The Absurd and Amazing Adventures of Cafe Girl

April 1, 2013

Things I Never Thought I'd Worry About

Granted, this was an April Fool's post from one of my go-to wedding blogs, I have to admit, it hit a note for me. I do worry that my wedding is too "wedding." I don't really want the white tablecloths, chair covers, and tall centerpieces. I wanted it to be quirky enough that it would raise a couple of eyebrows. (Yes, I'm THAT girl.)

But well, turns out, I'm pretty offbeat. Because our wedding:

  • Is outdoors
  • Has cupcakes
  • And a candy buffet
  • And maybe, just maybe a photobooth

We also pondered and talked about:

  • Food trucks
  • Ice Cream

And I'll be way over the 215 DIY hours on the chart (800 paper flowers, anyone???)

March 26, 2013

Saying Yes to the Dress

Two things I've learned during my engagement - wedding dresses need to breathe. And yes, there is such as thing as a dead, lifeless wedding dress.

I know that a wedding dress can "die" because right before I went shopping for a wedding dress, I became obsessed with TLC's Say Yes To The Dress. In one episode, a tearful bride has to shop for a new dress weeks before her wedding because her seamstress sent her first dress to a dry cleaner who put the dress into the washer, and basically, killed the thing. I learned that a dead wedding dress looks wilted, doesn't have the form and structure of a wedding dress, and is basically unwearable. You apparently can never, ever put your dress in a washer. Ever.

I know that a wedding dress needs to breathe because I did some online research about how to store a wedding dress before your wedding. Apparently, you're supposed to wrap your dress in a white sheet, and lay it flat in one of those garment boxes, and then store it in a cool, dark place. But only if your dress is made of expensive lace. Your polyester dress, however, can hang where ever. What the Bridal Internets all agree upon is this - your dress should be protected by a breathable garment bag. And it should stay there until you take it to get altered. And then after that, keep it safe until the wedding day. Do not, under any circumstance take it out of the bag before, and put it on "for fun" or to show your friends and relatives. Do not let anyone touch the thing until your wedding day lest it get dirty, smells like smoke, or gets otherwise damaged. Do not even look at it slant-eyed because at any given moment, that dress, the dress you loved and paid half your life savings for, could wilt and be damaged. (Ok, not really, but the Internet sure made it sound like that.)

Of all the things I had to invest in for the wedding, I have been the most conflicted about my wedding dress. On the one hand, I hated the idea of investing in a dress I would only wear for 8 hours, and then would go into a box, never to be seen again, saved for the daughter(s) I may or may not have. I was unsure about how much to put towards such a dress, torn between the idea that this was supposed to be a dress for "the biggest day of your life" and my greater desire to invest my time, energy and resources to putting together a kick ass reception that would be enjoyed by all.

On the other hand, so much of this time of engagement and wedding planning is also about "the experience" - the experience of being a bride-to-be, the experience of trying to join two lives. And, whether or not I liked it, the experience of putting on a wedding dress. I feared that if I didn't at least try a wedding dress on, and consider wearing one, that I would always regret missing the experience.

In the end, I chose to give shopping for a wedding dress a go because I didn't want to regret never having the experience of wedding dress shopping. Whether I chose to buy an actual wedding dress, or walk down the aisle in a store-bought sundress was beside the point. In the end, it was about having the experience - which I'm told is supposed to be "once in a lifetime."

I was terrified of being sold to, so I picked a bridal big box store, rather than a bridal boutique. All the so-called "cons" of the bridal big box - lack of personal attention, your bridal consultant serving two brides at once, being herded in and out - were precisely what made me comfortable. I didn't want attention lavished on me. I wanted to be bunch of dresses and then to be left to my own devices. I wanted the bridal consultant to be just a little bit distracted so that I could look at myself in the mirror, feel wonderful (or ridiculous), and take my time.

And that was exactly what happened. My kind, but distracted, bridal consultant didn't bat an eye when I told her my budget. In fact, she said - oh, that's going to be fine. She brought me six or seven dresses, and, other than helping to get me into the dresses, basically left me alone. In fact, I even got to sit around in a couple of dresses waiting for her - which is invaluable because being able to sit comfortably in your dress (to you know, rest and eat dinner) is really important.

