Modern Day Corsets

My mom and I ordered my wedding gown back in May.  It came in in August, just a few weeks ago.  Rather than spend almost the cost of the dress on tailoring, we decided to take it to a family friend who does alterations for a living.

The dress came in, I traveled to Knoxville, we went to the friend’s house for a fitting.

Once we got there, I took off my normal clothes and put the dress on, wearing my normal bra.  The woman looked at the dress, agreed that yes, it was too big and would need some taking in, and then refused to measure me until I had purchased a strapless, longline corset bra.  We spent the rest of the visit looking online at undergarments.

Why did she refuse to measure me?  Well, she’s in her 60s.  She grew up in a different era.  In her words, “weddings are about beauty, not about comfort.”  I thought they were about two people choosing each other for life, but I guess I was wrong.  Weddings are about me looking “my best,” and “my best” apparently means even skinnier than I already am, with bigger boobs and a completely smooth torso, giving no sign that I have abs, a belly button, or even hip bones.

At the time, I said, fine.  I just need this dang gown altered, and if this is what it takes, so be it.  My parents are paying for half of my wedding, and my mom apparently is fine with paying almost $100 on constricting undergarments.  So if she’s okay with adding this to the cost, okay.

But then we started actually looking for these “undergarments.”  My gown has a lowish back, and it’s been difficult to find anything that will be low enough to go under it.  Plus, no one actually carries these types of bras in stores, so we’ve had to look online.  So this means we have had to guess if a certain bra will be low enough, guess at my bra size because everything is sized differently, order a bra at $70 or more, wait for it to ship, try it on, find out it doesn’t fit, and then send it back and go through the hassle of an online return.

I thought the whole thing was ridiculous before, and now I really do.  I’m not even comfortable in the bras I’ve tried on.  I can’t breathe in them.  I can’t really bend.  How am I supposed to enjoy my wedding if I am tied in to a literal corset, like in the 1800 and 1900s?  And then there’s the fact that I, the bride, think I look perfectly fine in the dress without a longline corset bra.  Sure, it’s thin fabric, and when it’s pulled tight, like it’s supposed to fit, you can see the outline of my belly button and hip bones.  But so what?  That’s what I look like.  I’m a real human being, with real bones and muscles.  Humans look weird and lumpy sometimes.  And then there’s the fact that I’m very skinny.  It’s how I’m built.  It’s not as if I want something to hold in my stomach, because I don’t really have one.  If I did, and if I wanted a bra to suck me in a bit on my wedding day because I knew I would feel self-conscious about myself if I didn’t, then I wouldn’t have a problem with this.  But at this point, it’s as if this woman who we asked to alter my dress is trying to hide the fact that I am an actual human.

I know that’s not what she means.  In fact, she probably hasn’t given this a second thought, because most brides today do wear undergarments like this.  But I don’t think I need it, and I don’t want to wear one.  I stated this, and was overruled by this much louder, much older woman.  What happened to my preferences for my own wedding day?

As my mom and I have already ordered several bras, if one of them fits and works under the dress, I will wear it.  I’m trying to pick my battles, or maybe I’m just being a pushover.  But even if I end up with a corset bra, I have sworn to myself that I’m only wearing it for the alterations and the ceremony.  After that, I will ditch it for a sticky bra, because I want to be comfortable for my reception.  And if none of the bras we have ordered fit, I will repeat these thoughts to the alterations lady, and I will get my dress fitted on just my normal body, and I will wear a sticky bra for the entire ceremony and reception.  Screw longline corset bras.  They’re more like medieval torture devices, and it is 2017, after all.


Just Admit You Love Your Wife

The other day, I took my car in for an oil change.  It was a bit overdue, and I had a coupon, so I ended up at the local Midas with my fiance.  While we waited for the mechanics to get done with my car, we chatted some with the manager.  He saw that we were a young couple, so he ended up telling us the story of how he met his wife.  It went something like this.

“I’m not from here originally; I’m from up north.  I came down here 30 years ago for a two week bike trip.  But close to the end of the trip I got into a wreck; some woman hit me as I was driving down a mountain.  I ended up in the hospital for awhile.  Right before I was supposed to be released the nurse came to do one last check and I told her, ‘I’m only here for a day or two more.  Wanna go on a date?’ I didn’t think she’d say yes, but she did.  I got back up north, and after a couple weeks I called her and said, ‘I’m thinking of moving down south.’  And she said, ‘Okay.  You can move in with me.’  So I moved in with her and her roommate, and six months later we were married.  We’ve been together 30 years now.  That’s a lot longer than most guys my age.”

