attended many weddings of friends and family and seen many different styles of wedding dress--formal, casual, homemade, upcycled, discounted, and haute couture. At all of those different weddings, I have only ever heard family and friends of the bride throw shade on one gown--a very expensive, custom-made, imported piece of couture with a whole fussy and dramatic backstory. There was nothing objectionable about the dress per se, but the rumors of how much money, time, and effort it required sort of elicited snark and disgust among the practical Midwestern guests. Ouch!  I don't recommend that anyone choose their wedding attire primarily to avoid criticism or to people-please the whole guest list. Your big-day drag should celebrate you and your partner, and it should ref

Living the House Cat Life

Please allow me to introduce my household familiar, Gretchen MurderMittens Miernik. She is a wonderful member of our family and generally easygoing, but she does make this face if you accidentally walk in on her human bed nap and turn on the light. Well, who wouldn't? At this point in the pandemic / insurrection / zombie apocalypse happening outside in the world, I seek to follow Gretchen's lead in gently setting boundaries around healthy amounts of rest--and playtime, and sharp sense, and ferocity. As coronavirus vaccinations roll out slowly, I am also rolling out my spine and sinews, all catlike, and feeling a new balance of relaxation and strength, well-rested chill and pilot-lit alertness. I am feeling more certain that the end of the pandemic is nigh, so I have let go of some anxiety over how long this will all drag out. And at the same time, I am comfortably certain that our civilization won't roar back to pre-Covid activity levels for another few months at least, so

Budget Bride I: Put Your Friends and Family to Work

Welcome to the Budget Bride series, in which I share wisdom from my "recessionista" wedding in 2007 on how to treat a small budget as a creative opportunity rather than an obstacle to the beginning of a shared lifetime of gorgeous memories. Over ten Thursdays, I am sharing updated tips on how to use the friction of financial restriction to spark the kind of light, warmth, joy, and graciousness in a wedding that money can't buy anyway. My husband and I have enjoyed almost 15 years of happy marriage (not without ups and downs but with the tools to handle challenges while remaining best buds with benefits), and we'll always have our wonderful memories of our wedding day to look back on--not just in shiny, retouched photographs but in the visceral reliving of the actual experience. Whether you've struck it rich in the stock market or you're just grateful to have survived the past year, there is timeless wisdom in starting a marriage by setting an intentional rhyt

TBT: How It Started vs. How It's Going... 2010s Resolutions

In hindsight, the year 2020 feels like a weird false start to me. The year that marks the beginning of a new decade isn't supposed to be so... end-timey. I've settled down into that long wait for this decade to truly begin, I hope after the pandemic fades out over the course of 2021. Forget about dramatic resolutions, I just want to make tentative plans again! One of the gifts of 2020 has been a gigantic time-out, a chance to reset priorities, and a lot of time to reflect upon the way things used to be in the Before Times and how much of that we'd like to leave in the Before Times. I like the idea of picking out only the best lessons and traveling light into a very new New Year--bringing forward more wisdom and skill, less stuff and baggage. Today's post is a look back at my weighty 2010 New Year's Resolutions (below, in text that is not italicized) with notes on how those went and how those lessons learned have affected my visions for the 2020s (in italics).   It&#

TBT: Absurdist Theme Parties

2020 has been a disruptive year that has forced us to think of new and creative ways to have fun and celebrate holidays and milestones with others. I am stoked about the distribution of coronavirus vaccines that will, I hope, set us free to mingle in real shared spaces again, but I've also enjoyed witnessing the shakeup of assumptions about how we have to share traditions and joys and sorrows with our friends and loved ones. I hope we don't ever forget how we were able to adapt to adversity and even turn our "prisons" into "playgrounds." During the last national crisis, the Great Recession, my friends and I came up with lots of creative and whimsical ways to recreate simply because we couldn't afford private jets and bottle service. Or even going out to eat every weekend. One way we had big fun on a smol budget was to throw absurdist theme parties. You don't have to be fancy if you can be funny. The aughts contained a lot of silly variations on 1980

TBT: Queering Poverty, Part II

Continued from " Queering Poverty, Part I ," written in the 2000s when I was in my 20s and most of my income went to paying interest on student loans and I lived in a gross, dangerous slum and also had some really good times that are fun to look back on. Having a bit of fun within a generally frugal life isn't just mental health survival self-care, it's also an investment in future joy. Happy memories can serve as a delightful escape to get through tough or boring times like, say, a dumpster fire of a pandemic. And now, in December 2020, we finally have access not just to our past memories of partying but to some tentative future plans! As we await the imminent distribution of coronavirus vaccines, we can finally dare to dream about the rockin' good times we'll have out in public sometime within the next year! Soon, we can stop dressing up "just for ourselves" or just to take a photo at home to post on the internet--which was always an enjoyable prel