Hair: The Post

I got my hair cut a couple days ago.

See?

See, it's shorter now

I’m not a “hair guy,” which is an expression I’ve made up just now to describe a “guy” who pays close attention to his “hair.” I rarely pay my hair much attention. A few years ago I noticed my hairline receding a little and some Male Pattern Baldness settling in, and I freaked out a bit, probably bit my nails extra a lot, and braced myself for the inevitable.

But when I finally realized that it’s actually progressing VERY slowly and also that the ceiling light in the bathroom of my former workplace shone down unflatteringly upon my thinning hair, I relaxed, and now have mostly stopped caring. Plus, Jessica’s already agreed to marry me, so ha!

Just kidding. Not about the marrying part. About the “ha” part.

It’s an occasionally sad thought that pops into my head: I have never done anything with my hair. No new cuts, styles, lengths, colors. Just the same old thing year in and year out. If we venture into facial hair, I did experiment once: I grew a beard a few years ago when I lived with my three good pals Drew, Andrew, and Julien, and Drew even made pins for us for a party that said “ask me about my beard.” People did, and I told them all about it. The pin worked! My beard was dark and full and I never truly embraced it, though I was told it looked pretty good. I liked the way it looked, sometimes, and then other times it just seemed like I had this dark cloud on my face that had no reason to be there. One day, for no particular reason, I grabbed a razor and took it off, and that was that.

But as for my hair – the hair on the top of my head – well, the most daring thing I’ve ever done with it was to go several weeks after optimal cutting day, which is totally dangerous and I’m a bad-ass for doing it. Mohawks? Leopard-spot dying? Feather extensions? Please. Try letting your hair grow out 1/2 an inch longer than usual.

But really, in the end it doesn’t bother me. If I don’t care, then, I don’t care. I’m not going to force myself to get all excited about hair. It’s a little bit like jewelry – I’m astoundingly unknowledgeable about jewelry. I have a hard time even with a binary view of it; that is, deciding whether an earring or a bracelet or a ring is pretty or not. Sometimes I’ll be thinking “huh, that necklace seems kinda pretty” just as Jessica is talking about how garish it is. Or vice versa.

Anyway, I got my hair cut the other day. It was getting a little on the scruffy side, and so I made an appointment with a woman I’ll call “Sarah” at a place I’ve been going to for over a year now. Her haircuts are $15, take about 30 minutes, and she’s fantastic – she even throws in a rinse and a quick head rub for good measure. She spends the haircut asking me questions about life, work, love, and cooking – especially cooking. She’s from Vietnam and tells me stories of her life there when she was younger, of her family, and of how different her life is now.

“I get married when I was 20,” she told me the other day, “and it was too soon. Too young. Not mature. We make mistakes. But I still love my husband, and he still love me.”

I knew from chatting with her over the past year or so that she has an uncomfortable relationship with her in-laws, because, as she tells me, they are very traditionally Vietnamese – highly demanding and overtly critical of their daughter-in-law. She used to be extremely intimidated, always nervous around them.

“But my husband,” she said, “he stand up for me. He say to them, she my wife, you respect her. I love her and you need to try to love her too.”

She beamed with pride.

It was touching not only because she clearly still loves her husband very much after being married so long, and not only because he has stood up for her in fairly rare fashion, but also because she rags on him so much. She complains about him during the haircuts, says he can’t cook, can’t clean, and can’t do anything around the house. Says he was stupid to open a pho restaurant in Vietnam without knowing the first thing about making it. But she says it all with a smile and a laugh.

Now, she says she gets along fine with her in-laws. They’re old, she sees them only rarely, and she’s a lot older too. She stands up for herself now. She no longer feels the pressure of always needing to impress them.

I find that as I approach the world of married life, it’s even nicer to see living, happy examples of couples who have made it. Couples who dealt with adversity as it came along and worked through it. Couples who have found new things to love about each other as they age together. We hear and read so much about divorce rates being high, about how gay marriage is threatening the very foundation of love and happiness*, that it can be easy to forget that a lot of marriages succeed, too. And when they do succeed, well, it’s a beautiful thing.

*At least, that’s what Republican men keep trying to tell me so it has to be true.

Sarah knows that my wedding is approaching, and there are a few things she tells me several times during every haircut: “You so handsome!” and “stop losing weight!” (even though I haven’t lost any for a long time), and recently, “Don’t forget, you come see me, day before wedding. I make you handsome.”

I tell her that there’s no one else I’d have cut my hair, and that I’ll be there for my very important haircut.