At that point my thought was, How cute!

Then he added, “Thirty years…it’s about time for me to get a new one, don’t you think?  Ha ha ha.”

The cuteness vanished.  Instead of thinking how sweet his story was, I felt sorry for his wife.  I don’t know his life, or his relationship, or his wife.  But I would bet that he doesn’t say stuff like that to her.  To me, it sounded like he still loves her.  I mean, he told us their story in detail, and seemed proud that his marriage had lasted longer than many of his friends’, even if it was because it began earlier.

I could be wrong, of course.  It could’ve been that they married when they were very young, and realized they weren’t right for each other, but stayed together anyway.  They could be having issues.  I don’t know.  But that comment really rubbed me the wrong way.

Making that thoughtless comment, in my opinion, devalues the person you’ve committed your life to, for better or worse.  Most marriages, at least in the beginning, are entered into because two people love each other and plan on doing so by combining their lives for, hopefully, the rest of them.  Thirty years ago, the man that did my oil change loved and valued his wife enough to envision a life with her, and to commit to her.  But now he feels okay joking that it’s been 30 years, and for whatever reason — they don’t love each other anymore? he’s restless? she’s too old? — he should “get a new one.”

It’s been said, but I’ll say again — women aren’t like cars that you can just replace when you get tired of them, or when they quit running as well as they used to, or when you decide you like the newer model better.  Marriage is a serious commitment, and whatever your situation is, you’re not going to make it any better by joking about replacing your wife like you would a vehicle.

As I said above, I bet the man doesn’t say stuff like that to his wife, even jokingly.  And I do understand that the comment was meant as a joke.  But why is staying married to your wife for 30 years, which to me is an incredible accomplishment, something he felt like he needed to make an excuse for?  Does staying married to one person, admitting you love her to strangers, make you feel so uncomfortably vulnerable that you have to joke that oh, I don’t love her that much?

know he didn’t mean any of this.  Even my fiance, when I mentioned it later, didn’t think anything of it.  It’s seen as normal, because tons of guys make this joke.  Everyone gets that it’s a joke, so it’s okay.  Right?

I don’t think so.  To me, a woman who will be a wife very soon, it sounded harsh and stinging.  I wouldn’t have wanted to have been his wife, even though she wasn’t around to hear the comment.  I’m tired of jokes like this, about wives being the “ball and chain” and about how 30 years is too long to have one wife, especially given the fact that marriage is more beneficial for men than women.  See this quote from the link:

“Not marrying or cohabiting is less detrimental among woman than men,” said Dr George Ploubidis, a population health scientist at the UCL Institute of Education.

“Being married appears to be more beneficial for men.”

I’m ready for us as a society to quit devaluing women as wives.  Not spouting off comments like the one he made would be a great place to start.

The Maiden Name Dilemma

This has been on my mind since before I even got engaged.  To change my name, or not to change my name?  That is the question.

Lately, the more I think about it, the more I lean toward no.  I’m pretty traditional, but this is one thing that doesn’t sit quite right with me.  At risk of sounding feminazi (the horror!), I feel like it’s an antiquated practice that I could do without.  In the “olden days,” women changed their names to signify that they were now under the care of their husband rather than their father.  It was a sign of commitment, yes, but also a transactional symbol.

Obviously, that’s not really how name-changing is seen these days.  Most women change their names as an added symbol of commitment and as a public symbol of the switch from single-ness to marriage.  And if that’s what you want to do, that’s all fine and good.

To me, though, there are enough symbols without me also having to change my name. Our commitment to each other will be displayed through our marriage certificate, our rings, and our wedding.  Everyone important to us will see us get married.  We will both make the mental, emotional, and financial commitment (which really has already been made).  And after the ceremony is over, we will both wear rings on our left hand that say to everyone who sees them, I am a married person.  To me, that’s plenty.

Marriage, in its proper form, is a legal, emotional, and financial commitment between two individuals.  I am already a whole individual, and so is he.  Therefore, I think that the legal documentation, the rings, and the ceremony are sufficient public symbols.

