I will ask, I will, I will, I will…

A couple of months ago I went with my friend Babs to hear Linda Babcock, the Carnegie Melon author of Ask For It.

Ask For It is about how women can use the power of negotiation to get what they really want. It explains that we don’t get raises, promotions, or parley good employment packages because we don’t ask. Men do. The book provides story after story of women not asking and therefore not receiving.

I read most of the book and practiced some of the exercises strengthening this asking muscle in myself. As a result, I negotiated a higher rate of reimbursement with an insurance company, Tom and I bargained $2700 off our new car, and I sold some items on Craig’s list getting my asking price.

I was proud of myself and my new skill. I had asked and It had paid off. But it hadn’t come naturally.

Two weeks ago I went shopping with my future daughter-in-law for my mother-of-the-groom dress. Now you must know, there is an etiquette, generations old, to consider in the selection of this one dress. I will save the details for another post.

Today I want to tell you a different story.

While Lauren and I were shopping for my dress, I spotted an adorable, white sequined dress, that reminded me of her–she loves sparkle. I didn’t show it to her since we were on a mission involving me and I didn’t want to derail the process. As we walked to the next store we talked about the rehearsal dinner. She mentioned she wanted to wear white and she wanted it to be sparkly. We immediately turned around and retraced our steps to the store we had just left. I knew this was her dress.

She tried it on and it was one of those OMG moments. She looked beautiful, sexy, and very happy in this sweet, little (very little) dress. She turned to look at herself from every angle in the full length mirror, her smile getting bigger and broader. It was her dress. We both knew it.

Then she looked at the price tag. Her face fell. $320.00.

“I can’t spend that much on a dress just for the rehearsal dinner.”

I became one of those dangerous women to shop with. “You could also wear it on your honeymoon and on New Year’s Eve, you could even wear it out on the town. It will never go out of style.” I worked to convince her.

Her smile returned slightly, but I could tell she wasn’t sold. I admired her sense of fiscal responsibility, but I really wanted her to have this dress. I offered to give her $100.00 toward it. She said no, she couldn’t do that.

She continued to argue the pros and cons of spending too much on something she really wanted. I knew this place in myself and did not envy her. As she took off the dress it seemed she had reached her decision.

Then, from my seat in the dressing room, I watched her drape her dream dress over her arm and walk up to the sales girl that had been helping her. “I really love this dress, it is my dress, but I can’t pay $320.00 for a dress right now. Is there anyway I can have a discount?” she asked.

I sat in awe. There was no sale rack or discount sign in the window, this was clearly a this-season dress and Lauren still thought to, was comfortable enough to, ask for a price reduction. My mouth hung open. Wow.

The young women cheerfully explained that if it was Lauren’s birthday month she could have 20% off. Lauren shook her head slowly, “My birthday is in July,” she confessed. The sales girl looked at me, “December,” I reluctantly admitted.  “My fiancee’s birthday is in March,” Lauren offered, hope laced through every word. I confirmed this, saying it was true, I knew because he’s my son. I guess I thought a mom in the mix might help…I really wanted to help her get this dress.

“Okay, have him come in before the end of the month and we can give you 20% off the dress.”

It was March 31st.

My mind was racing. There had to be a way. Finally, I suggested we call him and he could send a picture of his drivers license with proof of his March birth — the perks of modern technology. The now weary looking sales girl said she would need to ask her manager.

She came back with a bounce in her step. The manager had approved the discount without evidence of someone in our family tree having a March birthday.

Lauren paid for and walked out of the store with her dress. All because she asked.

And she didn’t even read the book.

waxseal2

 

 

 

The Queen of England

Today I got a massage and facial. As I relaxed; steam opening my pores, Audra’s fairy fingers making gentle circles around my eyes; I began to count my blessings. When I left the house this morning our housekeeper was pulling into the driveway. Last night I ordered a great pair of shoes from the Travel Smith catalogue. Tomorrow I have an acupuncture appointment. Next week I have a manicure and pedicure scheduled. I am the luckiest woman alive!

 

Then it hit. My gratitude turned to shame, “Who do I think I am? Really? Who? The Queen of England? I don’t dare tell anyone about all this.” I felt terrible, indulgent, spoiled, after all, there are children starving in Africa. Continue reading

Lessons From A Dress

 

Jena and I went shopping in Uniontown for my wedding dress last July. I went reluctantly as I had bought my dress for my first marriage in Uniontown. I thought it bad luck to repeat that history. I over road my hesitation and walked into the dress shoppe.

