Tag Archives: childhood dreams

In Which I Become Affianced

The time has come, dear readers — the time at which my Pinterest wedding boards become legitimate, and I realize I can’t afford most of the absurd things I think princesses should have at their weddings (fireworks, elephant rides, and a puppy as a favor a la Bridesmaids being the most disappointing).

Yep, I am interrupting this regularly scheduled program to announce that I have become affianced to Manfriend!

A lot of little girls spend their whole lives fantasizing about their weddings. I’m not really into floral arrangements or cakes that look better than they taste, though, so my wedding plan was basically this: I manage to look ethereal and virginal and old-Hollywood-sexy all at once. He’s tall (sorry short guys of the world, but you were just not a part of my wedding fantasy) and shmexy. My whole family is there. There is a ton of food and some of it is grilled cheese and all of it is delicious. Then there is dancing and merriment and probably ice sculptures and enchanted fountains. A fairy grants us three wishes for our marriage. Then we fly away on a magic carpet to start our happily ever after.

Really solid plan, right?

Regardless of whether or not the fairy godmother I plan on inviting can clear her schedule to make it to the wedding, I think I’m still off to a pretty good start. Also he asked me to marry him and I said yes, so now I can actually, legitimately plan a wedding.

I had some good reasons for saying yes too. Here is a list of things I like about Manfriend:

1) He’s tall.

Apart from this being an evolution-based indication of good health and the ability to defend our family, it is also terribly convenient because I can wear whatever height heels I want when we go fancy places without looking silly. It also means he can reach ALL THE THINGS.

“Manfriend? Could you please hang this plant for me on the porch? I can’t reach that chain thingy.” Of course he can.

“Manfriend, the plant is dead because I never remember to water it. Could you take it down and hang up this fake one instead?” Not an issue.

“Manfriend, be a dear and fetch the rum from the back corner of the top of the fridge, where I slid it and now cannot access it.” Then he pours shots.

“Manfriend? I can’t reach that book on the top shelf.” Book + boy = swoon.

“Manfriend, I can’t see the parade because America is obese and all these fat people are blocking the view of those of us with only borderline BMIs.” Then I get hefted up so I can see the parade.

“Manfriend, could you–” Then he’s like, STOP CALLING ME MANFRIEND, because it’s only endearing for so long and then he wishes to be called by his real name or whatever, but regardless. With Manfriend in my life I can reach/see/drink/forget to water all the things.

2) He tolerates/sometimes enjoys the company of my family.

I know everybody’s family is crazy and all that jazz, but Manfriend grew up with one brother and no sisters and his parents are really nice and have been married forever. I have three sisters as crazy as I am, a father who likes to run background checks on everyone, a stepmother that we called our Wicked Evil Stepmonster (her idea for a title), a mother I’m pretty sure has a compulsive holiday-decorating disorder, and a partridge in a pear tree. (Well, not the last thing, but Manfriend comes from a family that just has cats and dogs for pets and in my family we’ve had two kinds of birds, rabbits, five kinds of dogs, fish, mice, a desert tortoise, and a five-foot iguana. Zoo status, when you include the mood swings of four girls.)

Manfriend bears all these things with grace and humor, and looks really good doing it.

3) He’s secretly smart.

Because I can sometimes be an elitist, pretentious bitch, I used to think Manfriend wasn’t smart enough to keep up with me. He played video games and sports and never seemed to be reading for fun, and he occasionally demonstrated incorrect usage of your/you’re in our early text conversations. Clearly not somebody I could procreate with. Scoff. Hair toss. DIS-MISSED.

Then while I was busy being too smart for him, he charmed my family, convinced me to go to Disney World with him during my last spring break at West Point, and cemented our relationship when he stood up for me against an ex who made all kinds of wild, unflattering accusations about my family and me. He also made perfect grades on Physics exams at West Point, proving once and for all that he’s not a dumb jock, as much as he likes to claim he is. I, on the other hand, studied for hours and still only skidded by in Physics I and II with a B- both semesters. I neither remember nor understand anything about that class, except that if you copy down all the equations you might get some partial credit.

Now, to tease me for being a pretentious bitch in the early days of our relationship, Manfriend pretends to have a diminished vocabulary purely for the sake of driving me crazy.

