Tag Archives: fairy tales

Three Wedding Lies (as told by Disney)

I have fallen short on my promise to provide updates (as sort-of-kind-of promised here) concerning wedding planning this year, but life has been pretty hectic. Doing most of it myself, however, has taught me a thing or two about the wedding industry, confirming most of my suspicions about the racket they’ve got going. One thing I hadn’t thought about recently, though, were all the ridiculous things Disney sneakily slipped into their wedding scenes in their classic cartoons. Well I’m onto you now, Disney, and I’m here to expose the truth. Here are three of their most egregious lies:

1 . You Will Look Perfect

You will not gain or lose weight (which means your dress will fit perfectly). Nor will you bloat up, get pimples like an anxious fifteen-year old who can’t remember geometric proofs, or have major hip surgery three months prior to walking down the aisle, causing you to be in frantic rehab mode two months prior to your wedding date in the hopes that you will actually be able to walk down said aisle. Basically, life/stuff/evil sea witches casting spells are going to happen, but it is not going to stop you from looking like an angel on your big day, because you are The Bride, and The Bride must always look perfect.

Remember this scene?

Ariel 1

“Gosh, Scuttle, I hope we have enough dinglehoppers to go around for the cake!”

I would like to point out several things.

1. Ariel is sixteen and there is nary a zit to be found on her salty little mermaid face.

2. All this is happening on the ocean (which equals hair destroying wind and water), and her big ol’ fluffy bangs are firmly in place. As both a Former Debutante and an Army Bun Hair Nazi, I am confident that this is not going to happen. Ever.

3. Unless those things are filled with tulle, those sleeves would have definitely fallen due to the aforementioned humidity.

4. Where did that dress come from? Did Grimsby just put an army of seamstresses to work as soon as she showed up and Eric started all that crazy talk? “She’s the one, Grim!” And he’s like, “Well, I don’t love the idea of my liege lord marrying a mysterious, mute ginger sea urchin, but I guess it’s better than an end to the royal line, so might as well have someone take her measurements and get going on a gown in case we need it.”

I suppose we can chalk most of this first one up to royal money (both on land and sea since they’re both royalty) and magic, but either way there are some fishy (ha ha) things going on here. Future brides, don’t be deceived. Your wedding is not happening on a ship surrounded by singing merpeople, and unless your dad is king of the ocean, you are probably not getting a rainbow drawn in the sky on demand at the end of your I-do’s. Just prepare yourself.

I am being a little more realistic and trying to expose these Disney lies to you in advance. I just had hip surgery. I am 59 days away from my wedding. You know what the Internet says I’m supposed to be doing at this point in my beauty regimen? Exfoliating my face and my body. Adding another thirty minutes to my gym routine so I’ll be super toned for the big day. Tanning. Whitening my teeth. Taking lots of vitamins. Yoga.

That’s all good information. I’ll get right on that. Let me just pop a couple Percocet, strip off my compression stockings that I have to wear to prevent blood clots, and saddle up on the ol’ crutches so I can get started. Get serious people. I can’t even walk right now. I’m like the Duchess of Crutches of over here. “Gym routine.” My gym routine is isolating my mushy, nonexistent quadriceps on my left leg. Sometimes I pat it and cheer it on to get it motivated. Sometimes I yell at it: “DO YOU WANT TO WALK DOWN THAT AISLE OR WHAT?” I don’t think it’s listening.

2. Logistics Are NBD and Everybody Can Be Our Guest

I’m going to start this one with the assumption that Belle and the Beast are getting married at the end of Beauty and the Beast. Maybe that’s a big, fat, Republican assumption, and what they’re really doing is just having a Yay We’re Not Household Objects Anymore party, but there are enough signs in the final scene of the movie that point to a wedding reception, so I’m just going to go with it.

Belle 2

This is clearly a lavish wedding present.