 

Jena was enthusiastically pulling sequined, lace covered, puffy, stand up on their own crinoline, dresses off the crowed racks. She found several she loved. I didn’t. Undeterred, she kept looking. I looked too, with little enthusiasm. I wasn’t sure a bridal shop dress was what I was looking for. I wasn’t sure what I imagined wearing to remarry.

 

Then she finds it. “MOM! It’s perfect!”

 

It is pretty. Ivory, no sequins or ruffled lace, simple, elegant, strapless, a soft taupe belt around the waist, $699.00.

 

“Oh Jena,” I explained, “I don’t want to spend that much.”

 

“Just try it on Mom.” (Never do that. Once it is on, it is hard to get off.)

 

I tried it on. Everyone in the store came to admire. As I enjoyed the , Jena went in search of her maid of honor dress. No surprise… she found one. It was very sweet; mocha colored, not too expensive and it looked great on her. Her mocha and my taupe worked. Except that my previous bridesmaids wore mocha… I said something to that effect. No one else saw the problem. I let it go.

 

I am always amazed by my ability to override my NO. This particular day my bulldozing self sounded something like this, “If I bought the dress today I got 20% off. The dress shopping would be done. We wouldn’t have to coordinate schedules to go shopping again. It was a lovely afternoon with Jena. I wanted her to be excited for this marriage, I knew it had its pain and awkwardness associated with it.”  I pulled out my Capital One card and anted up.

 

Two weeks later, with buyers remorse and a clear head, I called the bridal shop. “Can I get my money back since I hadn’t taken either dress home with me as they needed to be altered?” The answer was no. The dresses were mine. Ours.

 

As Tom and I secured the wedding location this spring, an elegant 10,000 square foot home on the edge of Mt Washington with an infinity pool, dance floor, disco ball and three floors of glass overlooking Pittsburgh, my dress choice began to haunt me. I couldn’t ignore myself any longer. I felt too young in the dress, too bridal, too corseted (you know how I hate that),and too obvious in a reducing way. My truth was I didn’t want to wear it. I didn’t like it. I never did.

 

I finally allowed myself to be honest with myself. Now what? The wedding is in three weeks.

 

The difference between my reality and my truth was disturbing and oddly familiar. It had a deja vu quality…. my first wedding. I had “settled” in so many ways as a 23 year old bride. I reframed myself right down the aisle. That young bride was now demanding my attention. She wanted me to hear her out. I listened carefully. She didn’t want to settle again. And the dress was the metaphor for that lesson. At 53, she reminded me, “we” didn’t have to settle.

 

I hinted to Tom I wanted a different dress. I did they same with a few close friends. Finally I told Jena. I felt ungrateful, embarrassed and scared of the reactions I anticipated. My young bride self and I were certain no one would understand. Chorus’s of “Get over it! Grow up! Why did you buy it if you didn’t like it? You are so much work!” played loudly in my head.

 

Instead, to my amazement, each one I told was unanimously supportive, offering love, acceptance, and understanding. Tom scoured the internet with me to help me get ideas of what I would like to wear. Trudy went with me to dress shop. Jodi reminded me that at 23 I didn’t have the same support to speak my truth as I do today. Adelais was thrilled. She thought it was perfect that I was “blowing the dress up.” There was so much I needed to “blow up” at my first wedding, but couldn’t. Jena said, “Can I get a new dress too?”

 

Two weeks before the wedding I found the DRESS. An AMAZING DRESS. I found it at Saks Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh (I had never had a dress from Saks.) It fit me perfectly, no alterations needed. No corsets. I didn’t even need to wear a bra. I felt sexy, sophisticated, elegant and comfortable. It was clearly MY DRESS all along. It was just a long and windy road to find it… and me.

 

Jena got a new dress too. She looked amazing. I hope she knows she doesn’t have to settle.

TAAAHHHH DAHHHHHH

 

 

PS….. If anyone is need of a lovely ivory wedding dress, I have one for sale!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where have I been?

Getting married.

 

I thought since it was a second marriage it wouldn’t be much work. I was wrong.

 

Some of the difficulty was me. I changed my mind about “THE DRESS” 3 weeks before the wedding- which led to changing Jena’s maid of honor dress, which led to changing our previous shoe choices, which, of course, led to the changing the flowers we planned to carry. (More about all that in another post.) The truth is, planning a wedding, regardless of the number, is a ton of work! Ask a bride.

