Tuesday, March 30, 2010

his stance on pants

Cowboy... my fiance *blush* for those just joining us... wears nothing but blue jeans and sweatpants. He owns two pairs of Bugle Boy khakis, but they're circa 1997 and have pleats. Dislike.

Whenever we fight and I'm right (aka every.single.time), I tell him he can make it up to me by dressing fancy and taking me to a nice dinner.

He never has.

So when we traveled to Colorado for a "Back to the 80s" musical performed at Sidney, Neb.'s community theater, I insisted he dress up. No denim allowed, I said. This isn't like a job interview.

Cowboy didn't like the idea, but he was willing to compromise. Take me to Stockmen's Supply in Fargo, he said. Maybe I'll find something there.

Now, I question purchasing clothes from any store which also shelves "Gopher Getter" rodent repellent and calf-nursing nipples, but if the man was willing to forgo denim for a night at the theater, I was willing to forgo images associated with castrating band applicators.

"Are you seriously saying no one will wear jeans there?" he questioned, doubting my sophistication, taste and artistic etiquette.

"It's a play!" I said. "And not only that, but it's a MUSICAL. If you wear jeans, everyone will stare. Everyone will single you out."

"But why are you making me wear nice pants," he whined.

"Why are you making me fight with you about nice pants," I asked.

So the Stockmen's Supply sales associate walked us past the "farm chemicals and teat dip" section and ushered us to the very back...  where black pants gathered dust and men's suit coats came with leather elbows.

"We don't have much selection," the associate said, "especially in length. But they aren't much different from Docker's. You can buy those at Kohl's."

"SEE," I said. "Not much different from Dockers. AND we're already in Fargo (since Jamestown doesn't have a Target, much less a Kohl's), let's look there!"

"H to the no," Cowboy said. "If I ain't buying pants here, I ain't buying pants. These are Wranglers."

"Yes." I said. "And?"

"I am not buying Dockers. They're gay."

"Wranglers fit tight around your ass," I said. "What's not-queer about that?"

So he tried on his "George Strait Cowboy Cuts" and lucky for me, they fit.

"Now that you own these nice trousers," I said, "how 'bout that fancy restaurant?"

Cowboy didn't answer, but he did wear the pants the whole day of the show, along with matching boots and 10-gallon-hat of course.

And even though he looked nothing like the boys of my youth and their faded jeans with store-made tears, he was cute anyway, and I didn't mind showing him off. "You should wear nice clothes more often," I said. "Good thing I'm here to teach you."

We got to the theater early, and chose our seats as the rest of the audience filled in around us. I didn't realize the show was in a high school auditorium and I didn't realize it didn't have a dress code. Something seems very wrong, I thought. Very very wrong.

Suddenly, I noticed t-shirts, I noticed scrunchies and worst of all, I noticed...

"Hmmm..." Cowboy said. "Not only is EVERYONE here wearing jeans, but we're the only ones who aren't. Now...," he said. "I think someone owes someone else a dinner."

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

tux shopping ≠sux shopping

So the Cowboy and I tux shopped last night. In American weddings, the bride picks out the attire for the groom, but the groom can't even see the attire for his lovely lady. I think that's a metaphor for life: the gal makes all the decisions and the guy is content with the result. Yes, I think I will live happily ever after now.

For me, my wedding colors are silver, black and green. But Cowboy put his foot down. No neon and no (insert gay slang here) pastels, he said. To him, that meant only one choice was left:

... and no. We were not tuxedo shopping at Cabela's. This was a formal wear dress shop with tiaras and floor-length evening gowns.

Did you know Wrangler makes a formal tuxedo? They do. With bolo ties and belt buckles the size of basketballs.

