Notes from an Asian Wedding
On a more abstract level, however, I was able to watch and observe the mechanics of a society that, for all intents and purposes, has exiled me from it. For, like any deep introvert, I am an alien in my own culture- even more so in my specific case, because I have not lived within it since I was 5. I have spent over a quarter century moving through 6 different countries, never really setting down roots in any one of them until my parents retired to Asia. There is a certain poignant sense of loss in realising that one can never really share in the same experiences and ideals that define a culture, but there is also the opportunity to make observations about that culture that others would never really notice.
Here are a few key observations from what was, without question, one of the most interesting and mostly enjoyable social experiences I have ever gone through in the last few years:
- NOTHING can prepare you for a South Asian wedding. If you are a Westerner, you have to understand that a wedding in your culture is essentially a religious and spiritual ceremony that formalises a legal and binding contract. In South Asia, weddings take on a far deeper meaning. Arranged marriages are still very common in Asia, and because of this, weddings are essentially used to allow two families to connect, commune, interact, and judge each other. Back in the day when arranged marriages were done between children of two different villages, a wedding was essentially an occasion to unite two communities- which means that a small wedding in South Asia results in a minimum of three hundred people attending. Yes, you read that right. Good luck wrapping your head around the logistics of planning a wedding with that many attendees. Contact me when they've finished scraping your brains off the ceiling.
- There is a very good reason why many young Asian men lack game. They've never really had to use it, and most of them will never learn it. In South and Southeast Asia, it is still extremely common for young men to meet their first girlfriends at the weddings of their brothers and cousins- and then marry those same girlfriends later in life. As a result, many Asian men simply don't know any better- which is why so many of them end up as Beta males or worse in their marriages.
- Asian women have a far more difficult time with the SMP than their Western counterparts. Thanks to the results of feminism, it is still possible for Western women to delude themselves into thinking that they are real catches at the age of 35. Asian women operate under no such illusions. The reality for an Asian woman is that her sexual market value declines with astonishing speed after 25. There were very few single young women at the wedding that I attended. Only two of them were my age; one of them I have known literally my entire life, her family and mine go back nearly 40 years to the days when her father and mine were classmates, and she was actually older than her cousin, who was the one getting married. I have absolutely no doubt that many of her female relatives are quietly asking why she, as a rather attractive and exceptionally intelligent young woman, is still single. Asian women must daily face the reality that if they are not married and bearing children by the age of 30, their worth to their society is almost nil, regardless of their education, accomplishments, or skills.
- Even in Asian societies, there is no refuge for an introvert. My friend's wedding was an occasion of great joy for me and for her family. Attending it was a matter of family pride and personal honour. But at no point during the weeklong ceremonies did I feel comfortable enough to let my guard down completely. The anonymity of the crowd is a shield that an introvert uses against the rest of society, but at a wedding, where one is expected and even required to socialise, there is no haven for one who wishes nothing more than to be still and silent. Even among relatively more reticent fellow Asians, non-conformity is punished swiftly and mercilessly through social ostracism. And if you're like me and don't like or understand disco or pop music, then Lord help you.
- Marrying outside one's tribe is not easy, but it can be done. My own family is living proof of this. I am of mixed race and mixed caste, which in my country was once a massive stigma. I never even thought twice about that fact when growing up, but the reality is that these divisions are still strong and will continue to be so. My friend is a very secular woman who married a Muslim man from a completely different part of her country. As far as I can tell, the issue of religious conversion never once came up. The groom was accepted by her family, and it would appear that his family is quite fond of her as well. It is just as well that the various people involved are all very Westernised; trying to do that in our own country would still be extremely difficult these days.
- At some point you WILL massively embarrass yourself at a wedding; it is unlikely that anyone will care. I am an extremely bad dancer. To say that I have two left feet is actually being overly charitable to my feet. I have never been able to let my guard down enough to get into the beat or the music, especially since I cannot stand the music that is played at most weddings, dances, and raves. None of this matters. For the sake of conformity with the majority, it is sometimes necessary to simply play along; thus, you may find yourself pulled into a garba- a highly mechanical dance that requires almost no brainpower to do reasonably well. There is undoubtedly footage floating around on a dear friend's camera of a particularly absurd dance that I got roped into at about 1.30am a few days ago; it doesn't really matter, as long as you enjoy the company of the people that you are with.
- To survive an Asian wedding, you need a strong liver, a healthy tolerance for insanity, and a great sense of humour. I possess all three (to varying degrees; my liver, for instance, might be inclined to disagree with the first point after the past week). The hilarious thing about Asian weddings is that nothing ever goes quite according to plan. This is only natural when you're talking about weddings involving a cast of hundreds or even thousands; organised chaos is inevitable, yet somehow, things happen and get done. If you are a male attendee, you might as well just sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience as much as you can. I guarantee you this: you will never forget your first Indian wedding.
- Men are essentially useless to the process of an Asian wedding; basically they should simply stay the hell out of the way. I do not exaggerate when I write that an Asian bloke at a wedding is about as useful as the furniture. I remember a former colleague of mine telling me about a friend who got married in the UAE not too long ago. His friend stepped off the flight and was asked by his friends what time the wedding was, when he would go shopping for his wedding clothes, where the wedding was taking place, what time it would happen, what was required of his friends at the ceremonies, etc. etc. His answer to each of these questions- I am not making this up- was "I have no idea". Women are the central focus of these events; they organise and plan everything, and as a man the single most helpful thing you can possibly do is to get out of the way. If your mother or mother-in-law tells you what to do, do it first and ask questions later.
- Marriage probably isn't for me. I cannot stand the idea of having to deal with that many people, of having to carry on like that for so long, and for losing any sense of privacy or separation from the rest of the world.
- There is no changing the fact that I do not belong in my own culture. I have lived away from it for so long that I might as well be a foreigner in my own country. There was a time when I thought I might go back to my homeland and live there permanently; now I see that I no longer really have a homeland. I'm not sure I ever did. This realisation is both profoundly sad and deeply liberating. There is no point in pretending to be something that one is not, after all.