June 2007

I just hope it’s not a train.

As if three 150+ person weddings over a period of 14 days weren’t enough to test my sanity, I am also suffering from a raging case of PMS. Damn you, hormones!! Mr. T has been in Europe for two weeks working on his research and giving presentations, so I’ve been in the company of two dogs and a computer for what seems like… forever. *sigh*

On the bright side, I found out this morning that my Italian vacation will include SCUBA diving in the Amalfi coast, sight-seeing between Naples and Salerno, clothes shopping (and shoes, oh glorious Italian shoes…), and lots of fabulous food! T-minus fifteen days and counting…

Mr. T says that above the bed in his hotel room hangs a HUGE painting of the Virgin Mary. Hmmm… Should make for an interesting religious experience! 😉


About half an hour after I wrote this debate-provoking post, I decided to take a walk with the pups. After twenty minutes wondering around Mr. T’s neighborhood the dogs were still rowdy, so I decided to walk around the park. Down the road, I saw a dark-skinned Mexican woman in her early sixties standing next to a newish Honda Civic, examining a flat tire. I approached her and asked in Spanish if she needed help changing it. She looked at me like I had fallen from heaven, and told me that she had no idea what to do.

As I tethered the dogs to a post, she opened the back door and helped out a beautiful blond, blue-eyed, five year-old girl. The child was complaining about having to get out of the car, and the nervous woman commanded her sternly in Spanish to be quiet. The child looked sullen and withdrawn, and I could see the sadness in her eyes. She walked over to the side of the car and sat down obediently on the sidewalk, fidgeting with a pink umbrella.

As I got all the items ready to change the tire, I tried to cheer up the little girl, whose name was Olivia. I asked her if she wanted to help me so she could learn how to change a tire, but she just glared at me and pouted silently.

“You know, Olivia,” I chided her gently, “every woman should know how to change a tire.” I thought back to when I was five years old, and how I loved hanging out in my father’s tire store, watching the men change tires with their hydraulic equipment. The smell of new tires and the whirl of hydraulic tools brings back so many memories. I silently thanked my father for teaching me how to change a tire.

As I worked, the nanny talked. “I was on my way to the park with Olivia when I felt something was wrong with the car,” she said. “I have no one to call; Olivia’s parents are both doctors, and they work very long hours. Her mother is out of the house every day by seven and doesn’t come home until after dinner. Her father sometimes works for more than 24 hours straight. As a matter of fact, he didn’t come home last night and we haven’t seen him since yesterday morning.”

“Does Olivia have a sibling?” I asked, having noticed two child seats in the back of the car.

“Yes, she has a six-year old brother” the nanny replied. “He’s with a tutor right now and we have to pick him up later.”

I looked back at Olivia, who was sitting on the sidewalk and pouting. I tried again to get her to talk. “So, Olivia, that dress you have on, is it a princess dress?” She looked down at her pink gown and nodded. “What princess is the dress from,” I asked. She frowned and didn’t answer. I forged ahead, “Is it Cinderella?” Bored shake of the head. “Sleeping beauty?” Another shake. “Uh, Princess Yasmine?” She looked at me with a dull, blank stare. I had run out of princesses and the girl was obviously not going to come out of her sullen stupor, so I turned back to changing the tire.

“A few days ago, I got lost on the road with the two kids,” the nanny continued. “I only learned how to drive a few years ago, and I’m very scared of driving on the highway. I took the wrong exit and ended up in a neighborhood I didn’t know, with no idea of how to get to where I was going. I got really scared because I had the two children with me, so I called Olivia’s dad. Do you know what he said? ‘Oh, that’s OK Marta. I’m sure you’ll figure out a way back onto the highway‘ and he hung up!” She looked over at Olivia and whispered to me, “I worry more about the kids than their parents do.”

I shook my head in disbelief and finished putting the lug-nuts back onto the tire. The nanny told Olivia to give me a hug for having changed the tire, and the child ran towards me and threw her arms around me in a very genuine gesture. When she pulled back, she still wasn’t smiling.

The dogs and I walked back home and I thought about the post I had just written and the comments I had received. We all have the privilege of choosing what we want to be in life, this is clear. Yes, women need a financial back-up plan in case things go wrong in the marriage. Yes, women can and do have satisfying professionals careers while raising a family. However, when your ambitions negatively affect the life of a child YOU chose to bring into this world, haven’t you abused this privilege?

One of my dearest and closest friends took a brave step recently.  She expressed to a man, for the first time ever, what it was that she wanted in her future.  No longer did she hide under the “independent woman” guise; when asked during a date where she saw herself in ten years, she replied, “I want to be married, have children, and be a stay-at-home mom”.

Why, you ask, do I consider this a brave step?  Well, my friend comes from a feminist background and was taught early in life that she didn’t need a man to be happy.  She attended a feminist college, and spent most of the first decade of her adult life struggling between what she thought she should want and what her real yearnings were.