Prouditude

This is Jessica:

I am proud of Jessica. Over the weekend, she graduated from her two-year teaching credential program, and is now ready to be a lead teacher in an elementary school classroom. She took and passed a disgustingly large number of standardized tests, took weekend seminars, planned lessons, wrote papers, got up early every day, went to staff meetings, and never once complained.

OK, so she complained from time to time. If she hadn’t I probably would have checked for a circuitry panel behind her neck , since it would have meant she was a robot designed by the US Government. But the point is, she survived her two-year challenge by doing what she does best – working hard, putting her heart and soul into it, being reflective and thoughtful, and by being a generally fantastic person in every way imaginable. Not only did she survive the two years, she thrived.

I am so very proud of her. She succeeded at something very difficult, very demanding, and did it with grace and style. She is a role model to me, both in a general sense and a more specific one – I’ll be starting that very same credential program in a few short months.

If I handle it half as well as she did, I’ll be in good shape.

The Wynette Chronicles – Wedding Edition

You may recall we have this really great dog:

With each passing day she settles in more and more, gets more doggie-socialized, gets even cuter somehow, and elicits old and new reactions from passersby on the street. You’ll recall she’s a tripod, or you won’t, but in either case you know it now. Anyway, we hear a lot of wows and that’s amazings and such, and then from time to time we get something a little different. So far my personal favorite happened the other day when a woman took a look at her and simply exclaimed “Whoops!”

One woman, who clearly was a dog person, mustered up her cutesiest syrupy-sweet doggie voice and gently chided Wynette for forgetting her missing leg at home. It sounds rude as I type it out, but it actually came across as sweet and loving, and so I tabled my stink-eye for someone more deserving. Then there was the little boy, age 10 or so, who took one look at Wynette and put his hand over his heart and said quietly: “I just feel so bad.”

Anyway, the best reactions come when I take her to the dog park, which I’ve started doing a lot recently. The dog park, you understand, is the very best most greatest thing ever to Wynette. She achieves nirvana every time she goes.  She spends the entire time sprinting madly from one spot to another, pausing occasionally to wrestle with another dog or to eat a stick, and when she’s in full sprint it’s pretty hard not to watch. And though I tend not to think of Wynette as disabled – since she really isn’t – I can’t help but beam with a little bit of pride when folks gasp and marvel at her resilience. I can’t pretend to take any credit for her cuteness and athleticism, but I can certainly enjoy it.

Beware the blurry tripod

Anyway, Wynette’s become such a fixture in our lives – a member of the family, really – that we’re a little sad she can’t participate in the wedding. Ideally, we’d put a bow or a doggie tux or something horrendously cute like that on her and have her walk down the aisle or carry the rings or something like that, but the truth is, she’s not that kind of dog. Or maybe she’s too young to pull it off. The point is, though, she’d have absolutely no interest in the ceremony. She’d probably wind her way through the guests, jump on a lap or two, lick some face, and then sprint off down the hillside and eat grass, and we’d have to assign a “Dog Wrangler” to watch her the whole time.

But along with sadness comes a healthy dose of acceptance. Wynette just isn’t a dog who we can take everywhere and not worry about. She isn’t independent in any way. She may not ever be an off-leash dog. But you know what? Many dogs are like her. Most, probably. And she’s so gosh-darned awesome in so many ways that it really doesn’t matter. During the process of training her and socializing her, I had the wonderful realization that we’re not helping her become the dog we want; we’re helping guide her towards being the best dog she can be. And so far, she’s been an incredible dog and we could not possibly love her any more than we do.

And finally, she’ll actually be participating in the wedding without even knowing it. Without giving too much away, her likeness will (partially) grace at least two things – invitations and wedding cake – and perhaps more. So while she won’t be there with us on our special day, her presence will be felt. After all, she’s part of the family.

In Which I Simply Ignore My Long Absence And Just Get Back To Posting

Not long ago, Jessica went to a friend’s bridal shower, and so I decided to do what I always do when the opportunity arises: make bread. And by “opportunity arises,” I mean any conceivable time and place where bread could theoretically be consumed. Birthday party? Bread. Bridal shower? Bread. Anti-Bread Rally? Definitely bread. Also, with the word “arises” we get a delicious piece of wordplay, because much as opportunities arise, so does bread dough.

So there’s that.

