Snowflakes in France

Reflections of a 20-something woman in publishing

Category: love

“No one asked you to change it”

I read a wedding post today where it was noted that “the wedding is kinda like married life, it often comes with unresolved feelings.”

Now that wedding day is more than a month behind me. Jon and I have continued into married life, which, to those who ask how married life is treating me, I have to admit is much the same. Of course there is a legitimacy that comes with our legal union. As Jon quotes from a Seinfeld episode, Everything sounds better with ‘my wife’ in it. (And Kramer confirms with “My wife has an inner ear infection.”) We can now pick up each others’ dry cleaning, and I don’t feel so weird going to the vet, where I used to hope they wouldn’t refuse treatment because my last name was different from our dog’s. Now it’s the same.

But I also changed my name at work. And in addition to all the bureaucratic hoops that I have to navigate to make sure I still have access to email and people can still find my phone number on the directory, it seems I also have to confront social opinions on marriage and the choices that come with it. It’s something I admit I naively didn’t think I would encounter by following the social norm and taking Jon’s name.

A senior member of my department came by wondering why he couldn’t find me on the office chat. I explained that IT had just fixed it so there might be a lag before it showed up in searches. I concluded with, “Oh, this whole name-change thing is quite a process.”

“Well, no one asked you to change it,” he said with a pointed look. And walked away. (Yes, he studied gender studies at a school in NY and no, his wife did not change her name)

First of all, society kinda does ask me to change it. But I esteem those women who keep their name because they feel a connection to their father’s family, or because they have an established professional reputation, or simply because they were born with that name and they see no reason to take on this new family name for the sake of society’s preferences. Those are good reasons. And what’s more, women who keep their name put up with a lot of snarky comments and confused reactions. But none of those reasons really applied to me. I wanted Jon and I to have the same name because we’re in the same family now. This seemed the easiest way to do it.

But this comment, aside from popping a little How dare you! thought bubble in my head, makes me question how wifedom is changing my view on feminism. Maybe not necessarily my own view, because I’ve always taken the side of Women Have Choices! Yay! Let it continue! But more the side of those who advocate breaking all gender roles. I find that as I wife, while I do break some traditional gender roles, I actually like others. And what kind of feminist does that make me?

Unresolved feelings indeed.

Weekend! Wee!

Today I’m returning to Boston via my old friend Bolt Bus. It’s the first time I’ve been there since Jon moved here. And how appropriate that I’m going back for my final wedding dress fitting.

In truth, I can’t wait to visit our old haunts. The little Turkish coffee shop near Harvard where words drifted up from corner tables to the wooden beams of the ceiling — most of the time the languages evoked thoughts of spices and colors, my own mental symbols of the East. Of course there were the occasional hung-over college kids. Even Harvard students turn to alcohol during college.

I’m really hoping that we can make it to Red Bones, the best BBQ joint north of … well…Kentucky I suppose. It was right around the corner of Jon’s old apartment in Cambridge.

Paul Revere's statue in the North End

And lest I be too focused on food, I must mention the shops on Beacon Hill where one might find the perfect unique stationary set or child’s birthday gift. Most of all, I look forward to the feeling of history and liveliness that swells up from the North End amidst the cemeteries, statues, markets and pubs.

It reminds me that while Boston holds my own story, the story of how Jon and I dated and fell in love, it also holds the stories of countless others. Happy weekend readers! I’m off to The Olde Towne.

New Year, New You

It’s a week after New Year’s now, but you know what, it’s also my birthday. For me, this is the new year. Maybe not the beginning of 2011, but it is the beginning of year 25.

Someone asked me last night, why Snowflakes in France? And at first I couldn’t remember. Then I thought my summer in France, how it tore apart my safe relationship back home and opened up the possibilities of being single, of being hurt and being proud, of learning what it is to be a feminist, responsible for my own choices even when I want to blame someone else.

Snowflake was a nickname that a boy gave to me in 7th grade. He may have been the first boy to toy with me, flirt with no intentions and no abandon, and at the time I was naive enough to blush and smile and think it was nice. But when I traveled to France in college, I began to grow into a more realistic — and more bitter — version of that girl.