As for the true image of Cowboy's attire, well that's a secret. It's OK for the bride to see, but for the rest of you, that's just bad luck :) 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

the engagement story

Hurry up. I’m freaking freezing, I said, one sopping March evening before the North Dakota rain turned to snow. 
We’d just dined with his parents and were headed to our vehicles, nestled next to each other in a restaurant parking lot, just like us, arm-in-arm, side-by-side. At 9 p.m., the hour exceeded darkness by Twilight standards and flirted with my bedtime. My belly was full and my body fatigued.
Seriously! I said beneath a hood so big two Vikings helmets could fit beneath it. Brrrr!
Hold on, he said, holding up his hand like a state patrolman on a closed highway. I have something to tell you.
He bent one knee, genuflecting in his jeans, soaking them in a pavement puddle. He reached into the coat pocket I’d been sitting beside throughout our entire three-hour meal. And I gasped. 
I don't want you to be my girlfriend anymore, he said.
He opened the box but I couldn’t see. He kept talking... something about “Katherine Eileen” and “wife” but the world was aflush with snowflakes, and my vision terminated with wet concrete and dark skies. 
Suddenly, I didn’t feel so cold. 
Put it on me! I said, with the hustle of a mother of triplets on the first day of school. Right now. Right now!
And get up! I said. Get up Get up! I want to see it. 
He slid the ring he'd purchased five weeks prior... waiting for the optimal opportunity. He'd even sought the help of friends to help decide, to make sure this ring was right for my left hand. 

Between the midnight of the sky and the black concrete, I saw nothing but sparkle. 

So, what do you think? he asked.

I thought of the jobs I’d applied for in Colorado, Nebraska, Iowa and the opportunities I thought I’d missed. I thought of my junior-year aspirations to see the world while writing about it, advancing the ranks of the newspaper world city by city, country by country. I thought of my first months, my first winter and my first car trouble in North Dakota and how I vowed I’d never stay.

I thought of our first date, he in boots of leather and hide, and mine of pointy-toe. This will never work out, I told myself back then.
I thought of the flood and the mud and the sandbags and the stories. I thought of how it ripped my insides, watching people lose their homes, their heirlooms and at times, even their minds. Out of all the bad that came from the flood, those people say, he and I are one of the good. 

I thought of our future, our fortune and our unborn children.
Well? he asked. 

It's perfect.  

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Valediction to Vinny

The auto Salesman seemed chill at first, and I played the role of "sweet brunette," the sister to "dumb blonde." Let me show you where you can plug in your iPod, he said. And here's how you set the radio. If you want, take it for a test drive, test out the city streets and even on the interstate, he said in a southern drawl only detectable when said things like "even on the interstate" instead of "even on interstate."

The 2006 Jeep Grand Cherokee seemed great: 29,000 miles and the mechanic most familiar with it was a good friend of Cowboy's dad. If he gave it the OK, then soon, my car-searching days would end and all my complaints of snow-sodden cars would be left to blog posts of the past.

Plus, it was green.

When I saw it online, I just knew we were meant to be.

After four months of research, I bought my first car. The task seems simple, but really, I pretty much solved starvation and healed healthcare....

I'm prepared to make an offer, I'd said in the closet-sized office with no door, a little too public for a girl fretting her finances. I'd asked the help of Cowboy and his father: they could help me inspect under the hood and look for errors, leakage and other mechanical failures. But when it came to the negotiation chamber, I made it like Les Miserables, and chose to Go It On My Own.

I gave Salesman my numbers: this price with this and this work, I said. And I want a third-party inspection too.

"WHERE IS THIS COMING FROM, KATIE?" he asked as if I'd stolen his first-born and forced her to wear a South Dakota t-shirt.

It's my offer, I said with a shrug of the shoulders. Listen here, Mr. Southern Drawl, I thought to myself, I'm a foreigner too. North Dakotans are nice by nature, they can't help but pay a higher price for fear a lower one will make the salesman feel bad. Outsiders like us, however, go for the jugular. This is a two-person tango, I thought.

Ok, he said with a smile, I'll have to check it with my boss, but if you're serious, sign here.

Jigga no, I said,  uncomfortable signing anything. I need to know more first. I need to crunch the numbers. How much are you going to charge me for tax, title, license and those ridiculouslyoverpricedfeesthatmakenosence anyway?

It's just a preliminary offer, he said. It's not binding.

I'm not signing it, I said, karate chopping the air so as to kung-pow him into submission.

Fine, he said, taking the offer to his boss across the showroon floor and shaking his head at Cowboy and his father.

"Well," he said to them, "the nice, little quiet girl went away."

Perhaps he was trying to guilt me, but I took it as a compliment.

I may know nothing about cars except that gas goes in the side pocket and all the knobs under the hood are off-limits to a girl like me. But after years of practicing journalism, I know how to research, and I know who's advice to take and who's to trust.

I allowed Cowboy and his dad to return to the standing-room only, closet-sized office and awaited salesman's response. I don't think he likes me much anymore, I told them.

Salesman returned. He underlined the counter offer and in big circles, he'd written the name of the family friend mechanic and his 35 years of experience.

I want a third-party inspection, I said. I will not buy a car without letting someone else look at it. If that's a dealbreaker, I said, letting my voice trail and shrugging my shoulders, (the international sign of "I'm naive, take pity on me, eh Kelli M.?), then I guess it was nice to meet you.

No, no, it's not a dealbreaker, he said, suddenly kind-hearted, paternal and offering my cups of coffee. Who are you going to take it to? he asked.

I don't know, I said. But what I meant was, like hell. This state is so small, you know all the town mechanics and their mothers. I'm not letting you talk to them before I even get there.

Fine, you can do the inspection, he said. Are you comfortable with this counter offer? Well, no, I said, grabbing my parka (Yes, it's March. I know.) and heading for the door. We're late for an appointment anyway, I'll think about it and maybe we'll come back.

Sure, he said, shaking my hand, shaking his head and bidding me adieu.

Not three minutes into the drive, but my phone was a-ringing.

Katie, it's Salesman, he said. We don't want to lose you over a few hundred dollars, if your offer is what you want, we can probably do that.

Ok, I said, covering my smile, I'll think about and let you know. Throughout the appointment, I called anyone I knew with car-buying experience... my dad, my uncle, my co-worker and my friend. This car for this price, I asked. What do you think? Their advice was sound: sounds good, but try to get it lower. Fun!, I thought. Tell me how.

We returned to salesman's office a few hours later, only to find he'd reneged on his phone call. Ok, what if we met at this price? he questioned.

Cowboy lowered his eyes, ready to walk if necessary. You're biggest leverage is your backside, my dad said. And it was good advice.

I don't think so, I said to Salesman, questioning my audacity and if I'd consumed milk or mojitos with my breakfast that morning. You said, you'd match my offer on the phone.

Ok, he said, like I'd asked him to donated both kidneys to a sex offender, is that number OK with you, Big Boss Owner Man?

Yeah, fine, he said, as if we told him he could cook the hot dogs and we'd bring the beer.

That was easy, but I still wanted my third-party inspection. So Salesman filled it halfway with gas and told me to return at 8 a.m. the next day. They'd already ordered the parts I'd requested, and they'd be there in the morning.

Coolio, I said, hand me the keys.

The inspection didn't consist of much, just another Jeep mechanic taking it for a test drive and checking to make sure everything worked. He's another friend of Cowboy's (small towns are AWESOME) and therefore, someone I trust.

By the end of the day, I felt like Salesman stole the Jeep and used it to run me over, I was so exhausted. I'd come up with a plan to get new tires (since many tires expire after 40,000 miles) but I wasn't sure if I could handle the stress. I just need to sleep I thought, rolling over on a pile of papers littered with down payments, interest rates and finance charges.

I woke up the next morning exuberant and energized. Not ask about the tires, like hell, I thought, ready to climb Mount Everest if it would save me 99 cents.

Salesman wasn't too happy to hear of my last-ditch attempt to save a few bucks, and he and his boss left me sitting in the undoor-ed closet for half an hour while they deliberated. But I accepted their counter, signed the papers, and ate a chocolate chip muffin in celebration.

I should be proud, but really, I feel as though I've given in. Four-wheel drive and machine with poorer gas mileage than Vinny. North Dakota is getting the best of me, even my beloved Vinny the Volvo. Pretty soon I'll wear camo to weddings and change my phone number from (402) to (701).

Ok, maybe the second part. But never, never will I do the first.

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