There were two things I had my eye on doing this year that will be put on hold with a baby arriving in July: I wanted to redo our landscaping but don’t want to spend that money now, and I wanted to buy a nice, high-quality camera and start getting into proper concert photography, but I probably won’t have the time or motivation.

I expect 2020 to be similar to 2019 in that big changes are happening, albeit on the complete other end of the life spectrum, and therefore time will be limited and things will be thrown into chaos. That said, here’s what I’m looking to do.

  • Small projects around the house. Obviously, we’ll need the baby’s room done, which means ripping out built-in shelving that’s taking up an entire wall in that bedroom and fixing the carpet where Sarge, the new cat, pulled it up. But I’d still like to tackle one other small project since the landscaping is being scrapped, and I’ve got my eye specifically on replacing the hot-water tank. We had to have a part replaced on the furnace last winter, and while the guy was doing that, he pointed out some corrosion near the water tank and said it’ll need replaced soon-ish, and I want to go tankless anyway.
  • Find Paul a new job. I think his current one will still hang on a bit, but if he can get out of there so we’re not worried about what might happen and maybe even get a job good enough that would allow me to quit and stay home with the baby, that would be nice.
  • Get published. I’ve got one piece out in the ether I’m waiting for a response on, and I fully expect this is gonna be a tough one to tackle after the baby’s born–mostly. Like many writers, I have plenty of things written that needs homes, so if nothing else, my hope is to send some of that out when I have time. At least that’s a relatively short process.
  • Explore freelance opportunities. Look, a new job is out of the question. My current situation working from home is too convenient to ditch while pregnant or with a new baby, and frankly, taking on a lot of extra work is a dumb idea, too. But if I can find a few small things to throw in to make a little more money and/or get my name and work in the world more? Awesome.
  • Get physical. I have been knocked on my ass since I found out I was pregnant. The nausea and vomiting are pretty much gone now, but I’m so, so tired. But I would really like to get back to the gym just to hit a treadmill a couple times a week because I know it would be good for me, it’s just really hard to muster the energy.
  • Don’t neglect myself in the postpartum months. Obviously, I don’t know what to expect. I don’t know how I’ll feel physically or emotionally or what my kid will be like. I don’t expect to bounce back quickly, but I’d still like to get back into a good workout routine when possible and do what I can to make sure I don’t feel too overwhelmed. I don’t expect it to be easy, but I’ve got a great husband who’s been solid so far and I don’t doubt will be a good parent on his own but will also not let it all fall on me.
  • Be a kick-ass mom. When I think ahead to when the baby’s born, I keep thinking about the fun I think we’ll have. Everyone talks about how much things change and how hard having a new baby is and I believe them, but you know what I’ve also heard? That it’s exciting, fun, and rewarding, and I have plenty of examples around me of parents whose lives haven’t ended the way a lot of people like to make it sound like they will. As on of Paul’s work friends put it, if someone is still heavily into, like, late-night-drinking culture, sure, that’s done, but for those of us who stay in almost all week and venture out on weekends? We’re gonna be fine. So for 2020 and the six-ish months of it I’ll spend as a new mom, I want to take our kid out into the world to enjoy as much of life as a baby can, the way Paul and I have. Plus he or she will have two cousins to meet and get to know, plus grandparents and plenty of aunts and uncles.

And really, that’s it for the year–I say that as though it’s gonna be a simple year. It’s a short list, sure, but because of huge changes coming. They’re already underway, really.

And it’s all too fitting that Paul and I are having a kid in the year that will bring out 10th anniversary as a couple. That’s insane. We’ve already spent a decade of our lives together! Ridiculous.

Some Post-Funeral Thoughts, in No Particular Order

  • I’ve been pretty up front about the fact that my dad and I never had a great relationship. A lot of people talk about how in the face of terminal illness and death itself, they make amends or regret the past. I don’t, at least not right now–I concede that I may one day. But he could be difficult and frustrating, and we got along better when we weren’t under the same roof. That’s just how it is, and I don’t see any sense in devoting emotional energy to dwelling on other possibilities. We did exchange “I love yous” once in the midst of all this, and I did give him a hug when I left the house the last time I saw him awake a few days before he died (I’d been there the day he died, as I said, but he wasn’t awake at all). And I think for whatever our relationship may or may not have been, saying that and expressing that kind of affection did what such things are supposed to.
  • I did lose my foodie buddy.
  • I appreciate my family’s attitude towards death. Years ago, when my mom’s coworker’s son was killed in a car accident as a teenager, conversations inevitably came up in our family about things like life support, and I think those conversations then paved the way for blunt and necessary conversations now. No one avoided them and no one shut down when they happened–they were matter-of-fact, and I’m glad.
  • I was getting really aware of the reality of it lately, even in the little things. Our new siding was going up on the house while he was declining in the hospital, and I remember thinking, “He’s never going to see it.”
  • The little things do matter. Kind of. I’ve known this since my grandfather died. Those little shared moments are the things you remember and miss most. One of my favorite quotes from The Crow is, “Little things used to mean so much to Shelly. I used to think they were kind of…trivial. Believe me, nothing is trivial.”
  • It still doesn’t feel real, and my best friend, who lost her dad a few years ago, said sometimes for her it still doesn’t feel real. I know enough to know that grief is weird and there’s no “right” way to do it, but sometimes I just sit and think, “My dad is dead,” like I can’t really grasp what that means just yet or I’m trying to see how I react and if that reaction is changing. And yes, I’ll be calling my therapist. It was just luck and good timing that I met with him a week before all this, too.
  •  It’s weird to say that a death in the family and a funeral make you feel loved and supported, but…it’s hard to ignore when people show up for him but also for your family. Our friends and family kept us fed, people reached out directly to express their sympathy and ask what they could do even when the answer was, “Nothing,” or, “Take me out for drinks when this is all over,” there was a line out the door of the room where he was viewed of people coming in and talking to mostly my mom but my brother and, I too, people donated hundreds of dollars to the organization that flew him to his treatments for free, people did a round of shots with us, people stayed at the house and got food ready between viewings and made sure that everything was taken care of and tackled what they could so we didn’t have to.
  • I’ll be blunt, we thought some of my dad’s opinions of the afterlife were dumb. We used to tease him about it. He believed that when the second coming of Christ happens, the dead would need to be intact. So we respected it. He’ll have his glasses and even his cufflinks when the time comes. We also figured if his suit wasn’t arranged exactly the way he would’ve worn it in life, we’d all be haunted.
  • I couldn’t help but think about the fact that when he deployed, we were a trio at home faced with the very real possibility that it would stay that way, and if not for a few seconds and him reacting fast enough to throw a grenade out of a tank, it absolutely would have. And we’re a trio now.
  • Speaking of throwing that grenade out of the tank, the passing of time and return to, you know, our everyday lives in the 15-ish years since made it easy to forget how big a deal that actually was. Guys who were in the tank with him came to the funeral–guys who would be dead if not for him–and one of my uncles really wanted to meet them. His awards were on display in the casket and news clippings were among the pictures of him we put out. It really hit me at the burial, though. Of course, he always bragged about how he was eligible for a full military burial, but actually seeing it was another thing. His casket was draped in a flag that was presented to my mother, he got a gun salute, they played “Taps,” the whole thing, and I had a moment of, “Oh, shit, this is kind of a big deal.”
  • My mom always used to say she was gonna outlive him because she had so much stress as work she figured there was no possible way she wouldn’t go first.
  • When I looked at all the flowers around the casket and who showed up and, in some cases, how they were taking it, I thought about how my mom told me once that he used to think her side of the family didn’t really like him on account of the fact that I was, um…a surprise, as my mom likes to say. And I know he did send her siblings and their spouses a lengthy, heartfelt text after he was diagnosed. I wrote this essay once in middle school about him, which naturally turned into a whole to do because, you know, no one saw that coming, but it fit the assignment. It was about how he didn’t really care what people thought of him, for the most part, and kind of just did what he wanted to do–and yet it bothered him to think that maybe he was disliked in the family when it probably wasn’t true. And I realized probably for the first time that that’s me to a T. That’s where I get it, although I’m sure there are other factors. But I do the same thing. I present myself in a very give-no-fucks-way, and for the most part, it’s genuine. I can’t be bothered to consider outside opinions about how I dress or what I enjoy. I love that about myself, and I respected about my dad–obviously, or I wouldn’t have written about it as a pre-teen. But if I feel like someone doesn’t like me? If I think they’re an asshole or I don’t like them, by all means, I do not care, but if I do like and respect them? It bugs me. Funny how it’s probably our biggest personality similarity and I only just now figured it out.

