Wednesday, June 16, 2010

What I Did This [Last] Weekend, Part III - Flinching and Disappointment

More on this weekend... I was sad and annoyed and stressed and frustrated when I started writing this so it's probably even more negative than the others. Then I had a lot going on last week, was out of town this weekend, and had a job interview on Tuesday to prepare for so sorry for the delay in wrapping this up. Let's just continue....

My mom is clearly disappointed with my wedding choices and apparently the guilt from her 30-year lie has worn off and she isn't pulling any punches. Which is fine. I prefer a dark, grim reality to a bright and rosy farce any day. Andrew's mom was quite feisty and verbal about everything too! At dinner on Friday night we started talking about some of the fine details. Andrew's mom started with it and it turned into a bashing session! Our parents had a fun weekend of making fun of Andrew & I for not planning anything far enough in advance. Yes, I know I do everything "last minute" but that's what works for me! I've gotten this far in life and done just fine! Andrew's mom wants to have every second planned. She wants to know what will happen even if it will not have any affect on her. And that's all just because of her constant anxiety and worry. Well, I have news for her. I don't need to adjust my way of living in order to cater to her anxiety! Maybe she should buck up and deal with it. I deal with my anxiety over the things she does. The same for my parents. I suck it up and do what makes me feel uncomfortable because I know what's important to them. They can do the same for me. Sheesh... I'm just tired of working on things and bending for people and forgiving and looking at things from others' perspectives and trying to be understanding when I feel I don't get the same in return!!!

The thing is - I have everything for the wedding planned out in my head. I haven't made every little decision yet but I at least have it narrowed down to a few options. I just don't want to be one of those women who runs around telling everyone every detail of her wedding. I realize family wants to know some things, but I also want some things to be a surprise! Also keep in mind, I have an image in my head and it's hard to paint that picture for others in words, especially when one descriptor, or even a simple noun can invoke different images in people's imaginations. When I say "lace" I could mean so many different things: chantily lace, venice lace, corded lace, embroidered tulle, embroidered organza, even eyelet or embroidered satin with cutouts, rose patterns, daisy patterns, asymmetrical patterns, geometric patterns, maybe beads, pearls or sequin adornments, etc, etc. Each has it's own personality.

Once I told our parents all this, they graciously accepted my explanation and then the questions started flowing. And my mom started flinching! My dad asked what he should wear. I told him, "Whatever you want." Then he asked what Andrew was wearing. He shrugged his shoulders. I have told Andrew to think about it, I gave him options and websites and pictures to look at. But he still hasn't decided. We did inform the parents, however, that he would not be wearing a classic suit. MAYBE a linen suit but maybe not a jacket at all. Saying this, my mom's eyes bugged out of her head as though she just learned that Andrew beats me every night. She then questioned several times (that night and all through the weekend), "Really? You're REALLY not wearing a suit?" When the response was repeatedly, "NO. No suit!" she would hang her head, bury her face in her hands, and shake her head back and forth in disappointment.

On the way to SB, we took separate cars so my parents could drive up to Solvang at the end of the day. My mom kept flinching the whole way because we were driving in the far left lane and the median is right there next to you with no shoulder (this is on the 405 North going through West LA for those who know it). I texted Andrew, asked him to move over to the middle lane and he did. Apparently, his mom was upset about it too. I really hope I'm not so nervous and anxious about everything when I get older! During the drive to Andrew's aunt & uncle's my mom told me how upset she was that I didn't tell her sooner about going to meet them so she could have "dressed up more." "Dressed up more?" For a 1-hour stopover to eat bagels? As it was, she was wearing white slacks (with a crease) and a light blazer-ish jacket with a pretty floral print. And decked out in all her jewelery, of course. What more would she have done? I hate these conversations with her. I watch her hound my dad every holiday about not wearing a t-shirt. He has to wear a shirt with a collar all the time and he has to tuck the shirt into his pants. Even on his days off! Oh, and she hounds him about shaving too. He has to shave every day (again, even on his days off) and it must be done first thing in the morning. Image is everything, you know!