There are counter-arguments that could be made for why the final scene of Beauty and the Beast is not a wedding reception, but there are also a lot of plot holes in the movie, so I’m not currently accepting offers of dissension. Additionally, yes, I do see that Belle’s dress is gold, not white, as per our tradition. But hey, they’re French. What are you gonna do? Moving on.

Those pillars didn't decorate themselves, people.

Those pillars didn’t decorate themselves, people. I smell a reception.

I want to know who arranged all this.

I know there’s a castle full of staff standing around the happy, dancing, swirling, waltzing couple, but the timeline of the movie leads you to believe that this all happens within a relatively short period of time. My best guess would be that Mrs. Potts would be the one cracking the whip on getting a wedding together quickly, but at the same time, she’s been sleeping in a cupboard with her kid and a bunch of other flatware for years. The woman probably could go for a few nights’ sleep in a bed of her own, a massage, and a cup of tea she didn’t have to pour out of her own nose. Instead she’s probably chasing down Lumiere and Cogsworth, trying to get them to get some real work done for a wedding and reception she had dumped on her, but they’re probably too busy hiding their rising flames and pendulums while Miss Feather Duster sashays on by. Like, congratulations, the spell is broken, Widow Cogsworth, now plan somebody else’s gigantic wedding for tomorrow!

Someone had to make sure all these crazies showed up. Someone had to get those floors waxed. Someone had to ensure the windows were washed. You think that harpist just appeared? No. There was a contract, deposit, and insurance. Stop lying to us, Disney! (Also you will note that Belle’s Papa is present but he’s sporting They Threw Me in the Insane Asylum Chic, which I hear is very in this season. That guy has other issues, so we’ll give him credit for making it to the big day and not getting carried off by either some kind of bug-like carriage device or a lynch mob in the night.)

Belle 3

Somebody trimmed the topiaries too, guys.

Real weddings are not like this! You have to pick all kinds of things you don’t care about, like stationary and tablecloths and times for people to show up places. I am basically the worst bride ever, because I’m like, look. We have a place to get married in and a person to marry us and I have this white dress to wear and it’s great and I’m great and Manfriend’s great, and afterward there will be food, so what are all these other questions? But nooooo. Everyone’s all, details, details, details.

I’m really just bitter because I bet Belle had a plated dinner, a candy bar, a photo booth, and fireworks at the end of the night and never had some snotty vendor tell her that date was unavailable, signed any contracts, or signed a single check.

Belle 6

She had the cake tasting during “Be Our Guest” and didn’t even know it. Also, free. Not real. Disney lies.

Belle 5

“Try the gray stuff; it’s delicious!”

Belle 4

I’m doing the calculations for this champagne toast and the numbers are astronomical. Their taxpayers would be well within their rights to storm the castle at this point.

3. It’s Okay to Throw Rice

The place where Manfriend and I are getting married has a strict no-fire policy. (I think if you violate it they throw you into a fire, actually. Or just keep your damage deposit, whichever is more convenient to them.) So no candles on the tables, no sparkler send-off, etc. I didn’t really care about it until I realized that we couldn’t launch lanterns into the air a la Tangled. I already had to let go of my fireworks dream due to budget constraints (elephant rides, puppies as party favors, and hiring Michael Buble’ to sing also had to get scratched from the list) but it turns out the lantern thing is pretty affordable.

Still, the lanterns were nixed since (clearly) they require fire to make them float magically up into the sky. One of the people at the venue suggested bubbles, bird seed, rice, or flower petals instead.

Which of course I found hilarious. No fire, but you can either feed the birds or destroy them. (Tuppence a bag.) I know throwing rice used to be a thing, but now nobody does it anymore because birds will eat it off the ground the next day and then they will explode. So basically these people either want you to use bird food, or innocuous-looking bird detonation devices.

That’s cool.

I had briefly considered using rice since it’s cheap and it looks good before I remembered it would make me a bird murderer, imagining the end scene from Cinderella. It’s sort of like my position on corgis: if they’re good enough for the Queen of England, they’re good enough for me. (Also, Manfriend, she has like seven. I just want one. Please. Okay, plug for corgis over.) But that’s what I figured about the rice: if it was good enough for Cinderella’s hoity-toity magical wedding, it was good enough for my once-very-elaborate-but-now-downgraded-somewhat-due-to-my-not-being-an-heiress-to-an-oil-fortune budgetary constraints.