When I was in college, finals time was filled with events for us to attend, typically as ways to de-stress. The one that stands out most was moonlight breakfast because it was my favorite–a free late-night breakfast served in the cafeteria–but I know there were plenty of other things. And this is a pretty common thing across college campuses. Paul’s sister Emily, who’s actually going to my alma mater, spent some time the other day playing with dogs they brought to campus. I’m jealous. I would’ve been all over that in college. Hell, I’d be all over that now.

Because 2016 isn’t done destroying everything yet, we had a funeral to attend today for Paul’s uncle’s dad. Afterwards, a member of the family hosted everyone for lunch, as is pretty typical, and we ended up at a table with some people from his side of the family we didn’t know. Paul’s dad happened to mention something to me about talking to Emily and hearing about the dogs, and the woman’s reaction was kind of…strange.

She started off by saying that kids who attend things like that weren’t “raised right.” When I explained they’re just little events throughout the week to help the kids de-stress, she said that they need to learn how to handle stress on their own. I was starting to get kind of irritated with her attitude about the whole thing at this point and made the point that it’s not the sort of thing where the events aren’t some sort of crutch, they’re just events and tools, really.

The conversation shifted after that, and had it not, I don’t think it would’ve gone so well. But I was surprised by how strongly she felt about it, and I’m confused as to how de-stress events that are usually pretty simple got conflated into essentially coddling–she didn’t use that word, but it was implied. It was as though in her mind, the school holding any sort of event at all to help with stress was going too far, especially given her comment about students needing to learn to manage stress themselves, but it’s not like these events stop them from being able to do that. Really, they’re nothing more than opportunities for them to de-stress on their own, especially for kids who might be stuck on campus without a car and little to no money to go out and do something otherwise. The school isn’t holding their hand and guiding them through how to handle the stress, it’s merely providing an opportunity for them to actually do it. I’m sure the kids who went knew damn well they’d enjoy it and didn’t need a university to tell them that, and I don’t see it as being much different than being an adult coming home to a pet after a long day.

Even if it were a matter of providing some guidance on how to alleviate stress, I don’t think that’s a bad thing at all, particularly if you’re taking young adults who aren’t quite out in the world yet and are teaching them healthy ways of doing it. I understand the importance of people learning how to cope on their own, but some people turn to terrible, unhealthy ways of doing that, and there’s nothing wrong with giving these kids a little nudge in the right direction. It’s not coddling, it’s not babying, it’s not “PC culture,” it’s not that kids these days are wimps who can’t handle anything–it’s a good, helpful thing to do, especially if you end up with kids abusing drugs or alcohol as a coping mechanism who might carry that into adulthood. Guidance isn’t a bad thing.

I went to some of those events in college myself, and I appreciated the opportunity to go to them because it got me out of my dorm and at least out doing something else. And here I am, a functional adult who does, in fact, know how to handle stress despite my school holding those events. I rarely get stressed these days as it is, and when I do, I know what helps with it. I even know that if I get too overwhelmed or I just need a little push, I can schedule with my therapist, but I’m gonna guess that people who have a problem with puppies on a college campus probably have a problem with people seeking professional help, too.

The whole thing was blown completely out of proportion, really. I think part of the issue may have been that Paul’s dad specifically said “service dogs,” so I think maybe she misinterpreted their role on the campus and the purpose of the event and thought that it was a little more serious than it actually was.

I also find it kind of funny that someone got as worked up about de-stress events as she did. Maybe she could benefit from them herself.

I just so happened to accidentally take a day off the day after the election, forgetting about the election entirely. I’d arranged to switch a Saturday shift with a coworker to get the day off for Jacob and Katie’s wedding last month, leaving me with a six-day work week when it came time to cover her day. On top of that, I’ve been taking advantage of as much of the double-pay overtime they’ve been offering as I can, so without that day off, I would’ve gone into work something like 13 straight days without a full day off. The fact that it happened to be the day after the election worked out pretty great, too. It allowed me the full evening to go vote and watch the results.

I don’t think it’s any secret that I find the results disappointing, to say the very least, and I have a lot of thoughts on just how we came to this point and why. Frankly, I don’t really feel like rehashing them more than I already have elsewhere, but suffice it to say they’re not good. I think a lot of people let a lot of despicable behavior and statements slide. I think a lot of people chose to take Donald Trump at his word without doing any other independent research–and in 2016, when most of the people voting do have access to reputable information, ignorance is a choice.

