Friday, March 30, 2012

A Vegetarian Wedding: Epilogue

In a conversation with a friend recently, I mentioned that we didn't serve meat at our wedding.  And my friend looked at me quizzically and said, "Really? You didn't serve meat?" 

So yes, Virginia, you can have a meatless wedding and it will not scar your guests for life, nor will it marr their memory of the wedding.  Although I would advise that if you have critical guests, make sure a few thousand stinkbugs come to your wedding, and they will spend the rest of your life reminding you of your skinkbug infested wedding instead of mentioning that you didn't serve meat. 

Today's post was inspired by the APW post about catering and perfect temperature.  But whatever food you are serving, if you're serving it at all, you're doing it right. 

Monday, March 26, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Losing

I really hate losing.  I hate losing anything, from games to my keys.  Losing board games, or hockey games (my team lost the playoffs yesterday), or anything competitive makes me get this weird lump in my chest - not quite the feeling where I'm going to sob uncontrollably, but just enough that I become extremely agitated, uncomfortable, and upset.  I felt this way the entire time growing up, as I played cards with my grandparents, and my grandpa would lecture me to stop whining that it was unfair or my sister was getting dealt better cards than me.  Which, retrospectively, I see as reasonable, but I've never been able to recognize fully that a board game is meaningless in the grand scheme of life, and I'm incapable of acting like an adult when I lose.

So when my mother-in-law suggests we play a board game, I want to run screaming for the hills.  So far, we have discontinued playing pictionary, upWords, and bananagrams, because I cannot play them like a reasonable human being.  I also can't really handle darts.

So the problem here is that my husband decided recently that we watch too much TV and should play more board games.  He's hunted for games that we can play together, that is, good two-person games, and we have acquired several of them.  The problem is that I never want to play.  Which I explained to him today by pointing out that he consistently wins the board games, and since I do not enjoy losing, I do not enjoy playing if I am going to lose.

It seems like such a cheap way out, though.  I would love it if we could play board games and I didn't get frustrated and upset.  So far, the answer has been to find board games in which it's really hard to tell as you play whether you are winning or losing.  I hate getting trounced, but if at the end of the game, we count up our cards and figure out who won or who lost, I take it much better.  (If you have the same problem and need an in-law friendly game, I suggest Dominion or Ticket to Ride, also Scattergories.)

In some of my research about what makes a person a sore loser and how to get over myself, I came across this sentence, "Children watch how their parents handle things when they're frustrated. They pay closer attention to what we do than to what we say when we're under stress. " I will say, the ease with which I become frustrated when things do not go exactly as planned or expected is one of the things my husband wouldn't mind changing about me.  I am working on this, mostly by striving to be more organized, because it makes me calmer over all.  However, there are no solutions I can find to being a straight-up sore loser, other than my husband being smart enough to occasionally let me win and make me think I did it all on my own, and I would like to move past that.

Anyone else have my problems?  What are your solutions?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Support

So you know what I did over the weekend?
I ran my first marathon!  Myself and my friend Sara laced up our sneakers to complete a journey that we started four years ago when we began running together.  We were joined by three other friends - two veteran marathoners and one other newbie - and we all crossed the finish line in under 5 hours (since I brought up the rear at 4:48, I can say that without sarcasm.)  

On Saturday morning, my husband walked me and my stuff out to Sara's parent's minivan, which they had rented for the weekend to drive the rest of us around (they were seriously awesome.)  Three hours later, he drove to my sister's house and her, her husband, and my husband loaded themselves up with a ridiculous amount of gummi bears, pretzels, and funny marathon signs and drove themselves down to Virginia Beach, where they sat in the sun for five hours and watched for the five seconds I went by in each direction.  (My sister, being extra awesome, actually ran the last mile of the marathon with me while I alternated between saying, "omg, everything hurts so badly" and saying, "so do you think you'll do a marathon? it's not that bad.")  And while I'm not entirely sure that I would have gotten through the race at all without the support of my friends, who got me to the starting line and through the first half of the race, and my sister, who literally got me to the finish line, I also know that I couldn't have made it through without the support of my husband.  
(I'm so happy to see him!)
My husband, who put up with my long runs that took up most of my day on Saturdays or Sundays and then left me hungry, physically destroyed, and mentally incompetent for the remainder of the day.  My husband, who recognized that my expensive running habit was important even when we had limited income.  Who asked me how my long runs went, expressed sympathy when they were bad, and cheered when they were good.  Who didn't complain when I gave up alcohol for the month before the race or refused to stay out or up late before long runs.  Who rubbed my feet and helped me wrap my knee and did all of my laundry after long runs.  So thank you honey, I could never have done this without you!  

Thursday, March 8, 2012

International Women's Day: Choose to Fight

Over on Any Other Woman, to celebrate International Women's Day, they are talking about choices.  Which is an interesting topic, because for the most part, while I like the feminist rhetoric that feminism is about choices, I think, especially in this economy, choices are a bit of a myth.

For the past year, I have been under or unemployed.  For six months before that, I was unemployed.  In my first year out of law school, I made very little money.  Like, would be well under the poverty line if I wasn't married little.  As a feminist raised by feminists to be self-sufficient and self-supporting, in fact, raised with an expectation that I would be the higher wage earner in my relationship, I have found this incredibly, indescribably challenging.  As a feminist raised to place a high premium on my career, on building myself before building a family, I suddenly found myself staring at a range of "choices", none of which were actually choices.

The fact that I was being supported by my husband was really difficult for me.  Even though I didn't want to, I found myself "choosing" to be the person who cooked and ran errands and got things done for our household.  It wasn't because I was the woman, it was because it was what made sense.  It wasn't because my husband was asking me to, it was because I felt guilty that I wasn't bringing any income into the family.  I was doing what needed to get done, because I am a grownup and a fundamentally practical person, but it wasn't my choice to do those things.

I made "choices" like choosing my husband over my career.  I could have perhaps pursued a job somewhere else, like Alaska, but because there was no guarantee that if we moved for my job, I could support both of us, or my husband could find a job, I really didn't "choose" to stay here.  I like it here and I'm admitted here, but this wasn't a "choice" I made for my family.  This was the way things are for my family.

Even now, as I have started a permanent, salaried, full-time job this week, I'm still struggling with the "choice" rhetoric.  If my husband works long hours and I "choose" to make dinner when I get home, I'm not actually making a choice to make dinner.  I need to eat, so I make dinner.  It is ready for him when he gets home, because our meals aren't single serving.  Usually he does the dishes, which is nice, but nights when he comes home close to 9pm, I will often "choose" to do the dishes myself because I have to.  In this economy in particular, neither of us is making a choice here.

I know that in the future, I will make sacrifices so that we can start a family and I will dress them up as choices.  I know that sometimes I will put my relationship or my family ahead of my career and sometimes it will be a choice and sometimes it will be what is practical and reasonable and I will pretend it is a choice.  Sometimes I will do these things and they will be what I want or they will be what works out for the best, but that doesn't make them a choice.

Ultimately, what I'm saying is that I think there is a larger cultural narrative here than feminism is fighting for choice.  I think feminism-as-choice rhetoric is allowing us to justify why we are not fighting harder.  Instead of having the tough conversations about income disparity, who should work flexible hours and who should do the housework, or whether housework or caretaking should be related to income disparity, we are saying, "women who choose to stay home with their children should expect their careers to take a hit" and "the partner who chooses to eat healthy, wholesome meals should be in charge of preparing them" and "the partner who wants the house to be neat and tidy should be in charge of keeping it that way."  We don't fight for affordable childcare because it is easier to "choose" to stay home with our children, if the cost of childcare exceeds our salaries and we would kind of like to do it anyway, or somebody tells us it is better for the child.  We don't fight for safer food processes and better agricultural practices because we tell ourselves that we can just choose to grow or prepare real food, which takes a considerable time and effort.  

Do you think that feminism is about choice?  Or does the rhetoric bother you as well?  What practical things have you done for yourself or your family that you dressed up as choice?  What changes do we need to be fighting for so that we have genuine, real choices available to us?

Monday, March 5, 2012

Monday Marriage Matters: Charity

Giving to charity has always been an important pillar of my life.  As a frequent non-profit employee, I know how much donations matter, and as a person that comes from a place of privilege, I feel that it is my duty and obligation to give back to my community and to help make sure people who are less fortunate are able to experience all of the opportunities this country has to offer.  My husband feels similarly about charitable contributions, and I've always made it clear that substantial charitable giving is one of my adult financial goals.  So now that we are in the throes of budgeting and saving for the life that we want, we are also focusing on budgeting and saving to support the kind of community we want to live in.  This requires thinking about what kind of charitable giving we want to prioritize.

We live in downtown Baltimore.  Downtown Baltimore has a lot of really great spirit, a lot of wonderful businesses, and a lot of crime, drug abuse, and substantial poverty.  It is also a community that has a number of civic organizations that do great work, and that we want to support.  By supporting those organizations, we also support the future of our community, from the ground up.  We care about the environment.  We care about green spaces, about preserving local plants and preventing invasive species.  We care about improving the health of the Chesapeake bay.  We care about slowing global warming.  We care about school children having the opportunity to learn about science and nature in a healthy, hands-on way.  It is no surprise that we chose to get married in a space that shared these goals and values.  We care about politics.  We are supporters of marriage equality, women's rights, social justice, and other progressive issues. 

I will say, we have donated significant time to all of these causes in the past.  We also make frequent in-kind donations of old clothing, technology items, food, or other requested items.  We will continue to volunteer and donate in the future.  But sometimes, instead of volunteering at fundraising galas to gain free admission, I would like to dress up and enjoy myself.  Sometimes, when I'm feeling as if I'm already stretched too thin, I would like to be able to write a check instead of showing up on a Saturday morning to work a registration table.  Sometimes, I know that money goes much further than my time or my in-kind donations.  

So we are working to create a budget for our charitable giving and decide what kind of charitable giving we would like to do. For example, I love fundraising events. I like going out and doing something fun while supporting a cause I believe in. I know from working many of these events in the past that they are often a good way for the organization to make money and they are also an opportunity for my husband and I to build stronger roots within our community and make friends, or introduce friends of ours to great organizations.  We also like to run, and running races that support charities can also be a good way to support an organization, and in my particular situation, is a good way for me to support my friend's whose offices/hospitals/nonprofits organize these races.  

I think there are many tricky things to navigate when trying to create a life that involves substantial charitable giving.  Do you want to give an amount that is proportionate to your own earnings?  Do you want to give a lot to one organization or a little bit to everybody?  Do you want to make lifetime contributions or create a large estate that goes to charity?  Do you and your spouse each get to pick a certain number of charities to give to?  How do you fight against the constant requests from friends that know you are a soft-hearted and giving person?  How do you know that the charity you are giving to is using your money wisely and not wasting it?  How do you know that the charity you are giving to does not take advantage of it's employees and pays them a living wage?  

We don't have answers to a lot of these questions.  For the most part, right now, we are giving what we can and feel comfortable with, in a way we feel comfortable, to organizations that hit close to home and we know will do good things with our money.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Feminist Friday: Gloria Steinem

My local pro-choice reading group (oh, do you not have one of those?) is looking for an article or an essay to read for our March meeting, and in an attempt to find something, I pulled my (signed!!!!) copy of Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions off the shelf.  I've had this book since I was 14, and it was written loooong before that, and somehow now, it still sings to me.  A girl at the happy hour I went to this week had never heard of Gloria Steinem, and I was appalled.  (I got to meet her a few years ago, and afterwards, giddy at having met my childhood hero, my friend Danny looked at me and said, "so this is like if I met both Captain Kirk and Spock?" and I said, "yes, but more awesome!")  So if any of you here have never read Steinem, I'm going to embark on a campaign to fix that.

If you have never had the good fortune to hear Gloria Steinem speak, let me just say this: the woman is amazing.  And what is more amazing is that she gets it.  Still!  She gets young feminists in a way that most 2nd wave feminist sort of don't.  She has this lens through which she sees the world as both vastly different and exactly the same as when this movement started.  She also has an unbelievable ability to command a room even though her voice is so quiet you almost have to strain to hear her.

If you have never read this book, you should.  It's funny, because it is old, but it's not out of date.  It includes some of my favorite Steinem-isms, such as, "I've yet to be on a campus where most women weren't worrying about some aspect of combining marriage, children, and a career. I've yet to find one where many men were worrying about the same thing."  and "We are becoming the men we wanted to marry." as in, women used to dream about marrying doctors, and now we get to become them.  

She talks about Sisterhood.  "And this lack of esteem that makes us put each other down is still the major enemy of sisterhood.  Women who are conforming to society's expectations view the nonconformists with understandable alarm.  Those noisy, unfeminine women, they say to themselves, They will only make trouble for us all.  Women who are quietly nonconforming, hoping nobody will notice, are even more alarmed, because they think they have more to lose."  As a noisy, unfeminine woman, who spent most of my life making trouble for everybody else, it's interesting to think about those women who are "quietly nonconforming", the ones who judge me because I make noise about sexism and they are instead quietly fighting it by simply being twice as awesome as any man has to be, to be thought half as good, I can see why they think they have so much to lose by being grouped in with the likes of rabble like me.  

In my re-reading I also found new passages that speak to me especially as an adult.  This one, in particular, from Ruth's Song, about her mother.  "I realize now why I've always been more touched by old people than by children.  It's the talent and hopes locked up in a failing body and unsure mind that get to me - a poignant contrast that reminds me of my mother, even when she was strong."  This is probably the most accurate description of why I am drawn to elder law as a field and why I feel so personally and intensely connected to so many of my clients, although in my case it's that they remind me so much of my grandmother.  

She also talks about the pressure for young women to remain "flexible" - to "adapt to the career and priorities of an eventual husband and children" - I know a lot of women out there who are doing this.  They are not pursuing careers they deserve, they aren't saving money, and they aren't making success happen for themselves even though they are incredible - because they are worried about either having to give up their career, or getting bogged down by it, or it not allowing them to meet interesting enough men, or for other reasons that I absolutely do not see reflected in my male friends of the same age.  

Anyway, my point here is that you should go read, or re-read, yourself some Gloria Steinem, and then come back and gush with me about how much you love her.  

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's Time to Start Talking

I know I've been silent on this so far, but today the Governor is going to sign same-sex marriage into law!  I suppose I should take a moment to celebrate, but instead I'm charging forward to "where do I sign up? what do I have to do to make this happen?"  Because the Governor's signature is the starting line, and the referendum will be the ball game.

So where do we start?  I think we start by talking.  I think we start by saying, "I support marriage equality."  I think we start by talking with our allies about how to frame our arguments.  There are going to be certain things that resonate with certain people.  When our older secretary admitted to me that while she fully supports equal rights for same-sex couples, she struggles a lot with the idea of marriage being anything but what she has known it to be for her entire life (she's in her late sixties, and from a really conservative area).  Her argument wasn't even religious.  It was more of a simple statement - that it is very hard for her to undo her own conditioning.  She asked about civil unions or domestic partnerships.  I said that separate but equal doesn't really work, either legally or emotionally.  I pointed out that Mark and I were in a domestic partnership for three years, and now that we are married, it is totally different.  I don't know if I changed her mind, but I think I framed the argument in a much more practical way than she was used to.  I also think using the term separate but equal resonated with her.

So I think we need to start thinking about how to frame our arguments.  And we need to start talking.  And we need to be careful.  A lot of my friends think the answer is to just call everyone who doesn't support same-sex marriage a bigot.  Truthfully, calling people names will not change their minds, it will make them dig their heels in more.  Saying, "I can see how you would feel that way, but the system we have in place now isn't a solution and there are families who need the protections of marriage and divorce and it's not really fair to deny them that" is going to get you a lot further than, "I can't believe you think that, you bigot."

So let's start talking.  What arguments have worked best for you to change people's hearts and minds, and if you can't change their minds, is there anything we can do to make sure they change their vote?  Do you think there is any merit to asking people who are uncomfortable with same-sex marriage to simply not vote for or against the referendum if it is too difficult for them to cast a yes vote, or is that too dangerous?