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Posts Tagged ‘Mom’

Waiting to Exhale

In Getting Married, Main on October 29, 2009 at 3:59 pm

When I got married earlier this year, it was a three ring circus. Perhaps 30-ring might be better, considering how long the festivities went on for.  I enjoyed most of them, save for the two or three really ugly moments I had with my parents. Which, considering the kind of show they wanted to put on, is only to be expected.

(You see, show in our family, and a lot of other Indian families that are planning rigmarole weddings, usually means pressure. Pressure=strain. Strain= hit low, hit nastily at the people you are closest to. This = ugly ugly moments.)

And during those days of being in the silk and gold covered bosom of my large, lovely family, I wasn’t given any sort of pre-marital advice, sexual or otherwise. (Thank god.  I don’t think I would’ve survived the embarrassment if my mother or any other female relative had tried. Yeah, I said female. No, I didn’t mention male. No, males do not discuss s-e-x with younger females in my clean-nosed virginal female family. Can I get a loud chee-chee with the very idea?) Maybe it was because I was having a Love Marriage, or maybe it was just one of those stereotypical things that we don’t do- being extremely well educated and all that, either way, it didn’t happen.

Somehow, though, in all the anticipation, and all the preparation, and all the almost-dehydrations (this was one helluva hot summer wedding, with definite power cuts during the sticky! humid! nights!), somewhere along the line, I took a deep breath and didn’t let go.  I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know when I did it. I didn’t even realize that I was holding my breath until recently. And it wasn’t even one of those ton-of-bricks realizations. It came to me as I jumped into the pool again. The chlorine woke me up a little. It came to me when I had a performance evaluation recently. Even the euphoria of a good review only lasted for half a day. And it sort of began to become a realization. A gradual sense of being under anesthesia.  Everything seems fuzzy and sort of nondescript. I know I’m alive, but I’m going about my days as if I were in a dream. I’m not zesty, I’m not sad, I        just am. I feel like my entire system is waiting for something. Something? Something. If anything, I feel a little frustration. But why? For what reason?

It’s almost like I married Him, and now I’ve lost myself.  I’m sure it’s only temporary, but in the meantime, I’m waiting for real life to begin again.

Waiting to exhale,

MG.

Rock ‘n Rolla Part II

In Getting Married, Main on March 29, 2009 at 1:57 am

Were you wondering why I could talk about getting married without actually getting proposed to yet? Without, even, and some of you may have to sit down here, a ring that loudly declared His intentions?

Mayhaps you thought I was crazy? Or the Bride of Zilla? Or even, perhaps, deranged and the Bride of Zilla?

No? You’re just curious? Very well, you’ve come to the right place for an explanation.

In our, very Indian, very traditional, traditions, the actual engagement ceremony happens the morning of the wedding day.  This tradition, as explained by my mother, is actually rooted in a very efficient, and somewhat ruthless, line of thinking. You see, dear reader, the wedding day engagement ceremony is a rather practical way of saying “uh uh homeboy, you don’t get nothing unless you show up for the wedding!” This works pretty well for the groom as well, because there’s no question of giving a girl a ring that she’ll keep even if she decides to flail her arms, fling around her other expensive jewelery, and declare, somewhat screechily at best, (because God knows what bride-to-be isn’t screechy by the time she’s doing the arm-flailing) that “the Wedding is OFF!”

(Note that Indian tradition doesn’t allow for being ditched at the altar.  Probably because by the time the bride arrives in her forty pound dress, she’s too exhausted to run. As for the groom, he’s probably too scared of the thousands of bridal guests milling around looking suspiciously menacing. By the time he gets his act together, he’s already tied, literally, to the bride’s dress and taking seven holy circumnambulations around a fire.)

But even this tradition gets a circumvention. You see, as East met West, and dirty western ideas infiltrated the great Indian hive mind, Indians, such as myself, started, (and if you weren’t sitting down before, you may just want to do it now), dating.

Excuse me while I prepare to fend off total annihilation for using the word d*****.
…bated breath

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… heartbeats…

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…crickets chirping…

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It is now five minutes later, and I haven’t been struck by lightning, destroyed by a well-wielded trident, nor has the otherwise endless cycle of karma sucked me in, having finally tempted the fates too much. I guess I can continue.