At Andrew's uncle's house, we were sitting at the dining table at breakfast talking about the wedding. We asked for his advice because he is a musician! We told him we were thinking of having an acoustic guitar player during the ceremony. He suggested another instrument to accompany it. The idea of having a steel drum player came up. It is, after all, on the beach! I kinda liked it. Next he asked what I was walking down the aisle to. I hadn't yet decided but I new I didn't want the traditional "Here Comes the Bride." I imagine that in my head and it doesn't feel right. Andrew's uncle suggested an altered version of "Here Comes the Bride." Something calipso-ish with the steel drums. He hummed/sang it for us. I liked it. My mom's head started shaking. I'm pretty sure I even heard an, "Oh my god" come out of her mouth. My dad was more enthusiastic. Later, Andrew's uncle took us in to his studio and put the arrangement together in about 5 minutes (I'm in awe of musical talent). He recorded the tempo, came up with the guitar accompaniment, recorded that, made up the steel drum melody, recorded that (all on his keyboard and computer). Then played back the whole thing all together. It sounded great. Definitely more me. Definitely more fun. Definitely more beachy. I said, "I'll take it!" My mom's head was in her hands again, but this time she picked it up with a bit of a laugh (an, "I laugh to keep from crying" moment?) and she sighed, "Ahhhhhh, well that's my daughter. Always different!" The thing is, with many people (especially people of their generation, and especially our parents) "different" is a nice way of saying, "I wouldn't make that choice in a million years and I think it's weird/dumb/silly/stupid/lame.... but whatever!" In the dictionary, "different" means distinct or separate. It doesn't suggest better choices/options and it also does not suggest worse choices/options. So, let's use the English language correctly, okay? Otherwise misunderstandings occur and feelings get hurt.

In Santa Barbara, our first stop was the florist. We discussed bouquets first. The guy we met with was really good. He's also an event planner/designer. So he asked lots of questions about the room, what I'm wearing, my hair, my bridesmaids. I had an answer for just about everything he asked so our parents got some more details they were looking for. In particular he was concerned that it was a beach wedding and I was wearing an A-line gown with a light lace or sheer fabric (the bigger the dress, the bigger the bouquet). I told him I wanted small bouquets. He said that sounds right for what the environment is. He made a round shape with his hands and asked, "About like this, about the size of a cantaloupe?" I said, "Yes, perfect!" Then I felt my mom stirring in the chair next to me. She scooted to the edge of her seat and said, "Well, maybe a little bit bigger than that. Don't you want something bigger than that?" I smiled at the florist, imploring with my eyes, "I'm sure you've dealt with this before. Let's move on now and you'll just do what you and I agree on, right?" He got my silent message. We moved on! She made her requests for a corsage and that was fine. She flinched again at the groom not wearing a suit. Andrew's mom didn't give a darn and doesn't know a rose from a weed. So, no problems there!

The subject of my dress came up at some point during the day. An A-line gown with a light lace or sheer fabric. My mom asked me, "Do you remember when you were 5-years old and you saw a big, beautiful gown and you wanted to wear that?" Um, yeah I do. I also remember that I believed in the tooth fairy, I thought my dad had a bionic arm, and I needed help wiping my own ass. Things change!

Something else came up... something I anticipated... something I can understand. Andrew's family member guest-count is at about 30. My family member guest-count is at 9. My mom is feeling uneasy about that. But that's just the way it is. My dad has 6 siblings. And he isn't close to any of them anymore. 1 sister has lunch with him sometimes when she's in San Diego but she's kind of a phony. She's not genuinely close with him. She's strange - she sends me facebook messages and leaves comments. I comment back, don't hear from her again for weeks and then she just accuses me of not responding to her first message. Besides, we've never gotten invites to my cousin's weddings. My mom's brother MIGHT come. She's not close with another brother, and the 3rd brother can't afford the trip. Her dad is still alive but she refuses to communicate with him for reasons unknown. So, we're lacking in the "family" department. And I can understand her anxiety. I'm having my own. I worry that my friends won't make it. That something more important will come up. That this is going to be Andrew's wedding that I'm just a guest at. The thought of that makes me want to crawl under the table and disappear... a "poof" of dust and I am whisked far away to a land where people don't know who I am or ask any questions about me. I'm trying to push these fears away. So far, so good.

