Sunday, February 5, 2012

A Khmer Wedding

What a week it has been!  A friend's departure, another friend's wedding, and yet another friend's return.  And in between the various gatherings and celebrations scattered throughout the week to punctuate these events, there was the publication mess, one which left me at the printers, poring over words, until 11PM on Friday evening and then most of my Saturday morning.  I spent Sunday recovering.

But let's talk about weddings, because a dear colleague was wedded mid-week.  What to say about these events?   These events always evaporate in an overload of color, taffetta, ruffles, gilded eyes and lips and alcohol.  For this wedding, the bride had 11 (yes) dress changes, each ensemble more ornate than the other.   (Foreigners should note that your Khmer counterparts will always out-dress you for these events.)  Oh, there is always Khmer dancing in a circle, around a pole.

This colleague, a young, ambitious woman who dares to dream of higher education  and a thriving career as a researcher, was wedded to a classmate, who showed up at her door to ask her parents for her hand in marriage.  After a dowry and other details were negotiated, her parents agreed. That was that, and she was informed.  Until that day, she had no idea that the young man even fancied her.

Lately, I've been thinking about the concept and assumptions related to Western  marriage.  My grandma Elpidia was party to an arranged marriage, to a man many years her senior who she had never met before.  Perhaps love wasn't there to begin with, but I will tell you that when she lost my grandpa Felipe, after  decades of marriage, rearing three children and shuttling between two continents, she was so broken at the loss of her life companion.  It broke my heart to see her that way.

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