Growing Up With An Original Hipster

Cheap people have the best ideas.  Just ask my mom.  She’s been cheap before it was cool to be cheap.  The cool kids call it “Going Green” now.  But if you were to tell my mom that she was going green, she’d probably think that she had gangrene.

Hand her a plastic bag with a scallion bunch, held together by a rubber band, and she’s in her element.  First, she’ll cut the roots off of each stalk and replant those in her garden. Once cut, she’ll toss the remaining leafy section of the scallions into a pot.  Rubber bands will go into a bag full of others that she’s collected since the Nixon days.  They’re so old, they snap in half when you tug on them.  I think she’s secretly planning on using them to build some sort of rubber band bomb shelter, in the event of a third world war.  And then the plastic bag is used to hold all of the extra money she’s been saving.

She jangles this bag from time to time when she thinks her spendthrift children are exhibiting extravagant spending behavior.  Like buying bottled water and not repurposing the plastic as a planter.  Or not collecting rainwater, to use as irrigation.  Can’t finish your rice?  Use it as an adhesive.  I used to have a pen pal in Africa who received letters from me, sent in homemade envelopes held together by leftover rice.  Some people guilt-trip their children into finishing their meals because there are “starving children in Africa”.  I literally sent my leftovers to Africa.

For most of my childhood, we kept pet chickens.  Well, they were pets until they would inevitably become “missing”.  These suspicious disappearances would often coincide with my mom cheerfully announcing to the family that the “chicken soup is ready!”  This usually happened a few hours after we had called off the search for the missing fowl.  As a child, I often thought that there was a chicknapper in the neighborhood with a voracious appetite for poultry dishes.  It worried me that someone like that was on the loose, and I thought it was my civic responsibility to bring this to the public’s attention.  Instead of posting up pictures of our missing chickens on the side of milk cartons, I suggested to my mom that we have chicken nugget boxes printed with a colored photo of our missing fowl friend, to alert the neighborhood.  She just laughed and told me to finish my chicken soup cause, unlike rice, it’s no good as an adhesive alternative.

Having a pet chicken is only fun in theory.  They poop.  A lot.  They poop while running away from you.  They poop while they eat.  They poop while you’re petting them.  And you can only pet them in one direction, if you want to avoid ruffling their feathers.  Then you feel guilty when you crave chicken nuggets after playing with them.

Besides, no matter how good your pet chicken is, it will always run away from you.  Nothing is more traumatizing than being thirteen years of age, and running down a busy road, trying to unsuccessfully lure your pet chicken home, with a limp piece of lettuce. To make matters worse, our house was near several schools, so if it was during peak traffic hours, your chicken run performance was guaranteed to have a fellow classmate in the audience.  If you’re wondering, chickens don’t respond to its name or commands.  It’s not like searching for a dog and all you have to say is “Hello Pet Dog, are you hungry?  Please come to me if you are.”  Chickens aren’t stupid but they are technically birdbrained.  To catch a chicken on the lam, all you can do is hope that it’ll run into a wall or wide pole so that you can swoop in and carry it home, underneath your shirt.

Fast forward to a year ago.  During a visit to Portland, I came across a booth advertising “urban homesteading” services to the general public.  This phrase was new to me but when I read the bullet points of what constitutes urban homesteading e.g. edible landscaping, pickling, raising farm animals; it was like reading an exalted description of my childhood.

I picked up the phone and called my mom.  “Mom!  Remember how I used to complain about gathering chicken shit to use as fertilizer?  How, every time I drop off the dog with you, I’m a bit surprised that you haven’t attached a yoke and plow to her back and implemented her as a beast of burden?  I take it all back.  You’re cooler than 95% of America now.  The word to describe you is ‘hipster’ and you being cheap is called “urban homesteading’”.  There was a bit of silence on the phone and she finally replied, “You’re speaking with too many English words, I couldn’t understand a word you said.  Are you trying to tell me that I need my hips replaced?”  Oh mom, you’re so cool, you don’t even know it.  And that’s what every hipster strives to be.  That, and have good hair.

