SBS 301 Cultural Diversity/Prof. Koptiuch Fall 2008 Personal Memory Ethnographies
Disorganized and Arranged
Brides are supposed to be happy on their wedding day but I was not one of those people. My mother woke me up early because I had to start getting ready for the evening. The wedding wasn’t supposed to start until 7 o’clock but there was a lot of preparation that needed to be done for the big night. I got ready to go to the beauty parlor where I was to get my hair and makeup done, get henna placed on my hands and feet, and get a facial.
The visit to the beauty parlor took longer than expected. I walked in the door of the hotel around 8:30pm in my traditional red wedding dress covered in gold sequins. The lights were so bright that it hurt my eyes. My family had formed a half circle around me as they walked me to the front of the room. I felt everyone staring at me, not only because I was the bride, but because I was late to my own wedding. I was so uncomfortable since I never wear makeup and was worried I would smear it. I sat in the front of the room and was told to keep my head down. Brides are supposed to be humble during their wedding and looking up at the crowd would make a bad impression. People would come up to me every so often and hand me a plain white envelope, some of which had their names on the front. The envelopes contained my wedding gift, money, as is customary in the Pakistani culture.
The night went on and an hour or so later, dinner was served. I was then escorted from my seat in the front of the room to a table where food was placed in front of me. Even though I was hungry, I hesitated. I didn’t want to eat anything because I was afraid I would drop some of it on my clothes. The fabric was so heavy; it constricted large movements like putting my hand up to my mouth to eat. My husband noticed this, put some food on my fork and began to feed me. I didn’t want to offend him so I accepted his offer. Eventually, the discomfort I felt subsided and I let him feed me until my plate was clean. After dinner, we went to the lobby to have our pictures taken. I was sitting on the sofa in the corner, my mom standing over me. I looked up and she started crying. I told her not to cry because I wasn’t growing up, I was growing out, but I found myself crying too. I just wanted the night to be over and soon enough, it was.
The story would make more sense if I told you what the point of it was. I had an arranged marriage when I was 18, and was told I had to marry a man who was many years my senior only I did not know how old he was at the time. He told me that he was 25 and I believed him. He was actually 36. I met the man that I was supposed to marry on a Wednesday and I got married the week after on Friday. I had only met him twice before our wedding day so we didn’t have the opportunity to get to know each other better. I was born in the United States and I grew up differently than he had. He was born in Pakistan and his views on life in general were different. I had different ideas about how women should act and be treated but his upbringing was much different. He had ideas instilled in his mind that women were supposed to take care of men and that was their primary duty was to bear their husband’s children.
My husband doesn’t let me have male friends and wants me to be home at a certain time every day. He doesn’t like it when I go to my friend’s house during my spare time. He’d rather I stay at home with him. He also hates when I go to concerts and he isn’t there with me. There are so many restrictions that have been put on me since we got married, but I’m just as stubborn as the day I got married and I hardly follow his ‘rules’ at all. Although my husband has this idea that women are supposed to raise a family, cook and clean, I still have to work full time and pay bills. Even if I had the opportunity to stay at home, I don’t think I would be able to very long because of the way I was raised. My parents never gave me the impression that I was going to grow up and spend the majority of my adult life taking care of a man. They put me through school and encouraged me to further my education so that one day, I could stand on my own two feet.
My best friend got married to someone she didn’t even know and now, nothing is the same. I remember her telling me that things won’t change. Her parents told her that she had to leave home and move to Arizona after she got married and she actually fought them and lived in Chicago until recently. She doesn’t even know this guy and she moved across the country to be with him. I can’t believe she’s throwing away six years of friendship because her parents told her to move. I know I would never listen to my mom if she told me that I had to marry a complete stranger and move away. I guess that just means I’m the better friend.
I’ve only met Ronnie a few times and I can’t stand him. He’s pretty old fashioned since he came to the United States only a couple years before they got married. She doesn’t know what she’s in for. She moved so far away from everyone and now she won’t have anyone to turn to when she needs to get away. She should have listened to me when I told her that she could do better.
I’ve never had to deal with a long distance friendship. We seemed like we had so much in common for a long time. Sometimes I forgot that she was Pakistani and grew up differently than me. We would joke about it all the time, how I was White on the outside and she was White on the inside. The idea of her having an arranged marriage blows me away. I guess she was still brown on the inside but she never acted like it.
I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be friends with Huma. I know everything is going to change and we aren’t going to talk to each other as much. She’s probably going to get pregnant and she won’t have time for anything else. She’s only been gone for a few months but we’ve already started to drift apart. She told me the other day that she is teaching herself how to cook. The Huma I knew would never learn how to cook for anyone! I hate change. Why can’t everything just be like it was?
The reason I chose to write about this incident is because it is the single most important event that has ever taken place in my life. Everyone’s wedding is important and may be difficult at first. Not all marriages have the ethnic situation that my marriage has. My husband and I are the same ethnicity but the different ways in which our countries of upbringing have raised us has created a borderland in our relationship. We still don’t have any children and everyone on his side of the family asks him all the time when he will become a father. No one on my side of the family, including my parents has asked me when I will have children because they know that my priorities are different from the priorities they had when they were younger. The belief that having children is the most important event stopped with my parents’ generation. As much as I hate to admit it, my husband is one generation before me, the same generation as my parents, and that makes him think differently about everything. There will be conflicts about how we are going to raise our children and what beliefs will be instilled in them.
My wedding was important for the Pakistani society my family was a part of because if my marriage was successful, all of my mom’s friends will see what a good thing she did for me and would follow the same practice for their own children. This is exactly what happened. After I had gotten married, one by one, my mom’s friends’ children had arranged marriages and the trend continues almost six years later.
Even though I had to quit my job and leave my friends in Illinois, I feel like I am very lucky to be married to someone who cares so much for me. Many of my friends have had relationships fall apart because they were not able to work out their problems. I know my marriage isn’t perfect but there are many benefits to being married. I know I will always be financially secure. I am married to a responsible man who will make a great father. The sacrifices that I have made seem minimal compared to the sacrifices he will have to make in the future when we start a family. Hopefully our children will be able to build a bridge connecting the transnational border that divides us.
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