I'm going to end this on a positive note. A good friend pointed out that all of the flinching and negativity might also just be due to the fact that she can't picture everything in her head and once she sees it, she'll like it. This is probably true. I can't imagine my mom would be negative or unsupportive actually on my wedding day. I wouldn't rule it out completely but I wouldn't bet on it either. She'll probably be fine when we get there. I just feel like this weekend it was a bit much. I don't expect her to be perfect. But some improvements from the weekend would be nice! I'm just going to have to tell her that all of the flinching and disappointment hurts my feelings. Considering how sensitive and emotional she is, she should understand that!

What I Did This Weekend, Part II - Jabs & Call Outs

To continue on about my wedding planning weekend in Santa Barbara with my parents and Andrew's mom... I worked a full day on Friday and came home to Andrew hosting all of them at our place. The only thing I dread right off the bat in a situation like this is the noise and the energy level. It's always to the max when my dad is around. And I'm not always in the mood for it. Plus, my place is a little too small for it. I've learned to grin and bear it over the years (during those times when I'm not in the mood). But it's always a little shock to the system when I haven't been around it for a while and when it comes at me all fast and furious. I need a little time to adjust, you know?

Throughout the weekend I got a little kick out of my parents being called out on their bullshit and it happened more than once. They met Andrew's aunt and uncle for the first time Saturday morning. While we were sitting there chatting, they were telling us that his aunt's mother lives with them. Then my parents shared that my grandma lives with them also. They shared stories and talked about their mothers, the aging and the struggles. The issue of driving was brought up because they had just taken their mother to get her hair done rather than let her drive there. My dad shared that they don't want my grandma to drive so they tell her she isn't covered under their insurance and that's why she can't drive. Andrew's uncle responded, "You mean you LIE to her?" with a good amount of dramatic flare. I just about fell off the couch. They know all about my situation and the lie that was my life for 29 years. They've heard all about my parents, the good along with the bad. And they know Andrew's mom well, both the good and the bad, probably more than anyone. Their opinion on my situation is that my mom is overly emotional and my dad needs to stop lying. It's a pretty accurate assessment. But when Andrew's uncle said that, I wanted to look at him with a, "Hmmm... a lie... imagine that!?!" kind of expression on my face. But I didn't want to get caught and hurt my parents feelings, so I refrained. But I did laugh. And the whole thing was turned into a joke, "What's her name? I'm going to tell her when I meet her that you guys are lying to her." Hardy-har-har [tongue in cheek].

Later on that day walking up State street in SB, scoping out restaurants, I started to feel some pressure about the rehearsal dinner. I had family eating habits on my mind which limits restaurants quite a bit (no Mexican, no Asian, nothing "yuppie," nothing overly seasoned or at least there must be a "plain" steak option on the menu... no sauces, not crusted or blackened). I had to find a spot that wasn't too fancy and expensive but also wasn't too casual so as not to seem cheap. It can't be any food too similar to what's being served Saturday night. I kinda want it to be downtown so our guests can see more of Santa Barbara, plus I can go out with my friends to a club afterward without worrying about driving. With all of their preferences and rules on my mind, plus trying to make this a compromise with what I want, and then the stresses of the day weighing on me: we were doing a lot of walking so I was worried that my mom's back was hurting or my dad's hip or feet were hurting... I started to get flustered. My dad said not to worry about them, that they were fine. I said what was on my mind at the moment, "Well Dad, you would say you were fine until the moment you collapse dead on the street. And because you won't be honest with me about walking too much, I have to be careful and watch and gauge how you might really be feeling and that just puts all the pressure on me. Do you think I want to be responsible for you being in pain? You not being honest just puts more stress on me, it doesn't relieve any stress at all!" He then assured me that he would tell me if they were getting tired. I cautiously gave him the benefit of the doubt and just treaded on, still watching for any limping or painful grimaces.