For instance:

HIM: What are you doing?

ME: I’m being coy.

HIM: Oh, like the fish.

ME: No! Not like the fish!

HIM: Kelley, stop being koi.

Or:

HIM: I don’t understand.

ME: You’re just being intentionally obtuse.

HIM: You know I don’t like it when you call me fat.

…infuriating. Adorable…but mostly infuriating.

4) He’s a bazillionaire.

Just kidding. If he was we’d definitely have a roller coaster photo booth at our wedding. Also baby otters.

But he is good with money, and math, and carpentry, and electricity, and technology, and sports, and grilling, and being coordinated, and all kinds of other things at which I am hopeless. He also has a much higher internal body temperature than I do, which I really appreciate in the winter but requires the use of a fan in summertime. Basically he fills in the gaps in my life, which I think is a pretty important characteristic in the person you’re going to marry.

5) He’s dreamy.

But seriously.

Here’s how he proposed:

We’d been planning to get engaged this past Christmas for almost a year. We shopped for rings over Valentine’s Day weekend last year, and decided what we liked/didn’t like, price, etc. Then we didn’t talk about it again for months. Over the summer he told me to go get my ring finger sized, but other than that he gave no hints about what he was going to buy or when. By November I was convinced he still hadn’t picked one out, and I was worried he was going to spend too much money or wait too long and then we’d have to wait longer to get engaged and waaaaaaah.

Then, two days after Thanksgiving, my mom and youngest sister were visiting his house. His parents, his brother, and his brother’s fiance were also there. Manfriend’s brother’s fiance (the girlfriend-in-law, my stepmom calls her) announced that evening that they had done a bunch of work outside, and so she wanted everyone to get dressed up to take nice family pictures on the bridge over the pond in the backyard the next day. We all said, okay, whatever, and Manfriend seemed clueless/appropriately uninterested so I suspected nothing.

The following afternoon, Manfriend and I were taking our turn for pictures on the bridge. Suddenly, he stopped and grinned at me, and said, “Hang on. I have to go get something,” and leaves me standing baffled on the bridge by myself. He jogged to a nearby tree and grabbed something from behind it, then came back to stand with me on the bridge.

It was a book. Oh! A book! I love books! I tried to take it from him, starting to feel a little indignant that he would bring me a present and then not just hand it over. Holding the book away from me, he put his other hand on my back and stood close. (He was kind of rubbing my back like you might do with a skittish bunny or something, so I’m pretty sure he was trying to lull me into a false sense of security before he could strike.) Then he began his little speech. I started looking around and realized that every female member of our family watching was now crying. Then I realized that he was proposing. And our families were there. And it was being filmed for my big sister in Afghanistan. Then he was down on one knee, opening the book to reveal the ring inside:

It was basically the most magical thing ever.

So of course I cried.

And I said yes.

Duh.

And then my dad and stepmom and Sister #3 showed up and the whole big happy group of us had a belated Thanksgiving dinner together. There was even celebratory pie, courtesy of my future sister-in-law.

engagement2

This was the book Manfriend had picked out to use for the proposal:

And this is the bling ring he gave me:

Sometimes I make a disco ball on the wall when I’m bored during staff meetings, because examining the sparkliness (yes, that is important in choosing a diamond: cut, color, clarity, carat, and sparkliness) of my ring is a lot more interesting than who’s on profile and whatever we’re doing for training next week.

Now all I have to do is win the lottery or get a fat book advance so I can have elephant rides and a fireworks show to rival Disney World, and I’ll be set! After that I plan to spend a few hours coming up with witty retorts to the inevitable and unoriginal string of “lovely” jokes that I will endure for the rest of my life. That’s right, Manfriend’s last name is Lovely, and so after he graduates/commissions/we get married, we shall be the Lieutenants Lovely.

I invite you to stay tuned this year as I slowly morph into Bridezilla. I am now accepting donations to fund my extravagant fairy-tale wedding, complete with water slide.

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The Top Five Most Embarrassing Books I Almost Wrote

I am a writer. And when I grow up, I want to get paid beaucoup bucks to write. I want to buy my parents new houses sans mortgage and I want to fly all over the world at a moment’s notice and never sit in coach again.