Like a lot of other people who wanted a different outcome, I’m thinking a lot about where we go from here, particularly how I can use my time (and sometimes money) in a helpful, constructive way. Getting involved locally isn’t much of an option as I have too many things, like a wedding and freelance writing, that need my attention. I kind of hate the thought of social media and writing being the best I can do right now, but without letting other things slide or missing deadlines, that’s the best I can do right now. But I’m also looking at where I can donate money or even where I can spend it–one of my favorite quotes, paraphrased, is about how people essentially vote with their money for the kind of world they want to live in.

The conversation that seems to be dominating today, at least in my circles, is the rise of fake news sites. While I don’t think that’s the only thing that went wrong here and we should’ve been paying attention to this much, much sooner, I’m glad something is coming out of it. I’ve seen too many posts–from both sides–in the week since the election sharing news from less than reputable sources. I’ve even seen people defending the way they voted with misinformation, and that’s something sad and scary that should stop us all for a second. There are a few pages lurking around my Facebook feed I’ve been meaning to purge from it, and now is as good a time as any to actually do it. I recommend everyone else do the same. The best way to end this problem is to stop feeding into it and to fight back with reputable sources when we see it. Granted, you’ll always have people who ignore this and choose to believe whichever sources back up their opinions, but I’d rather challenge those when they happen than ignore the whole thing altogether.

It’s been difficult and scary sometimes watching how the new administration has been handling things. I have some very real, serious concerns about a Trump presidency, the same ones I’ve had since he announced his run in the very beginning, and I go back and forth depending on the day and the biggest news story of that day with whether this is going to be a disaster or whether we’ll be mostly okay–not great, but not terrible.

The concerns so many people in the country have right now are very real and should be listened to and taken seriously, but at the same time, even in the aftermath of the election, there was such a sudden burst of good news in the personal lives of enough people I know that the spiritual side of me couldn’t write it off as coincidence. The very next day, I chose my wedding dress and Terra’s brother and sister-in-law had their second child together, a boy they named after Terra and Dom’s father. A cousin announced an engagement, on top of the other three weddings, including my own, we’ll have in the next two years. Two totally unrelated couples who have been struggling to get pregnant both announced pregnancies on the same day. People started new jobs and new relationships, and all of this in the span of a week–most of it within a few days. This certainly isn’t to sugarcoat the state of things and suggest that everything is gonna be great just because my Facebook didn’t completely suck for a few days, and to do so would be totally unfair to the numerous groups who may face some serious challenges in a Trump presidency, and that’s understating it.

But it does have me feeling a little more optimistic.

When my mom first booked our hotel rooms for Ohio, she was trying to decide between two–one was more expensive, but it had a pool. And guess which one we sprung for?

I would’ve liked to have used the pool the night we got in, but it was evening by then and the pool was packed with kids. That would’ve been another advantage had been able to go earlier, but we at least used it Sunday first thing in the morning.

My parents have been swimming pretty consistently to lose weight, and to pretty good results. I’d love to do more of it myself, but our options are kind of limited where we are. I definitely get a good workout from it, seeing as how I can only go across a pool a couple times before I’m tired.

And that was about it for hotel adventures in the morning. We packed up and checked out, then spent a little time at a beach on Lake Erie. I would’ve liked more time there, too, although you could plop me on any beach and leave me there for days and I’d still say I wanted more time there. We drove around the area for a bit, then headed over to my mom’s cousin Colleen’s for the big anniversary party.

A good bit of family from Pennsylvania came, like Aunt Elaine and Uncle Del and Aunt Gina and Uncle Richard, so we all had a good time socializing and hanging out. I kind of had to pull Paul into it–we were both tired and he was withdrawing a little bit, but I hate to go to Ohio and then not spending time with the family I went to see. I think part of it is Paul’s family dynamics, because there’s a sense with them of being together without being together. Sure, they get together, but no one really talks or truly spends time with each other. A lot of times, people sit in front of a TV instead. It’s like getting a family together only to sit in a room and barely acknowledge each other. You can say you spent time together, but you really didn’t. He did discover later, though, that he liked talking to Uncle Bill about his working days.

As for the whole “surprise” part of the party, Aunt Shirley and Uncle Bill were led to believe they were just coming over for a barbecue with friends. Everyone was more focused on how Aunt Shirley would react because we all knew it would probably be pretty great, and we were right–they drove up to us all standing in the driveway and she was really, genuinely surprised, more so than I’ve ever seen anyone at a surprise party, especially when she saw all of us Pennsylvania kids there and with a wedding in less than two weeks. Her reaction alone made me glad we made the trip, along with how grateful she was later and how clearly moved she and Uncle Bill both were to have everyone there celebrating their anniversary. Even Colleen, their daughter, got a little choked up thanking everyone for coming.

It was also fun to look at old pictures of them and my grandparents, and of course at things like this, people start breaking out the old stories that I still love to hear. One of the things I’ve always said I regret about my grandparents’ deaths is that we never sat and wrote down their stories or recorded them telling them themselves, but it’s not the kind of thing you think of doing at the time. On the one hand, you kind of take it for granted that they’ll be here forever, and on the other hand, it’s just tough to get it done. But these are the kinds of things I love hearing even more now–it gives you different perspectives of the family you know, and you hear about them from people who had entirely different experiences than yours. It’s like when you’re a kid and you ask your parents about before they were married and before you were born and thinking about them as individuals with experiences and identities separate from you. Some of my favorite stories have always been the ones that surprised me, like how my grandma was supposed to elope with another man who never showed up to meet her when he said he would or how when my mom told her she was pregnant with me, she said, “Well, you’ve done it now!”

But I digress.

We had some good food, some drinks, and good conversation before hitting the road back home and grabbing the week’s groceries on the way.

And I’m glad I had those prior two days off–made the weekend feel less full and rushed and more like I got some leisure time, which I thrive on these days because it’s so rare lately. Fortunately, it’s looking like I’ll have a good bit of it this weekend before we delve into Brandon’s wedding week. It’ll be a short week for me as I’ve taken off the day of the rehearsal dinner, but come on, how much of a day off is that really gonna end up being?

