My Royal Wedding

March 18, 2011

Well, friends; I think some people still come to this site, expecting yours truly to be writing–I am! It’s just… not here… right now. Instead, try:

http://myroyalwedding.wordpress.com/

This is where I have been making nearly-daily updates about my preparations for heading to London for the April 29 Wedding of the Century!!!

After this event I will (hopefully) return to this blog with more frequency.

Until then…

Stay smiling, kids!

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Christmas Comes Anew

December 23, 2010

I once compared going home to the experience of revisiting an unfinished puzzle, but once you closely examine the pieces you find that their images differ slightly from the way you left them: a green apple turns red, the old lady with the hat now has reading glasses, and so on.

Every year at Christmas for at least the past decade my sister and I have decorated our tree while listening to an old cassette tape of my mom’s, “Songs, Hymns, and Carols” from the American Guitar Ensemble. This year, this Christmas, I don’t have these puzzle pieces to create the image of home–no family Christmas tree, no family, no guitar ensemble, and definitely no cassette player! As I am enduring a significant bout of homesickness, I figured the one thing that would make me feel better would be finding these songs.

Luckily, ask of the Internet and ye shall receive. After an accidental download of a different guitar Christmas album, I found my favorite cassette tape in MP3 form. Listening to them now is the reverse of that unfinished puzzle conundrum: the songs and details are the same, I still know the sequence of songs by heart, but the setting has changed entirely. It’s not like I can close my eyes and suddenly be transported 3000 miles away, as much as I would like that superpower.

So Christmas comes again and for the first time ever I am without my family. I keep saying, “not gonna lie, I’m pretty bummed,” and I mean it; however, I’m excited to try something different, as my friend Jackie will be here in approximately 12 hours! And now that I have “Songs, Hymns, and Carols,” I have a small piece of Portland, Oregon, here with me in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And, sure, I’m trying not to cry and be dramatic about it, but it is a small consolation.

Even better: You have to turn over cassette tapes in order to hear the songs again; with MP3s you just click repeat. I’ll call it a new and improved puzzle piece to my Christmas experience.

Sunday Thoughts

December 5, 2010

If my blog and I were friends on Facebook, we’d be in a relationship and that relationship would be “It’s Complicated.”

Before writing The Year of Magical Thinking, Joan Didion wrote an essay titled “Why I Write.” She summarized her explanation with three little words: “I, I, I.”

Even when I write for you, an audience, I am still writing for me. I don’t always want to write–there are days when I actively avoid it–but I think about writing every day. Perhaps the gulf between writing and thinking is the key difference between great writers and me.

But I digress. And that is exactly my point.

Whether writing for you or writing for me I always want to write well; unfortunately, this means that I sit down intending to crank out a brief blog post about how I wish I updated this more, but then I get hung upĀ  because I think every post should say something, should have a point, and should communicate that point well. I don’t want to put a piece of me out here that isn’t up to my standard of writing; I don’t want my entries to sound trite or like they belong in my notebook. But this desire to write well hinders my productivity. Even this moment: I have to run and do some errands, but I’m worried about how I’ll end this post–heaven forbid it doesn’t have an adequate conclusion!

My “complicated” relationship with “It Is Marvelous” will continue. But I’d like to write more, and more conversationally. We’ll see what happens.

Sitting in my very cold abode this weekend following Thanksgiving (as no one else is home I’ve set the thermostat at 54 degrees), I am shivering, with a pins-and-needles feeling covering my extremities. This is not because I am cold, but because I have been watching the trailer for the new film, The King’s Speech, which chronicles George VI, long plagued by a stammer and social anxiety, and his relationship with his speech therapist.

When I’m asked about the origins of my inexhaustible passion for Britain’s Royal Family and its history, I talk of traveling to England at seven years old, counting the stone steps as I climbed a turret of Bodiam Castle, standing awestruck atop the vault containing Henry VIII’s body in St. George’s Chapel, or buying Terry Deary’s The Terrible Tudors from a gift shop at Hatfield House. Truthfully, while I remember these details and their subsequent impact on my life (I also bought the infamous 750-piece Henry VIII puzzle at Hatfield), I’m unsure of exactly what ignited my interest in the British Monarchy. Like my identity as a writer, my Anglophiliac hobby is inextricably linked to my sense of self; I romantically wonder if I came out of the womb holding a pen–and a copy of Elizabeth Longford’s “The Oxford Book of Royal Anecdotes.”

I was 11 years old, in my bunk bed at the beach house, one August night when Bekah asked me who was my favorite member of the Royal Family.