At lunch that afternoon, we were all just sitting there chatting after we ate. The bill came and I heard the chimes of the boxing ring bell: death match for the check, round 4! My dad always grabs it first cuz he's fast. I really get pissed at him for doing that. He pays for more than his fair share and while it's generous, it's intensely frustrating for me to watch knowing what I know. My parents do not have any money left. Plain and simple. They used to own a jewelery store in Vegas but had to close it after a couple of robberies, some poor money management (ie. spending more than they have), customer loss because my sister acts like a bitch to everyone and drove customers away, plus some other things I'm sure I don't know about because HELLO, my parents lie to me. So, I hate it when they disregard their financial security in order to create an image. I've learned a thing or two about money in college, not to mention being engaged to a Jew! AHHH, that's right! I said it! Whatcha gonna do about it???? I know they aren't doing the right things with money and it makes me worry about their futures. Besides, it makes Andrew's mom feel uncomfortable to have them paying all the time. Eventually they decided to split the check. Andrew's mom told my dad that they HAVE to split checks from now on so that its fair. My dad said, "okay" and Andrew's mom responded, "Do you really mean that or are you just giving me a line of bullshit? Because I know you well enough by now..." I was sitting there in my seat giving her a silent standing ovation. Sometimes people just need to be called out on their shit, you know? My dad laughed (couldn't tell if it was fake or not) and that was the end of that.

Parents can be so frustrating but each can be a champion in his/her own right as well. Andrew's mom actually tried to help me out with the 'bio-mom at the wedding' situation. When I told her about it as it was unfolding, she asked if I wanted her to talk to my parents about it. She has her own skeletons and secrets that were revealed in the past few years, so she can relate to my mom. And she also thinks she can help calm my mom's fears because hers were similar. I also think maybe she can. But I had to be honest with her. I told her, "Yes, actually. I would love for you to talk to my mom. But I really don't think she'll receive it well. I wish she would and I appreciate the offer so much, but it's probably not an option." Every word I said was absolutely true. She decided to drop a little breadcrumb anyway and see if my parents would follow. On Friday afternoon they were all in town before we were off of work so they killed some time at a restaurant. Andrew's mom mentioned her skeletons (another adoption story). She said that my parents exchanged a glance that was a little bit intense the moment she mentioned it. So, that was a cue for her to not proceed any further. I said, "Good idea!"

So my parents kinda took some jabs this weekend. Some unintentional, some in good fun. You see, this is why they aren't close to anyone anymore, including their own family. They've created SO many lies, it's hard to keep track of. Plus as the truths come out, my parents are then embarassed about the lies and then don't want to see those people anymore. But what about Andrew's mom, you wonder? Don't worry, Andrew calls her out all the time. Her bullshit is a little less personal and less painful for him so they can be more lighthearted about it, plus his mom can take more. I can jab at my parents (as they do at me) from time to time, but not the way those 2 can. I think a little bit of that is healthy!

This weekend I also took some jabs from my mom than I wasn't prepared for. As the wedding is drawing near, she is getting more and more annoyed with my choices. There was flinching and eye-rolling and her holding her head in her hands, shaking it in disappointment that I'm not having the wedding she wants me to have. I'll tell that story next. I'm letting my anger subside a bit before I go off on that one!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

What I Did This Weekend, Part I - Food

This weekend both my parents and Andrew's mom joined us for a trip to Santa Barbara to do wedding stuff. Andrew's mom has not yet seen the location. I was expecting frustration. And I got it. The whole weekend was technically "fine" but this is my blog and I'm going to spend some time on here whining about it because I can't afford a therapist.

Our first challenge: Dinner! And it was a challenge. Andrew's mom's culinary repertoire is limited, to say the least. And my dad's is worse in almost every way. So, we have to be sure to go to a restaurant that won't offend the delicately bland tastebuds of either one of them. Garlic is offensive to my dad. Chicken is offensive to Andrew's mom... no wait, the "idea of chicken" is offensive to her. She says, "We're not chicken people" but she eats chicken parmigiana, lemon chicken, chicken picatta, chicken marsala, fried chicken, etc. It's just plain roasted chicken she doesn't like. And chicken in place of something that "should" be something else (ie. chicken on a pizza) seems to be upsetting to her. She calls any place that serves something other than her idea of a good meal, a "yuppie" establishment. She calls CPK "yuppie" and I witnessed this conversation once in response to us wanting to go to Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill after it opened in Vegas:
Andrew's mom to her husband:
Andrew & Christina are going to this new restaurant at Caesar's but I don't think they'll have things that we like.

Oh yeah, what do they have?

Andrew's mom:
It's weird stuff and it's overpriced.

Oh yeah? Yuppie stuff like that restaurant in California. What is it? CPK!?!