The Steel City Con Debacle

My mom and I have a lot in common–one of the traits we share is our love of a good, old-fashioned boycott. We dislike your business practices or you screw us over, we’ll drop you without a second thought and never come back. I mean, my mom hasn’t shopped at Sears for well over a decade over something that has to do with our furnace breaking in the middle of winter and something about space heaters. I was a kid at the time and I can never remember the details of it, but the point is Sears wasn’t very good to my mom in the process and she’s looked upon the company with disdain ever since. As for me, I do my best to avoid companies whose moral compass doesn’t align with my own, and most recently, I blogged about what pushed me to stop buying from an Etsy shop I loved. I decided not to name them at the time, but fuck it, it’s Nerds with Vaginas.

Anyone who’s read this blog or has seen my various social-media posts in April, August, or December knows I always spend a weekend at Steel City Con in Monroeville. I’ve been going with my dad and brother since they first found out about it a few years ago, and in those years, my brother and I have taken friends and fiancees.

I bought a three-day pass this time around, mostly out of convenience rather than an actual desire to go all three days. The online sale on the passes was really good, which was great, considering prices have regularly been increasing and I was starting to think it was getting to be too much money for what the event offered. A three-day pass was $30–the same price as full-price Saturday passes–and because we’ve had issues in the past with traffic or wanting to see something one evening and ending up not having time to walk around, I figured it was worth it. That way, if something came up, we weren’t stuck with passes only good for one day that we couldn’t take full advantage of.

I had to work Saturday and figured I’d just go Sunday. My dad and brother went Saturday, and my dad happened to text me and mention that the show was sold out and that people were having to wait until someone else left before they could get in. It sounded chaotic but not horrible, as the Saturday shows usually are, although I’d never heard of one selling out before. I made a note to my fiancé that we ought to make it a point to get up early so we could get there and get in and not worry about lines. And as three-day passholders, we were able to get in a half-hour early. Bam. Done.

So I was perusing Twitter on Saturday night, like I do, and I saw this tweet from Sci-Fi Valley Con mentioning a Pittsburgh convention. And I thought, “Oh, shit, I hope it’s not Steel City Con,” and it was.

You can read the whole story for yourself here and here, and I recommend you do, especially if you have attended or plan to attend Steel City Con. But in short, the convention sold out and didn’t post anything about it on their social media–and people were checking, lest they drive all the way out and end up not being able to get it. People in line were told the venue was at capacity, but people who preordered their tickets were able to get in no problem. No explanation was offered by convention staff, and it got to the point that people starting asking other people who were leaving to buy their wristbands off of them so they could get in, which was apparently done in front of staff and security, who let it happen. Now, I realize it’s not the greatest, but honestly, if it were me in either position, I’d probably do the same thing, especially if people made it a point to check for a sell-out and saw nothing. People posting to the convention’s Facebook page about tickets selling out started seeing their posts deleted and found that they’d been banned from interaction with the page, and I saw this happen myself when I visited the page and saw a woman had posted about another interaction, only to find it gone a few minutes later. That interaction was a woman posting about having been banned from the page, followed by the page commenting on her post calling her a liar and a thief for buying someone else’s wristband, which is extremely unprofessional.

I actually thought initially that some of the issues were miscommunication–I was hearing somewhat conflicting stories, and it sounded like maybe organizers didn’t communicate something well to staff or staff didn’t communicate something well to patrons. Some people said if you waited long enough, you could get in, others said the line didn’t move and resorted to less-than-honest means of getting in. Now, though, it looks more like organizers were actively deceiving people wanting to get in.

I was really put off by the whole thing, and honestly, even now, if the convention were to un-ban everyone and issue an apology, I’d feel better. I even told Paul Saturday night that had we not bought tickets in advance, I’d consider not even going because I hate it when my money benefits assholes.

And then I started to think about it a little more, and I felt bad that there’d be vendors I really like and support regularly whose business would be hurt, albeit by a fraction, if I didn’t go. And to be honest, when we went Sunday, we had a great time, and I bought some awesome stuff. Ironically, it’s probably the most amount of money I’ve spent on a single trip there ever. The guest list for the next convention is pretty good, too, so I left Sunday with a bit of a change of heart and decided, somewhat begrudgingly, to keep going but maybe more sporadically, like only when a celebrity I want to see is going as opposed to every single show.

In the meantime, I’d been popping on Facebook here and there to keep an eye on how that how mess was progressing. Earlier in the morning, I’d done the same thing and screencapped some negative posts, thinking it might be a good idea in the midst of this mass ban-and-delete fest. I’d even commented on a few, explaining to some people who seemed confused just what had happened and that I found the con’s behavior to be really unprofessional–anyone with the tiniest bit of PR knowledge knows that you don’t respond to complaints by calling people liars. You say something like, “We’re so sorry you had this negative experience, and we’ll do our best to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” and maybe you offer free or discounted stuff. And people are usually okay with that. I mean, like I said, I’m pretty forgiving, and you issue a standard apology and I’m mostly willing to let it go.

But when I went to see how things were progressing, I found that I, too, had been banned. Couldn’t access the visitor posts I’d wanted to see, couldn’t comment on posts, couldn’t like posts, couldn’t do anything but share–and all I’d done was basically say, “They’ve been deleting posts and banning people, and it’s extremely unprofessional.” It was like anything remotely negative had to be silenced, like they had to keep up appearances and make it look like it was a much better, much smoother convention than it really had been. And really, keeping up appearances is all it is, because a lot of people are really unhappy and I saw more than one post (which have been deleted since) saying that the poster didn’t intend to return to the convention after all this, and now, I find myself in that same position. I was a longtime attendee and three-day passholder who was willing to give them a second chance, but I don’t appreciate the utter refusal to take any criticism and the censorship of anyone who speaks out.

My only complaints in the past have been crowding and high prices, as well as some sketchiness with middle-aged men taking pictures of underage girls without their knowledge or consent–some time after a con, my dad mentioned having seen this to my brother and I and asked if he should’ve reported it, to which we said yes, and I sent a respectful e-mail explaining what my dad saw and just expressing that it might be something they want to keep an eye on. I never received a response back, but as it never seemed to be an issue again, I let it go. But as it turns out, the convention has been building a bad reputation, mostly among vendors. I’d noticed some of the vendors I loved the most only attended once or twice, never to be seen again, and now I can’t help but wonder if this is why. Then there are posts like this, detailing some of the issues vendors have had.

