Having a Wedding is a lot like Turning Five

Five is around the age where birthdays were the most important. You were old enough to realize what was going on and young enough that they were the event of the year. It was your special day, and you got cake. Hey, maybe even a party dress.

I’m taking some time right now to visit the burgeoning land of Starbucks and read over an email Jill sent me. (Jill was my youth pastor in high school, presently my good friend, and the person officiating (Tweet!) the ceremony.) It’s called “Service of Christian Marriage With Options” and lists choices for traditional declarations of intent, relinquishments, vows, and exchanges of rings. In true five-year-old-birthday-party fashion, I’ve been paying a lot more attention to the hats and kazoos of the reception than to the important parts.

I’ve been thinking about what you can honestly promise someone in a situation like this. Promise too little and you absolutely depress the pants off people. Promise too much and I’ll be retching on the altar (or in my seat if it’s you getting married).

Kevyn Stokes, reputable source and fellow Westovarian, told me that Whitworth professor Rob Clark said the following about marriage:

You can’t promise that you’re going to like ‘em. You can’t control that. You can only promise things that are in your control, and the only thing you can control is that you’ll be there.

“I’m not usually that impressed by him, but I was like, ‘Way to go, Rob.’” Kevyn said in reflection.

I promise I won’t make you go to the dentist’s by yourself, and I will commiserate when you get speeding tickets. I’ll be present with you whether I like it or not.

Each of the options in Jill’s email mentions love. There’s that problem of love. Annie said to me one day in a fit of epiphany, “I don’t even really know what love is.” Pop-Christian culture wants to simplify love—love is a choice—which stinks of a homosexuality rebuttal to me. Hallmark wants to make some bucks off it. Regular pop culture wants to mystify romantic love and elevate it to the status of destiny and life purpose. And biology traces it to our hormones and our sense of smell.

And I can’t help thinking getting married will feel like turning five. I’ll wake up on my birthday being five-years old, but I’ll feel a lot like I did when I was four years old. Not any different, actually. I won’t feel married (kabloomers). I won’t be any less selfish or any more loving than I am now. I won’t be any better at sharing my living space or being helpful. And I’ll still be just as pointlessly competitive. But I hope by the time I turn six years old or twenty years old, I’ll have figured out how to be five.


The Big West by Bicycle

Well she's chuggin down the track, chuggaluggin down the track. -Jalan Crossland

I went on the fourteenth anniversary ride of the Tour De Wyoming last week. They've never covered the same area twice on this tour, meaning that 13 areas were more appealing than our route. We covered southwest Wyoming, southeast Idaho, and northeast Utah. We rode 350 strong into towns as big as Kemmerer (home of the first JC Penney, the locals won't hesitate to tell you) with 2600 people and as small as Garden City, 400, and Cokeville, 500, to stay the night. They sell Pepsi products in Cokeville, incidentally.

Bike tours, as far as I know, create an interesting social atmosphere not unlike church camp for adults. Some people sleep in tents and some in the gyms of the schools we camp at. The average age was about 50. I couldn't tell most people apart. They were primarily skinny, gray-haired, and wearing helmets, sunglasses, and brightly-colored spandex. At one rest stop I fumbled my Gatorade all over some lady, and I'm not sure if I saw her again or not.

One day we had such a bad crosswind that my mom complained about snot coming out of her left nostril and hitting her right eye.

Muscularily the 370 miles were taxing, but the worst part about riding that far was the "saddle sores" a.k.a. how much that damn bike seat hurt your crotch. (I also had troubles getting my leg over the top of my bike frame. I grabbed my foot in order to help it over for a couple of days.)

One of my compatriots (to be remained annonymous in order to restore some of her privacy) had such bad saddle sores that she could only ride the first three days. The last three she rode the sag wagon. To sag: v. to ride in a car, to be compared to an old woman's breasts. In our small bike community, news like this gets around. It's difficult to find things to talk about in the dinner line. Some staples were the Tour de France, the ride just completed, the ride coming up tomorrow, and saddle sores. These lovely well-meaning strangers would ask my compatriot how her crotch was doing. One man gave her some balm for chaffing and some other balm for bruising. "Is it like an open wound?" He asked her, "because if it is you probably shouldn't use the bruise balm."