But until such time as my writing is supporting me in a manner to which I plan to become accustomed, I maintain a sense of humor about my changing ideas and abilities.

To that end, I present to you the five most embarrassing books I almost wrote.

5. The Playhouse

This one isn’t terrible, more like just terribly BORING. It started out as this wandering, reminiscent narrative about a little girl who gets a playhouse for her birthday. She lived with her mother in a small house in the poorer part of town, and her mother was working three jobs and barely making ends meet. The girl had never met her father, but he was out there somewhere, as evidenced by the beautiful, intricately made pink playhouse that arrived on a large truck the morning of her eighth birthday.

I don’t know why he sent it. I don’t know why he was rich and they were poor. I don’t know why he sent the playhouse instead of a freaking check since they were practically dressing like hobos but bearing their poverty with as much dignity as possible, but that’s what happened.

I digressed to discussing the decline of the neighborhood; the setup of their shabby but somehow charming home; how the mother was always so tired but hopeful that someday her daughter would have a better future. Really original. Really riveting stuff.

The mother was beautiful and hardworking and kind. The daughter was spunky and helpful. The mystery father was enigmatic but not in a “don’t go in that haunted house or evil spirits will chop you up kind of way.” More like a “oh look! it’s Casper the Friendly Ghost!” kind of way; you don’t really understand him, you just like him.

I have no idea where the notebook is that I filled with pages and pages of drivel about the beautiful, hardworking, kind mother and her spunky, helpful daughter, but all I can think is that she should have probably been pissed if this bad boy rolled up on her daughter’s birthday instead of a check:

Playhouse10_full

I mean, come on.

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Get out that checkbook and get with the program, Casper the Friendly Ghost/Baby Daddy, or Mama is about to chop up that sucker and sell it for firewood.

Also, get real, eighth-grade self. Your story sucks.

4. Untitled Bodice Ripper

I was in kindergarten when my youngest sister was born. My parents kept no secrets from us about the birds and the bees. They told us: you’re going to have a little brother or sister and this is how he or she got here. Well the sneaky part about all that up-front medical talk about eggs and stuff was that it was actually over my head, and so it was more theoretical than informative at the time, even if I did spend an unnatural amount of time calling my classmates “dummy” because they thought the baby was in my mom’s tummy and I knew it was in her uterus (real charmer I was).

I continued in my trend of theoretical rather than practical knowledge as I grew up. We didn’t have sex ed in school because I went to Jesus Schools and in Jesus School all they really tell you about sex is DON’T and if you have any further questions you may consult your parents or your pastor. Mostly what I had from my parents was scientific, and I preferred it that way.

So at a time when many of my peers were feeling each other up in dark movie theaters or ditching their v-cards before they had their drivers licenses, I was reading teen historical romance novels. They look pretty much the same as the adult historical romance novels and follow basically the same plot lines: smart, innocent (but secretly sexy) female lead is secretly/illicitly in love/lust with the hunky, usually tortured/secretive/rich male lead who is either a duke or a viscount or an assassin or something and their uncle or aunt or father or somebody doesn’t want them together and someone always almost dies but eventually they get married and there are at least three major sexytime scenes either pre- or post-wedding night (and one of them is often the wedding night, in which they consummate their burning attraction for one another. Caution: popping buttons and broken corset strings may follow).

The the major difference between the adult novels and the teen novels is that the teen protagonists mostly just get kissed passionately in carriages while the adult protagonists engage in actual intercourse in carriages. These types of books comprised the majority of my teen sex ed, along with a few doses of Cosmo and Redbook, which I actually found horrifyingly graphic and vaguely nauseating until I was about twenty-two. C’est la vie.

Anyway, my mass consumption of these novels (I could zip through one in an afternoon or so) resulted in me deciding to write my own Regency tale about a smart, innocent (but secretly sexy) girl who meets a hunky guy in a bookstore and OF COURSE he is taken with her immediately and wants to take her on a magic carpet ride and show her the world and stuff. Except it was in Regency London so instead he tries to dance with her at every ball during the Season and offers her a lot of punch and tries to get her to sneak onto balconies with him “to get some fresh air.” …riiiiiiight.