So after reading the posts and my own negative experience, Paul and I have decided this past Steel City Con was our last, unless ownership changes hands or apologies are issued or something. Instead, we’ll be looking for alternatives. We’re considering the new, upcoming 3 Rivers Comicon, but as we have a wedding to go to that weekend, we might not make it. But we’re also looking at November’s Wizard World, as well as Altoona convention Sci-Fi Valley Con, whose initial tweet caught my eye. If Paul and I can get the time off work, we’ll be taking a long weekend to visit that then head over to State College. If we do, I intend to eat my way across Happy Valley.

So good riddance, Steel City Con. We had a good run. I hope you learn from your mistakes.

Now, I still feel like all of this is unfair to the vendors, and there are some great ones. So with the hope of driving some more business over to them, I’ve decided to list below as many of my favorite go-tos as I can remember. It’s definitely not comprehensive, as I’ve lost some business cards over the years, but they’re great and they deserve your business.

Man, wedding planning is annoying. With how quickly venues book, I keep feeling like I’m in a rush until I get this thing booked. I have to keep reminding myself that worst-case scenario, we can get married on a Friday–the venue we liked is free pretty much every Friday next summer. I just get antsy when I don’t hear from people as quickly as I’d like, and I obviously have no idea what to expect or what’s the norm here.

But the good news is we did get in to look at a venue, and we really liked it. Barring some catastrophe, it’s the winning venue. The way their booking works is you can put your name down temporarily for a date and you have so long to decide, but they never really take you off unless someone else wants that date. Then they get back in touch with you and you have 24 hours to decide, at which point they send you the contract. You have some more time to mull that over before it’s all final. So we’re in for a request for June 3, and we’re just waiting to here if the couple who wanted it first still want it. In the meantime, I realized that’s one of my cousin’s birthdays and I’d rather not get married on someone’s birthday (or anniversary), so my plan has been to call and ask to put in for another day. Problem is Paul and I have both been working late every day and haven’t been able to call before they close, so I might send a quick e-mail to at least make some progress.

Like I said, though, worst-case scenario is a Friday wedding, which I’d be okay with. It would also eliminate the possibility of a Catholic wedding, which is a convenient excuse, as far as I’m concerned. I mean, I’ll have to hear about it for the rest of our lives from Paul’s mom, but you can’t make that woman happy. Nor should you waste your time trying.

Our tour was at 3 on Saturday and lasted a whopping half hour, and we had Jukebox the Ghost tickets for 9, and they were close enough to each other that there was no point in going home and going back out that way. Initially, I thought, “Damn, don’t want to do those things on the same day,” but I also didn’t want to have to wait another week to go, especially after being dicked around for like two weeks by another venue–which still has me irritated, thinking I could’ve had this whole booking a venue thing done a good bit ago. So I said, “Fuck it, we’ll cram it all into one day,” and that was that.

By the time the tour ended and taking into consideration travel time and my desire to get to concerts when doors open–at least for general admission–we had a solid four hours to kill, which was doable. So we started with an early dinner at Bahama Breeze, which neither of us has ever been to and we chose mostly because it sounded beachy and fun. It was also delicious. So another like hour and a half killed.

Then we went to the mall, at which point I realized a store we’d wanted to visit was actually in a different mall. But hey, we still had plenty of time to kill! So we dropped off recycling and went to the second mall, which was conveniently only like 15 minutes from the venue.

I was looking for hiking pants–they’re waterproof with pockets, unlike 99% of most other athletic-type pants they sell for women. The goods news is I found some. The bad news is they were 100 bucks, and I’m not willing to spend that. I’m not spending that much money on pants to wear in the woods. Nope.

So we left for our concert and were actually there early. We were early for our tour in the afternoon, too. Someone please give us an award. Positive reinforcement!

Jukebox the Ghost was pretty much amazing. Probably the best show of theirs I’ve seen, and they’re one of those bands that you don’t think can actually get much better live. But they did it.

It’s a shame, though, that they consistently have rude fans show up to their Pittsburgh shows. Last year, when they were here on Valentine’s Day, I had to spend the whole show next to a girl who made fun of people around her the whole time. This time, things seem mostly okay, but I’m pretty sure I caught girls behind us mocking Paul’s dancing. I’ll be the first to admit he’s a godawful dancer and will be getting professional lessons before we wed, but that doesn’t mean I’m okay with watching someone mimic him. It’s rude.

And then I watched the same fucking thing happen with a separate set of people. There was this girl in front of us who’d been dancing pretty hard all night. Honestly, I loved it. Enthusiasm like that is always really fun to see, and I love seeing people who are just truly having a good time–which is also why I get so irritated with people making fun of others in general, especially with Paul, who has depression and is getting to escape that for a couple hours. But there was this group of three people–two guys and the one guy’s girlfriend–who near the end of the show started inching their way over. Which is a concert pet peeve of mine in itself. Don’t just shove your way forward for people who have been standing in a spot for hours. It’s rude. But something about him looked shifty, like he was trying to do more than just dick everyone out of their spots. And I was right. He got right up next to that girl and because of the way she had her head positioned, she didn’t see, but her mimicked exactly what I was doing, and I shot him a glare, which I think he saw. And I think the girl’s friends saw what he did, too, because someone who was with her tapped her on the shoulder and pulled her back, and after that, she was a little toned down with her dancing for a little bit. She did ultimately move to the other side. I was actually gonna tell her she could stand in front of us and to dance her little heart out. The best part is, the girl the two guys were with looked when she saw her move and looked at me and shrugged, like she couldn’t understand why she’d moved. Did you not just see what your boyfriend did to her? Are you really confused as to why a girl would move away from people who not only crowded into her space but made fun of her, too?

What kills me about this is they weren’t exactly good, normal dancers, either. It’s one thing if you’re the type to just stand there and bob your head, but it’s another if you shame someone for doing what you yourself are doing, too.

The thing is, making fun of someone at a concert is, like, one of the top dick moves in the universe in my book because it’s so pointlessly malicious. You’re singling out people who are having a good time and just purely letting go, taking in live music, and enjoying yourselves. Why is your reaction to be rude? Don’t get me wrong, I love the people-watching at concerts and I’m guilty of pointing people out to, say, my mom, but it’s never to make fun of them or make them feel bad–I’m usually genuinely entertained and enjoying their energy. I love seeing people dance at concerts, even if they look like jackasses. I don’t understand what possesses someone to prey upon that. If that’s what you’re gonna do, do us all a favor and stay the fuck home.