I haven't been privy to many of my girl friends' wedding dress shopping experiences. But I do remember, post college, I was the maid of honor to a dear friend. And the moment she found her dress, she turned to us, teary eyed and said, "I feel like a bride." The memory stuck with me for over ten years.

Now, obsessively watching TLC's Say Yes To The Dress, I've noticed that the moment these brides knew the dress was "the one" was when they felt most like a bride. It was the moment they felt beautiful and, more often than not, there were tears. Before I went to my bridal appointment I wondered - would I have this moment? Or would I make the dress decision like I made most of my wedding decisions, with some emotion, but a lot of practicality, and with a keen focus on my budget?

In the end, the moment "I knew" came subtly. We'd tried on all seven dresses and narrowed it down to two - one of which was about twice the cost of the other. I was sitting around in one dress, waiting for the bridal consultant to come back so she could unzip me, and I was talking to one of my bridal party. I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror, dress, veil and all and I thought, "Oh god, I look like a bride."

I wouldn't have called that moment magical, or beautiful. It was more a moment of slight terror and surprise. But it was the moment I knew - this is the dress.

Of course, this was the dress that was more expensive of the two, and I couldn't bring myself to buy it. The practical side of me wanted to keep shopping to see if I could get a better deal. The practical side of me knew I should sleep on it. On the other hand, if I bought the dress, I'd be done. I would have THE dress. I could move on to some other wedding planning task.

It took a phone call to Guillermo to help me with a decision. I told him my dilemma, tried to explain what each dress was like, and then he asked the question, "Can you send me a picture?"

(Altogether now - *GASP OF HORROR*)

Yes, I sent him the pictures. Yes, he saw me in the wedding dress. And he picked the same one that I thought was "The Dress." I was relieved. My worst fear was that I would pick a dress and when I walked down the aisle he'd think, "What the hell is she wearing?" We'd made all the major decisions about this wedding jointly, even the picking of the engagement ring, and it didn't seem right to me to make this dress decision alone.

When he said yes to the dress, my emotions kicked in. It moved me to think that he considered me beautiful in this dress - that something I enjoyed would also bring enjoyment to him. When I cried in the store, everyone thought it was because I'd found the dress. In reality, it was because Guillermo thought I was beautiful.

So the dress now hangs on the back of my bedroom door, in a breatheable garment bag, away from the sun, from prying eyes, and from fashion shows for friends and relatives.

Tradition often dictates many things about engagements and weddings - he's supposed to pick the engagement ring, and I'm supposed to pick the dress. Both engagement ring and dress are supposed to be a surprise - something that the other will automatically love even though they have not been privy to the choice. But I'm not sure how often that's true to our life. Guillermo wasn't sure he could hit a home run with my engagement ring, and truth be told, I wasn't so sure what kind of dress he would think I look good in. In the end, the tradition didn't work for us, and we chose a different way.

In so many ways, this upcoming wedding is a reflection of our mutual yesses - first to each other, and then to each aspect of the wedding. Guillermo may not look it, but that man has opinions about what he wants in this wedding - how he'd like it to feel, and how he'd like our guests to be taken care of. And so, each aspect of the day has needed both my yes, as well as his.

It's my hope that this planning process is the beginning of how we make all our major decisions in our lives together - with some thought for the other and ending in some form of a mutual yes.

December 27, 2012

About Those Puppets

So, before we continue, a little update that will help put this post in context. 

I got engaged, you guys! It happened on November 25, 2012 in a way that surprised and touched me. It's a great (and absurd) story that I'll share with you in another post. In the meantime, wedding planning has begun.

To my surprise, I've found that part of the wedding planning process is not only about dreaming of what might be but also about unearthing dreams long ago buried. 

In this spirit, I bring you today's post about a dream long-buried that got resurrected again in the last months. And now, about those puppets...

I was in college when I first saw the Ventriloquist Dummy Choir on Late Night with Conan O'Brien.

The Ventriloquist Choir is just what it sounds like - ventriloquists and their dummies, dressed in choir gowns, singing. It's bizarre. It's hilarious. It's unspeakably cool. Especially if you love puppets. And I do love puppets.