She told us later that it was probably the only time that when a stranger broatched the subject of her nether regions, he would not only not get slapped, but would be thanked profusely. She's an introvert, and I think the whole experience was a bit much.

And I actually found myself sad on that last day. No more waking up at 5 a.m. in the dark to pack up the tent and stand in breakfasts lines (these towns had no notion of the meaning of haste) to ride 50 or 60 or 70 or 80 miles in the middle of nowhere. No more looking at road kill, skunks mostly, or cruising down empty hills. No more looking up (ouch, my neck!) to see the bobbing silhouettes of my fellow cyclists somewhere down the road. No more being caked with aspalht dust or burned by the sun.

And I dream of a trailer in Bolser, Wyoming with tires on the roof, dear. And you by my side. And we can pitch horse shoes and stray cats on Sunday. Yeah, we can have hot wings and bourbon for breakfast. Ah, we can watch Flinstones and draw unemployment. Yes, I dream of Bosler when I close my eyes.


Wish Me Luck

I’m leaving today for a week-long bike trip across Wyoming. I’m afraid the only thing I’ll be thinking this next week is that my butt hurts. Pedal, butt hurts, pedal, butt hurts. The whole thing sounded like a lot more fun a couple months ago when the plan was to be in GREAT SHAPE.

On the way to Fort Collins yesterday (where I’m calling from), Mom and Terry told stories from previous cycling trips. In Iowa, they had to shower in the state fair sheep barn. There were no sheep in it at the time. Terry said it was a huge building, bigger than a gymnasium, and had black trash bags hung across the middle to separate the men from the women. You walked in and there was this crowd of naked women with intense bike tan lines. There were PVC pipes hanging down with little holes in them providing the water. And then a woman with a ghost-buster pack came through spraying for mosquitoes. “It looked like Auschwitz,” Terry said.

They also talked about tornado-grade storms, Vaseline use, and getting lost. They told me that they’d put down the tent each morning if my cousin, Becky, and I ran to get in the coffee truck line each morning.

At least there’s coffee.


Romeo and Swift

I might be picking a really bad, insignificant fight, but just hear me out. Most of you might find this entirely irrelevant to your lives, but it might be interesting none the less. Bottom line, if you think you've wasted your precious time as a result of reading my ranting, then by all means bug me and waste a little of mine.

Taylor Swift is bad news to young girls. She seems sweet and innocent. She talks about love stories that parallel Shakesphere's Romeo and Juliet; thus providing an educational element to her lyrics. She did call herself a slut ("You were Romeo, I was a scarlet letter") BUT she didn't paint her middle finger "F-U" like Lindsay Lohan before she was convicted to a 90 day jail sentence.

Let me explain:

I recently worked at a one week camp that my childhood church sponsors every year. At the end of the week there is a talent show. My eleven year old girls wanted to sing, "Love Story" and "You Belong with Me". The directors of the camp were concerned with the line "Romeo take me somewhere we can be alone." Duh. The obvious choice. This may imply sex, so we want to avoid this entirely. What brought me to tears one night wasn't this line, or the idea of sex, or romance, or whatever, but the underlying message of her songs. Pine after boys and they will swiftly sweep away your problems.

Then there was a boy who I will call Romeo.
Romeo had one ear pierced. A fake diamond. He went up in front of everyone and said, "I love God because he gave me strength. (He lifts up his arms) Thunder (kisses his left arm) and Lightning (kisses his right arm)."
He bounced around like a little gansta, scoffing at his leaders, and after a few minutes of firm encouragement, he slouched in his seat. He later promised the four girls in my cabin (and a few others) that on Thursday he would pick his girlfriend.

The girls in my cabin swooned.

The guy counselor who was with Romeo told me, "Man, it is so great when we aren't around you girls, because when he's not next to them, he doesn't even think about the love drama."

Wasn't he lucky. All week it was about Romeo.
Taylor Swift was playing in the background of our cabin time discussion.

Will he pick me?
Hey Stephen, I know looks can be deceiving But I know I saw a light in you
Can I go sit by Romeo?
I'll be the one waiting there even when it's cold
When I sing songs, can I try to lock eyes with Romeo?
Come feel this magic I've been feeling since I met you
I named my stuffed animal Romeo.
Cause I can't help it if you look like an angel
He gave Emma a necklace, he will pick her.
All those other girls, well, they're beautiful, But would they write a song for you?
He is so nice, so caring.
I think I know where you belong. I think I know it's with me.
I am in love with him.
If you could see that I'm the one who understands you
Romeo is my best friend.
Whatcha doing with a girl like that? You belong with me.