On Rape Jokes and Disrespecting Your Own Followers

A while ago, I found this great site that sold some nerd-related apparel that I really, really loved. Naturally, I made it a point to like their Facebook page–a lot of smaller sites like this one will post their coupon codes up their, and coupons are great. Now, the Facebook page also had a healthy dose of memes and the like, but things took a turn over the weekend, to the point the I’ve decided to leave the page and take my business elsewhere.

They posted a brief comic strip in which Neo from The Matrix is told to choose the red pill or blue pill and after choosing wakes up, having been raped by Bill Cosby. How delightful!

When it comes to rape jokes, I tend to lean on the side of no, especially in this case. Jokes made at Bill Cosby’s expense I get, but this was a little more explicit. And naturally, it started a mess of arguments and fighting on the page, the bulk of it being disputes about what is and is not offensive. Women were speaking up and saying the post perpetuated rape culture–which I’m inclined to agree with–men and women were both accusing people of being too sensitive and easily offended, and women claiming to be rape victims themselves were on all ends of the spectrum, from those who were uncomfortable with it to those saying the women who had a problem with it didn’t speak for them. Basically, the usual for an internet disagreement of any type. Swap out the subject matter and it happens on all social media daily.

Thing is the tone os immense disrespect was, quite frankly, astonishing. I’ve said this before, but I think the knee-jerk reaction of “people are too sensitive and easily offended” is unfair at best, dismissive at worst. I think every single one of us has had moments where we’ve been surprised by what offended someone, but we also all have our own soft spots and weaknesses that others might not get. Whenever someone expresses discomfort or hurt at something, even if it’s just an internet meme, we have a responsibility as humans to at the very least take a step back and listen to what they’re saying. If you do that and disagree, fine, but it’s better than invalidating someone’s feelings.

And the thing with rape jokes–especially one so visual and explicit–is that it’s not a simple matter of offense. It was an image that certainly could’ve and I’m sure did remind some women of their own rapes. Maybe it triggered a flashback or panic attack. These are the kinds of things we have to keep in mind, and that’s why one of the biggest offenses I saw in the comments was a man who reposted the comic every single time someone took issue with it, which to me reeks of immature, careless, and ignorance. Again, this isn’t merely an issue of someone disliking the content, it’s an issue of some women being forced to relive a traumatic experience because someone thought it was funny, and I can’t imagine how that must feel. When I was discussing this whole thing with a friend who’s been raped, she asked me to show her the comic, and it was rough enough even to me that I felt the need to warn her before I sent it to her. It should be a red flag as to the kind of content it is when people feel the need to warn each other before viewing it, especially considering it’s something that’s meant to be funny.

At the same time, I get where women are coming from when they say, “I’m a rape survivor, I find this funny, and you don’t speak for me.” True enough. But the women speaking out do speak for someone, even if it’s just themselves. Everyone handles things differently, and power to the women who are able to laugh at such a comic and move on–I mean that sincerely. But not all women can do that, and it’s not fair to ignore their thoughts on the matter or suggest they’re somehow in the wrong for what bothers them and for choosing to say something about it.

It would be one thing if that was the extent of it–and if it was, I probably wouldn’t have cared enough to post about it. But the thing is, the page admins/business owners themselves got in on the discussion, and I was amazed and disgusted by what I saw play out.

I watched these admins publicly shame, insult, make fun of, and disrespect almost anyone who dared take issue with the post. I understand defending your stance, but the extreme to which they took it just seemed so childish and downright nasty. It almost would’ve been better for them to say nothing if they wanted to stand by the post rather than defend it in such a mean, immature way. Their attitude about the whole thing is one of the reasons I’ve decided not to name the page or business–they seemed to thrive off of people telling them they were leaving the page, and they painted them as rude partypoopers and praised the people who were on their side. I felt that should they see this post, I’d become another person to openly mock on their page and they’d take my dissent as a kind of badge of honor.

What surprises me the most is that this is coming from a business–people looking to make money off the very people they’d just offended and insulted to the point of driving them elsewhere. And that was what bothered me more than anything. I may not have liked the fact that they posed the comic in the first place, but that alone didn’t lead me to spend my money elsewhere. Nope, it was the disrespect shown to their own page’s followers, to people disagreeing with them and rather respectfully explaining why. The immaturity shown in turning that dissent into a joke. The carelessness of all of it.

I might’ve even let it slide if not for the fact that this is not the first time I’ve seen this happen on this page. I can’t remember the exact circumstances at this point, but there was an incident where a transgender individual took issue with some word choice. And rather than listen and make amends, nicely defended themselves, or respectfully disagree, they did something very similar to what happened over the weekend–they made fun of the person publicly on the page, let the page’s followers join in, and completely dragged them through the mud.

I believe in a “three strikes” type policy in a lot of areas of life, but I was so disgusted my this second offense that I didn’t want to sit around and watch strike three happen. There’s no need for that kind of behavior, there’s no excuse for it, and I’m certainly not going to reward them for it by giving them my money.

I also wasn’t the only person put off by this. I noticed a few comments sarcastically wishing them luck with business, and I interacted directly with another woman who shared my views almost exactly and went so far as to say she questions what their customer service must be like if that’s they way they treat people.

Take heed, businesses–you don’t have to agree with every single person you interact with online, but you should still be respectful. How you treat people sends a message, and when you treat people poorly, it’ll lose you business.

Hope you enjoyed mine while it lasted.

Adventures in Internet Assholery

I guess it started late last week.

There’s an ultra conservative, popular Twitter account whose retweets make their way into my feed every so often thanks to a Donald Trump parody account I follow. I’ve replied a few times–she’s posted some pretty blatantly ignorant things about things like Black Lives Matter. Then she posted some things personally attacking Hillary Clinton, specifically making jokes about her having cankles and being bid on by a hog farmer in Iowa.

Now, these are the kinds of things I don’t think are appropriate when discussing politics, and one of the reasons I love Bernie Sanders so much is because of his refusal to attack his opponents like that, especially when we have people like Donald Trump finding ways to insult Rosie O’Donnell in political debates. These statements not only cross lines, but they contribute nothing. They say nothing about an issue, and I actually think they say more about the person saying them to begin with than they do the politician. Don’t get me wrong, I think we’re all guilty of it at some points, but there’s a difference between letting something slip and relentlessly attacking an individual. There’s also a difference between what one says in private conversation and what one says publicly on the internet, but that’s a separate issue. Sort of.