Here’s where the Disney lie comes into play. Observe Cindy and Charming leaving their wedding in style while the only parent they apparently have between the two of them looks on with his twitchy monocled adviser:

Cinderella end scene

Rice/confetti/big mess for the servants to pick up later EVERYWHERE

Cinderella in carriage

Look at all that rice. Such waste. Such danger.

...the birds at the top of this page, sadly, did not.

…the birds at the top of this page, sadly, did not.

I have a theory about this, however. The rice and the death and the destruction and all that jazz. The mice were behind it.

Look how happy they are! They know they’ve already won. Like, here you go, you bird brains! Have fun holding up that veil; there ain’t enough room for both of us in the castle.

"Tweet tweet, suckers!"

“Tweet tweet, suckers!”

Just like the mice were behind Cinderella getting her Happily Ever After, they wanted to make sure those pesky birds didn’t usurp their place as her helpers when she moved into the castle with Charming. We’ve seen this time and time again throughout history. Things turn ugly when people (and mice) have a chance to gain some power. The seedy, Orwellian underbelly of Disney politics.

All I can say is it’s a good thing Manfriend is a much better prince than still-in-the-closet Eric, anger issues Beast, and zero personality Charming, since it sort of looks like the Disney weddings are probably more satisfying than the resulting Disney marriages. Duchess of Crutches out.

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Filed under Lists, Wedding

And the Award Goes To…

When I was in first grade, I read 100 books.

It was some school thing and we had all year to do it. I finished early, thereby validating my misguided perception (consistently encouraged by my parents) that I was smarter and better than the rest of the unwashed miscreants with whom I was forced to receive my education.

Just kidding. Kind of. But I was pretty proud of it.

Photographic evidence of my tragically unattractive childhood.

I still have that t-shirt somewhere, but the butterflies are peeling themselves away from the fabric, trying to flutter to freedom, and going through puberty has effectively prevented me from ever being able to wear it again and subsequently funding the bra industry for the past twelve years. (You’re welcome, Victoria’s Secret.)

I am considering making a new one (size-appropriate and sans butterflies), however, because guess what?

I’VE DONE IT AGAIN.

Yeah, you read it right. In 2013, I read 100 books. I’m not talking about The Atlantic Monthly, whose articles I read in about eight sittings to better myself, or all those Cosmo articles I slorped down while I was couch-ridden and flying high on Percocet after I had my wisdom teeth removed. News articles, magazines, blogs, etc. didn’t count for the purpose of this nerdacious challenge I gave myself last January. (Audiobooks were, however, included.  You can’t put 22,000 miles on your car and still have time to read 100 books unless you have a chauffeur. Ain’t nobody got time for that.)

So in honor of Oscar weekend, I am doing my own fake awards show. I am calling it the Margos, because Oscar is a funny name and so is Margo and it’s fun to say. I’m not as funny as Ellen DeGeneres, and I can’t order pizza and feed it to Jennifer Lawrence, but we’re gonna give it a whirl anyway. There will be a bonus picture after each category.

Here we go!

Margo award

There are seven categories: “Best Re-Read,” “Worst Book Ever,” “Most Hipster,” “Least Boring Nonfiction,” “Best Listen,” “Most Thrilling,” and “I Read the Shit Out of that Book.”

The nominees for Best Re-Read are:

  • Number the Stars, Lois Lowry
  • To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee
  • The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis
  • A Wrinkle in Time, Madeline L’Engle

Yes, I re-read some of my childhood favorites. Guess what? They were just as amazing this year as they were in 1999 or 2005 or whatever year I first read these amazing books. I originally read them just because I was panicking about my numbers for the 100-book challenge, and I did read most of them in either a single sitting or two sittings. Regardless of their length, however, they affected me deeply even after having read them multiple times.

