2014: Let’s Rip The Chains Off This Thing


Crazy gold glitter dress, unapologetic ideas, and all

by Meg Keene, Editor-In-Chief

2014: Lets Rip The Chains Off This Thing | A Practical Wedding

For someone who started a blog dedicated to changing the cultural/internet narrative around weddings, I’ve spent a lot of time trying to do what other people wanted online. When you start a site that ends up with a super dedicated readership, it’s easy to start to feel responsible to those people. You stop answering to your writing, to your creative instinct, or to the talents that got you there in the first place. Instead, you start people pleasing. You tell yourself that you got where you are not because of your skills, but because of a small group of people, and if you anger them, you’ll have lost your chance. So you make yourself smaller (appropriately sized, you think). You keep yourself within acceptable limits, and you blend in to keep the peace.

I tell you this because it doesn’t just have to do with blogging. It has to do with our ideas of success, creativity, friendship, and ultimately our femininity. It’s how many of us have learned to be women—be dutiful daughters, obedient friends, model employees. Don’t become full of ourselves, or too confident in our own skills. Instead, answer to the people around you, put their desires before your own, and stay in line. We think that this is the ticket to happiness. We think that this is how to stay out of trouble, keep friends, and not loose whatever success we’ve managed to cobble together.

For me, it began to crumble when I got pregnant. The beginning was insidious. I was tired, I was sick, almost no one knew I was pregnant. I stopped having energy to do extra things—I couldn’t do internet favors, the social bits and bobs that I’d done over the years to give back. There was no ill will on my part, I was just tired, and sick. I couldn’t get out of bed a lot of the time, and I couldn’t tell anyone why I didn’t have the energy. And so it began, in subtle and not so subtle ways. Who Did I Think I Was? It came from innocuous sources, people I thought I liked and trusted. It was rattling, but I didn’t have enough energy to fix it. But finally, I announced my pregnancy, something I had no desire to do. It didn’t feel like public news. But I’d been doing press, and it had gotten to the point that I was having a hard time covering things up. There is only so long you can get away with, “Can you just take this photo from the shoulders up, and please not mention that I’m pregnant?” So I went public. And the world, or at least the internet, fell down around me.

There were hate forum threads. There were Twitter streams trashing me for days. There were emails. Whenever I talk about this over drinks, I’m asked to explain why people would trash someone for getting pregnant, and the truth is, there is no logical explanation. I’ve seen it happen since, and every time it seems shockingly out of place. Woman announces she’s knocked up, supposed friends and readers release years of pent up venom. She’s so self-satisfied; she’s stuck up; her work isn’t any good anymore; her partner is a jerk—and on and on. It’s illogical, it’s virulent, and it’s nasty. But it’s common.

When it happened to me, I was in the middle of one of the darkest periods of my life. While the internet exploded with, “Well, I guess she really thinks she has it all,” I was dangerously ill and dealing with a series of family emergencies. Plus, like some sort of a twisted indie film plot, while the worst of the internet attacks were happening, a drunk driver was thrown from their car and killed, right by my house. It was a sharp reminder that the real problems of the world are not what a bunch of people on Twitter think about you.

That was 2012. By the time 2013 (blessedly) rolled around, I’d had a baby. I’d been through the hell of finding out the people you were trying to keep yourself in line for, had none of your best interests at heart. And I decided it was time for me to not give a fuck.

Giving a fuck had seemed the way to play the game. Be liked, stay liked, do what you think people want you to do. It was a slightly twisted version of “Work hard, be kind.” Giving a fuck ended in an inferno of betrayal. And yet. I was still on my feet, writing, running a website, and contributing to the world. So I decided it was time to rip the chains off this thing. Turns out? 2013 was a bang up year.

Yes, professionally and personally, 2013 was a long, hard slog. I worked long hours; I juggled tasks; the baby didn’t sleep through the night; weekends were often way harder work than weekdays. But it was also one of the most enjoyable and rewarding years in my life. The baby grew into an almost-toddler. I grew into myself as mother. At APW, we started creating the content I’d been dreaming of for years. We rebuilt the site into what I’d always wanted it to be. By deciding to let go of what other people expected of me, and how angry they were when I didn’t fall in line, I freed myself. Yeah, sure, people talked shit. Really mean shit, even. But I chose not to read a line of it, and I threw myself into doing exactly the work I wanted to be doing. And I thrived—my business thrived, my staff thrived, my kid thrived, my family thrived. Once I stopped carrying the weight of other people’s expectations (at least most days) I had so much more energy to get on with it.

I’m writing this with the remains of a ridiculous photo shoot in my living room. I went and bought a huge roll of grey paper2014: Lets Rip The Chains Off This Thing | A Practical Wedding for a backdrop, cut a bunch of confetti out of wrapping paper at 8pm the night before, and talked Maddie into coming over to take photos before David went to work (a.k.a., 7:30am). Why? Because we wanted to take holiday card photos, and the theme of this year has been go big, or go home. This year, when we send out our holiday card, we’ll be celebrating the year with me in a Vegas showgirl-worthy gold glitter dress ($30, ladies). I’ll be celebrating with the world’s cutest baby, and the world’s most up-for-it husband. But mostly, I’ll be celebrating a year of letting go of what the world thought, and saying, “Fuck it, let’s do it.”

It turns out, that’s all the world really needs from you in the first place. You: crazy gold glitter dress, unapologetic ideas, and all.

Happy 2013. Happier 2014. Let’s rip the chains off this thing.

xo,
Meg

Photo: Personal for APW

Meg Keene

Meg is the Founder and EIC of APW. Her first book, A Practical Wedding: Creative Solutions for Planning a Beautiful, Affordable, and Meaningful Celebration, was published in January 2012, and has been a top three bestseller on the wedding bookshelf ever since. Meg has her BFA in Drama from NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in the San Francisco Bay Area with her husband and son.

read the comment policy before you post

  • MDBethann

    Meg, I can’t believe people ripped you apart for expanding your family with David. I doff my metaphorical hat to you for powering through the venom and a round 2012. Even though I’m nearing my 2-year wedding anniversary, I still read APW as much as possible, primarily to hear your voice, those of your fantastic staff, and the work that you do to highlight the voices of so many other amazing women. Thank you and may 2014 be even better than 2013!

  • StevenPortland

    Fantastic article, Meg! I am also confronted with how parents like us are supposed to “Pinterest-ify” our parenting while making it look like it just happens naturally. I’ve noticed that doing it again time with the second baby helped me to let go of perceived expectations of others. Most days our younger son is wearing not-quite-the-right-size clothes handed down from his older brother. And guess what? He’s just as happy with life that he would be in carefully shopped and matched outfits. In fact, he is happiest when he wears this one flannel shirt that he has because he thinks it makes him look like a garbage man.

  • Molly P

    Great article, Meg. I am not a mother (or married quite yet) but I always find your insights to be very profound and I like to read what your thoughts are on these topics because your perspective is so unique and unlike all the other hullabaloo you hear on the internet regarding parenting and marriage. It makes me feel relieved that my life doesn’t have to end once I have little ones of my own… and that just because these things weren’t always modeled very well for me, doesn’t mean I’m going to suck at it.

  • ruth

    This post makes me slightly less terrified and a lot more ecxited about becoming a parent in the future. Thank you, Meg!

  • Katriel

    Many of my friends and family idolize early motherhood, natural birth, breastfeeding and other aspects of motherhood perhaps even more than the culture in general. It sometimes feels like there is a “right” way to experience motherhood – and so you darn well better be instantly bonded, blissful, cozy, staying-at-home… And even though I think a lot of this stuff is ridiculous, I find I’ve unconsciously internalized some of it as the “right way.” We’re waiting for the placement of our 10-year-old fost-adopt child, so letting go of expectations about the right way has been a good process for me. And I as I talk to friends about how the bonding process with older traumatized children might look I’ve found that a surprising number of them say that bonding with their infants wasn’t instantaneous joy either. I think a lot of people put on a shiny-happy public face about how blissful they find motherhood to be just because it’s expected.

  • http://www.missgiggles.com/blog Giggles

    I love this. I had an excellent example of fulfilled parenting in my home growing up. I frequently remind myself that my parents raised amazing kids without pinterest making them feel guilty they aren’t doing texture walls and sensory bins. So I’m working on not feeling guilty about it either.

    For me, there’s nothing like watching a tiny human grow, develop, learn, and discover to make me find the wonder in life again.

  • http://rationalcreature.com/ Amy

    Yes! Exactly!! Like, obviously I’m just biding my time until kids happen, since as a woman it’s a given.

  • Molly P

    That explains the 100+ posts. I didn’t even realize the comments were for a different post, I just didn’t understand why so many people had already commented this early. Makes sense now. ;)

  • SarahG

    I think there’s a lot of convoluted, confusing, contradictory messaging “out there” about mothering. To me, this is one of those areas where sometimes social media magnifies a lot of it. I’m not a mom, but I see a lot of “mom memes” on Facebook that are either all about how kids destroy you, or how it doesn’t matter if your house is a mess or you never have time to wash your hair because your kids are the most important beings on the planet… and I see folks “liking” these and being all “yeah!”. In real life, though, I think it’s easier to see these issues in your own real life context. That being said… several of my good friends have gotten severe criticism from other mothers (acquaintances, not close friends) for their parenting methods (mostly co-sleeping/sleep training issues). I think it’s easy to feel like you’re not doing it right. At least, that’s how it seems to an outsider.

  • apwteam

    There’s a Disqus glitch right now that’s causing the comments to merge. We’re working on it!

  • apwteam

    There’s a Disqus glitch that’s causing the comments to merge on these two posts. We’re working on it!

  • AnnieP

    Yes! Makes sense because I have seen the inverse of this, and I wish could change it. I see friends giving many, many F’s, due to insecurity, self-hate, perfectionism, stress, etc. It’s hard to break through the many F’s the person is giving and really connect! Has anyone else experienced this?