For many years she dated men who didn’t reach her level of maturity or provide her with any real emotional fulfillment, mainly because she didn’t know what she wanted out of a relationship and was too afraid of rejection to voice her real desires.  She did some soul-searching and realized that, upbringing be damned, she wanted to build a traditional family with traditional values and roles.

Many women (me included) who suffer from low self-esteem find it hard to believe that we will find a man who will be willing to allow us the joys of staying home with our children and taking care of our husband.  Skewed feminism concepts propagated by society and encouraged by cowardly men have made us believe that we are only as good as the job we hold, the income we bring home, and the body we parade around in.  The traditional skills of child-rearing and home-making have been relegated to quaint black and white memories tinged with the sepia of oppression and quiet despair.

It takes a strong, confident woman to shut out society’s expectations and listen only to her heart.  And it takes a brave, grounded man to meet her halfway.

I mentioned my friend’s act of courage to my parents over lunch a few days ago.  My father was surprised, and remarked that when he was young (in the late 60’s in Mexico) men wouldn’t dream of approaching a woman with the intention of dating unless the man’s end goals were to marry her and provide for her and their children.

At first I became very upset at feminists.  Because of them, women with “traditional” goals now have to go around justifying and masking what used to be something perfectly acceptable.  Many single women today wouldn’t dream of telling their date that they are looking for a man who will support them and allow them to stay at home and raise a family, lest the man think she was only interested in his money.  And many single men today would yell “check, please!!” upon hearing the woman’s request, branding her a gold-digger and not wanting to shoulder the responsibility.  Yet, it’s been demonstrated countless times that couples are happiest in relationships with well-defined roles, and what could be more well-defined than a traditional marriage?

However, my friend pointed out that not all aspects of feminism are bad.  Fifty years ago, if women wanted to work it was as nurses, teachers, or secretaries.  Now, the world is our oyster.  We can travel, make money, own homes, and build careers.  We’re much better role models for our daughters now than we were fifty years ago.  But are we really?

Last week I had the pleasure of spending a week with Mr. T’s 10 and 13-year old nieces.  They come from a conservative family, so I was shocked to hear them utter the phrase “Women are better than men” several times over the course of the week.  At one point, I tried explaining that we’re “different”, not “better”.  They wouldn’t hear it.  Has society gone so far in the other direction that our future generations will be too blinded by bitterness and insecurity to appreciate the glorious and life-affirming differences between the sexes?

“We’re going to be late,” I cried as Mr. T came home from work.

Never mind that our flight left at 11:30pm and it was only 8:30pm. Poor Mr. T humored me and drove like a bat out of hell to the airport, because I was convinced that we had to be there two hours ahead of time for an international flight. Of course, we got to the airport and were the only ones at the check-in counter. God bless my man for being so patient with his neurotic girlfriend. We had to leave behind a tube of sunscreen at security, because it is apparently lethal at high altitudes. But a ballpoint pen through the captain’s jugular is OK. I’m just saying…

We reached Cancun bright and early… A little too early for our liking, at 5:15am! We took the ferry to Isla Mujeres and checked into our lovely boutique hotel. Our room wasn’t ready so they allowed us to stay for a few hours in an adjoining room. People, the room had a queen sized bed suspended by ropes! It was like a giant swing! Of course we had to try it out (if you know what I mean), but it was impossible for me to control my giggling as I pictured us crashing through the wall and into our neighbors’ room! I think Mr. T even let out a Tarzan-like howl in the spirit of the moment…

We spent three blissful days and nights in Isla Mujeres, diving, eating, exploring, and sleeping. If you’re looking for a relaxing getaway, this is the perfect place! It’s affordable, the people are nice, and there are some great diving sites.

Speaking of diving, those of you who are certified should know that Mexico is THE place to unwittingly accomplish technical dives you wouldn’t be allowed to do at home without proper training. I’m an open water diver and when I got to Isla I had about 10 dives under my (weight) belt, but the first afternoon we dove, I ended up scraping my way through some pretty tight caves. We also did a drift dive, but let me tell you, a Mexican drift dive will test your mettle!

So, we get to one of the island’s dive shops and tell them we want to do a drift dive. How hard could it be, I rationed. I have good buoyancy control and I’m pretty nimble underwater. Unbeknownst to me, a Mexican drift dive consists of diving up-current and drifting down-current (sounds good up to now, doesn’t it?). But then the dive master turned around and made us swim back up-current underwater!! Does anyone know how hard this is? You’re low on air, tired from the precise attention required during a drift dive, hungry, and the bastard decides that it’ll be great fun to swim against the current! WTF? (For those of you who don’t dive, a normal drift dive has you moving along with the underwater current, while the boat follows you from above and conveniently picks you up when you surface down-current).

