Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Why get married?

I didn't really have a good reason to want to get married. Paul and I were already committed (mixing 401Ks and mortgages is a *lot* more serious than a silly marriage certificate, legally speaking) and we were already living together. Most of my family had already decided that we were really married deep down inside. So why do it? For my part, I have been inspired by the wonderful marriages of my parents and grandparents, and once I had Paul and knew he was for me, I wanted to get *married" and I wanted to grow that into something as beautiful as what my grandmother and grandfather had.

As we planned our wedding, I was also secretly sure nothing would change, and partially wondered why throw a big party to say “we're married now!” when really you were married all along in your souls. I was ready for the anti-climax.

But I was wrong.

There is something different about being married. And I don't know what it is. Some undefinable change happens, and you make it happen, but it is also outside of you. We threw a wedding and tried to include as many people as we could, with the belief that the community's support was a necessary part of taking just being in love to being married, to a public commitment, and a commitment from the public, to support and grow this new family unit. There is something invested by the community, into the couple, that is bigger than what we could make for ourselves.

And every day I look at Paul a little differently, though nothing has objectively changed. But, somehow, it has changed.

And with heavy heart I worry now that this right will be taken away from millions of people in my community. Tomorrow the people of California will vote on whether to take away marriage from people who love people of the same gender.

During the wedding planning, I read of several couples who decided not to get married legally because they could not go along with an institution unfairly denied to gays and lesbians. I was happy that I didn't have to make that decision, and proud to get married in a state where all of my friends and fellow Californians could marry as they chose. How civilized! How loving!

And that day? I was never one to fantasize about dream weddings, and fuss about the perfect details of My Perfect Wedding Day, but you know what? It was perfect. Because I was surrounded by my community, and they were there in love to witness and support our marriage.

And I want that right for all of my friends. The deserve it. They need it. Their children need it.

I've heard the arguments:
  • that Prop 8 is bad for children won't someone think of the children!??!?! (but what about the fact the gay teenagers have such high suicide rates? Perhaps if they weren't ostracized, they'd have an easier time of it? Oh, and since other countries have already moved forward, we already have studies, showing the kids are alright.)
  • That marriage is a religious ideal from that person's church. Well, fine, that person's church can do what it wants, but as long as the state is involved, it must be an equally available institution. I could just as easily make up a religion and start saying marriage was only for gay people. So what about my religious beliefs? The best answer would be for the state to only honor and create civil unions, and have nothing to do with "marriages," which are apparently owned by whatever religious institution the person you are talking to belongs.
  • That this will destroy marriage is my favorite. With a divorce rate of 50%, I think straight people have done a fine enough job of destroying marriage. And for my part, for my marriage, I will be honored to have taken part in an institution that is shared by all the people in my community, many of whom are gay and lesbian. Applying a “separate but equal” institution would honestly make me a little less proud of the “married” thing. Marriage should be a tool of community building, not separating, and entered with love and compassion, not fear and paranoia. (and? I've looked into it. Civil unions do NOT give the same rights and protections as marriages do. Yes, allowing people to ride the bus is great, but making them sit in the back is not equal, and should not be tolerated.)

There are two pieces of video that I hope everyone will take a moment to watch. The first is a commercial supporting Prop 8, except the words have been changed slightly, so you can see what this is really about. Please let this sink in:

The second piece is a heartfelt speech given by the mayor of San Diego in September of 2007. The mayor was set to veto a resolution in support of gay marriage, and had vowed he would do so. Instead, he gave this press conference:

His speech was heartfelt and thoughtful, and gave me hope that even those who have been mistaken on this issue in the past, even the vociferous haters of equal rights for gays, can grow and change and see a better way. Is there anyone in your life you can reach, to help them see things in a better way?

And please, if you do nothing else, vote against Proposition 8.

Monday, October 27, 2008

October 1-2, 2008

Caltrain->BART->SFO->JFK->MXP->Milan train station->Venice

What would get you out of bed at 3am? For me, Wednesday, the alarm at 3, out of the shower, dressed, packed, and out the door at 4am, and the sky was beautiful and the stars were *really* clear. And we thought "wouldn't it be funny to stomp around on our neighbors' roofs and stand in front of their windows laughing loudly to the same jokes over and over?" (which is what they do at all hours when we are trying to sleep) Then we saw that the neighbors were in fact, still awake and watching TV next door with the door wide open. Damn.

Then Caltrain -> SFO -> BART -> SFO -> JFK. All pretty uneventful. I like, when I fly overseas, to take Tylenol PM or something like it and sleep through the entire flight. But always wait until the flight actually takes off, because you never know how long they might keep you on the tarmac after leaving the gate. In this case it was about 1 1/2 hours, first because there were too many planes in line, then because while we waited the weather turned bad and we had to wait for it to pass, and then? Then because during that weather, one of the computers they use to direct traffic wen out, so they were sharing a single runway for all departures and arrivals (arrivals have priority) What. Ever. Once in the air, I slept like a log. Or a corpse, as Paul described it.

Either way, I woke up somewhere over, like, France. We then passed over the Alps, which were stunning, and descended over the red rooftops of Italy.
The view of the Alps from the airplane

Arrival was easy enough, and since Paul had the good sense to figure out in advance that we needed to be at a different train station, we took a bus to Milan's central station which is over an hour away. There we encountered our first food disaster in the form of a prepackaged sandwich, disgusting beyond our wildest dreams.

Worst. Sandwich. Ever.

The train ride to Venice was terrible, being seated in a compartment with a stinky man and a woman who alternated between sitting and flipping through her cellphone's library of christian rock and pop at full volume, and getting up and climbing over everyone to get in and out every five minutes. And it took for-ever. Finally we arrived at Santa Lucia Station in Venice and jetted out to get lost without a real map of Venice. We finally did stumble on our place but no one was there, so we ended up at an outdoor cafe for an Italian classic: really atrocious pizza and cheap wine. I wasn't at all surprised by this, having already established that Italians do not know anything about good pizza. (I'm a Chicago-style girl myself) The best thing about this cafe was the number and aggressiveness of the pigeons, who are accustomed in Venice to joining you at your table if you let them. As one family was in the process of leaving, they were swarmed such that the mother had to grab one last slice of pizza from the only non-pigeonated pizza as she made her hasty retreat. The pigeons then swarmed the table, knocking off a napkin holder and sending glass to the ground to shatter. Waitstaff appeared unfazed. In addition to the aggressive pigeons, there were also some very cute house finches and especially scream-y gulls. Also, lots of dogs some on leashes, many just wandering the streets (watch where you step) And so far, two not-very-friendly window cats.

After we checked into our hotel, we spent the evening wandering around and exploring the city.

Me in the neighborhood near our hotel.

Paul by the Grand Canal.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Wedding guests

(one of a series of ruminations about the wedding process and our wedding)

I was not one of these girls who imagined her dream wedding. I never had a pre-planned, just drop in Mr. Guy here. Planning a wedding would come later, when there was a person I was actually planning to marry. Which happened in February.

A lot of what happened in between was poorly planned. From a project plan point, we might have slowed down and outlined our triple constraint, prioritized various goals, identified our stakeholders, and generally dragged it out for a great many billable hours. But I had no intention of letting this thing draw out. I've always been irritated by the people who get engaged forEVER and either plan a wedding a few years out or just get engaged with no wedding in the works. OK, we are not getting any younger, I don't have time for that. Also, engaged means planning to marry, so if you don't want to get married, DON'T GET ENGAGED. We came up with a number of months that seemed reasonable, given our vast knowledge of wedding planning, set the date, and moved full steam ahead! In retrospect, I think six months is perfect. Less is not enough unless you are having a very small wedding. More would have driven me insane, because no matter how good you are about keeping balance in our life, you will get sucked in to the planning and lose your real life, and get tired of wishing it would just get over with already. The longest I could have put up with this would be a year, and that would have been a stretch.

The next logical step would be to come up with some sort of vision for what you want. A small, intimate gathering by candlelight? A huge 500 person extravaganza? Who knows? We didn't really do this. We sort of nibbled away at this as we went along, without a defining vision. Here's what we knew:
  • We wanted to invite everyone who was important to us
  • We didn't want to blow a ton of cash
  • We wanted to eat food
  • We wanted to enjoy it
  • We wanted it to be friendly and homey and familyish, not orchestrated and perfect.

Points one and two are pushing against each other. Any wedding planning resource will tell you that the best way to cut costs is to cut guests. We didn't want to do that. We didn't want to regret that so-and-so wasn't there because we decided to have the ice sculpture and monogrammed napkins. So we let our parents have nearly free reign with the guest list, and we invited all the family and friends we could.

There is still a point where you have to draw a line about what friends to invite and which to leave out. We had to weigh this wish to include everyone against the wish to have a small enough crowd that we could actually spend quality time with people. That was tough sometimes. People you kind of wish you could invite but decide you can't are a constant source of guilt in the wedding planning process. Deal with it. (and anyone who doesn't have an invitation who asks when the wedding is and what they should wear? So totally not OK)

The last thing I want to say about the guests is the most important.
One thing I know a lot of couples planning wedding do (wrong) is decide not to allow kids at their weddings. This option hadn't really occurred to me at all until I started reading forums of women complaining about the headaches they were going through to make this happen. It is my strong recommendation that no one do this, unless you are having a very very small wedding and just want to keep it more intimate. Disallowing kids complicates things and makes people mad, which increases your stress level. You have to start dealing with technicalities. What age to you cut off at? Are certain close family members excluded? So and so can't come unless they bring their kid... Every one of these conversations will make people stressed and angry, and you do not need that when you are trying to plan a happy celebration.

More importantly, to us, was this simple fact: marriage is about family. Family frequently involves kids. Marriage is not about a beautiful wedding with no distractions or messes or noise. Family is noisy and messy, and our wedding would be too.

As it turned out, having the kids around was fantastic, and one of the things I heard the most was how much fun everyone had with the kids running around. During the ceremony, Emiko was escaping repeatedly from her mom, running through my field of vision behind Paul. Watching her kept me very happy while I tried not to think about how annoying it was that the microphone stopped working. During the wine and beer hour in the courtyard, several little girls in Paul's extended family attacked me with lots of sweet questions and affections while other kids found a watering can and started watering all the plants they could find. And during the reception, since the space was fenced in and fairly flat and clean, the kids got free reign with space and toys to go nuts. Best moment? One little girl tore her dress off and streaked around with her mom chasing her frantically, and Quinn apparently got a black eye which fazed him not in the least. I'm not really very good with kids, but I did enjoy having them around and seeing them have so much fun (and feeding them cupcakes!)

In short, I'm very glad that our choice of venue left us the flexibility to invite as many people as we wanted, and that we were so lucky to have all those people come.

It's just a word, after all

(I started writing this, after a lot of time thinking about it, on September 9th. Now it is way in the past, sort of)

Among the frivolous decisions about flowers, and cakes, and processional music and chocolate fountains, there are a few mines hidden in the wedding process. One thing I'm stuck on is names.

There are a lot of decisions that really ought to be personal ones, but that once made, people will jump to all kinds of conclusions about. In the wedding process, this one is probably the worst. If you change your name, it must be because you've given in to the patriarchy, that you've given up your identity, and not done any independent thought. You can't really be a feminist, surely, if you throw away your name and adopt your husband's.

And if you decide to keep your own name? You're being difficult, confusing, and not a team player. What name do your kids get? I've heard of them getting the father's name (why?) and I've heard the most bizarre one where the girls get the mom's name and the boys get the dad's name. All these names seem really silly and confusing. What is the point of a last name, if not to indicate which group you are with? And if you each have a different name, why not drop it altogether?

You could hyphenate, and saddle yourself and your children with an ever-growing list of names.
You could both change your names, to a hybrid, or some other name you like
Your husband could change his name to yours.

There are plenty of good reasons to change, and plenty of good reasons to keep my name. Unfortunately, I don't have very strong feelings either way. Paul knows he wants to keep his name unchanged. He feels strongly about this, and he doesn't care what I do with my name.

If I had an extraordinarily cool name to start with, I'd probably want to keep it. But my name is pretty generic. I like it because I share my dad's initials, as well as his dad's, so I've determined that by default I'll inherit all of his tools and anything else he's initialed. (ha!) Another, very strong, reason I lean toward keeping my name is that it is very hard for people to find you if you change your name. It's unfortunate how difficult it is to track down old friends and colleagues, and worse when you try to track family history. What about all the long lost friends who've found me on LinkedIn and such? What about all of my business contacts? It seems unfair that only women are really saddled with this problem.

I could move my maiden name to my middle name and take Paul's name for my last name. But I am a lover of our silly little traditions and conventions, and everyone in my family shares the same middle initial. And my middle name necessarily comes with my first name in the myth of my creation (something about my parents deciding they wanted a girl with my first and middle name)

And, on a level I hadn't thought would bug me, there's this question I see voiced in wedding-planning forums, something about, "my last name is my family, my identity. I don't want to erase my identity when I get married." This seems a little silly, since your name isn't your identity. Except, even knowing this, a part of me is sad to leave that name and unit behind. Can I still visit the Compound as a part of it, or just a visitor? For me, personally, I carry the family name of my dad's family, which, frankly, we have not been as close to as with my mother's. My dad's dad was a very good man, a loving man, and one I regret not making more time for. I carry my mother's family traits with me most visibly, what I have of my dad's family is more subtle, except the name.

oy. Just a part of growing up and moving out, I suppose.

Anyway, I came to a fairly certain conclusion that I would change my name (the desire to create a family unit, a TEAM name is the deciding factor, I think), but then couldn't force myself to print it on my placecard in preparation for the wedding reception. This doesn't bode well. Then since I had to book a flight for November, I decided I couldn't change it until after dealing with the nice smart TSA agents.

In the end, well, it isn't at the end yet. I think I'll be changing my name, but, not yet, and not without serious doubts on both sides.


During the wedding planning process, I had a bunch of thoughts I wanted to record, as documents, and advice, as memories... and I didn't get to it, because of time constraints, or because of not wanting to over-saturate my life with wedding stuff, or for want to leave my options and surprises open. Now that it's behind me, I want to catch up with a few things I started thinking, and in some cases started writing, during the wedding planing, through now.

I've been way behind on blogging for a long time now, either because I am too busy or because I no longer have the energy or drive to publish everything. I'm going to do some catch up in the next week or so, so be forewarned! I have a few long-winded journals from Italy and a whole lot of pictures from that and other things. Onward, and in no particular order or organization!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Something I actually like about Mountain View

We saw a lot of neat birds when we were in Italy, but it was so comforting to see the crows when I got back to Mountain View. I love to watch them as they play and chat. Crows are among my favorite birds, and we did not have them in my old neighborhood in San Francisco.

Yesterday morning I got out of bed around 6 after not sleeping much, earlier than the birds so I heard their voices start in the morning. Our birds.

This morning I got up around 5 after being awake since around 2:30. Paul can't sleep either, so we have the rare opportunity to spend our morning together before work, eating breakfast, drinking coffee, huddling under blankets, talking about plans, and poring over our new cookbooks. It is delightful. I've never been jetlagged before, but I am kind of enjoying it.

Thursday, October 16, 2008


We made it!
Got in around 7:45 pm and headed straight to Kapps to finally have some decent pizza. It's been a long two weeks, lots of pictures, more later.