This year the Margo goes to Harper Lee, because I wish I could write just one perfect novel the way she did.

Bonus picture is me perusing some picture book with bunnies in it while Sister #1 makes some kind of horrible face at the camera. Yes we are matching. Yes that was normal. No I am not (quite) that Buddha-faced anymore.

**

Worst Book Ever

Here are the nominees:

  • Devices and Desires, K.J. Parker
  • The Silver Linings Playbook, Matthew Quick
  • Unveiled, Deborah Kanafani

I really thought Unveiled was going to be good. It’s about a Lebanese college student in America in the early 80’s who marries a high-ranking Palestinian diplomat working in the United Nations. He sweeps her off her feet and brings her into the company of dignitaries, world leaders, and international glamour. He also slowly isolates her from her old life, determined to keep her under his thumb. After her divorce, Deborah traveled to the Middle East to document the stories of other wives of Arab leaders, women like her who struggled and survived.

It could have been good. But…seriously…HIRE A BETTER GHOSTWRITER. Or maybe she didn’t use one. In which case, PLEASE, hire a ghostwriter. You need one.

The Silver Linings Playbook wasn’t the worst book I’ve ever read; it just has the distinction of being one of the worst that I read last year. Awkward. Overrated. Movie was okay.

Finally, this is a synopsis for the other most egregious offender on my reading list in 2013, Devices and Desires: “When an engineer is sentenced to death for a petty transgression of guild law, he flees the city, leaving behind his wife and daughter. Forced into exile, he seeks a terrible vengeance — one that will leave a trail of death and destruction in its wake. But he will not be able to achieve this by himself. He must draw up his plans using the blood of others…

In a compelling tale of intrigue and injustice, K. J. Parker’s embittered hero takes up arms against his enemies, using the only weapons he has left to him: his ingenuity and his passion — his devices and desires.”

Okay. There’s a lock and a key on the cover. It’s called Devices and Desires. Somebody is going to take off their clothes at some point, right? Of course they are. There’s a lock and key! It’s about passion! The cover art is all Dan Brown “blade and chalice”! …Wrong. So wrong. It. Was. So. Boring. A friend lent it to me, and he will not be named here, but wow. Wow was this book boring. If you were really into simple machines as a kid or you want some endless descriptions of engineering and locks and other crap like that, this book might be right up your alley. The fact that it wasn’t sexy would have been okay if it wasn’t so boring. But alas, it was. And so the Margo goes to:

Don’t let the sexy lock and key fool you. Nobody will be getting down and dirty in the dungeon.

Bonus picture is me forcing my Grandma to read to me as I am dressed like the American Girl Samantha. (Molly is supervising over there on the left in her red-striped pajamas.)

**

Next up,

“Most Hipster Book”

This is the category dedicated to a book that I read before it was cool. There are no nominees. The Margo goes to The Fault in Our Stars, by John Green.

I read an excerpt from a free e-book on my Kindle and was so obsessed that I actually bought the digital version so I could read it as fast as possible. Then because it was sublime I had to buy it in hard copy. Naturally. Get your tissues and get ready to become obsessed with John Green’s colloquial yet brilliant prose. That’s what happened to me at least. (This movie had BETTER BE GOOD.)

Bonus picture is me forcing Aunt Beth to read to me. I don’t know what that book is. I do know that the outfit I’m wearing exists in quadruple…because all four of us had a matching jumper. Dear sweet mother of the 90’s.

**

Now the award for Least Boring Nonfiction.

I don’t really like nonfiction. It’s not my thing. I used to dazzle people with my intimate knowledge of Roman dress, cuisine, and the chronology of the emperors in the first century A.D. Not because I’m some kind of genius/nerd who just remembers these kinds of details, but because I am obsessed with Roman historical fiction and have read way more than is probably healthy. So the years that Caligula was emperor aren’t just dusty dates; they’re a scandalous series of juicy gossip and opulent parties. It’s like a trashy magazine circa 40 A.D.