So, it probably comes as no surprise that I chose to forage and thrift my way into making bridesmaids gifts.  I even added chicken wire as a sort of tribute to all of my past chicken friends/dinners.  Here’s how I made everything:

Step 1:  Walk outside.  Collect some rocks.  Walk back inside and take a nap.  You’ll need it for your Goodwill trip, later in the day.  I think Goodwill is one of the rare places where you routinely hear, over the intercom, “Will the parents of the two year old, who’s currently filling his basket with toys, please come and claim him before CPS does?”  But that’s where I found the lace (99 cents apiece), blueish grey teacups ($1.99 each) and blank cards + envelopes ($1.99).  I then stopped by Jo-Ann Fabric to see what else I could find. I left with these chicken wire boxes, which were $3 each, after being marked down at 70% off.  I don’t remember how much the scrapbooking paper was but it was probably under 70 cents apiece.

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Step 2:  Cut out the scrapbook paper in fancy shapes and glue it onto the blank cards.  Write on top of it, let it dry and glue on the lace fabric.  You’ll probably mess up a few times.  I sure did.

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Step 3:  Paint the copper colored chicken wire box with off white paint.  I deliberately left some areas “distressed” to make it look like as if it had been pecked at by a bunch of hungry chickens.  Then, line the box, with the rest of the scrapbook paper, to give it that “sophisticated henpecked” look.

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Step 4:  While the box dries off, tear out some pages from a book and glue it onto the insides of the envelopes.  I used a book that was falling apart, but you can use whatever book you’re not reading.  Just scan the page before glueing it on.  You don’t want to be sending your grandma steamy scenes from a grocery aisle novel.  Unless she was the one who gave you the book in the first place.  While the glue dries, I took embroidering thread and sewed on a border to my cards.

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Step 5:  Put on some pants and go back outside to collect some branches.  I got these off of the beach.  Then I burned the wedding date into each piece.  I also wrote the names of each bridesmaid with white ink because nothing impresses people more than their names written on random objects.

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Step 6:  Cut out a piece of sponge and glue it onto the bottom of each teacup.  You’ll want to make sure that the sponge is dry and the teacup is clean, when you adhere the two together.

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Step 7:  There’s a lot of moss in Seattle.  It grows everywhere.  Roof tops, abandoned cars, sidewalk cracks.  So, I gathered some while on a walk with the dog.  It was growing on the sidewalk.  I thought about sending a bill for “moss removal services” to the CIty of Seattle but that requires too much effort.  But use whatever is abundant, around you.

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Step 8:  Water the moss and fashion some tags out of the scrapbook paper you’ve been cutting off of.  I wrote down the city where the wedding will take place at.

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Step 9:  Add something sweet.  I baked some sugar cookies.  Then I ate half.  But six remained.  Oh, I cut them out in the shapes of each bridesmaids’ state of residence.  For some reason, I had a Texas shaped cookie cutter.  For Arizona and New York, I cut the shapes out, freehand.  The first picture is unfrosted and the second is frosted, even though you can barely tell.  I would’ve re-frosted them in a darker color but after eating a dozen of them, it kind of grew on me. So I left them, as is.

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Finished!

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A Bride’s Rules of Engagement

Engaged?  Congratulations!  Now, try not to be an asshole.  Everyone was born with one of their own.  No one wants to handle the maintenance and mess of two.  And I’m not even shitting with you.  Nowadays, many brides adopt the mantra of “It’s MY big day and I can do whatever I want [insert foot stomp]”.  Um, no you can’t.  This is not a princess themed birthday party; you are not a tiara wearing 5-year old with bedwetting issues.  And besides, it’s not YOUR big day.  It’s you and your groom’s wedding day.  No matter how hard you try, you can’t marry yourself.  Trust me.  If you want to still have friends, by the time you’re married, you may want to abdicate that velvet lined throne you’re sitting on.

Thirteen months ago, my now-fiancé got down on both knees (I told him one was enough, two was begging) and handed me a diamond ring placed in a dog poop bag (sans poop).  I laughed, I cried, I said “heck yeah!” as snot streams of happiness ran down my chin.  The dog offered her tongue services to lick it off and here I am today, eating wedding cake samples for breakfast and planning our wedding.

Everyone talks about wedding guest etiquette.  How much to spend on a gift.  When to RSVP by.  Don’t wear white.  Don’t sleep with the bride.  Or groom.  But considering how many brides’ shoes have been thrown at wedding dress fittings, I thought it time to introduce a guide to bridal etiquette.