By the end of camp I spent hours with these girls playing games, laughing, diverting all conversations from Romeo to their own interests and talents. Romeo came up to me. Apparently he got wind of a conversation I had with the girls about finding their self worth from who they are in Christ alone. Not in boys or anyone/anything else.

"Hey Annie, guess who's my girlfriend?"
[He lifts up two girls hands. The joyful girls are twins. The girls live with their grandmother and 12 other cousins. As they put it, they "don't have parents."]
Romeo triumphantly gloats, "Yeah, and there is nothin' you can do bout it, woman. ha!"
I ignore the kid, and look at one of the twins who was in my cabin, "Want to go sit by me for the final ceremony?"
Her love-glazed eyes look at Romeo and she walks away behind him without responding.

You are probably thinking, "Oh Annie, they are just kids. We did the same thing. They will grow out of it. blah blah blah."


Sarah has nothing else in life indicating she has any self worth whatsoever. Catchy tunes like T-Swift make cheerful promises of love and how to achieve love that are unrealistic and demeaning. Girls should be loyal to her boy, seek to change her boy, be inspirational and musical.

Girls should be kids.

Obviously there are worse songs on the radio than T-Swift. But she carries a sense of innocence and beauty with her words. The hopeful songs of love combined with a lonely, difficult childhood equal a distortion of reality. At least Taio Cruz is honest about breaking hearts.

I'm dreaming about the day when Sarah wakes up and finds that what she's looking for has been there the whole time.


Taking Art Seriously

The audacity! The irony! The “Up Yours!” to artistic snobbery and pretense, maybe. Or the exact opposite if they’re serious. They being the artists featured in the Museum of Modern Art.

Mitch said, “I could have made that.” About one piece: a trapezoid made out of string with two corners fastened to the wall and two to the floor.

“But you didn’t.” I said. But supposed he did? Maybe Mitch makes various geometric figures during his free time or while watching sporting events. Should his art be submitted to and accepted at the MOMA? Am I marrying a vast artistic talent? Maybe. But maybe he doesn’t get much past octagons. At any rate,

we saw a utility sink without the faucets, a hay bale, and a four-by-four stack of bricks two-bricks deep along with two helicopters, some Pollock and Warhol and Picasso, and Starry Night.

It made me suspicious about the value of art, or at least our definition of it. All the exhibits took creativity, but not all took talent or even time. It could summon the end of taking art seriously.

But maybe that’s the point. Irony, sarcasm, and insincerity show up in art a couple of decades before they infused everything else in American society. That’s my interpretation, of course; these artists could be 100% sincere about their rowboats made entirely out of purple pillows or whatnot. And if they are serious, it seems to be all pretense.

In an episode of Sex and the City, a man in Charlotte’s art gallery asks to buy the fire extinguisher, thinking its a piece of art. He ends up being a douche bag and a moron—not an exceptional fate for the male fare in SATC. But it’s not such a dunderheaded move when around contemporary art.

Andy Warhol said, “If everything’s not beautiful, nothing is.” Including fire extinguishers.

It’s brilliant, actually. For years artists have been looking at things and trying to capture their beauty—more so, they are trying to capture a bit of what those things are. Trying to get a crack at reality. The abstractionists, with their colors and strewn paint and violent shapes, are trying to evoke rather that depict. I mean, for “sadness” you could draw a picture of a girl frowning, but the abstractionists want to make you know sadness, to call it up.

Van Gogh could have painted some excellent hay bales; he might have. But, audaciously, Cildo Meireles takes it further and puts a real hay bale in a ritzy museum on 53rd street. Its presence there dubs it “art.”

Artists try to give viewers the thing itself, not a symbol of it or a description of it, but it. Contemporary artists have done that... here, have a fire extinguisher. And it gives the viewer a choice: to say “bah, art, rubbish” or to become the artist and say, “Hay bales are worth looking at.” or “I could make that.”

For more about the MOMA: New York Times art review