My book essentially amounted to a re-hashing of my favorite steamy scenes from various romance novels I’d read. The guys hardly ever even copped a feel, but all that heavy breathing and passionate kissing seemed pretty intense to me at the time.

(Fun fact, this one was my favorite for quite some time:

Anna and the Duke

Anna was a sassy mcsass skirt who read sexy Scottish poetry so I was a big fan. I also liked her silky ribbons and dainty gloves. I was also embarrassingly rather taken by Teen Fabio’s swishy hair and excellent coattails.)

This prose was discarded circa 2007 so no, you can’t read it.

3. I Can Hear Voices a.k.a. The One About Abortion

When I was fifteen I wrote what I thought was a heart-wrenching short story about a fetus who (spoiler alert) is aborted by his/her teen mother. Parts of it were pretty good but most of it was overdone and melodramatic. I probably could have turned it into something rather touching without losing its aestheticism, but instead I went the overdone and melodramatic route.

I expanded the short story so you could get more of the background about how the mother fell for the guy and had bad, evil premarital sex and then was impregnated out of wedlock, because obviously everyone who has bad, evil premarital sex will INSTANTLY BECOME IMPREGNATED and be left with no choice but to abort the baby.

I’m being a little dramatic here, but it is only to emphasize how bad and dramatic the actual story itself was. Someone probably could write a gripping account of a fetus listening to its mother discuss with other people about whether or not she should abort the baby. Unfortunately, that person was not fifteen-year-old me.

Another one for the slush pile.

2. Once Upon A Time

I started this gem in the fifth grade. It was originally intended to be a short fairy tale, but I kept it on a floppy disk and every so often all the way through sixth grade, I’d pop that puppy into the family Windows 98 and add a few paragraphs to the bloated Word document until the clever, heartfelt short story I began at age 10 had turned into a raging monster of flowery descriptions and prepubescent romantic longings of a very sheltered 12-year-old.

It started out as the story of two sisters, Grace and Estrella. (ESTRELLA MEANS STAR IN SPANISH SO ISN’T THAT A PRETTY NAME?! said fifth-grade self. Vomit.) They’re princesses (of course). Grace is blind and Estrella is not and since they’re twins I guess that’s how you can tell them apart. Except randomly in the story Grace’s parents pay for her to have a very expensive surgery in another country to restore her sight and then the twins are the same and neither one of them is blind.

Let’s pause.

This is a fairy tale. As in, a tale about magic.

And her parents…paid for an expensive surgery to restore her sight? No fairy dust? No genie wishes? No enchanted stream in an enchanted forest? I was an imaginative and romantic child, but I think this plot choice demonstrates a fatal lack of appropriate sentimentality in one of my early works.

Anyway the non-blind sisters go about their merry lives until one day the spoiled Prince Calvineero (because God forbid his name just be Calvin or Cal; it just had to be short for something) comes to visit as a potential suitor for one of the girls. Eventually through a series of sickeningly sweet and unrealistic encounters the three become friends, but love blooms between Calvin and Estrella. So when they get a little older they are married and Cal sweeps Princess It-Means-Star-In-Spanish off to his amazing kingdom. And there were no hard feelings about Grace being left to become an old maid, because the hot prince didn’t want her even though she wasn’t even blind anymore.

Then one night Grace is missing her sister who has gone far away with her true love to be a princess somewhere else, so she starts crying. You would think that crying in the privacy of your fancy princess bedroom late at night in your parents’ fancy castle wouldn’t be a big deal, but apparently Grace’s weeping disturbs an evil spirit whose origins go unexplained for the duration of this magical tale.

He magics himself into her bedroom (creepy) and starts hissing at her about her “pathetic sniveling” disturbing him or something. So to punish her he seals her lips. When he figures out that she was crying because of her sister, he says he will kill her sister (totally makes sense, right?). Then he disappears. Then Grace has to go on these quests to save her sister’s life because obviously she is super noble and brave because she had surgery to make her eyes better and also wasn’t even jealous when the hot prince chose her sister instead of her.

Let’s pause again. Around this time in real life, Star Wars: Episode II came out in theaters. My older sister and I were COMPLETELY INFATUATED with Teen Anakin/Hayden Christensen. I don’t know. Maybe when you’re twelve the pouting and sulking and whining and creepy staring he does at Amidala is hot. It sure seemed that way then.