I joked back then that I would get the Ventriloquist Dummy Choir to perform at my wedding. It garnered a laugh from my friends and some strange looks from acquaintances. The more incredulous gasps of "Oh my god, not at your wedding???" I heard, the more I pushed the envelope. The Dummy choir could sing me down the aisle. They could provide background music to the lighting of the unity candle. Hey, they could even sing our first dance as a newly wed couple.

I kept pushing the idea because it was funny. But also because I was so convinced that I'd never walk down the aisle - and so it was safe plan a ridiculous, absurd and goofy wedding. Complete with puppets. That sang.  Over the years, as I got into serious relationships that could have potentially ended in marriage, I casually tossed out the Dummy Ventriloquist Choir in conversations with my then-boyfriends. By that point a choir of puppets had morphed into a whole puppet wedding - with puppets that looked like me and my husband-to-be.

Shortly after such conversations, the relationships would end. I don't think these relationships ended solely due to my fascination with puppets. But perhaps I was subconsciously throwing out the idea of a puppet wedding as a litmus test of whether those men could share my ridiculous sense of humor and tolerate the absurd. Most of them couldn't. One of them found my love of puppets incredibly creepy and half expected me to have puppets hidden away in a closet somewhere, ready to spring on him at any given moment. (For the record, I do not own any puppets.)

After the Dude and I got engaged, as a joke, I typed in "puppet wedding" into a Google search. Much to my surprise, a blog post popped up on, a wedding blog I've come to love. The couple featured did have a puppet wedding - complete with puppet look-alikes of the whole bridal party.

And it turns out, puppets and weddings are more common than you think. There's a whole set of Offbeat Bride posts tagged with "puppets."  One couple got married in the middle of the Million Puppet March, another got married at the Jim Henson Studios in Los Angeles with actual custom bride and groom muppets. 

I guess I wasn't so absurd and ridiculous afterall.

Sadly, there will be no Ventriloquist Dummy Choir at our wedding. Not because the Dude objects, but because I don't think the troupe still performs. Besides, even if they did, I'm pretty sure they are out of our budget range. I'm not, however, ruling out the possibility of puppets at our wedding yet...

Since they won't be singing at our wedding, here's a YouTube clip of the Ventriloquist Dummy Choir for your viewing pleasure.

PS: In case you were wondering if I ever told the Dude I wanted a puppet a wedding while we were dating - I did. As a testament to what kind of a man he is, we made a visit to Puppets on the Pier at Pier 39 in San Francisco on Christmas Eve. We even jokingly picked out potential puppet versions of ourselves. That's how I know I'm loved.

August 20, 2012


When the band breaks into a rendition of The Beatles' All You Need Is Love, I lean over and whisper in his ear, "Do you bristle when you hear that?" I am teasing, of course. Teasing him, because what he does for a living is listen to people and help them get to the root of the issues they are faced with. Precisely the kind of issues that would make one believe that all you needed in this life was love, or money, or food, or booze, or sex.

I am also doing what those in his business would call projecting. Because, of course, if I were in his shoes I would certainly bristle at the idea that all you needed was love - no matter how brilliantly and tunefully The Beatles put it. And surely if I  would oppose, why wouldn't he?

He laughs. One of those big, warm laughs, which trails into a smile.

"There are many types of love," he says, "Love has many depths."

I narrow my eyes at him a little, fighting a losing battle against a forming smile. My attempt at flirty banter melts away. I am bested. I find myself somewhere between suspicious and impressed. Suspicious, because his words are elegant and romantic. Impressed, because his words are insightful and somehow ring true.

This is when he reaches for my hand and pulls me close.

I snuggle into his chest. I smile. I smile because I know he's somehow managed to get to me. For whatever reason, in this moment at least, he's said exactly the right words to me.

He's somehow managed to find his way to the door of this fortress where I keep my heart. He's run through the forest, he's swam through the mote. He's avoided the alligators. He stands at the door way of the fortress.

And, for whatever reason, in that moment at least, I choose to let him in.

August 17, 2012

Why I'd Gave Dating (at Church) A Chance

Full disclaimer: The Dude-I-Am-Dating was not part of my church community when we first met. In fact, when we met, I hadn't dated anyone from my community since the last serious and painful relationship. Like the men I mentioned in my last post, I was meeting singles outside of my church circle through online dating, mutual friends, and an inter-church singles group.