That was five years ago. I’ve grown a lot since then, but people say you should write about what you know. I know a lot of teenage angst, dashed dreams, YA novels and puppy love. (And now I know of happy endings, but for some reason my writing is never very good when I write about that)

So here at my quarter-life mark, I’m going to make a resolution to write about what I know, and not to analyze it in the process. And this time, I’ll try to do it in fiction. I have a hunch that a little writing group in town might be my saving grace in this endeavor.

Bosom Buddies

“A bosom friend–an intimate friend, you know–a really
kindred spirit to whom I can confide my inmost soul.  I’ve
dreamed of meeting her all my life.  I never really supposed
I would, but so many of my loveliest dreams have come true
all at once that perhaps this one will, too.  Do you think
it’s possible?”

-Anne of Green Gables

Jennifer and I traded secrets in the plastic playhouse in her backyard when we were seven years old, banning our younger sisters as we drank imaginary tea and pinky swore that we would be bridesmaids at each others’ weddings.

Giggling back and forth between our houses on Davis Street, we watched as our moms both grew pregnant in 1993, we looked pretty together in our little white communion dresses, I wept when her dog died and we hugged tightly when she moved across town to a new house. I had had friends before her, but she was my first best friend.

And then I moved to Kentucky, about 7 hours away.

It’s easy to make new friends, and I did. But each of them always had an older friend, a friend who had been there years before me. That friend knew her when her parents were together, cut her bangs behind the house with scissors and cried when her first dog died. That friend had always been her best friend, she couldn’t be replaced.

Jenn just got married this year. I’ve looked at the wedding photos on Facebook and wonder if we still would have been friends. I think of the girls I’ve known in Kentucky, and how many of us have grown apart in just five or six years. Would Jenn and I have possibly survived 17?

But then again, my sisters and I have survived that long. Jenn’s bridesmaids were her two sisters and three other girls. A mirror of my own bridal party in April. I’ve trusted my secrets to my two sisters for their entire lives; they are my oldest friends. They’ll be standing up there with me, just as Jenn’s sisters were, just as Jenn and I promised that we would have if we were still friends.

Sisters

Little Women Grown Up

Little Women is one of those universal stories that you can read and love as a 12-year-old little girl, and again as a 24-year-old woman. But perhaps I’m getting a bit more reality out of it now than I did 12 years ago.

When I picked it up two weeks ago, I thought of how disappointed I was when I watched the movie years ago because clearly Jo was supposed to marry Laurie. Wasn’t that implied in the book! How dare these scheming movie directors give him to pretty and perfect Amy!

I must have been looking for a love story formed in childhood, trying to validate whatever crush I had at the time, convincing myself that this boy was the ONE…even if we were still in elementary school. Because here I am, with only 100 pages to go, and it’s pretty clear that Jo and Laurie are not meant to be.

He proposed, she doesn’t love him and said no, and now he’s all fumy and rebellious off in Europe. And Marmee is right, they are too much alike in their temperaments and their sense of adventure. There’s no give in their relationship and their union would probably lead to utter disappointment.

So why did I think that Louisa May Alcott supported their inevitable marriage? Given Marmee’s savvy advice throughout the story, including her refreshingly modern counseling on Meg’s marriage, I’d say that she’s usually right when it comes to her girls.

Somewhere between preadolescence and my twenties, I’ve learned that women have a sense of wisdom that should be trusted. Because the first time I read this, I didn’t believe Jo when she told her Teddy that she didn’t love him. And I didn’t believe Marmee’s advice that they were too much alike. I didn’t believe my own mother’s advice that I had plenty of time to date and find the right guy or when she told me there was someone better than the schmuck I dated in high school and the unambitious boy in college. But now I see that they are right.

Hindsight can be a bitch. But it can also be a good lesson. The next time I watch the movie, I’ll judge it a little less. And as I enter into marriage, I’ll try to pay more heed to the women around me. Especially Marmee.

Update: So it turns out that when I was little I actually only read Part 1 of Little Women. Not Part 2, The Good Wives, which is where all the Amy & Laurie stuff comes in. Who knew? In any case, I’m glad I decided to re-read it and discover that!