There are obviously some cons to not taking his name.  The first and most obvious is that he is a traditional person as well, and I know he’d like for me to take his name.  That, honestly, is my biggest hangup.  It’s a little difficult to balance my own wishes with his, but that’s what marriage is.  Two individuals essentially becoming one unit comes with a ton of issues like this, as I know most are well aware.  Probably (definitely) more aware than I am.  We will have to discuss this and come to an understanding.

The other big issue is potential children.  I don’t particularly want any children, ever, but in case we do have children, whose name would they take?  I would be fine with them taking his — again, I’m fairly traditional, and I got my last name from my father, so I have no problem with them having his.  But that would be something that would have to be discussed.

I haven’t completely decided what I’m going to do yet, and I have some time before I really have to make that decision.  But it’s definitely something to think about.

I know many people have strong feelings on this; feel free to tell me what you think and/or share your own experience!


Book Review: Buying a Bride by Marcia A. Zug



NetGalley Description

There have always been mail-order brides in America—but we haven’t always thought about them in the same ways. In Buying a Bride, Marcia A. Zug starts with the so-called “Tobacco Wives” of the Jamestown colony and moves all the way forward to today’s modern same-sex mail-order grooms to explore the advantages and disadvantages of mail-order marriage. It’s a history of deception, physical abuse, and failed unions. It’s also the story of how mail-order marriage can offer women surprising and empowering opportunities.

Drawing on a forgotten trove of colorful mail-order marriage court cases, Zug explores the many troubling legal issues that frequently arise in mail-order marriage: domestic abuse and murder, breach of contract, fraud (especially relating to immigration), and human trafficking and prostitution. She tells the story of how mail-order marriage lost the benign reputation it enjoyed in the Civil War era to become more and more reviled over time, and she argues compellingly that it does not entirely deserve its current reputation. While it is a common misperception that women turn to mail-order marriage as a desperate last resort, most mail-order brides are enticed rather than coerced. Since the first mail-order brides arrived on American shores in 1619, mail-order marriage has enabled women to increase both their marital prospects and their legal, political, and social freedoms. Buying a Bride uncovers this history and shows us how mail-order marriage empowers women. Mail-order marriage should, Zug concludes, be protected and even encouraged.

Marcia A. Zug is Associate Professor of Law at the University of South Carolina.

Firstly, it took me so long to finish this book.  But it wasn’t because it was boring, wordy, or stuffy.  Quite on the contrary, I was sucked into this book every time I picked up my Kindle.  The tone is simultaneously academic and anecdotal.  Reading it was like listening to a really engaging lecture.  Honestly, I could see it being assigned for some type of women’s studies course.

This book opened my eyes to the realities of mail-order marriage.  Like most Americans, I have always thought of mail-order brides as somewhat desperate.  I would never have stopped to consider the possibility that mail-order marriage is not only highly beneficial for the bride herself, but also for the society and economy into which she assimilates.

While Zug acknowledges that there were and are cases where the woman enters into an abusive or otherwise unsatisfactory union, the majority of mail-order brides and their husbands find a lot of satisfaction, maybe even more than those who found each other traditionally.  Because mail-order brides were solicited and entered into with lots of consideration, the women were valued very highly by the men.  The matches wouldn’t work unless both parties knew the other’s expectations and lived up to them.  This way, women were and are able to choose the most advantageous situation rather than having to settle for an unequal match or a life of single-hood.

Along with this relational satisfaction, mail-order brides were good for the economy.  In the early days of the US, the presence of women allowed more permanent settlements, so the government offered incentives for women who moved west for marriage.  This was a win-win-win for women, men, and the government.  In modern times, Zug makes the point that married couples contribute more to society, and mail-order marriage has allowed men who have otherwise dismal prospects to enjoy marriage.  Marriage makes happier, healthier people, and those people are more productive, so this ultimately benefits the economy as well.

The book was incredibly well-researched and very interesting to read.  I would definitely recommend it to anyone interested in relationships, women, and global/international relations.  Because of the strong effect marriage has on society, the book touches on many issues other than just marriage, including gender equality, racism, and economics.  It’s a fascinating and authoritative read.

This book was provided to me for free from NYU Press through NetGalley in exchange for this review.  All opinions expressed are my own.