“The Queen,” I said, with little hesitation. Bekah sometimes participated in the historical reenactment (and even garish coloring) of my Tudor and Windsor Royal Family paper dolls; as we had been entertained by them that afternoon, the activity must have prompted the question. Lying in bed I let the question percolate. “Actually,” I corrected after a pause, “I think my favorite is Diana.” I felt remorseful, reneging on the Queen, but it was the truth. “The Queen is a close second,” I clarified.

The next morning was sunny. I stood at the top of the stairs as Mom came in from her trip to town to check in with my grandparents (back when we didn’t have a phone at the house). She dabbed her eyes with a Kleenex.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“Princess Diana died,” she said.

I don’t remember crying, if I did; however, I changed into the only semblance of mourning clothes I had: a black mini skirt and a black shirt, unfortunately punctuated with one of those glaring, yellow smiley faces. After the September 6th ceremony at Westminster Abbey, I orchestrated an elaborate paper doll funeral for the late Princess of Wales; the Tudors attended, including all of Henry VIII’s wives. I had two versions of Diana, so I fashioned two coffins from black construction paper. Distraught that I could not recreate the Royal Standard with my meager art supplies, I settled for covering the coffins in the Union Jack flag. This bothered me, not only because it was an inaccurate replica of the coffin, but also because I stubbornly defied Palace edicts and continued to refer to the Princess of Wales as “Her Royal Highness”; she deserved the Royal Standard (which was placed, after some dissent, over the actual coffin). I have a picture of my finely dressed paper dolls, along with my cat, lined up in the living room, paying their respects to the cut-out representations of one of the most important women in my life.

Thirteen years later I am still as, if not more, fascinated and preoccupied by the British Monarchy. I spend hours browsing Wikipedia entries on each of Queen Victoria’s 42 grandchildren; I frequently check www.royal.gov.uk, which is where I went immediately on November 16th, after learning that Prince William and Kate Middleton had (finally!) been engaged.

When I told my mom of my plan to fly to London for the wedding, she laughed at my impulsiveness; I’d argue that this decision is far from impulsive, it is nearly two decades in the making: No way, no how, no question am I going to miss this event! I booked my plane ticket and have a friend with whom to stay (“I’m already sick of this bloody wedding!” she lamented). Apparently I’ve also passed on a family trip to Hawaii, but they (for the most part) understand. I don’t know how to explain it, but this is what I’m supposed to do. What else could I do, the little girl who memorized the Kings and Queens of England for fun? Who longed to be a princess as she danced around her room with an invisible Prince William? In time that dream proved typical and impractical, not to mention hysterical, but my romance remains. I’m going to London for the Royal wedding of the century; the seven-year-old inside me is doing cartwheels–it won’t be long before the 24-year-old follows suit!

These past few weeks have been hard for me. To admit this invites criticism, especially since my life is beautiful, easy, and full of blessings that many do without (job and financial security, family, friends). But among the pieces of my life there is one thing that seems diseased, and that’s me. How can I live a good life when I am unhappy with who I am?

With only an inkling of how and why, I’ve arrived at my quarter-life-crisis. I want to change, I want to be a better person, I want to follow through with my plans and new month’s resolutions–but I am afraid that all efforts are futile, because I’ve wanted to be a better person for years and yet I continually make the same mistakes. It’s easy to screw up; it’s even easier to apologize; but it’s so hard to change and that’s all I want right now. How long is it going to take?

Aphorism of the week

September 17, 2010

If you can’t go through life without regret, then try to learn from your mistakes. If you can’t learn from your mistakes, then eat to take away the pain.

Works like a charm. I recommend challah bread and brie.

I’m kidding. Sort of. And trying not to be so damn dramatic, but they don’t call me a Pisces for nothing…

The City That Never Sleeps

August 28, 2010

The extent to which I am a morning person is emphasized when you throw me in a room with my sister. “Early-to-mid 20th century brothel owner with a wooden leg” would apply more to Bekah than “morning person.” I’m serious. She makes a grouchy face and an eye mask an Olympic sport. I just tried to rouse her by being appropriately sisterly and excited about our day, but she actually turned away from me and griped, ear plugs still in, “just give me a bit longer.”

We are in New York City. She is on the verge of departing for Jordan for a year; I came along for the emotional ride, bearing wine and chocolate. We’ll see what the weekend holds.

Senior year of high school, 1st period, AP English. Mrs. Housley gives us directions for an in-class discussion group and there is a pause in the conversation. I raise my hand and she calls on me.

“Should we commence now?” I ask.

Maddy Blount, whose intelligence intimidates me, starts to laugh. I can tell she’s not mocking me, she’s genuinely amused.

“What?” I ask, with burgeoning red cheeks.

“Oh, just the word ‘commence,'” she says, smiling. “It’s so formal!”

Six years too late: Maddy Blount, thank you.

It has always been important for me to sound smart and accurate; however, high school and my early college life was the unfortunate zenith, if you will, of my relationship with Roget’s Thesaurus. My copy had a green cover with a yellow title and wilting pages through which I would thumb for synonyms to words like “said,” “made,” and, apparently, “start.” It was also around this time that I learned that the 21st century English vocabulary contains approximately a 1/3 of the words used by 16th century English speakers. This devastated me and spurred (not to be confused with spurned) my interest in big words. Hence: commence, which, in retrospect, should only be used as a noun in the context of a graduating class or as a verb by the British voice in a GPS: “You may commence driving now.”

Don’t get me wrong: Big words are beautiful; however, when wielded by the wrong tongue they can become WMDs for my–and any English major’s–sanity.

To be continued…

Axiomatic

July 19, 2010

Just kidding. I only say “Axiomatic” because I re-enabled my OK! Cupid online dating profile yesterday and, you know, what could be gayer than pulling out my queer theory readings and trying to use them to woo a lady???

“I think this will be good for Binnsy,” Emily said, turning to Nikki on the couch as I wielded my Eve Sedgwick and Judith Butler readings around the house.

Yeah, I need to get out more.

The heat has returned, not as painful as the past two weeks, but enough to make me sticky and grumpy. But there is thunder, lightning, and rain tonight–which is spectacular and cheering me up, watching it flash across the sky like an Elizabeth Bishop poem.

My outfits at work lately have resembled what Taylor Swift would wear if she were to guest star on “Big Love.” I’m mostly okay with this, but concerned about looking like, well, Taylor Swift as wife #4. I don’t need to go shopping again–in fact, I need to avoid spending money altogether, but the lure of new things is attractive.

Within the 40 minutes it has taken me to write this (sporadically, with frequent breaks, especially to check on the new “Degrassi”) I have secured my first OK! Cupid date. This is rather exciting. And by “rather exciting” I mean “all three of my roommates just piled into my room to look at this girl’s photos and analyze her profile.” They think she’s a perfect fit for me. OK! Cupid says she is a 92% match. I think I’m finally ready to get back in the game.

This evening I stumbled on one of those gems from high school life that you think might have only existed in a dramatic haze: Among quotes from theater shows and angsty statements about “music at 3am” telling me something portentous, I found a poem preserved on the same piece of paper it had been scribbled on about eight years ago.

Like all of my poems in high school (and college and, yes, real life), this was written with someone in mind. Her name was Siobhan. I thought I was in love with Siobhan after a couple weeks of genuinely revealing, friendly AIM conversations. Some time later I confessed my love to Siobhan while we stood in front of the green lockers in junior hall after an open mic night. After that, she didn’t talk to me for nearly two weeks, which felt like 2348 million years (kids! So dramatic!).

Like my other high school crushes, Siobhan had a nickname: I called her Cinderella, since her mother frequently asked her to do an inordinate amount of housework. Though I’m sure I denied at the time that it had any connection to Siobhan, the below poem was certainly inspired by her (and perhaps influenced by that jump-rope ditty from elementary school).

Cinderella, Cinderella,
turned around
and kissed Louella.
She left that dumb prince
at the ball,
never knowing
that she’d fall
so fast, so hard,
so desperately
for the girl’s
sweet company.
Laughing, dreaming,
loving so,
Cinderella came to know
Louella was the one
for her–
forever, always–
they were sure
that this tale
was no disaster:
Cinderella and Louella,
happily ever after.

Oddly, although I didn’t know it at the time, the poem is in near-perfect iambic pentameter. Sure, my form is screwy and I would rework the line breaks if I looked at the poem seriously now, but it’s not terrible for a kid who’d never had a poetry class.

That’s enough meandering down memory lane for the moment, but I admit I’m tempted to write something on Siobhan’s Facebook wall: Hey, remember that awkward time I had a crush on you?

Sigh. Thank goodness for growing up.

(Side note: In case I wasn’t already submerged in “High School Reminiscing” mode, my iTunes on random has decided to reward my reflections with Avril Lavigne’s “Things I’ll Never Say.” Avril Lavigne, people!! Remember when she used to actually sing and didn’t just party and date reality TV stars?)