Throughout that season of dating, I found myself relieved. I was relieved because I could date in perfect anonymity. No one from my community was really watching. I dated quietly and without much fanfare. A small group of women in my life knew I was "out there" in the market. Months later actual dates would turn into hilarious stories told over breakfasts or happy hours, with cryptic references surfacing on Facebook and this blog. I'd tell these stories as if I was the main character in an urban chick lit novel. I figured if, by some horrible twist of life, one of the men I ever went out with found my Facebook or blog, I would invoke the all persons fictitious disclaimer - any resemblance to persons living or dead was purely coincidental.

As relieved as I was, I was also incredibly lonely. It wasn't just that I walked my dating life alone, away from the support of the larger community. It was also that I consistently met strangers. Sure, occasionally, I would get set up with a friend of a friend, but for the most part I was meeting men from whereabouts unknown, un-vetted by anyone other than an algorithm designed by a dating site web developer.

It wasn't bad, per se. It wasn't even damaging. It was just exhausting. Over and over again, I found myself comparing these early relationships with those I'd had when I dated within my community. And as awkward and as painful as dating within community can be, I found myself yearning for it. Here's why:

Reason #1: Community (pain in the ass as it is) is a hedge of protection.
And I don't mean in the community-watches-us-so-we-won't-have-sex way. I mean that community catches us when we fall. And in dating, we tend to fall quite often.

We, both men and women, fall when we are careless with the hearts of those we date, when we make fun of them when we should lift them up, when we have unrealistic expectations of the opposite sex. Community catches and protects us from ourselves when our girlfriends remind us that he isn't about to dump us because we had a fight. Or that we should seriously consider having a discussion with him about some needlessly harsh remarks he made.

Community challenges us to be better daters, to serve those we date, to be gracious to them, to remember that they are God's children too. It's far too easy to be selfish and judgmental towards those we date when Community isn't there to gently call us out.

Of course, let's not forget - community mourns with us when the relationship ends. They'll always be a comfort whether or not they've been privy to your dating life. But if they've walked with the two of you in relationship, they can comfort you more authentically and speak to both of your hurts. This kind of authentic, collective mourning helps us not to see the other as enemy - which, while satisfying post break-up, does nothing to heal the heart.

Reason #2: You can't hide ugly at church, nor should you have to. 
Community, if done well and authentically, is meant to reveal both our strengths and our weaknesses in a safe environment. I think what makes dating within community so incredibly frightening, yet incredibly fruitful, is that our weaknesses are on display for our potential partners to see very early on. This completely defies all conventional dating practices of putting on your dating game face and showing only your best, and most agreeable side to your dating partners. Sharing a community forces a level of openness and honesty about who you are that is a great foundation for the openness and honesty that is to come in marriage.

Don't fall into the trap of thinking that if someone knows you "too well" you automatically fall into the "friend zone." That's for the emotionally juvenile. Ask any married person, and they will tell you that their love, intimacy and sexual chemistry grows when they are open and vulnerable with one another.

Admittedly, being open is an incredible risk. Even though I've always been part of faith communities that have encouraged me to be vulnerable with my struggles - whether it's doubt, or grief, or fear or anger, I often feared that showing my weaknesses would frighten away potential dates in my community.

Sometimes, it did. But more often than not, openness led men to see the type of woman I was and was becoming. The men that did approach me already knew something of my heart and my character. It made that dreaded "first date," where there's usually the struggle to find something to talk about, much easier. There was already a foundation of openness, honesty, and some level of friendship.

For me, personally, I find seeing a man who is open and honest about who he is, and where he is currently at, extremely attractive. I would dare say most women would agree that a vulnerable man is a sexy man.

Reason #3: Sharing a community of faith increases the likelihood that you share the same theology. 
I re-wrote this one over and over, trying not to come off sounding like a narrow-minded, conservative fuddy-duddy. I'm not sure I can. What I'm trying to say here is that sometimes, a difference in theology can a deal breaker. Maybe for most, it won't matter, but for some, me included, it matters a great deal because what we believe affects how we live our lives as single people and as married people. And when I talk about differences in theology, I mean big things - like egalitarianism vs. complementarianism or cessationism versus continuationism.

