Friday, August 13, 2010

Crushed Dreams of Flouncy Pastel Southernness

I had a wonderful memory spark today thanks to Melodie, bloggeress of Pink Vintage Cupcake. Her Thursday post, Dream Job, was sweetly filled with her girldhood dreams of what she would do when she grew up. One of her dreams was to be an Azalea Trail Maid.

This sparked my own memory of growing up in Lower Alabama (LA) and wanting to be one of Dothan's Azalea Dogwood Trail maidens, done up in flouncy, pastel colored antebellum gowns. Oh how I wanted to be a part of that so badly!

(Photo by Denise Oliver of the Daily Kos. Weirdly, there are no Google pics of Dothan's Azalea Dogwood maidens, just the Mobile Azalea Trail Maidens.)

What I didn't know was that not just anyone can be one of Dothan's trail maidens. According to the Azalea Dogwood registration, these girls participate in a *chokes* pageant! I had no idea! I always thought I could just sign up, get a dress and stand on a street corner of the Azalea Dogwood trail with my parasol and wave at the cars driving by. Now that I've done some digging, I know that I would never have made it as one of Dothan's Azalea Dogwood Trail Maidens.

According to the registration form, to be qualified as a trail maiden one must be a girl who lives in Houston County and goes to school in the City of Dothan or Houston County is eligible. I went to school at Enterprise High School in Coffee County. Dang it. My former dream just got a small crack in it.

She must carry a "C" or above scholastic average and be of good moral character. I have good moral character, but my grades in high school were abysmal! I was a horrible student. I was so bored in high school and I was really, really bad at math.

Contestants must not be married or pregnant and have never been married nor had a marriage annulled nor given birth to a child. Oh my. I didn't realize that this needed to be stated. Then again, this is Alabama...

Also a specific dress is required, which makes sense since this is the Azalea Dogwood Trail Maiden Pageant! Not any old pageant dress will do, Miss Alabama and your strange troupe of Little Miss, Little Miss Teen, Miss Teen, and Miss Little Teen Miss Teen Little companions.

(Why yes, that is a baby. I have no idea what her talent was.)

Requirements, also from the registration form: **DRESS: ANTEBELLUM GOWN - HOOP, AND A PARASOL (required) Judging will be based on poise, appearance, and authenticity.

I would so not have made it on poise as my body continues to think that we are not on earth but on a planet closer to the sun and gravity often pulls me down (I'm extremely clumsy). I'm pretty certain that my authenticity wouldn't be the authenticity that the pageant officials require. One thing I learned growing up in Enterprise is that being your authentic self means to throw on an even thicker and super fake Alabama accent, tell people, "Bless your heart!" and then gossip about them when they walk away. Real authenticity. Of course not everybody acted this way, just the ones who participated in pageants. Hrmm...interesting!

What a bizarre post. Maybe there is a part of me that really did want to be in pageants; but the Janeane Garofalo in me held me back and would have never allowed me and my Payless Shoe Store version Doc Martens to go to the registration table and sign up.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

What Constitutes a Family?

I've been scouring the internet for blogs lately. Thank God for I've found so many fabulous blogs out there. However, so many of them are focused on, well, mommy-hood. Now, I am not totally dissing mommies. Obviously being a mother is one of the most sacred things a woman can do (if you do it right. Octomom, I'm looking at you, yeah, you.)

However, I haven't seen too many blogs out there about families that don't have children. Families, like mine, that consist of a loving relationship between two people. I've been wondering why that is. I've seen blog badges that purport "I belong to Mommy Blogs!" or "I'm a Blogging Mommy!" Awesome! I'm glad you have your community. Maybe us bloggers without children don't need badges to show who we are; however I think it's important to recognize that "family" is not always a mom, a dad, and two kids. I'm tired of that stereotype: a man and a woman who are married and have children seem to be what a huge chunk of society considers a real family.

Apparently, Wikipedia (or whomever wrote the entry) defines a family as thus: In human context, a family (from Latin: familiare) is an exclusive group of people who share a close relationship —a unit typically (or "traditionally") composed of a mated couple and their dependent children in co-residence. If this is the case, my husband and I don't constitute as a family. Neither do my gay partnered friends who don't have children, or those who do have children. Actually, it seems, from this Wikipedia entry, anyone without the traditional dependent children in co-residence is not a family.

When Sir Grump and I were first married I heard this phrase over and over again: When are you going to start a family? I honestly thought I already had! I mean, I got married right? Isn't that starting a family? Aren't we to be considered a family because we're married and living together? The people in that picture, at the time, were closer to me than my own family.

But apparently, to some people this doesn't actually mean we are a family. We're just, well, honestly, those people asking when I was going to start family never defined for me what Sir Grump and I were and are. So we've subconsciously made a point of defining what a family is to us.

We've made our version of family over the years, even before we were married, we created our own family. Our theater department at Troy University was a group of tightly knit student and professors and sometimes, yeah, we lived in co-residence. We didn't have kids, but we were there for each other. (This is us at an informal semi-reunion back in 2002, I think.) Sir Grump (there on the far left) lived the smiling guy in the middle. I lived with the chick in the hat. The girl with the glasses dated the smirking guy on the right. At some point I think we all lived with Super Smiley (guy in the middle) because of a hurricane. I still keep in touch with all of them, except for Super Smiley.

At one church I attended, the pastor asked me the dreaded question, when were Sir Grump and I going to start a family. He told me about how he had to "pray" his wife into wanting to have children. She originally didn't want any. I was so shocked to hear such a thing.

Funny enough at another church is where Sir Grump and I met another awesome couple whom we became fast friends with, mostly due to the fact that they had a truck and we didn't and we liked to move to a new apartment every year. Regardless, we stay in touch and when she's in town for work, we always make sure to spend time together. We're able to pick up from wherever we left off and always have an enjoyable time together. Isn't this what family should be?

We've since created more relationships with other friends that don't mind that Sir Grump is competitive at board games or that I am quite flakey. These are people that I love and adore. People who I trust my home and feline kids with when we travel. People I care about and know that they care about me.

So no, we're not going to have children. Sir Grump and I enjoy our family as we have defined it. I guess I don't need a badge for my blog that says, "I am a Non-Mommy Blogger" but I don't have a problem with Mommy Bloggers with that badge, it's a signal to other Mommy bloggers - kind of like saying, "I hear you, girl!"

I honor my girl friends who have decided to have children and I grieve with my girl friends who want children and can't conceive. I don't even define myself as living a "childree lifestyle" as I don't care for some of their militant views about people who have children (I don't think it's polite to call parents "breeders.")

However, I'd appreciate the courtesy of my family (the husband, the three cats, and the cockatiel) being recognized as a family and that our choice to not have children to be as good as others decisions to have children.