Luckily, I had my darling Mr. T to help me along. He held onto rocks and I held onto him, and together we made our way slowly and painfully back to the boat. When I got to the surface and climbed on the boat, my head was pounding and my legs were burning. To make matters worse, the seas were very choppy and my normally sea-savvy stomach wasn’t cooperating. As we were gearing up for our second dive, with my BC and weight belt already on and a heavy tank strapped to my back, I couldn’t hold it anymore and lunged sideways to feed the fishes. I instantly felt better and dove only minutes later. I’m such a trooper! 🙂

We left Isla Mujeres and took the ferry back to Cancun for the remainder of our stay. If you haven’t been to Cancun, let me just say that it’s like Vegas with a beach and no casinos. It is ridiculously expensive and very boring if you’re not into expensive beer and cheap women. We had to be there for Mr. T’s conference, but we really didn’t have a fabulous time. I’m sorry, but $50 for two buffet breakfasts is a little over the top, don’t you agree???

We stayed at a supposedly very hip hotel called ME by Melia (a Spanish chain). They had nightclub-type lounge music playing in the lobby, pool, beach, and elevators 24 hours a day, and the management ran around looking self-important in outfits better suited for a night on the town. As a former hotel manager, I was not impressed.

Wherever we went, waiters, store clerks, and street vendors kept asking if we were honeymooners. Apparently Cancun is a hot place for newlyweds, but it would be way down on my list of honeymoon destinations. Right next to Iraq.

We got home just in time to ready the house for the arrival of Mr. T’s 10 and 13 year old nieces. I just realized how unprepared I am for motherhood and how much sacrifice is involved. But that’s a topic for my next post…

But I’ve been babysitting Mr. T’s nieces and trying to catch up on work.  Who knew two kids, two dogs, and ten brides would be the death of me?  I can’t wait to catch up on your blogs, but in the meantime I wanted to share with you this charming tidbit from our vacation:

Tour guide: So you’re mexican and your boyfriend’s american?

Me: Yes.

Tour guide: Great, so you have a North American Free Trade Agreement.

Mr. T: Trust me, man… It’s NOT free. 

By this time tomorrow, I’ll be tanning my belly on the white beaches of the Yucatan Peninsula… YEAH!!! I spent half the day yesterday getting waxed (ouch!), massaged, facialed (is that a word?), scrubbed, manicured and pedicured. I could get used to this type of treatment, although by the end my wallet was screaming more loudly than I did during the Brazilian waxing session.

So, I’ll be MIA for a week of fun in the sun. One of my friends thinks that this is when Mr. T is going to propose formally. I doubt it, but if he does you’ll certainly be the first to know!

Before I leave, I want to share this little eye-rolling tidbit with you:

Turns out that the rumor of me not getting dates for next year at a particular venue/hotel are completely unfounded. I went to speak with the events manager on Thursday and I told her what I had heard. She looked confused and assured me that there was no ban against me at their property. She said that a wedding was a wedding, and as far as she was concerned they weren’t going to turn down a smaller event that could fill the hotel for the weekend. She also said that although I was demanding, she knew that I always treated her staff with respect and assured me that she had not received any complaints from the events personnel.

While the manager and I were walking towards her office, we bumped into the head housekeeper (aka, she who started the rumor). The woman did not even return my greeting after I said hello and smiled at her.

I couldn’t figure out what I had done to upset her so terribly, so I headed back over to the florist’s shop. I told him what the events manager had said and my florist replied, “Well, the only other thing I can think of is that you’re not tipping her appropriately.”

Tipping her? Honestly, the thought hadn’t even occurred to me. I never tip my vendors, but I obviously allow clients to do so if they feel a service meets or exceeds their expectations. The head housekeeper had never provided any services for me directly, but I found out from the florist that she’s the one who stays behind when the wedding is over and makes sure all the florist’s bases, linens, and additional decor are stored. The florist tips her after every wedding, and apparently I’m expected to do the same. Go figure…

I gave the florist some money and asked him to send her a nice floral arrangement. I attached a card thanking her for her services during my events and made a mental note to tip her a few bucks prior to leaving each wedding.

I dislike people who demand tips for doing their job (I don’t mean waiters or other workers whose income depends on tips, of course). Several things have gone missing in the past, and now I know who’s behind the disappearing act (although I can’t prove it). Hopefully by tipping her, I can prevent things from getting “lost” again. I figured this was the smartest way to go about it. I’m really not in the mood to confront an ignorant, money-grubbing, back-stabbing, two-faced liar. I figured I’d kill her with kindness. I wonder what her reaction will be when she gets the flowers. Ten bucks says she doesn’t even thank me.

Drama solved, I’m off to enjoy myself in Cancun!! When I come back it will be non-stop work for an entire month. I’m looking at six-day workweeks between my return and the middle of July. Is wedding season over yet?

P.S. Thanks to all of you who commented! Your words of encouragement, empathy and support really helped!!