Self Confidence: 30%

Yesterday, I went to the mall.  I went because my whole family has been out of town for a week and I was bored, and because my birthday is coming up and I had a gift card to Victoria’s Secret.  I was pretty excited about the trip, since I’ve been wanting to invest in some quality bralettes.  Recently, I’ve become a bit disenchanted with VS, preferring Aerie’s “The Real You” campaign to VS’s traditionally sexy appeal.  But I put that to the back of my mind, because there are still some products I wanted to check out — and I had a gift card, after all.

Looking around in the store, though, was not a great experience.  Being an introvert, I usually like to shop in big department stores where I can hide between the racks and not have to talk to salespeople.  If I have to go into a specialty shop, I like to bring a friend so I don’t have to stare at merchandise in silence.  Friends provide a sounding board and a social cushion — not to mention their wonderful company (I love you all, if any of you are reading this).  But I decided to go by myself anyway, because I’m a grown woman.

I was expecting the mall to be a little vacant, since it was Monday during the day, but it wasn’t.  VS was especially crowded.  Everywhere I looked there were girls my age and women with their boyfriends and salespeople asking if I needed help.  I felt awkward being there by myself, and even more awkward because I know I look young.  I looked especially young yesterday, since my hair was up and my face is not being kind to me right now.  I’m pretty much broken out everywhere.  To make matters worse, most of the women in the shop were tall and stylish and beautifully made up — they all looked, at least to me, like they were about to maybe run to the back for a quick lingerie photo shoot to be put on the VS website.  I felt small and silly and decidedly not sexy.

I forced myself to wander around and look at everything in the shop.  For starters, there weren’t nearly as many bralettes as I had hoped — I guess most of those are sold online only.  VS is notorious for push-up bras, and that is not what I want at all, so I really didn’t see anything that I liked.  And even if I had, I’m not really a standard size — I would’ve had to ask someone to help me, and then I would’ve felt obligated to spend.  I’ve never tried anything on in VS before, so I didn’t know if I was supposed to grab a hanger or a bra from the drawer below or what — it was completely overwhelming.  I ended up rambling around in the underwear tables even though I have too much underwear as it is — that was the only merchandise I felt comfortable looking at.

I left pretty quickly.  I don’t even think I spent a full 10 minutes in there, though it felt like forever.  After walking out I decided I didn’t want to waste the twenty minute drive, so I decided to go to Aerie.  I didn’t have a gift card, but I had noticed on the way to VS that they had a sale going on.

It was super crowded as well, and seemed more so because the shop is smaller.  But the shoppers in there were younger, and Aerie has tons of bralettes, and I felt much more comfortable.  I grabbed several styles to try on and headed to the back.

The fitting rooms were crowded, as I expected.  I had to wait a few minutes for one to open up.  At Aerie, as I’m sure is the norm, they write your name and number of items on the door of your room, both to prevent theft and to provide a personal feel.  Then they check on you every few minutes to both see if you’re still there and to see if you have any questions or need help.  It’s all a very nice process.

I didn’t really appreciate it, though.  The small fitting area allowed me to hear every little thing that was going on — every customer that came in, every suggestion the employees made to buyers.  I felt rushed.  Again, I prefer department stores because fitting rooms are usually large and deserted, and you can try on clothes in peace.  Maybe I’m weird, but I like to make final decisions in the fitting room.  If something fits, I can look at the price tag and calculate discounts in privacy, and maybe even text my boyfriend or sister a picture to see what they think.  I like clothes, and I like shopping, but I’m on a restricted budget, so it sometimes takes time for me to decide whether or not I actually need to purchase something.  Mostly I just like my shopping experience to be as private and undisturbed as possible, and Aerie was not making that happen for me.

I liked a lot of what I tried on, but I ended up leaving all of it and walking out of the mall in a bit of a bad mood.  I didn’t feel pretty or confident; I felt sub-par and flustered.  I was upset at VS for not making me feel comfortable or welcome, and I was upset at myself for going into Aerie when I knew I didn’t really have the money to buy anything anyway.  And then I was mad that I had wasted the gas to drive there and back.  The only high point of the trip was that it killed a couple hours and I had been really, really bored.

The whole ordeal made me feel like I was back in middle school, hating my skin and hair and body.  I think sometimes I use my introvert tendencies to cover up what I’m really anxious about — that I’m not good enough or pretty enough or worthy enough to do or buy or say X thing.  I say I don’t like people or that I don’t want something to cover up the fact that I’m afraid I’ll be rejected.