Andrew's mom:
Yeah, like that.

She compared a chain restaurant with a line of frozen pizzas to an award winning restaurant created by a highly acclaimed chef. I said nothing in response, but I couldn't help but chuckle a little at overhearing this. What DOES she like, you wonder? She almost always wants Italian or a steakhouse. She likes maybe 3 things at a Chinese restaurant and she'll eat maybe 2 things from a Mexican restaurant. My dad won't eat any Mexican. No Chinese either. And it always looks like a winter wonderland on his plate because he douses everything he eats in table salt. EVERYTHING! Even fried chicken and cheeseburgers. It makes me cringe a little bit every time. What's worse is when my nephews were little, he always reached over and doused all of their food in salt and would say, "that's how big boys eat it." He also gave them a yuck face at any food he thought they shouldn't like. Weird foods like tacos. He would tell them, "No, that's gross. Don't eat that." Both Andrew and I have suffered from child abuse in the form of forced eating habits. When he was little, his mom and grandma would shovel all of their leftovers from their plate onto his and tell him to finish it so as not to waste it, hence his desire to eat way too much at each meal. And I was always given particular foods and told to eat just like my dad, hence my horrible sweet tooth. We've both since "grown up" and done what we can to change those habits. I don't coat everything in salt anymore and I actually eat exotic foods like mayonnaise, ketchup, lasagna and vegetables [shudder]. The sweet tooth still lingers, though. Do you have any brownies on you? Because if you do, I want one!

So, we decided on Buca di Beppo for dinner, mostly for Andrew's mom and because I know my dad will eat 1 Italian thing (spaghetti and meatballs - that's it). Plus, it's family style and that's always nice. When we got there, I already had the plan: let the 3 of them order 1 thing each and that's it. Andrew & I will eat mostly anything (so will my mom), especially when it comes to Italian. That worked out pretty well, I think. My dad ordered spaghetti and meatballs asking the waitress, "You guys don't put any cheese on that, do you? I don't want any cheese on it!" Because cheese on anything other than a cheeseburger is somehow offensive to him. When the spaghetti and meatballs showed up, he dished some out onto his plate and took a fork and knife and started cutting up the spaghetti noodles, slicing this way and that, the whole time scraping the bottom of the plate with his utensils, making that near nails-on-a-blackboard-annoying, scraping sound. At this point I'm really holding back. My nerve endings are all on fire. But I keep my cool and say nothing. Next step, you guessed it, shower that spaghetti in salt!

The rest of the evening was pretty uneventful. We went back to our place, hung out for another 30 minutes or so, then they all left for their hotel rooms. I savored every moment of quiet I could get until morning.

The next day we drove to Santa Barbara. The plan was to stop at Andrew's aunt & uncle's for breakfast. Bagels are the breakfast of choice for his family. And that's the only choice really, because it's the only thing that the health conscious aunt and uncle like that his mom also likes. BUT... my parents don't eat bagels. Again, something else that seems completely inoffensive to me is just not consumable to them. It's friggin bread, folks. And it comes in every flavor. What is the damn problem? Whatever... I didn't say anything and technically it was no big deal. I just bought them blueberry muffins along with everyone else's bagels from Noah's. We got whole wheat bagels for the healthy aunt and uncle, and everything bagels for Andrew's mom. She won't eat anything other than onion, garlic or everything bagels. Just mention a sweet bagel and you'll get a gagging face from her. Again, whatever... bunch of crazies!

Later that day we had the task of picking a place for lunch. We looked at a directory of a big outdoor mall and there were several choices. All the parents turned to us and said, "Whatever you want, it's your choice." Andrew, clearly reading my mind, replied, "It doesn't many any sense for the 2 people here who will eat anything to decide what to eat for 2 of the pickiest people on the planet." Sometimes he is perfect! My mom so wisely pointed out, "Well, they want you to choose hoping that you'll pick something they'll like." Andrew quickly pointed out how frustrating and passive aggressive that is. I love him. Because it's true. It's creating the illusion of making this our decision. And I am really sick and tired of illusions!

