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*****.
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.