The point is, I said something about it–two replies to two tweets, one about the cankles and the other about the hog farmer. My first tweet said disagreement was fine but personal attacks like this are rude and disrespectful, and the second said the Tweeter was just being mean. Like I said last week or so in a somewhat related post, I’m a believer that it’s not right to sit silent while people are nasty on the internet.

This must’ve hit a nerve. A day or so later, I woke up to find that she had publicly replied to me.

I have mixed feelings on the art of the public reply. I’ve seen it used by celebrities against trolls, but there’s something about it that’s very, very deliberate, especially having been on the receiving end of it now. Sometimes, it’s appropriate, and it can be a good way to address something that’s worth letting your whole feed see. A good example of that was an actress that I follow was recently accused of slut-shaming for criticizing girls who think dressing provocatively is the only way to be sexy–and for the record, I agree with her statements and disagree that it was slut-shaming. But said actress defended herself by linking to tweets and replying to them publicly in her feed, which had the advantage of all her followers, including those making similar arguments, being able to see what she was saying as opposed to her saying the same thing to God knows how many people had similar opinions.

In my case, though, I felt like it was done solely as an attempt to shame me because there was no real need for it otherwise–plus it was done two or three times. It’s also worth noting that my previous tweets over the course of maybe a few weeks or days actually disagreeing on specific issues went ignored, so I find it interesting that the comments that got her attention and were deemed deserving of a public shaming were ones questioning her character.

Now, her replies themselves were interesting. Remember, this was only about personal attacks–I had not responded to something that, say, blamed Clinton for Benghazi. In fact, none of the tweets I responded to had anything to do with Benghazi or actual politics or policy, and although I admittedly didn’t follow her and only popped in when I saw retweets, I never once saw anything discussing the actual issue. Just personal attacks, mostly criticizing appearance. But guess what I got ripped for? Thinking a murder deserves respect and not caring about children. And I still don’t understand what that one was about.

The thing is I’m not even saying one has to have respect for Clinton, or even speak well of her in private. Or even publicly, necessarily–what I’m saying is that joking about a female politician having cankles and being bid on by a hog farmer isn’t okay. It’s unnecessarily mean, for one thing, and it contributes nothing at all. If someone really cares about an issue, that’s what they should be speaking about, not attacking someone, especially if you want to be listened to and taken seriously. Otherwise, you’re just intentionally perpetuating negativity for no other reason than to just do it.

The backlash I got from her followers was admittedly mild–of the thousands she has, I got maybe around 20 replies, and most weren’t personal attacks. In fact, it was more like if you cloned my dad and gave each clone a Twitter account. Sure, there was one guy who told me I could “go to prom” if I was “a good girl” and that I needed to grow up, which is funny considering the tweets I’d criticized weren’t the kinds of things mature adults should say. Most of it was just trashing Clinton, partly out of an assumption that I support her. One man called her my “precious Hillary,” plenty called her a liar, another said she needs to be in prison for murder. More than anything, though, it was packed with assumptions about what I believe and stand for. Being a Clinton supporter is a pretty obvious one, but it’s kind of amazing how many people think speaking out about rudeness means you don’t care about any other issues. Plenty of people suggested that I don’t care about the Americans killed in Benghazi. I do. But like I said, my tweets and the tweets they were replying to didn’t have a thing to do with Benghazi. Not a single mention of Benghazi was to be seen, in fact, until the attempt at publicly shaming me. One man even went so far as to ask me “why the selective outrage” over this and not the dead Americans.

I wasn’t outraged–that was an assumption, too. I’ll grant that being limited to 140 characters can make tone hard to convey, but two pretty calmly worded tweets are hardly outraged. In fact, I’d say the true outrage came from this woman and her followers.

I touched on this before when I talked about Cecil the lion, but it’s perhaps even more relevant now–me sending out two tweets out of the thousands on my account over the years can hardly be called “selective outrage.” Two tweets are not representative of everything else I’ve had to say, on Twitter and elsewhere. Me calling out someone’s rudeness does not mean that’s the only thing I care about, and the implied moral superiority coming from those who suggest otherwise is really frustrating. My attention was on that subject in that moment, and I said two things and didn’t think about it again until I woke up to 20+ notifications. This does not mean other things don’t matter to me, just like people talking about Cecil the lion doesn’t mean they don’t care about other issues, either.

When I told this guy I was gonna block him, he criticized me for being “unable to engage in discourse,” but that was kind of my point all along–this was not discourse. Attacking me and making assumptions about what I care about is not discourse. Attacking a politician’s appearance is not discourse. The closest thing I got to proper discourse was someone who sent me screenshot from an article about a book about Clinton, discussing the way she spoke to her staff. Now, if it’s true, it involved lots of yelling and swearing at them, which I’m not okay with. But the excerpt’s point was less “she’s rude to her staff” and more “sometimes she uses cuss words, therefore she is unfit to be President.” And that’s just a ridiculous thing to say. You mean to tell me every other candidate in both parties is a saint who’s never so much as uttered a “damn”? Hell, Bernie said it in the middle of a debate, and it got the biggest cheers of the night. Swear words have zero impact on one’s ability to lead. I’m more concerned about policies and respect for people.

I found two things upsetting about this whole mess. For the most part, I wasn’t really upset by anything said to me, with the exception of the assumptions. But I was bothered by the fact that so many of the tweets I was mentioned in got favorited and retweeted. Even though they weren’t that bad, it was really, really bizarre to see people actually enjoying seeing this play out.

This speaks to the second thing I found upsetting, which is the fact that these people all thought personal attacks are okay, that only one woman–and if I remember right, the only woman–saw the same problem I did. People not only seem to think nastiness is acceptable, but they’re willing to defend it and rationalize it. Well, to a point.

See, the thing is that people were quick to come at me but backed down when I defended myself. I didn’t respond to all of them, but of the ones I did, I believe only one kept going at me, and that was the guy who accused me of the “selective outrage.” Not a single other person had anything else to say to me. In fact, when I went back through to block people for my sanity, I found that one man in particular had already blocked me–and I hadn’t even replied to his comment. He actually blocked me either right before or right after he tweeted at me. How cowardly can you be?

This wasn’t the only internet nastiness I’ve dealt with over the last few days, but as this is long, I’m gonna cut it off. But I’ll say this–the matter of people backing down when you defend yourself was not unique to Twitter or this issue, nor was the idea of disrespect and personal attacks being both acceptable and justified. I noticed another trend, which is that most of the nastiness, though admittedly not all, comes from and is defended by men. Most of the people agreeing with me? Women. Huh.