 

Part of the problem was Tom. (He knows I am telling on him.) His “party planning” style is “last minute and trust the outcome”. The first party we threw as a couple was his idea, he wanted to have an engagement party. “Okay,” I said to myself, “I know how this worked in my first marriage. Let’s have a party translates to, you make a party happen and I’ll come.”  So I said to myself, “Patricia, you know how to plan a party, work yourself to death, make sure everyone has a great time and then feel resentful that you did it all. So, this time don’t take the reigns, wait and trust the outcome.”  (I was consciously monitoring an old, habitually destructive, relationship pattern and challenging myself to rework it.)

 

So, a week before the engagement party, no menu had been discussed, no beverages purchased, no paper products considered. 3 days before- nothing. 2 days. 1 day.

 

I began to reassure myself that my side of the guest list would still love me when we served them freezer burned hot dogs and filtered water. They may not come to another party of ours, but they would still love me. I worked with myself to not to feel resentful by picking up the party ball but to remain interested in this absolutely foreign style of  party planning instead.

 

The day of the party we woke and had our coffee together in bed as we do each morning.  As we finished Tom said, “So…. I guess we should get shopping for the party.” “Yes”, I responded a little too casually, “I guess we should.” We headed out the door at 1 in the afternoon with Jena in the back seat of the Honda. She had come in for the party that morning. As we drove down the road she overheard Tom and I creating the shopping list. At some point it became clear to her we were not running to the store for a few final items, we were on our way to get EVERYTHING. “Mom,” she said, a bit quietly, “This is really unlike you.”

 

Out of the mouth of babes! “Yes” I smiled, feeling a bit proud for being noticed in this new way and equally uncertain I could maintain it, “It is.”

 

By 4 o’clock we were home with all the food, drink and paper products of a good party. We went to Costco and bought prepared hors d ‘oeuvres, cheeses, dessert and paper products. Then to  the state store and finally the beer distributor.

 

In my past life, any party I hostessed everything was homemade.  That was my expectation of myself. It is what a good hostess did. As a result of this I admit I felt a bit of shame popping the prepared puffed filled pastries into the oven, defrosting the bite size cream puffs, and pulling a party together in a few hours versus a few days, maybe weeks. But I was learning, right?

 

Our friends arrived. The party got rolling. The food came out. I held my breath, adverted my eyes, and waited. Lisa, my corseted renaissance  friend,  wanted my recipe for the spinach and cheese filled puff pastry. The cream puffs were a huge hit.  Everyone ate heartily, drank merrily and stayed until late! I had never had such fun at a party I had thrown. This was a revelation to me. If I am not exhausted I have a good time at my own party. WOW, I had indeed learned something new! And Tom was spared my rendition of “poor me I worked so hard.” I had been spared too. We stayed up most of the night talking about what fun we had, how much we enjoy our friends and wondering when we would have our next party!

 

So Tom’s “last minute, trust the process” style has worked well for our parties.  But… not so much with the wedding. I told him, “I don’t want to do the wedding like our parties, there is too much to do, I want to plan ahead.” You know where the story is going….don’t you?

 

Much more of the wedding was last minute than I liked. I wasn’t as gracious about it as I had been with the party… Tom would agree. I wrestled with discerning, “what are my belief systems, perhaps control issues, and what it the reality of securing wedding venues. Where, when and how do I push and where, when and how do I yield.”

 

These questions kept me honest and my therapist busy (every therapist should have a therapist.) I learned how to push without anger and yield without resentment. Some of the time.

 

Yielding was the hardest for me. I had to not only trust the process, but Tom too. I learned he cared about things differently than me, but that did not mean he didn’t care.  By waiting and trusting, we found the PERFECT place to be married.  If we had followed my style, which in some ways is fear based, we would have missed this opportunity.

 

In the end, a week before the wedding, I got sick. My body insisted on rest, and I wasn’t listening, so she knocked me off my feet and put me in bed. Again, I had to yield and again I had to trust Tom to be there for me and for the last minute wedding details. He was.

 

Long story short we had the wedding of my dreams! I didn’t want the night to end. Our friends are still saying it was the best wedding they have ever been to. We married over looking the city of Pittsburgh in an amazing home. The weather was perfect. The food amazing . (Catered by Chrissie not Costco.) The people we love most were with us. And Tom and I are now happily married.

 

you may now kiss the groom

I trust the outcome.