Andrew's mom's friend suggested an Italian place in Santa Barbara. And she clearly had that stuck in her head because she mentioned it like 4 or 5 times. When we walked by there, looking at restaurants for the rehearsal dinner, she mentioned how great it smelled. Okay, okay, we get it. You want to eat there! So, we did. I felt kinda bad. My dad doesn't eat anything Italian other than the same old spaghetti and meatballs. But honestly, I would rather please Andrew's mom because she is so passive aggressive, with an emphasis on the aggressive. My parents are passive aggressive with an emphasis on the passive. If we please her, we eliminate a lot of complaining and whining and huffing and puffing and scowling and gagging faces. My parents are a little more gracious. It's a toss up as to which demeanor I prefer. With Andrew's mom, at least you know what she's thinking. Even if she doesn't come out and say it, she'll make it known! But then her actions are kinda rude and childish. Silly me, I don't like the food I'm enjoying to be responded to with a "blech" noise and a gagging face. But with my parents, they flat out lie. My dad will "yum" his way through a meal even if he hates it. So you're always left wondering. I can still tell when he hates something though because he overacts it. But not everyone else can tell. I could tell he didn't like this spaghetti. The sauce was too thick and had too many herbs in it. He doesn't like any seasoning other than salt. And he phonily over-yummed his way through every bite. Everyone else enjoyed their food. Andrew and his mom each ordered something that both of them wanted so they could eat half of each and share. That's usually something he and I do. But it seems that whenever she's around, they share instead. I don't always like that. It makes me feel a tiny bit second-fiddle. I know I'm being silly, but like I said at the beginning... this is my blog and I'll whine if I want to. ; ) Oh, and she also grabs his hand when she's scared, and holds it with her fingers interlaced with his. We were at Disneyland over the holidays on a couple of rides and she did that. With her husband of 20+ years sitting right next to her, she reached for her son to comfort her... with an interlaced finger hand-hold. Perhaps I'm crazy or just overly sensitive about boundaries in family relationships... but it made me uneasy. Luckily, Andrew lets go pretty quickly and pats her on the back instead. Cuz if he kept on sitting there holding it, we might have a problem.

While we were at lunch, we discussed one of the restaurants we were going to visit as a potential rehearsal dinner spot. I read them the sample menu she sent me. It was a choice of salmon, crusted chicken or braised short ribs. Andrew's mom expressed concern. She said, "My family... we aren't short-rib-people." I'm sorry, but what is a "short-rib-person"??? It's beef. Do you eat beef? Yes? Okay then, we're good to go! I can't create a menu with everyone's favorite thing on it. Besides, what if my family are "short-rib-people"? She just gets to veto it anyway?? That was kinda my breaking point. I had to walk the rest of the way up the street a little bit away from the others. I did speak up while we were there at the table. I said, "Okay, well that's just a sample menu but I don't understand what is so controversial about short ribs." I didn't get an answer.

We walked around a bit more, scoping out restaurants. When we saw all we could see for the day, my parents headed off in a separate direction to spend the rest of the weekend in Solvang. Andrew & I drove home with his mom. On that drive she learned the truth about my brother. I'll save that for Part II (or Part XIV). When we got home, we relaxed on the couch, watched Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (super cute - I recommend it), had a late Del Taco dinner during which Andrew's mom gave him her nachos to finish. Then she slept on our couch (that's Part III so stay tuned), woke up the next morning, wanted some coffee but we don't drink any so we don't have any. Andrew drove to 7-11 to get her a cup and when he brought it to her she made the gagging face at it. It wasn't up to par with the generic-brand instant coffee she drinks at home. Plus the brand of vanilla creamer wasn't the exact same as she usually uses. Heaven forbid! She drove back to Vegas at 10:30am on an empty stomach because she's afraid to eat anything when she travels due to her Crohn's Disease. And don't give me any, "Christina, you shouldn't pick on the eating habits of someone with a gastro-intestinal problem" because (1) I deserve a little more credit than that and (2) Andrew's mom eats all of the WRONG foods for her disease - heavy, fatty red meats, no vegetables or whole grains EVER (seriously - NEVER EVER), and drinks soda after soda, plus she smokes which I'm sure is also an irritant. She's not a picky eater because of her disease. Her disease is actually greatly worsened by her picky eating.

I am going to take every precaution I can to ensure I never end up as picky or narrow-minded as our parents. Oh, and I have so many more examples of it from this weekend. SO MANY! Just you wait!