You see, dating, especially, in my family is looked upon as a dirty word. Dating is considered improper at best, and reputation damaging and virginity-destroying at worst.  (Remember, we’re Indian here, and a lot of times, girls shouldn’t have a bad reputation, lest they be considered damaged goods, and no good for sale in the meat markets.  A lot of this is unspoken, of course, and you’d only ever hear in low whispers about “she had a boyfriend” with suitable gasps of horror, and sad understanding nods all around, if you were to listen in to the gossip. Not that this applies to all Indians, by the way. A lot of them are far more liberal than my parents were/are. But that’s neither here nor there, so back to the topic at hand.)

In any case, lots of Indians date. But for us, to help our poor traditional parents cope with this loss of control in the marital fates of their beloved progeny, we unearthed the ancient art of dissembling, and voila, we unleashed… the Arranged Love-Marriage.

This strange creature, this hybrid of old and new, east and west, rises from the ashes of the old arranged marriage system. It gives parents some semblance of fitting into the matrix when their two unruly children have decided that secretly skulking around the topic isn’t enough, and that it’s time to announce that they do, after all, have a girl boy special friend, and that it may be time to meet them.

Of course, most parents in this situation realize that they would not be meeting a Special Friend if it was not serious, and being of South Asian mentalities, they say, well, this better be heading down a matrimonial aisle, capiche? Else it might lead to damaged reputations. (See Damaged Goods, above.) Happily, if former is the case, His parents meet Her parents, and astronomical charts and birth dates and times are pulled out from every corner of the ancestral homes. A wedding date is fixed, and voila, the couple is, officially, getting married.

All of this, of course, doesn’t really leave room for the big proposal that should have still been pulled off before the parents were officially told.  Alas, He was still in grad school, and not having a ring to pull it off with, He decided to put it off for the time being. After all, telling the parents was as good as proposing, wasn’t it?

And really, I’m not bitter nor cynical. Sure, I didn’t have the big surprise proposal. It matters not. I was spared all that hand wringing and apprehension that a lot brides-to-be seem to recall. “Will he? Won’t he?” seems almost to be a rite of passage into bridal bliss, sometimes, and honestly, I think I’m glad to have been spared that.

But that’s why, dearest reader, I am not deranged, nor am I dreaming up things that don’t exist.  Once He told his parents about us, it was always a question of how fast, and not “if”. He and I always knew we were going to end up married.  We knew it six months into our relationship. And now, almost six years later? Oh…my…god, we’re getting married.

The Fifties

In Main, Random Fantasy Land, Relationship on February 17, 2009 at 6:30 pm

Does the title of this post mean the return of the hoop skirt? Hardly.

It, in fact, refers to the perfectly utopian ideal of the 1950’s hauswife. This oft-emailed one in particular, from a 1954 home economics textbook:

Have dinner ready. Plan ahead, even the night before, to have a delicious meal, on time. This is a way of letting him know that you have been thinking about him and are concerned about his needs. Most men are hungry when they come home and the prospect of a good meal are part of the warm welcome needed.

Prepare yourself. Take 15 minutes to rest so that you’ll be refreshed when he arrives. Touch up your makeup, put a ribbon in your hair and be fresh-looking. He has just been with a lot of work-weary people. Be a little gay and a little more interesting. His boring day may need a lift.

Clear away the clutter. Make one last trip through the main part of the home just before your husband arrives, gather up schoolbooks, toys, paper, etc. Then run a dust cloth over the tables. Your husband will feel he has reached a haven of rest and order, and it will give you a lift, too.

Prepare the children. Take a few minutes to wash the children’s hands and faces (if they are small), comb their hair, and if necessary change their clothes. They are little treasures and he would like to see them playing the part.

Minimize all noise. At the time of his arrival, eliminate all noise of the washer, dryer, dishwasher, or vacuum. Try to encourage the children to be quiet. Be happy to see him. Greet him with a warm smile and be glad he is home.