Anyway, we saw it in theaters over and over and waited for hours while video clips of that hunky Anakin loaded (remember when everybody had dial-up and it really did take hours to load videos? But we were devoted and he was always worth the wait). And so, oddly enough, in my story, the brave questing Grace meets a stable boy who is training to become a member of an elite group of warriors within the kingdom. Of course they are not allowed to fall in love or marry or have families. So what do you think Grace and Hot Stable Boy/Warrior in Training do?

Duh, they fall in love.

And of course I write scenes inspired by classics such as these:

Star Wars love 1 Star Wars love 2

Because at the time, the costumes and scenery seemed incredibly picturesque. And naturally, there’s just somethin’ about good, old fashioned forbidden love.

I don’t know what ever became of Princess No-Longer-Blind Grace (definitely didn’t use that plot device to its fullest potential) or Princess Estrella (who evidently had ZERO personality, but maybe that’s what Cal liked about her), but I will say this: if you ever find this floppy disk, I feel sorry for you.

1. On Thin Ice

This is the most embarrassing and potentially dangerous admission of writerly failure, since this one was actually on the Internet at one point. The only good thing about the Great Hard Drive Crash of 2011 was that every single paragraph of horrible prose (and all the accompanying notes) were lost, Lord willing never to be recovered.

On Thin Ice was Harry Potter fanfiction.

Sister #3 and I went through an intense, vaguely disturbing phase between 2005 and 2006 in which we read as much Harry Potter fanfiction as we could find. And if you search for “Harry Potter fanfiction” you will quickly see that there is an absurd amount from which to choose. There are parodies, songs, stories about what would happen if Harry Potter characters were on game shows. There are crossovers between every imaginable book and TV show and movie. There are endless romantic pairings; some of them are sort of interesting to contemplate, while others are downright, abso-freaking-lutely NOT OKAY. (The one I always found the most disturbing was the Hermione/Snape. Yes. People went there. It was distressing.)

My story was about two sisters who transfer to Hogwarts from their magical school in the United States. The older sister was the same age as Harry and his classmates, but even though she was roomies with Hermione, Draco had a crush on her and was totes talking to her in the corridors all the time, because obviously that’s way more edgy than if she just met some nice boy or something.

There were a lot of bad things about this story. One of them was the absurd explanation about how their father had died and he was British or something and so now they were legacy kids or something and that’s why American children could now go to Hogwarts. Because….just because. Another bad thing about this story was how obnoxiously PEPPY the main character was, with her long, curly dark hair and signature red hair ribbon (not that I was sixteen with long, wavy hair and a propensity for wearing hair ribbons to match my school uniform. Nope.). It wasn’t even the inane conversation the main character carries on with her new Gryffindor buddies in the compartment on the way to school about “gits” and “prats” and other British slang.

It was the sport I invented.

In case you haven’t picked up on this yet, I’m basically a lost cause when it comes to sports. But apparently I thought I could just invent a wizarding sport and it would be pretty sweet. It was called Bellorum, which means ‘of wars’ or something stupid in Latin. It was played on ice, and it was fast and exciting, but MOST IMPORTANTLY the girls could wear leggings or swishy skirts and there were endless opportunities for my long-haired main character to whip her lovely locks around while playing this wizarding sport on ice and making all the boys drop dead with longing at her ice skate-clad feet.

ice skating

The combination of this aesthetics-rule-all sport and the stacks and stacks of cheesy romance novels that I devoured as a teenager suggest to me that I have an insidious streak of anti-girl power lying in wait somewhere within me.

OhmyGodwhatwaswrongwithme.

I am beginning to think that I overcompensated and attempted to quash these gooey, sentimental, girly tendencies by joining the Army. Whoops.

**

I issue to you an earnest request. For the good of both mankind and the future of literature, if you ever happen across any snippets of prose from the above tales, please destroy it immediately. Based on my descriptions, these stories sound pretty ridiculous, right? Badly written, indulgent and cringe-worthy. Well you know what? So are Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey and both those travesties of literature now have movie deals.

I want literary fame and a movie deal, but if the cost is the publication and subsequent adaptation of one of the above five books, I think I’ll just stick to Ramen and clipping coupons.

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