Usually, I can overcome those feelings.  I tell myself that everyone feels the same way, and that of course I’m good enough.  I tell myself that everyone deserves the same chances.  Usually, if I stop thinking so much and just do the thing, it turns out fine.  Usually, I do believe that I’m good enough, even when I make a mistake.  Yesterday just wasn’t one of those days.  I guess it just has to happen every once in awhile.  Next time I won’t let myself be intimidated.  But today, I think I’ll shop online.

My Rambling 3 Cents About Body Positivity

So, here’s the deal.  I consider myself a feminist in that I believe women should be treated equally to men, and I strongly believe in body positivity for all people, male and female, and all body types.  I think I’ve mentioned on this blog before that I, like every other woman, have issues with my own body.  There are a few things I don’t like about my body, like my skin, which is prone to acne and dry spots and weird gross fungus sometimes (even though I’m a super clean person.  How does this happen???).  I also feel like my shoulders are too wide, and I wish my hair was less frizzy, and I sometimes wish my boobs were a bit larger (although that not nearly as much as I did when I was in middle school.  Thank goodness).

However, this is not a post about what I don’t like about myself.  What I do like is that I’m pretty muscular, as in if I actually went to the gym on a regular basis I could be ripped.  I’m a pretty small person, and I also really like that for the most part (it does tend to get annoying when people think it’s okay to comment on my size because I am small.  Update: it’s not.  Just don’t comment on people’s size ever.  It’s kind of rude).  Also, the vast majority of the time, I love my small boobs because I can get away without a bra and with wearing low cut tops that would be too revealing if I were bigger.  There are perks to everything.  (Except maybe stupid skin.  I really hate that.)

Anyway.  I really started writing this post to say that I’m super thin, and I get quite a lot of comments on that.  When I worked at a bank as a floating teller, it never failed that at every new branch I went to, one of my coworkers would comment on my size.  It happened every single time.  I even get comments from random strangers, usually women.  It’s to the point that I know now that even though I’m not the prettiest person you will ever meet, my body can be the object of envy just because I am small and thin.

I have two main points here.  One is this.  I take nudes sometimes, just for myself, because I like feeling good about my body.  The last time I did, I got the idea to take a version of these photos below.  (I took these particular ones especially for this post.)  In these photos, I’m sitting like I normally do in class or at my desk.  (Obviously I don’t have great posture.)  And even though I’m thin enough that a lot of people notice, I still have stomach rolls.  See that?  I pretty much live with red lines on my stomach from where it folds over when I sit down.  It’s just a fact of life.

My other main point, that I tried to make rambingly a few paragraphs ago, is that even the people you see whose bodies you envy have things they don’t like about themselves and wish they could change.  I see people every single day that I wish I looked like, both online and in person.  I envy something about every single one of my friends.  So this is just a general reminder, because I know we’ve all heard this before — the Internet is full of body positivity messages for women, which is awesome.  This is just my reiteration.

My final three cents:

  1. First, you are beautiful.
  2. Second, everything you dislike on yourself, someone else has probably envied.  Everything you have envied about someone else, they have probably disliked.
  3. Third, your personality, your brains, your skills, and your passions are what really define you.  Not your body, ever.

A Study in PMS

Every single emotion is heightened.  Anger is actually furiousness.  Envy is actually burning jealousy.  Irritation is blood-pressure-heightening annoyance.  Little things get on your nerves.  Everything sounds good to eat and also nothing does.  You feel fat.  You feel too skinny.

The rational part of your mind whispers to you.  It’s okay that all those people are getting engaged and you’re not; it’s their time.  You and he have talked about this a lot and you know the best time frame for you.  Waiting isn’t the end of the world.  Also, you really like your body.  Yes, it’s incredibly difficult to find a good bra in your size, but think of all the other advantages of being small.  And as for the ridiculousness of the GOP debate only being available to cable-subscribers, you are absolutely right to be angry about that.  Absolutely do research and complain all you can.  Make your voice heard, and then at the end of the night let it go so that you can sleep.

That part infuriates you just because it’s right.  I have the right to feel my feelings! you scream.  I have the right to cry for no reason and crave cheddar cheese!  I even have the right to be snarky to my boyfriend just because I can!  He just doesn’t understand!

And then you actually are snarky to him and he handles it really well and then you feel like a horrible, selfish, and horribly selfish human being.  And even though periods really are a monster all their own, you kind of can’t wait for it to start because this ridiculousness needs to just end.