I ended up making sourdough olive bread and sourdough walnut bread, and because it was a fancy party I felt the need to make them look all pretty – not to mention that this is a wedding blog, after all, and there are certain presentational standards I need to adhere to:

Yes, that last photo there is two loaves of bread on top of our washing machine. We have limited space in our kitchen and that’s where they ended up. Then, I had the brilliant idea of taking them outside and putting them on a wooden bench, which explains why the first two photos look so much nicer and “bloggier” than the third. Wooden benches are an acceptable medium for blog-photo mounting, whereas washing machines are still on the fringes.

After baking the loaves, I got a intense jolt of craftitude coursing through my veins, and so Jessica and I headed off to Paper Plus, a nearby paper outlet store that sells all sorts of awesome stuff on the cheap. I got some raffia – which, it turns out, comes from an African palm tree, which was news to me – and some silk flowers, and made delightful little tags to label the loaves. Though I myself wasn’t invited to the bridal shower, not being of the womanly persuasion, I was assured that both breads were eaten and enjoyed.

And speaking of bread, my dear friend Abby asked me to make bread for her wedding, which is a few weeks after ours. Actually, that’s not exactly true – she sort of tricked me into thinking it was my idea, gently cajoling me into volunteering, never explaining that it was actually a no-bid contract. She manipulated me with a deft blend of bread-complementing and subtle hints, and I ended up laying out my case for why I should be The One chosen to bake. It wasn’t until after she agreed that I realized she’d played me like a sourdough violin.

Her wedding will have around 80 guests, which means Jessica and I have the not-insignificant task of baking around 10-12 loaves of bread that day. The current plan is to make 4 different types of sourdough rounds – plain, olive, whole wheat, and polenta, probably – and cut them into quarters. Each table would then get a whole loaf that’s actually made up of 4 different quarters of bread, sewn together with “invisible bread strings” by a local food surgeon so it looks like one solid piece of bread.

No, not really! But seriously, that’s one option, minus the surgery. The issue there is that we’d have to get bread knives and cutting boards out for every table, and I’m not sure it’s worth the extra trouble. In the end we may decide to pre-slice the bread and put it in baskets, which would also be lovely. I imagine we’ll also have little ramekins of butter on the side, perhaps even various flavored butters. Like honey butter, and garlic butter.

Wait, you guys: CHOCOLATE BUTTER?

Hmm, I dunno. But the point is, if any of you have brilliant ideas on how to present the bread in a beautiful way, let me know.

Love,

Bret

Registry & Kathy Lee

The idea of registering is odd, but before I get into all that, I will say this: I do have a certain fondness towards the tradition. What with all the counter-traditional wedding stuff out there, much of which I ascribe to, from time to time I run across an old wedding standby that I actually like. Registering – or at least the general themes involved – is one of those.

The typical path towards registries, which of course is not followed by everyone, is essentially the one Jessica and I traveled. We lived our separate lives, became adults independently, lived in many places with many different people, both had brief careers as Vegas belly dancers, and each accumulated a random assortment of stuff before we met and merged our two lives together. Pots, pans, plates, flatware, furniture, luggage, bedding, and such – our house is a hodgepodge of random, mismatched stuff. And while it’s occasionally irritating that nothing seems to match, that there’s no “theme,” and that much of the stuff is cheaply made and in mediocre condition, it’s also sort of great. It feels like a chapter of our lives is represented by that random stuff, a chapter that’s defined by being young, in love, relatively poor (though also relatively not, if you ‘relatively’ in the other direction), renting apartments, and still finding our way in this crazy-ass mixed-up world where up is white and north is short.

And then, when we register, it’s our opportunity to craft our possessions together, to choose things for ourselves that represent, in a way, the union of our two lives. We get to pick “nice things.” We get to point a laser gun at a Le Creuset Dutch oven and a really well-made paring knife. We get to think of all the nice things we want, and put them on a website. The focus on stuff, on possessions, on objects, well… it’s the weird part about all this. But the idea that we get to do it together, that we have been given this opportunity to be a little selfish, and to design the physical things around us – it’s pretty special.

And so with that said: it’s a strange experience. And then, even claiming it’s a strange experience is strange, because then I start to feel I’m sounding ungrateful. And then even claiming that even claiming it’s weird is weird and… um… I lost my thread my there.

A personal pet peeve of mine is poor reactions to gifts – I really hate that. When a gift is given, there was some thought behind it, generally some caring, some love, and even a little dollop of vulnerability – if you’re giving something that’s never been asked for, you’re presenting your idea of what this person might like.