I won't speak for the entire Christian population, but as a woman who believes that men and women are equal, and therefore women can also hold spiritual leadership roles, and who also believes that the Holy Spirit and all spiritual gifts (even the scary ones) are alive and well today, I'm not going to be able to marry someone who believes the exact opposite. Nor, I suspect, do men that believe the exact opposite want to marry a woman like me. It's true that we all evolve as people and our views may shift over time. But if I'm pretty set in these two theological view points, why would I expect that my dates shift in their view points?

Also, maybe these issues don't come up in day-to-day dating or married life and we could live for years perfectly happy with our differences. But when we have daughters, you bet it'll affect how we raise her. What if she's been gifted to teach and lead both men and women? Would we never even see those gifts because one half of our family doesn't believe that women can be called by God to lead all kinds of people? What if my daughter feels like God is leading her to be in some sort of spiritual leadership role over both men and women? What then?

In my season of dating outside of my community, my greatest dilemma wasn't where to find Christian guys. It was finding the kind of Christian guy who shared similar viewpoints on foundational theological issues. Turns out there a quite a few Christian men in Los Angeles. The ones that shared my theological views constituted a tiny subset. The men in my community may not always share my theological views, but there's a higher percentage of them that do, compared to any other place.

Reason #5: Sharing your faith community is going to have to happen eventually anyway. 
Maybe dating in community is awkward, and strange, and feels like you're in a fishbowl. But, if you date someone long enough, and if you're serious about "becoming one," you're going to have to merge your communities of faith at some point. It's not like you can keep going to different churches forever.

Maybe some of you are going to wait till you're engaged to start going to the same church. But that's probably not very practical, since part of the journey from dating to marriage is being part of each other's faith journeys. And it's really difficult to try and be a part of someone's journey if you're driving in a different car. So at some point, after you start dating exclusively, and before there's a promise of marriage, you'll find yourselves having the discussion about being in the same community of faith.

I personally think that as we grow more emotionally intimate in our dating relationship, we actually crave worshiping together because worship is a high form of intimacy. At some point, it's going to feel incredibly lonely worshiping in one place while the person you love is worshiping clear across town. I know, because that's exactly what happened to me.

My two experiences of dating men from my community both ended sadly and poorly. These experiences left me believing that I needed to keep my community of faith a sacred place where I was going to heal when things inevitably ended badly. Keeping it sacred meant keeping my dates out. Which is why I never invited the Dude I was dating to visit my church, nor did I actively ask to visit his. He'd invite me, but I would hesitate.

Until one Sunday, I went to my church and just felt incredibly lonely. Worship was full, and rich and wonderful, and it made me sad that the Dude wasn't there. It didn't feel right that he wasn't beside me. It was  a shift in my heart I wasn't expecting. We'd only been dating about four months then. It would take me another five months before I would join him in his community for good. So here we are, exclusive, but not engaged, and sharing the same community. For me, it's risk. But it's one of those good, make-you-grow kind of risks.

All that pressure you feel dating someone in your faith community? Increase that hundred-fold, and that's the pressure you're going to feel joining your partner's community of faith after your relationship has become serious. The community can't help itself but watch, and ask questions, and say things. Some of these questions and things are going to feel great. And others are going to make you feel like you have all these expectations to fulfill.

The first time I went to the Dude's church, the community kept saying to me, "We have been praying that he would find someone." Implying that I was that answered prayer. It was awkward, but also incredibly endearing. I could see how much his community loved him, and rooted for him. It made me even more sure that I was with a good man - a man whose friends are so for him is a man worth growing to know more.

I've often pondered if I could have done anything differently in my years between my last heartbreak and meeting the Dude that I'm now dating. I think, for one thing, I would have tried to bear the pain a little more and tried to press into community rather than withdraw from it. I was so ashamed of being dumped that I couldn't handle being in the same community as the ex. I think it was my loss that I didn't let community comfort me and help hold my pain.

Unfortunately, the community I did land in after the break-up didn't have single men of an appropriate age. Most men were in their early 20s, or already married, or in their 50s and 60s. I think had the community been more demographically appropriate, I would have liked to give dating within community another go, in spite of how painful the last ending was.

In then end, if you're asking for my advice, here's what I would say: at the minimum, at least consider the single men and women in your community. Don't automatically dismiss them - being part of your community shouldn't be a mark against them. In fact, it's a great plus point - these men and women already know you, and to some degree, already do sincerely care about you. If that isn't a good start, I don't know what would be.