Some don’ts: Don’t greet him with problems or complaints. Don’t complain if he is late for dinner. Count this as minor compared with what he might have gone through that day. Make him comfortable. Have him lean back in a comfortable chair or suggest he lie down in the bedroom. Have a cool or warm drink ready for him. Arrange his pillow and offer to take off his shoes. Speak in a low, soft, soothing and pleasant voice. Allow him to relax and unwind.

Listen to him. You may have a dozen things to tell him, but the moment of his arrival is not the time. Let him talk first.

Make the evening his. Never complain if he does not take you out to dinner or to other places of entertainment. Instead, try to understand his world of strain and pressure, his need to be home and relax.

The Goal: Try to make your home a place of peace and order where your husband can renew himself in body and spirit.”

Wanting to do this in Real Life word-for-word Channeling the spirit behind this tome of good housewifeliness, I decided, this past weekend, because I couldn’t think of a gift, in honor of Valentine’s Day, having not seen Him in a while, to engage in a little bit of faux Perfect Womanness and make him dinner. And to emulate, as much as I could, the ideal woman as above.

Of course, being a modern woman of the new millennium, I got done with my real job first. And ended up with three hours to execute everything. I made lasagna. I ran the vacuum twice. I baked focaccia. I smoothed my hands over my carefully revealing outfit, and made sure not a hair was out of place. The bathroom looked like no one had ever penetrated its porcelain virginity before, let alone committed the acts of befoulment that bathrooms are known for. The cranberry and baby spinach salad with a smooth lime-yogurt dressing was cooling its heels in a sparkling modern salad bowl especially removed from the cabinets for the occasion. The table looked like the Queen of England was coming to dinner. The bed was soft, warm, inviting. And when he knocked, I met him at the door with a glass of chilled Chardonnay. And gave him a kiss that he will probably never forget, right after I made sure the southern style apple crumble was already in the oven.

Needless to say, I blew his mind. And not just with my sparkling witty conversation.

I can, however, already hear the ultra-feminist lobby of critics cringing. “You did what? As a treat? This is what He would consider a treat? You, my friend, just set back your status and power in this relationship sixty years. He’s going to start expecting this once you get married, and then what? You’re going to do this everyday? You work a full time, high stress job, and you cook dinner every night? You do realize that Superwoman, that uber-woman of mystical child-rearing, bacon-bringing, and gourmet meal cooking fame is a myth, right?”

Sigh. But it felt so good. I know, I know, this is the part where you start wondering whether I have a college degree, or whether I live in some third world country, where this sort of slavery should be abolished, but has not been. Alas for my Indian heritage, it’s true. I have both an American university degree, and pretty solid feminist leanings.

But, (and there is always a but):

My mother, that wonderfully controversial modern Indian wife of stereotype and yore, the job holder and the perfect cook, reminds me constantly of my wifely duties. Insidiously dropping hints in everyday conversations with one-liners that are meant to pass on the Indian way, as much as tell me what is expected of the Indian male in an Indian marriage, (“but if you don’t get into the habit of making dinner for yourself after work now, what will you guys eat once you’re married?”), this particular evening would have been something she approved of. (In theory. After marriage. Without the alcohol. Preferably with Indian food.) And as anyone who has heard of Herr Sigmund Freud will tell you, if the mother approves, the daughter, somewhere in her soul, will be tres content.

This, as you, clever reader, may have gathered by now, leads to some serious cognitive dissonance.

On the one hand ideas such as “he should be making me dinner” are not unusual in my head. But on the other, a very personal and raging maker-of-hearth-and-home instinct was satisfied by this dinner.  I was proud to be Superwoman for the day. I loved cooking for My Man.

And that’s when it hit me.

I didn’t do this because I have some unsatisfied urge to secretly be transported to 1954.

I did it because I wanted to show I could be Superwoman. And thus make Him realize how much I loved him, how great I was. And when he did, and very appreciatively so, it became obvious. This dinner making, this house cleaning, the wearing of nice clothes…it was a Valentine’s gift to myself.

And while you may point out that this is what the authors of the home economics book were saying in the first place “his happiness leads to yours”, there is a key element that separates me from the sepia colored tones of the 50s.  I did it because I wanted to. Not because I had to. Not because it was expected of me by society, or by my high school subjects, or because my mother wanted me to.

And that, my feminist friends, has made all the difference.

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