This is not to say that gifts can’t be returned or exchanged if they don’t quite make sense. I’ve returned clothes that were the wrong size, for instance. I’ve given books to people who’ve admitted they already have them. I gave someone a cheese cutter not fully realizing that she can’t eat cheese anymore, which was kind of silly of me. But the recognition of the act of giving is significant. To me, giving a gift is a special thing – it’s a moment between two people that carries with it an implicit trust. People gift each other gifts because they care, to one degree or a another, about each other. Though we tend to decry our society’s focus on material possessions as shallow and superficial, it’s what we do with material possessions that really mean something. When we give things to one another, as cheesy as it may sound, we’re giving each other far more than the object. For my birthday, Jessica gave me (among other things) a gorgeous, amazing, and even slightly life-changing book about bread baking. She gave me a thing, yes, but she also gave me the experience of unwrapping it, of getting instantaneously excited, of flipping through the book with a doofy smile upon my face, and of all the recipes and techniques and bread that I would be trying. Not only that, but she knew I would react that way, because she knows me so well.

Gifts represent a lot. I think this may be at the root of why registering for wedding gifts was so daunting – Jessica and I were having to convince ourselves that dozens and dozens of people from our lives would give us gifts, beyond which we would be choosing the gifts ourselves. Not a foreign concept, of course, what with Christmas/birthday lists, but the act of scanning a bar code really drove home the truth that we were making a very specific inventory of our gift catalog.

So those are my thoughts on that. We will both be immensely appreciative of any gift we get, from a Kitchen Aid stand mixer to these pet mitts which we desperately need and registered for:

And in case you haven’t seen this yet, I’ll leave you with Basset Hounds Running which everyone needs to look at right away.

Poo And Blurple

Ah, spoonerisms. Such a great way of making normal words sound funny. Poo and blurple, for example, is just a funny way of saying blue and purple. Also funny: nooks and crannies turns into crooks and nannies. Take a shower turns into shake a tower. You get the picture. You pet the gicture.

By the way, I know I’ve been really terrible about posting recently. I mean, just putrid. Deplorable. But the good news is, there’s actually a lot of wedding planning going on, if you can believe it. So I’m going to just sort of ignore my less than commendable posting habits and pretend as if no one noticed! You can do that, right?

Anyway, two weekends ago I took a field trip to Stonemountain & Daughter, which has got to be the coolest fabric store around, with Jessica, her mom Terri, and my sister Katy. We were there to find fabric for two dresses and four shirts, and also possibly for some bowties.

Oh yeah – Katy’s not only making herself and Terri dresses for the wedding, but will also be making shirts for me and my groomal party. We haven’t sat down to design the shirts yet, but we now have fabric for them. Here’s the lovely Jessica with the four colors we chose for me and my three groomies:

Mine will be made from the bottom one, Drew’s from the one above it, and then Andrew and Andy will fight to the death to determine who wears the other two. It should be an entertaining match as the two of them have quite contrasting talents to bring to the table. Andy, for instance, is a natural athlete whose cunning intellectual skills make him a formidable opponent, while Andrew has a solid background in martial arts, specifically aikido, and has a certain disarming charm that has been known to lull his adversaries into a false sense of security.

Here I am displaying how hot I’ll look:

See? So hot.

Katy found a great way to make bowties, explained here. The original idea was to play around with the colors, and make the bowties from the same material as the shirts – but in the opposite direction, gradient-wise. Like say, since we’re going light to dark (starting with me) with the shirts, we’d go dark to light with the bowties. But these ones have two pieces of fabric, so we can get even more creative.

Here’s a photo from the site I liked to above:

Cool, right? Yeah. It is. You can admit it freely.

Soon I’ll be meeting up with Katy and discussing styles for the shirts. I’m very excited, and definitely in part because I kind of hate wearing dress shirts and it’s my wedding after all so I should be able to wear any shirt I please.

Ciao,

Bret

Collegiate Rascality

The other day I got a text from Jessica, who was out and about. It said:

What if we described our wedding plans and people like this: “all of them attracted by a collegial atmosphere of rascality”?

I responded:

Where the heck did that come from?

Turns out she was reading The Amazing Adventures Of Cavalier And Clay, and that’s where she saw the line.

As I do, I thought about the word rascality, and how great a word it is. The dictionary defines it with another great word: knavish, which means:

1. like or befitting a knave; untrustworthy; dishonest.
2. [Archaic]  waggish; roguish; mischievous.

From there, of course, I had to look up waggish, which led me to this definition:
1. like a wag;  roguish in merriment and good humor; jocular
Anyway, I agree with Jessica, if this is what she meant. I hope our wedding planning involves a bunch of waggish, knavish rascals behaving collegiately. That sounds pretty excellent.