1)   Reality check: You are not the first person in history to become engaged.  But if you act like as if you are, then this probably won’t be the only wedding you’ll be attending, as a bride, in your future.  You’re planning a wedding, not heading the Higgs boson research at CERN.  Your friends really don’t want to spend their dinner hours hearing you vent about the average American wedding cost.

But people sure do love a good love story.  I knew I was in love when my fiancé was able to correctly spell “Segway” and “segue”.  And then use them both in a sentence.  It was love at first spellcheck.  When we announced our engagement, there was a huge outpouring of love and support.  The best compliment was, “I hope to someday have what you guys have”.  Yes, your friends and family love to support the newly engaged but they really don’t want to hear about the grueling task of linen selection.  If they inquire about your planning process, by all means, fill them in on the difference between resin and non-resin chairs.  But my advice?  Spare your friends; start a blog.

2)   Sorry, but your bridesmaids are not your personal servants.  In 2010, the average cost to be a bridesmaid was $1,695.  That was in 2010.  I’d give you an updated number but am unable to do so due to a temporary case of the lazies.  It’s an ailment that comes about when I have to research things.  But $1,695 could potentially finance 1.4 MacBook Airs or two cows, depending on what sort of priorities your friends have.  Or perhaps a cow and two-fifths of a MacBook Air.  Either way, your friends are giving up the opportunity to have a bovine companion and part of a laptop to stand around your wedding, holding a bouquet that’s quickly wilting.  That, is love.  Thank your friends and when you’re finished, thank them again.  They are doing you a huge favor.  If you have a daughter, you should probably tell them that they need one part-time job to pay for college and another to pay for bridesmaid costs.

There’s one bridesmaid experience in particular that I’ve used as a model for “How Not To Treat Your Bridesmaids”.  Four years ago, I was involuntarily drafted to be a bridesmaid at my cousin’s third wedding.  We communicated, on average, once every three years and strictly through text or email.  Keep in mind that I was also a bridesmaid at her first wedding.  I think it safe to assume that I would have been asked to be a bridesmaid at her second wedding if not for their decision to do a standard wedding-number-two-Disneyworld-elopement.  No bridesmaids but plenty of mouse ears.

After the wrap-up for her third wedding, my precious cousin decided to send her bank account depleted bridesmaids an adorable email outlining all of their perceived shortcomings.  Lots of grammatically incorrect sentences involving shouting words like “It’s MY wedding!” “I don’t care if I sound like a bitch”, “even if you helped with some stuff, you didn’t do enough”, “you stopped dancing at 10:30 when you knew the invitation said ‘dancing until midnight!’”.  Apparently, we got princess’ coffee order wrong (she wanted iced, we insulted her by ordering one hot) and this caused her panties to become twisted in an irreversible bunch.  It’s fine.  I just won’t agree to be a bridesmaid at her fourth wedding.

The key takeaways from that wedding debacle? Don’t ask people you’re not close to, to be your bridesmaid.  They’re not going to know how you like your coffee and will surely order the wrong one, resulting in a massive temper tantrum.  The other thing I learned was: these are your friends, not wedding day elves.  The only thing you should expect your bridesmaids to do is to wear a dress and a smile.  Anything extra that they volunteer to do should be graciously accepted.  You may want to consider moving to a Third World Country, with a lack of laws banning indentured servitude, if all you want is someone to boss around for free, on your wedding day.

And it’s always a good idea to ask your bridesmaids and groomsmen to be part of your wedding, in a thoughtful manner.  My fiancé and I sent our friends these boxes.  The first is a chicken wire box for my bridesmaids filled with moss, branches and rocks that I’ve foraged for.  The “Be My Bridesmaid?” card was made by sewing on lace to a plain card. Sugar cookies were baked and iced in the shapes of the state in which they live in.  The groomsmen received tequila as well as a “card” made of wooden blocks sawed off of an antique cargo box.  Their names, event date and location were burnt in using a wood burning tool.