I learn through stories, so I don’t like nonfiction books because they don’t typically spin a clear enough narrative that my brain can process everything in the book in an orderly fashion. But last year I read a few keepers:

  • Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, Jon Krakauer
  • The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Killers Can Teach Us About Success, Kevin Dutton
  • The Starfish and the Spider, Ori Brafman and Rod A. Beckstrom
  • The God Delusion, Richard Dawkins
  • Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, Azar Nafisi

It seems appropriate to cut to the chase in a category dedicated to books that aren’t extended narratives. The Margo goes to:

The book discusses the line between being a successful, driven, hard-charging executive or business person, and being a serial killer. “Incorporating the latest advances in brain scanning and neuroscience, Dutton demonstrates that the brilliant neurosurgeon who lacks empathy has more in common with a Ted Bundy who kills for pleasure than we may wish to admit, and that a mugger in a dimly lit parking lot may well, in fact, have the same nerveless poise as a titan of industry.” It was interesting, and creepy. I was a fan.

Plus check out how creepy the author looks here:

Either he was going for this whole hipster-murderer look, or Professor Dutton needs to hire a new publicist.

Bonus picture is Sister #1 and me getting prepped to shove some fairy tales down Sister #3’s throat as soon as she is ready to be educated. She is probably hiding.

**

Onto Best Listen!

For a kid who loved to be read to, I really used to hate audio books. Over the past year, however, I developed a tenuous kind of affection for them, because I spent so many hours in the car and they kept me from falling behind on my reading each month.

The nominees are:

  • Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen
  • If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won’t), Betty White
  • Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov
  • The End of the Affair, Graham Greene
  • Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt

I actually disliked The End of the Affair, but it was narrated by Colin Firth, so it was actually pleasant listening to Mr. Darcy just talk at me for eight hours or so. Angela’s Ashes was SO DEPRESSING, but there was something really unique about listening to an author narrate his own work in a rich, Irish accent. Betty White is a delightful human being, and even though her book wasn’t really anything you’d tell your grandkids about, I listened to it while I was stuck on a jetway in Detroit for three hours and I’m pretty sure it saved the life of the screaming baby in the seat in front of me and the child behind me kicking my seat hard enough that I should have sued for whiplash.  Water for Elephants was narrated by an old man and a young man, depending on where you were in the story. The effect was magical; by the end I wanted to run away and join the circus.

But hands down, no contest, the winner is Jeremy Irons narrating Lolita:

There could not be a more fitting narrator. Eloquent, intelligent, smooth, slimy, psychopathic: Jeremy Irons (you know, the voice of Scar from The Lion King?) encompassed an incredible range within the text. I was so creeped out the whole book, but I couldn’t stop listening. I actually listened to it on the bike at the gym a few times, and I kept looking around guiltily at everyone else blasting J.T. through their headphones like normal people while I was listening to the extended narrative of a pedophile.

It seems creepy to follow this up with a picture of me as a kid, but I’m doing it anyway. Not sorry.

Bonus picture is me sitting on the floor like some kind of peasant child whose family owns no furniture. I think I’m wearing lime green legging-shorts. Yikes.

**

The next category is Most Thrilling! otherwise known as, Book that Made Me Gasp Every Other Page

The nominees are:

  • World War Z, Max Brooks
  • Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn
  • The Handmaid’s Tale, Margaret Atwood
  • 11/22/63, Stephen King
  • In Cold Blood, Truman Capote

Margaret Atwood is really quite excellent, and I love a good dystopian novel. Stephen King’s book about the assassination of JFK was also fascinating – detailed, intricate, and a page-turner in the exactly literal sense of the word. In Cold Blood was my first experience with Capote, and I’m definitely going back for more.

But as much as I liked all three (and would read them again), they are not going home with the Margo tonight.

