The daughter got engaged last week.
It had been a long time coming, she said, contemplating a long distance relationship that was rather long in the tooth. My husband and I rolled our eyes.
“We,” my husband said, pointing his finger back and forth between us, “got engaged a year after we met. I wasn’t going to give your mum an opportunity to think about this and that.”
I laughed nervously. He is right, you know.
My husband and I grew up in totally different settings.
I grew up in a small family. I had two siblings and everyone went about quietly doing their own things. On school days, we had to finish our homework before we can go out to play. We were allowed two hours of tv after dinner. Then, we were given a dose of cod liver emulsion (yukks!!) and bundled off to sleep by 9pm.
On weekends, we had church activities and helped out with the household chores. My favourite chore was ironing clothes. To this day, I enjoy ironing. I love the repetitive rhythm of the iron gliding on cotton and the sharp scent of sunshine as steam hits the folds of a shirt. In short, I had a boring, sheltered and pampered upbringing in Snooze county.
In contrast, my husband grew up with seven siblings. It was a boisterous household. Everyone was loud and there was always too much of everything – cooking, eating, jostling, teasing and everyone talking over everybody in their effort to get heard. The distractions were incessant. They overwhelmed me.
Like my husband and I, our daughter is going to marry into a family that is as diverse as ours. We are a small quiet Malaysian family of three. Our daughter is our only child. In contrast, our prospective son-in-law comes from a large noisy British-Punjabi extended family. For her, it will no doubt take alot of getting used to.
As my daughter prepares for her marriage and settles in her new life in a new country, all I can offer from my experience are these:
It’s hard to fathom what hard work being in a culturally diverse relationship is; until you are elbow deep in one. It is like being in love in a second language.
When the going’s good, you enjoy the novelty, the diversity and the differences.
When the going’s rough, it’s a minefield to tread. It is initially hard to understand what went wrong, what you did wrong and what you said wrong. But it is ok. You have to remember that marriage is more than love. It is a commitment. It is like a bird – you need both wings to fly.
And no one says it better than this quote from one of my favourite Asian writers:
‘Love’, this English word: like other English words it has tense. ‘Loved’ or ‘will love’ or ‘have loved.’…Love is time-limited thing. Not infinite….In Chinese, Love…has no tense. No past and future. Love in Chinese means a being, a situation, a circumstance. Love is existence, holding past and future.
~ Xiaolu Guo – A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers