Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What's grosser than gross?

In an effort to make my car presentable when I turn it in at the dealership today, I decided to vacuum it for a change. I have a dog, I live on a dirt road on the side of a mountain in a town where it never rains, and I incessantly cart wedding decorations up and down, so you can imagine the state the interior of the car was in.

As I contorted myself to reach stubborn dog hair caught beneath the driver's seat, the vacuum hose made a strange noise. I retrieved the end of it from under the seat and found a business card being sucked in. When I turned off the machine, the card fell to the floor. I picked it up to find out whose it was.

"The Dolls" Massages
We come to your house

Only for discriminating tastes
(To one side, a graphic image of a scantily clad woman in a sultry pose)

As a slow "Eeeeeeewwwwww..." escaped my lips, my mind went back to the many times when my husband had taken my car because he didn't want to put unnecessary mileage on his.

I'm not sure whether I should feel insulted by his vulgarity or relieved that in one week he will legally and officially be out of my life forever. We didn't have sexual chemistry and he suffered the physical woes of many 50+ men, but I NEVER thought he would stoop that low! Ironically, when I asked for a separation he accused me of cheating. I was appalled that he would even suggest that, but now I realize that he was just projecting himself...

Monday, October 30, 2006

Damned if you do, damned if you don't

I detect a slight panic in my mother's voice as she recounts over the phone the conversation she had with my father. "I really don't understand him. For years we've been spending more than we earn, and we're up to our necks in debt. Yet he continues buying things we can't afford and justifying his actions by saying that he deserves to buy nice things." She pauses to sigh before continuing. "I've asked him how he thinks we're going to pay off the credit cards and he always tells me that he'll be dead in a few short years and his debt will be eliminated."

My father's macabre solution to his dire financial situation chills me to the bone, yet for my mother's sake I muster a weak laugh and tell her that he'll live to be 90 and will be shopping for designer clothes until the day he dies. Her next words surprise me, as I am not accustomed to being seen as an adult through the eyes of my parents.

"I told your father that I admire your decision to continue working even after you have children," she states.

I'm taken aback and think, You do? Wait, you're the woman who, throughout my formative years, hammered into my psyche the importance of devoting yourself entirely to your husband and children. Didn't you advise me to find a husband that would support me so I could stay home and look after the kids?

My head is spinning. I manage a soft "Uhh...Thank you..." before she continues.

"Look at me now," she laments. "He and I decided together that I was going to raise the kids and he was going to support the family, and now I'm almost 60 years old and I have nothing: no career, no paying job, no savings, no future. Who's going to hire a 60 year-old woman? Nobody!"

Her words transported me to November 2005, when I had been privy to this debate while still (unhappily) married. Seated with my parents at a restaurant, I listened in disbelief as my father praised my independence and said that my husband was very fortunate to have a woman who wasn't a financial burden. My mother sat looking at the tablecloth, frustration, pain, and helplessness distorting her elegant features. I was torn between basking in the rare praise my father was bestowing upon me and defending the sacrifice made by my mother three decades earlier, when I was born.

It is ill-advised to contradict the temperamental patriarch of a Hispanic family, especially with the intent of pointing out that he is backtracking on his own teachings and beliefs. Therefore, my mother and I sat in meek silence while my father lamented his situation as the only breadwinner in the family. "I've had to live my entire adult life knowing that if I go down, I drag all of you down with me. That's a difficult burden to bear."

My urge to defend my mother overcame my fear of my father's irrational temper, so I calmly suggested to him that her decision had been in accordance with the cultural tendencies of their generation. Emboldened by my observation, my mother added in a thin voice, "I did what was expected of me, and it was a decision we made together, in case you've forgotten."

While my father blinked in disbelief, she went on, her voice gaining strength. "Not only did I raise the kids and keep house, but I've also managed the finances of the family business for over a decade, never charging an hour's wage. Do you understand how hard it is to watch you make business decisions I don't approve of, knowing that even though I have no say, my lifestyle will be impacted?"

My mother's last sentence summarizes everything that was wrong with my marriage and validates my desire to never again depend completely on a man. While I don't understand women who choose to have children only to abandon them in day care while they chase high-powered careers and materialistic lifestyles, I am equally baffled by women who sacrifice all semblance of autonomy and self-development for the "greater good" of the family.

Is their sacrifice really doing the family a world of good? Does the husband benefit by knowing that "if he goes down, he drags everyone down with him"? Does the wife benefit by not putting her emotional, physical, and intellectual needs first? Do the children benefit by having role models that are displeased with the parts they were assigned to play?

But most importantly: Is there a happy medium? Can a woman be a supportive wife and a devoted mother without putting herself in last place? Also, what roles do culture and society play in this monumental lifestyle choice?

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Ode to coffee on a lazy Sunday morning

coffee cup

His words still haunt my mind to this day, though they were spoken with good intentions almost four months ago.

"Maybe you should give up coffee."


He said it with my well-being in mind, concerned about the short and long-term effects of caffeine on my body. He might as well have been suggesting that I donate an eyeball to science. I experienced a full-fledged fight-or-flight response, torn between passionately arguing the benefits of coffee or fleeing with my brand new deluxe coffee maker under my arm. My breathing became shallow, I experienced heart palpitations, and a feeling of anxiety overwhelmed me.

Because the coffee maker was brewing my drug of choice and I was still in my pijamas, I decided to stay and make my case. The adrenaline rush I experienced compensated for the lack of caffeine in my system, and I took a deep breath to steady myself.

For a moment, I considered ennumerating the health benefits of coffee ("Ummm, it keeps me from falling asleep at the wheel and crashing into oncoming traffic?"), launching into a passionate speech about java's place in history ("The Mayans drank it, it's in my genes! Yes, I know my roots are in Spain, but I was born in Mexico, damn it!"), or, as any good addict would do, denying my dependence ("I can quit at any time...I just choose not to.")

Instead, I decided to hit him where it hurt. "Would you give up chocolate?" I asked, fighting fire with fire. His eyes widened, his pupils dilated, his hands gripped the counter. Nothing more was said as I smugly poured myself a cup of coffee and triumphantly padded out of the kitchen in my furry slippers.

My love affair with coffee began before I was old enough to drink it. I awoke every day at dawn to the ruckus made by my father as he ground fresh coffee beans and pounded the previous day's coffee grinds from the espresso machine's filter holder into the trash. To this day, my father drinks two espressos (is the plural of espresso "espressi"? Like "biscotti" is to "biscotto"?) at 5:00am before sitting down to meditate. I can't get my hands to stop shaking or my mouth to stop yacking after two espressos, yet the man can sit cross-legged for an hour to explore his subconscious mind. After dinner, while most people enjoy a cup of herbal tea to calm the body and spirit before bedtime, my father soothes his nerves with yet another espresso. Twenty minutes later, he's sound asleep. My hero. :)

My first taste of coffee came in the form of a clandestine sip from my father's favorite espresso cup while my mother wasn't looking. The shock of bitterness quickly gave way to a complex bouquet that stayed on my tongue and perfumed my nostrils. It wasn't long before I was ordering an espresso alongside my father at restaurants, and another coffee lover was born. To the amazement of most people, I have always shunned sugar, cream and milk. We are a rare breed, us coffee purists.

I treat my coffee maker the way people with emphysema revere their oxygen tank.
*When I went off to college in Switzerland with my best friend, the very first thing we purchased for our dorm room was a coffee maker.
*When I rented my first apartment after college, the first item to grace my kitchen counter was the coffee maker.
*When I lived with my brother we didn't have furniture, but we had a $350 coffee maker.
*When I got married, I registered for a $700 coffee maker (which nobody got for us).
*Whenever I move to a new home, the first item out of the moving boxes is the coffee maker.
*When I left my husband, I took only my clothes, shoes, and coffee maker.
*I was invited to a country cottage recently, and I took my coffee maker with me.
*The first gift T. gave me was a coffee maker.

When my dog pounces on me in bed, indicating that another day is dawning and she simply must greet it with a celebratory pee, coffee serves as the carrot on the stick that gets me out from under the warm sheets. Please don't ask me what transpires in the mornings between the time I wake up and the moment I have my first sip of coffee, because I have no recollection. I refuse to be held responsible for anything I say or do during this haze. Coffee acts on my day like the scene in the "Wizard of Oz" where Dorothy opens the door of her displaced black-and-white house and steps into a Technicolor world.

I believe drug addicts call this feeling a "high".

Yet, I am not an addict. I can quit at any time...Really...I just choose not to. Now, excuse me while I go for more coffee.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Coincidence or divine intervention?

I'm somewhat ashamed to admit it, but at thirty years old I did something this past week that I had never done before in my life: I bought a car. While I had been considering the purchase for a few months, the actual transaction was effected in a matter of minutes. Some will call what happened a coincidence, others will recognize it as divine intervention. You be the judge...Here's what happened.

I've had many cars in my lifetime, starting from when I was 16. But cars were always bought for me, first by my parents and then by my husband. This time, however, the decision was 100% in my hands for the first time ever. I waffled for a few months, undecided between a larger, more expensive yet less-fuel efficient model and a smaller, more affordable car that offered better gas mileage. I drive well over 350 km (210 miles) each week, so in a sense my lifestyle made the decision for me.

(cue Yanni New Age music) I truly believe that the Universe has vast and limitless opportunities, and that everything we want is within our reach if we know how to ask for it. With this in mind, I set out towards the car dealership with the specific brand, make, model AND color of my ideal car in mind. What makes this story EXTRA-SPECIAL is the fact that in the country where I live, dealerships are alloted a very small number of vehicles per month, maybe two or three cars of each model. Buyers wait many months to get the right color or model, and must give a large deposit to even be considered for the waiting list.

Being an unbridled optimist, I told the Universe that I wanted a 2007 silver Honda Fit, the equipped version (EX) with manual transmission. I arrived at the dealership and told the saleslady ONLY that I wanted to buy a Fit. She sat me down and after checking her computer, told me that unfortunately she only had one Fit in inventory. She said: "I can put you on a waiting list, because right now the only Fit we have available is a 2007 silver-colored EX version with manual transmission."

Holy Cow, someone up there really IS listening!!! I rest my case. No further questions, your honor.

When I told the saleslady that the car in question was exactly what I wanted, she seemed baffled by her good luck. She asked when I could return to give the deposit that would hold the car while it was readied for me, and she nearly fell off her chair when I pulled $1,000 in cash from my purse and plunked the bills on the table. What a rush!!! (No wonder some rich people are capable of committing murder if their wealth depends on it...The power trip and the reactions you get from people are intoxicating!)

While some people think I'm insane to be talking to the sky, I have just demonstrated that the sky is listening. Be careful what you ask for, because you just might get it. My car will be ready on Thursday. :)

Friday, October 27, 2006

Take a moment...

sunset from my apt

A fall sunset as viewed from my front door...I am so blessed.

Nightmares every night? What's going on?

Over the past week I've had enough bad dreams to last me a lifetime. I told my acupuncturist that I had been waking up feeling tired and she immediately asked me if I was having very vivid dreams. "Vivid" is an understatement...

Last night I dreamed that I was asleep and was awoken by a noise coming from the kitchen. I grabbed a butter knife (?) that was sitting on my bedside table and slowly made my way to the kitchen. Waiting for me there was my ex-husband, weilding my huge chef's knife and saying he was going to kill me. I fought with him and woke up (for real this time) with a pounding heart and heavy breathing.

A couple of nights ago, I dreamed that I was driving in my SUV. The road had curves and I was managing just fine. Then, my pijama pants flew into my sun visor and got caught there, obstucting my view. I couldn't slow down and the car kept going faster and faster. I kept trying to look between the legs of the pijama pants, which kept flapping in my face. Suddenly, I saw a wall of solid rock rushing up to meet me and in the instant before I hit the rock wall I saw my life flash before my eyes. I saw maybe 10 flashes in what seemed like one second, and I felt myself exhale, knowing in my dream that I was about to die. I woke up with my heart pounding once again.

A few nights ago, I dreamed something so horrible that I screamed in my sleep and woke myself up. I can't remember what the dream was about, but the anguish and fear remain fresh in my mind.

What is going on? Will this ever stop?

My name is P. and I'm a procrastinator...

I don't know why people knock procrastination. I consider it not only perfectly healthy, but also absolutely necessary! How would I get my laundry done, my floor swept and mopped, and my sock drawer organized if I didn't have to find excuses to put off what I SHOULD be doing?

Last night I promised myself that today I would answer all e-mails and voice mails, as well as pay all pending bills. Well, it's 4:39pm and I've swept the floor, asembled a corner cubicle for my home office, put together a shelving system for my bathroom, moved my files and office supplies from my office to my apartment, sent a box of books to my brother, had lunch, bought an apple pie, ate an entire bag of chocolate-covered raisins (ugh!)...All of this, without managing to return a single e-mail or voice message.

I think I should apply reverse psychology to myself: If I increased the annoyance factor of sweeping the floors and cleaning the bathroom, maybe I would find myself answering e-mails in order to avoid housework.

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I just got home after sharing a bottle of fine wine and some equally high-quality time with my close friend A. Hightlight of the evening: She and her husband have started trying to have a baby. She's struggling with the concept that she might lose her identity and become one of those mothers we all fear becoming; the type that talk only of diapers and feedings. I assured her that her identity was in HER hands and her child would adapt to her lifestyle. I think I'll give her a book I read a while back, titled "The Mask of Motherhood". I was struggling with the same issues when I was trying to conceive and this book helped me change my perspective.

And speaking of conceiving, I received the most unexpected e-mail today. It was from P.M., a girl I met online while we were both trying to conceive with "older men". She and I shared so many qualities, among them our love for older men (both husbands were 25 years older than us), our adoration of dogs, our culinary talents and our crazy sex drives. Our paths diverged after a few months of friendship: She became pregnant and had the darling baby girl she always dreamed of. I stopped TTC and focused on my job and on trying to keep my marriage afloat. It was never clear who failed to return who's e-mail, but we eventually lost touch.

My life went bonkers shortly afterwards, I left my husband, filed for divorce and started a new life. This was 8 months ago, and I hadn't heard from P.M. in at least that same amount of time. Today I got an e-mail from her, and upon answering, I learned that her husband has left her with the child. I cannot begin to imagine the heartache she is going through, having to raise a child on her own.

Her reality brought to light the biggest blessing of my life so far: I did not get pregnant with my ex. This was my "Get out of jail free" card and I will never again question the existence of a God. He/She was and is watching over me. I received a second chance at life and I intend to make the most of it.

Monday, October 23, 2006

All's well that ends well

If I had known how quick and painless the divorce hearing would be, I wouldn't have ruined my manicure! We got to city hall and the ex and I met with the social worker for all of 7 minutes. He asked if we were both in agreement to the divorce and inquired if there was anything we wanted to clear the air about. We said yes to the former and no to the latter, signed a paper and were told to return in two weeks to sign the divorce certificate!

The ex and I were civil to each other, but I almost kicked him in the shins during the hearing with the social worker because he was being his usual annoying self. I'll give you an example:

The social worker asks us to place our right thumbprint on the document we were signing. The ex asks "Why not the left one?". The s.w. explains that in order to maintain a standard, the law requires all people to use their right thumb. The ex asks "What if you don't have a right thumb?" The s.w. patiently answers that if you don't have a right hand, the law allows you to use your left. The ex (you would think he's five years old by the intellectual level of his questioning!) then asks "Well, what if you don't have hands?" (I'm about ready to kill him at this point). The s.w. replies that in that case, the big toe on the right foot would be used. At this point, OF COURSE, the ex gleefully inquires "What if the person doesn't have hands or feet?"


At that point, I was ready to kill him and I could tell that the s.w. wasn't amused, either. We quickly signed the document and were ushered out so that our witnesses could sign as well.

Fast forward six hours, and I am now sitting in T's room as he installs the lighting and walls for his new closet. I went with him to the store last week to choose the shelving for the closet, and he made a point of asking me what shelving I wanted and how many shoe racks I would need. Hello!!! I LIKE HOW THIS MAN THINKS!!! Nothing puts me in a good mood quite like watching my Colin Firth look-alike boyfriend weilding power tools as he builds the closet that will someday house my prized shoe collection. All's well that ends well...

Nerves of steel? More like oatmeal!

I am a nervous wreck and time seems to be playing tricks on me. I've been sitting at my desk for amost an hour, trying to find something useful to do in order to make time go by more quickly. My divorce hearing is in one hour and I am petrified of what they are going to ask.

I will be so relieved when I am in T's arms tonight, far away from all of this. But for now, I sit here and try not to imagine worst-case scenarios. I wonder what the case worker will ask. Will he wonder why we want to get divorced? Will we tell him the truth? Should I say that it's because I can't stand the sight of him, or because there was never any sexual chemistry? Should I mention his frightening temper or his tendency to blame me for any obstacle life put in his way? What about his rudeness to waiters, his habit of lying through his teeth, his conviction that everyone was determined to make his life miserable? Would it be rude to mention that he is unable to procreate and demonstrates no talent or desire to please a woman in bed?

I've chewed my fingers to the bone and still have 13 minutes to kill before I have to leave. I will make sure to have everything packed so that I can go straight from the hearing to T's house. I will need a big, strong hug from him to put this anxiety behind me. He sent me a funny e-mail saying that he was looking forward to dating a single woman. :) I keep forgetting I am still married, and I am thankful that he has the patience and understanding of a saint.

Divorce hearing

I am pleased to announce that after much drama and red tape, we are finally moving forward with the divorce. Like my mom said, if they make it this difficult to divorce for a couple with no kids, no property and a mutual willingness to separate, can you imagine the turmoils that couples with more obstacles have to go through?

If the entire process hadn't been so frustrating, it would have been comical. Not only were we asked for five different documents on five different occasions, but when I was asked for an updated wedding certificate, I was told that they needed it to prove that we hadn't divorced somewhere else. I felt like shouting at her: Do you REALLY think I would be going through all this if I were already divorced???? %^&*#@

I will spend the morning visiting vendors and cleaning my office, all the while waiting anxiously for 2:00pm to roll around. As soon as the hearing is over, I'm off to spend a few wonderful days with T. A well-deserved break after a crazy week, wouldn't you say?

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Eight giant trash bags later...I'm halfway done

The deadline for vacating my office is October 31, but I hope to be out of there sooner than that. Now that I don't have an assistant and I've reduced the number of weddings I'll be working on next year, it makes perfect sense to move my office back to my home.

I've come full circle, but I'm a LOT wiser now than when I started. It's hard to believe that I started working from home, with little more than a computer, a phone, and a burning desire to increase my self-esteem and gain some autonomy over my controlling and opressive husband. I charged a whopping $450 to coordinate my first wedding, secured 12 clients my first year in business, and never looked back. I started my company in October 2004 (exactly two years ago!), and had my first wedding in June 2005.

The success of my company only helped to highlight the failure of my marriage. My husband, distraught in the knowledge that my financial independence would allow me to slip loose from his strangling grip, became even more controlling and maniacal. However, all his efforts proved useless, and on February 13th I informed him of my decision to leave. My first night alone in my new apartment was February 14th - Valentine's Day - and while I went to sleep with feelings of anxiety and uncertainty, I awoke to a future as bright as the mid-Winter sun.

But, back to my office...Between mid-2005 and early 2006 I became overwhelmed with bookings. Unfamiliar with the market offerings and eager to capitalize on this opportunity, I took just about any client that would hire me. Before I knew it, I was over-committed and under-staffed. I quickly hired an assistant wedding planner followed by an office manager.

Both women were essential in the survival of my business through the 2006 wedding season, but first one and then the other departed my employment for personal reasons. What still shocks me is that in both cases, I had been searching for a way to fire them when they came to me with the news that they were quitting. God works in very mysterious ways, but it's nice to know that he's watching out for me.

As the 2006 season came to an end, I was faced with two choices: I could continue working like a crazy woman, spending every single Saturday and most Sundays working to pay for an office, utilities and an assistant, or I could downsize and work from home, thereby enjoying more free time and only a marginally less affluent lifestyle. On their deathbed, nobody ever wished they had spent more time in the office, so I made a decision to return to the comfort of working from home.

The challenge now lies in emptying out an office where three women had previously worked long hours. I have six jumbo garbage bags full of recycling materials, plus several bags of trash and six or seven boxes to bring home. My darling T. helped me pick out a desk for my home office and I am very excited about setting up my new work space.

"My big fat Latino/Jewish wedding" meets WWF

I found out last night from my DJ that I still had some issues to deal with concerning B and R's nightmare wedding (see "The wedding from hell is upon me"). Here's the skinny on what transpired that night (hahaha..."skinny" and the bride was about 250 lbs. *ahhh*). Keep in mind that I had already left for the night, after working a 15-hour day for the ungrateful creature.

11:00pm Two female guests, one from the bride's side and one from the groom's, decided to start yanking each other's hair out on account of a (surely repulsive) man they were both attracted to. When the male guests on both sides realized that the women were starting a cat fight, testosterone (combined with gallons of cheap tequila) surged through their veins to their (underused) brains, and they joined in the battle. Soon, there were approximately 20 people involved, between those who were fighting and those who were trying to break up the brawl.

11:10pm The security guard called the cops, who quickly arrived (go figure, normally they take ages to arrive on the scene of a crime) to split up the feuding sides. While the guests composed themselves, the police told the musicians to stop the music because the wedding was over (keep in mind that the clients had booked everything until 1am). The musicians, obeying the police, packed up their equipment and departed.

11:30pm The DJ was packing his things when he was approached by the groom and instructed to play a particular CD. Intimidated by the 6'6", 300 lb. groom, who moments earlier had been swinging his fists like an enraged gorilla, the DJ meekly agreed to play the music.

The mother of the bride (who, by the way, looked like a cheap Spanish hooker in a flamenco dress three sizes too tight and a bosom that started at her throat and ended at her belly button) demanded to know where the band had gone. The DJ explained that they had left when the police had told them the wedding was over. The mother was furious and told the DJ to contact the group. The DJ said that he had no way of getting in touch with them, and the mother left, foaming at the mouth.

If the protagonists didn't look like overgrown apes (and that's just the women! You should've seen the men!), this would have all the makings of a movie. Fighting at a wedding...Does it get MORE romantic???

(Note: I don't think the group was wrong in departing, but they should have told the couple. If the police said the wedding was over and told the group to stop playing, they would have been going against the officer's orders by continuing to play. I will need to find out from the group why they departed without telling anyone. If I get any money back from them - which I highly doubt - I will refund it to the couple. However, if I have to choose between upsetting my vendor, who didn't do anything wrong, and upsetting my client, who was at fault for the mishap and treated me like crap throughout the entire planning process, is it really difficult to guess who I'm going to side with??)

It was the perfect evening for a wedding...

P and S got married yesterday (such a cute couple!). My last wedding of the year went well, and not only did I get rave reviews, but I also got great interest in my cooking classes for next year!! I can't wait to get that started!

The bride looked beautiful, tall and voluptuous. The groom looked handsome and very serious. The weather was FABULOUS, warm but not uncomfortable. What a relief, because two days earlier we had Santa Ana winds kicking dirt up all over the valley.

Because the bride worked in the photo industry, they had more photographers than many movie stars! I hope they send me a couple of pictures.

As usual, I had to battle with my vendors and solve a few glitches...The DJ kept playing the music he wanted instead of what the groom had brought. The waiters and the kitchen werent' communicating properly. A guest with a food allergy ate something she shouldn't have. I got less plates than I should have. But, overall, it was a success and I don't think the clients noticed these small bumps in the road.

So...Put a fork in me because I'm D-O-N-E with weddings for this year!!! Nine weeks without weddings, how exciting is that!!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Last wedding of the year!!!

I can't believe that the madness of 2006 is finally coming to an end. It all started in February with a shotgun wedding...I'm not joking, the bride was four months pregnant and the mother was in a frenzy to get her daughter properly wed before anyone other than family members discovered the proverbial bun in the oven. The bride wore purple, it was bitterly cold, I had separated from my husband about a week earlier, and after he officiated the ceremony he got sloshed on tequilas.

The rest of the year is a whirlwind of weddings, big and small, lavish and budget. Most clients went home happy, some were less than thrilled. I was taking my clients' displeasures very personally, until darling T. reminded me that in any service-oriented business, there will always be a small percentage of clients that will not be satisfied, no matter what you do.

This observation made me reflect on my hotel years. During management meetings we would review the latest quality control surveys, and no matter how hard we tried, there was always a small percentage of guests who were weren't able to please. Back then, it was only a number. Now, they are actual people and this is "the most important day of their lives". *sigh* I had to learn to build a thick skin and realize that as long as I was doing my best, a person's unrealistic expectations were out of my control.

I cannot believe I actually did over 30 weddings this year. "Burnt out" is an understatement. I'm doing at the most 12 next year (already have 10 booked!!) because there has to be more to life than work.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Does anyone find it a wee bit ironic?

My job is to make weddings easy for people, yet I'm having the most difficult time getting divorced! Is there such a thing as a divorce planner? Ah, yes...They're called lawyers.

So, I've been in city hall a total of about seven hours over a period of two days. Our documents have been reviewed five times, and after each evaluation I am told that we are missing another document. I run back home and return to provide the document, and upon review of the stack of papers, I'm told that yet another document is missing. This has happened four times now!! I'm sorry, is this some sort of game??? Because I'm certainly not having fun!!!

Apparently, the bureaucrats could care less that I have a job to attend to. Their job, from what I can tell, is to make sure that nobody gets married, divorced, or registered. You would think they were doing us a favor, the way they look down their noses at us "common folk".

The ex-husband was there, looking as defeated and derranged as ever. One day he says he's moving to New York, the next he informs me he's staying in San Diego. I don't care what he does, as long as he signs the divorce papers and stops giving me a hard time. He's smoking more than ever, and looks about 60 years old. Revenge is sweet, considering I look about 27!! I really would not like to reach my 50's in the shape he's in: divorced, lonely, chain-smoking, alcoholic, neurotic, overweight, with unhealthy habits and thoughts, broke, and with a very stunted outlook for the future. YECH...THIS is the man I was married to for almost 3 years???????? WHAT WAS I THINKING???

I compare him to T.: sweet, caring, warm-hearted, considerate, doting T...I still have to pinch myself when I'm with him to realize that it's not a dream, he's the real thing. He's the man I always envisioned myself with, but never thought I was good enough for. Yet, he loves me, with all my flaws and baggage. And I love him, with his quirks. Thanks to him, it gets a little easier to get out of bed each day...Unless he has his strong arms wrapped around me, in which case getting out of bed is the last thing on my mind!!

Wedding magazines: the insanity continues

I just received the latest edition of a leading bridal magazine. The darn thing took up most of the space in my mailbox, has 528 pages and weighs about 15 lbs.! Now, this is not a once-a-year publication where they try to cram twelve month’s worth of information and ads into one edition. This monster comes out EVERY TWO MONTHS!!

I had always thought, and I’m sure you’ll agree with me, that the purpose of periodicals was to shed light on new information and analyze recent trends. Using this logic, and considering that I just received a 528-page bi-monthly magazine, one would think that the wedding industry is ablaze with groundbreaking research and discoveries in the world of nuptials. Sadly, nothing could be further from the truth.

I decided to count the number of pages that had actual editorial content. After all, the magazine boasts an editorial staff of 18, between executive staff, department directors, editors and editorial assistants. What I found convinced me that, just like Playboy, nobody “reads” wedding magazines for the articles.

Out of 528 pages, 101 were dedicated to “editorial content”. This is less than 20% of the magazine! However, I am using the term “editorial content” quite loosely here because out of these 101 pages, 75 were full of not-too-cleverly-disguised plugs for assorted wedding industry products and services! I found page after page of beautifully photographed flowers, invitations, china, dresses and jewelry, most with a minuscule blurb by the magazine describing the product and giving the (exorbitant) price and vendor. This is tantamount to calling a Playboy Playmate’s statistics “editorial content”.

This leaves us with a whopping 26 pages of groundbreaking information, including such intellectual gems as:
“For our first dance, we want to do a rumba like we’ve seen on TV dance shows. My parents think we’ll look tacky. Will we?”

Apparently, it doesn’t take a deep intellect to plan a wedding…But deep pockets sure do help!

The Bridezilla Syndrome

I dread being asked by women what my line of work is, because almost invariably my reply is greeted with a gush of enthusiasm: “Oh, you’re a wedding planner! You must have the nicest job on the planet! Just imagine, you get to work with people during the happiest period of their lives! You’re so lucky!” While I cringe, their eyes glaze over as they envision wedding gowns of white tulle and crystal tiaras sparkling in the moonlight. Men, meanwhile, usually look at me in silence with the pity reserved for a lost dog standing bewildered on a highway.

While I agree that I have the good fortune of helping couples plan their nuptials, most people don’t realize that far from being the happiest period of a couple’s life, the wedding planning stage is among the most stressful. Upon announcing their engagement, family, friends, co-workers, perfect strangers and the media pile unrealistic expectations on the already frazzled couple, who has just taken the gigantic and overwhelming step of deciding to spend the rest of their lives together. No pressure, right? It’s not surprising, then, that tens of thousands of couples each year decide to elope rather than face the daunting challenges of planning a wedding.

The brave souls (in particular, the bride) who decide to go forth with the planning process suddenly find themselves plunged head-on into a world of products and services they are unfamiliar with, but which they are expected to make decisions about with the equally ignorant advice of two over-zealous mothers, a heavily mortgaged father, seven irritated bridesmaids, and an ever-increasing collection of wedding magazines and books.

The stress of making decisions, coupled with the power of authority that comes from saying the magic words: “I am a bride”, turns thousands of normally serene and well-intentioned young women into “Bridezillas”. This term, which brings to mind a fire-breathing, building-stomping green beast with a white veil and three-quarter length silk gloves, paints a very accurate picture of the behavior some women are capable of if they don’t get their way. Nothing short of perfection is allowed on the big day, according to the glossy magazines that are the playbooks of these demanding brides.

Enter the wedding planner, who plays the role of event coordinator, friend, surrogate mother, four-star general, and psychologist when everyone else has deemed the bride to be one sandwich short of a picnic. Other than neurosurgeons, I don’t know of any profession in which so much emphasis is placed on flawless performance and so much “irreparable damage” is caused to the client if the professional in question makes a mistake. It can take nothing more than a wilting tulip or a tilted cake for a bride to utter those five soul-shattering words: “You ruined my wedding day!”.

Yes, it’s true: Hell hath no fury like a woman determined to have the perfect wedding.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Finally, the wedding from hell is upon me

After two failed attempts to get myself fired, the wedding of B and R is finally upon me.

I curse the day I picked up the phone and accepted a meeting with the whiney bride and her sorry dishrag of a fiance. (Actually, they weren't even formally engaged when they started planning the wedding. Can you say "desperate bride"?)

I assured them that I could create a perfectly nice wedding for 200 guests with their $25,000 budget. Little did I know that their idea of a nice wedding included three different types of live musicians, thousands of dollars worth of flowers and an elaborate buffet. I learned my lesson: From then on, my first question has to do with budget and my second with expectations.

The bride's demand for my time and attention became overwhelming, to the point where I told her in no uncertain terms that her service expectations were incompatible with her financial capabilities. I thought I would get fired, for sure...But it didn't happen. They backed off a little and I was able to continue the planning process.

About a month before the wedding, as I was trying desperately to patch holes THEY had created, my assistant informs me that B is INCENSED because I hadn't returned her call. She's threatening bloody murder, so I send her an e-mail explaining what I'm trying to do to fix the problems that she and her family have created. I tell her that if she "has had it with me", as her e-mail so boldly exclaims, I would be delighted to discontinue work on her wedding. I assured her that all vendors would arrive at the time hired, and she could pay them their balances on the day of the event. She could also come by my office to pick up her tons of alcohol and she could deal with the entire wedding herself. If this was not in her weekend plans, then she had to let me and my vendors fix the problems they had caused, and had to stop giving us a hard time. Problem solved, they were sweet as can be from then on.

The mother hates me, but that's ok because I hate her, too. She blames me for everything that goes wrong, from her guests getting lost to the skies threatening rain. If only I had the power to control rain...I would let loose a deluge that would inundate her wedding and reception...

So, tomorrow is W-day, and I start work at 7:30am. I won't be done until at least 10:30pm, if I'm lucky. Ahhhh, nothing like working a 15-hour day for an unappreciative, whiney, spoiled brat and her uppity parents. The joys of wedding planning never cease to amaze me.