You have to understand something about me: I don’t get the zombie thing. Not only do I not get it, but I have this vague distaste for it, sort of like that green slime Nickelodeon used to dump all over people a la Carrie pig blood and it was supposed to be funny but mostly it was just gross. I feel the same way about the whole vampire trend. There are all these shows and books that are supposed to be so sexy and thrilling but mostly they’re just gross and cheesy and awkward. Zombie things are kind of like for me, except instead of the sexy factor they’re just grisly, and I don’t dig it.

Having said that, I loved World War Z (sorry Brad Pitt, but your movie adaptation was lame). Max Brooks tells the stories of survivors of The Great Panic, or The Zombie War (hence the Z). There are stories from all kinds of people all over the world who experienced the destruction the zombies wrought. He is unassuming, and truly takes on the voice of each person whose tale he tells, whether it’s a Japanese teenager who doesn’t realize what’s happened till his Internet is cut off, the crew of a nuclear submarine, a little girl fleeing to Canada with her family, a famous Hollywood director creating propaganda films, or a heroic member of one of the U.S.’s K-9 teams who fought the zombies.

Brooks examines geopolitics, economics, family dynamics, and basic human instincts (and the ability to overcome the lesser ones). It. Is. Fascinating.

The other top contender is Gone Girl. I bought this one to listen to while I was running the roads all summer, and I was so hooked that I actually carried it around with me in my apartment and couldn’t stop listening to it until I was finished. It is the morning of Amy and Nick’s fifth wedding anniversary and Amy is missing. Flynn tells Nick’s story in real time and Amy’s perspective is offered from her long, detailed journal entries. AT LEAST FOR THE FIRST HALF AND THEN YOUR MIND GETS BLOWN. The whole time I couldn’t decide who to believe. It was a fascinating account of the courtship and marriage of a sociopath and a narcissist, who had just enough forgivable traits that you could relate to them…which was terrifying in itself.

So the Margo goes to:

Bonus picture is me nerding out in this plastic chair for which I am precariously large while Sister #1 and Sister #3do normal child things, like play with our German Shepherd. I’m like, nah girl, you good, I got this book.

**

The final category of the night is dedicated to books I have been meaning to read for years and finally got around to reading in 2013. …And they were just as cumbersome and dreadful as I had anticipated.

The nominees for I Read the Shit Out of That Book are:

  • A Farewell to Arms, Ernest Hemingway
  • Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte
  • Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy
  • The Satanic Verses, Salman Rushdie

I was actually really nerdishly excited about finally reading all these books. Turning them over in my hands I felt so educated and earnest, so ready to find out why they were so controversial or beloved or considered timeless. Mostly what I have taken away from this experience is that you have to kill a lot of characters and write annoyingly dense prose if you want people to keep banging their heads against a wall over your novel in years to come. I’m not sure if that’s a sacrifice I’m willing to make.

My mother and Sister #4 are going to be throwing popcorn at the screen when they read this, because they have already informed me that it is a mortal sin that I didn’t like Jane Eyre. Let’s be clear about that, though: I liked Jane as a character; I did not like the novel. (STOP WRITING PHYSIOGNOMY EVERY OTHER PAGE, CHARLOTTE; NOBODY LIKES THAT WORD.) And, at the risk of alienating one of my brilliant, beautiful friends who adores it, the Margo goes to:

She is clearly smarter than I am for appreciating Tolstoy for 800millionbajillion pages; I simply couldn’t cope. When it was over I was so relieved I almost cried, because now I can finally, finally say I’ve read Anna Karenina, and pleaseohplease nobody will ever make me read it again.

Bonus picture for the final category of the evening is me in 2012 moving and cataloging all my books (I have over 600; for the sake of my back, I have really got to stop moving.)

I hope you enjoyed the first annual Margo awards, accompanied by a little trip down my literary memory lane. Send me your recommendations to add to my reading list! I will be working on it for at least the next fifty or eighty years, or however long it is before my eyesight finally goes. If you’d like the list of the full 100 books, let me know that as well! I’d be happy to send it along.

Thank you again for joining us tonight at the Margo Awards. Make good choices. Don’t party too hard tonight, kids! You know how those after-parties can be for book awards.

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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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