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3)   You’re not marrying a wedding planner (and if you are, then consider yourself lucky) so stop harassing your fiancé about his opinion on every tiny wedding day detail.  If a guy uses his shirtsleeve to wipe off the barbeque sauce on his chin, he won’t care if you decide on “Rustic Elegance” linens or “Hamptons Classic”.  I asked my fiancé what he “just has to have” for the wedding.  His answer was “Just you and the dog”.  The main things we discuss are budget, timeline, Dr. Who themed vegan cakes and guest list.  He trusts me with handling everything else.  Which is great, because my OCD wouldn’t want it any other way.

4)   Although a groom may not care about wedding day planning, this is not a free pass for the bride to host an “All me, all the time” occasion.  Remember, a wedding is a celebration of two people.  Nothing is sadder than seeing photos from a wedding with a bride, front and center, and her groom standing awkwardly nearby as an ocean of hot pink satin decoration separates them both.

5)   No, those fake flowers do not look real.  Especially not the ones with the faux water droplets on them.  By all means, if the thought of polyester plants give you happiness, use them.  Just remember, no one is fooled.  This one doesn’t qualify as an asshole move but come one now.  Those flowers don’t even look real enough to fool a dog to lift a leg on it.

6)   Invite people who will support you, without judging, on your wedding day.  Don’t feel obligated to invite people just because they invited you to their wedding.  And don’t be personally insulted if a good friend cannot make it but sends a thoughtful gift instead.  Oftentimes, people simply can’t afford it.  You can’t hold it against your friends for not having an unlimited disposable income.  And if you do, then it’s your fault for not fostering more rich-friend relationships this far in your life.

7)   No, you’re not fat.  Stop asking everyone around you that.  And even if you are, your groom obviously doesn’t care.  He asked you to marry him fat, average, skinny, square, round.  If you do lose some weight?  Good job!  But if you don’t, stop beating yourself and everyone around you about it.  Black and blue are not ideal colors to wear to your own wedding.

When you keep saying things like, “Do I look fat?  I sooo need to lose 20 pounds by my wedding date, in two weeks”, that poor wedding dress attendant doesn’t know what to say.  Sadly, this actually happened.  I had a dress appointment in the room next to another bride. We couldn’t see one another, but her voice carried over to my area.  It was 1.5 hours of awkward sadness.  I almost wanted to go over to her and offer a hug, some self-esteem and a Skinnygirl Margarita.

8)   My fiancé and I are paying for our wedding.  We’re even paying for our parents’ plane tickets and hotel stay, because it’s something we both want to do.  I mean, have you seen the dark circles under the eyes of a new parent?  An exhausted mom trying to soothe a sick baby on a plane?  According to CNN, the average cost of raising a child is $241,080. That means your parents chose you and eye wrinkles over a room filled with a quarter of a million dollars’ worth of coins.  Enough for them to take the occasional coin dive in, a la Scrooge McDuck.  At this point in our lives, we consider it a blessing to be able to afford to pay for our parents’ way to attend our wedding.

If your parents are paying for your wedding, you don’t have much room to complain about them inviting their friends or insisting that you get the chicken dinner versus the steak.  Thank your parents, you lucky S.O.B.  I mean, really.  Put on some pants, unlock the door to your den “apartment” in their house and walk your pampered butt to the kitchen where your parents are paying the bills.  Tell them “thank you”.  Then throw in a hug and kiss for an instant wedding cake upgrade from four-tier to five.  If you want complete control over your wedding, you’ll just have to pay for it yourself.

9)   If you’ve never seen the inside of a craft store before, your wedding is not the time to test out your DIY skills.  Putting stress on oneself like that will only unleash your inner asshole.  And please, no one wants to see that.  Hire a wedding planner.  Then sit back with your case of liquor and relax.  If you can’t afford a planner and have no clue on how a glue gun operates, then I would consider selling plasma for extra income.

Weddings shouldn’t be stressful, but they oftentimes are.  If you can’t handle it, then you can’t.  It’s not the end of the world.  Do yourself a favor and book a trip for two to the south of France, or wherever you consider to be relaxing and romantic.  Have a small ceremony, for just the two of you.  There’s no rule that says you have to have 150 guests at a five-star hotel, to qualify as a wedding.  It’s a special day commemorating the love between two people who promise not to wake up next to anyone else, for the rest of their lives.  Just try not to drive everyone in your life insane, in the meantime.