On the next episode(s?) of “Adventures in Internet Assholery,” we delve into trigger warnings, Caitlyn Jenner Halloween costumes, and paid maternity leave/taxes.

On Livin’ in Sin

It never really occurred to me to be grateful for my parents’ leniency and open-mindedness until, well, now.

Okay, that might not be entirely true–the gratitude started creeping in when I got my first real tastes of Paul’s mom’s overbearing tendencies. My parents and my friends’ parents were pretty similar my whole life. They may have differed on some details and my parents were a little more steadfast when it came to their rules, and I’ve often said I had a “heathy fear” of them. I knew if I fucked up, there would be consequences, but I never felt like I had to lie or hide things. Until Paul, I never met anyone who truly had strict, difficult parents. My dad’s attitude was, “You’re over 18, you do what you want.” Paul’s 25 and his mom still coddles him. One of the other things I’ve often said is that my parents raised us with the knowledge we’d have to survive on our own day, but Paul’s raised him with the hope he’d never need to.

One of the things that came out of family catch-up sessions at the wedding last weekend is the fact that one of my cousins somewhat recently moved in with her boyfriend, who she’s been seeing for I guess close to two years now, maybe longer. My mom was actually the one who told me, and she told me my aunt’s not happy about it. From the rumblings on Twitter, I wasn’t the only cousin to find out from her mother–but my mother does seem to be the only one who’s not upset by her daughter livin’ in sin.

Like I said, I was never really grateful for that until now.

Paul and I expected blowback from his mom when he moved in with me, but by some miracle, it has yet to come. We still expect it to be thrown in our faces one day when she’s in a mood and yelling about something else, but for now, all we’ve heard is, “I’m not gonna say anything.” Which is admittedly still sort of a passive-aggressive way of expressing her disapproval of the situation, but I was just glad that was all we got, with the exception of statistics about higher divorce rates among couples who lived together first. Because nothing says, “I support you as a couple” quite like, “I’m afraid you’ll ultimately get a divorce if you live together first.”

My dad told me maybe once that he’s “not happy” about it, which I found to be hypocritical. I was conceived out of wedlock.

But this did make me a little nervous that my mom was displeased. But when I asked one night–with a little alcohol in me–she gave me some variation of “I don’t care.” She actually said she prefers it to me living alone. She didn’t say this outright, but the implication is that she worries about me less.

Apparently, this is an attitude unique to my mom in the family. As much as I’m grateful for it, I feel bad for my fellow cohabitating cousins. I don’t know if they’re hassled about it regularly, but I feel bad that they’ve had to hear the little bit they have. For one, it was “I give wedding gifts, I give shower gifts, but I don’t give shacking up gifts” when my cousin told her that her boyfriend’s mom bought them silverware. For another, when she said, “It is what is,” her mom replied, “And it ain’t what it ain’t.”

I get why they disapprove, especially with our Catholic upbringing and Catholic families. What I don’t get is why if one girl from each of the families–and in two of those families, the only girl–living together is such a scandalous thing. But there’s also a level of it that treads over into telling someone how to live their life. And even if it’s a parent telling their adult child, it’s still an adult child. And at this point, the three of us are in our mid-20s, working, supporting ourselves, and in long-term relationships. At least two of us have said outright we don’t feel like we need to get married to solidify the relationship, but I’ve admitted I’m open to doing it, mostly because I know Paul wants to, although the thought of actually planning a wedding sounds like a whole lot of shit I don’t want.

Of course, having been together for years at this point, people keep asking when we’re gonna get married or why we haven’t get married. And I never put much thought into this until one of the cousins pointed it out, but it’s kind of a rude question to ask. The way she put it, there isn’t a deadline. The way I see it, five years doesn’t necessarily mean you’re ready for marriage, especially if you step back and look at where the couple was in their lives at various stages in that five-year relationship. For Paul and I, that’s meeting at 19 and 20, respectively–we both celebrated our birthdays the summer we started dating. I turned 21, he turned 20. That meant my senior year of college was the first year we dated. That meant that even after I graduated, he still had another year to go. That meant that I was going out into the workforce. And the way things worked out, it also meant two moves–one out of my parents’ house and into Pittsburgh, then out of Pittsburgh and into my current place. And then it was Paul’s turn to graduate and go out into the world, his turn to move out, which brings us to now. There may have been points where getting engaged would’ve been feasibly, but not actually planning or holding a wedding. Honestly, looking back on all of it, there’s not a single good point until now where both of our lives were in the same place, where we would’ve been able to focus on wedding planning. And I’m sure if you ask most married couples if they thought we ought to get married in the midst of any of that, they’d have said no. But suddenly, if you ignore all that and look solely at the amount of time we’ve been together, that’s all that matters.

And I know this hectic experience of not being ready isn’t unique to me, obviously. I may not know every detail of my cousins’ lives over these years, but I know they, too, have included school and job changes and moves.

But then there’s the fact that the question of marriage coming from others, at least in this specific situation as it relates to cohabitation, is a selfish one.

Sure, I have no doubt that our families want to see us happy and see marriage as a milestone, but there are absolutely underlying issues. When most people ask me or my cousins about when we’ll be getting married, they’re not asking because they’re anxious on our behalf because they want us to experience it, because they see marriage as a sacrament in the church or a gift or a union or whatever other positive things marriage can be–they’re asking because they want us to get married. And if you think that’s reading too much into the issue, spend five years with a person without even getting engaged and then pay attention to how often you get asked about it and why.

Paul’s mom brings it up more and more these days–at first it was subtle, and now it’s not. The last time it was a very blatant, “Let me see your hand. Do you have a ring yet?” For her, part of it might be the issue of cohabitation. I don’t know. But I know she wants it for her, and I know she’s anxious for grandkids already.

One of my cousins went so far as to say her parents want her to get married just to make themselves feel better so she’s not livin’ in sin anymore. And as harsh as that sounds, I do think there’s some truth to it. Obviously, my situation with my parents is different, but one can’t help but consider why their parents are pressuring them to get married when they’re pretty open about disapproving of cohabitation.

And the thing is, if and when we do start getting married, that’s probably not going to help–sure, my parents won’t say anything to me, but my poor cousins might get a fresh round of anger and pressure, assuming it doesn’t start with two weddings coming up next year.

When it comes to extended-family dynamics of love, cohabitation, and marriage, there are no winners.