Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Cash cow and other farm animals

I've always been aware of the tension/conflict between the Old World thinking/traditions of recent immigrants and their first-generation American children. But I've never felt it more acutely than now, when seemingly ridiculous cultural traditions are being shoved down my throat and I'm demanded to follow them.

The most recent round of arguments have involved this pig delivery (dowry) thing. At first I thought this was a cute and fun idea and a good way to honor the Chinese history but it has gotten completely out of hand. Besides the pig, fiance is expected to bring over wedding pastries (not to be confused with the bakery cards that we bought to give out to the bride's side), two pairs of chickens, shark fin, dried mushrooms, dried scallops, plus various other dried delicacies, and one pair of coconuts. And of course, don't forget the packet of money that must include a lucky number (either 8 or 9), meaning about $1000 or more. To make matters worse, I'm told that neither me nor fiance can be present -- it will just be some ppl that he chooses to represent him (there must be at least a married couple with their children), including his parents, who show up at my parents' house (who, as of now, are complete strangers to the deliverers). These ppl only stay long enough to drop off all the stuff, receive half of it back (except for the coconuts for some bizarre reason), and then leave. Unlike other ppl who've gone through this, my parents want this ultra-traditional and are not going to invite the deliverers to stay and eat with them (heck I won't even be there to see the spectacle). To make things easier, fiance was given the option of giving the cold, hard cash equivalent of the miscellaneous goods. The trouble with all this, as FFIL pointed out, is which brand do they want? Because as you know, there's the top-notch fungus and there's the low-grade variety, which can be as expensive as $100/lb or as cheap as $1/lb. As it stands, I last heard that FILs found all this stupid and refuse to go to this delivery thing b/c it's not part of their custom.

Fiance was quite peeved about all this b/c it seems like he's buying me off (I agree), like a piece of property. My mother gave the explanation that all this needs to be done b/c I'm leaving home; note that no notice or care is given about the male leaving the home. As fiance said, if we were to do this the completely traditional way and to follow through on the idea of me leaving home completely, I would never ever see them again. So if you put that idea up against my parents wanting all this rigamarole, which is the better way to go? It's not fair that they get the best of both worlds and use the excuse of following tradition for only the parts that they like. I didn't bring that up but that didn't stop my mother from giving me the full-on guilt trip of how she raised me, all the hard work that went into that, and how I'm so ungrateful. Maybe I am, but like I told her, I have no problem giving her money or giving my parents a gift as a show of my appreciation for raising me, I just don't see the point of having to do all this stuff, and me being treated like property that is exchanged from family to husband. This is America -- we made the decision to get married and we don't really need permission or extra obstacles in our way.

With all these arguments, my mother has been reluctant to discuss these issues further with me. She gave me another guilt trip about how this is a happy occasion and she just wants it to be easy and without conflict but that every time we begin to discuss I get all mad. Well I think anyone would be mad if they had to go through all this. Maybe I'd be less confrontational about it all if we were told in advance. But no, we're finding out about all these excess demands now (our friends have never had to go through so much). We never thought we needed a married couple with kids to deliver stuff -- I believe all his cousins (who are married and have kids) are busy on the agreed upon w/e. His groomsmen (who we originally asked to help out) married non-Asian women so they will definitely not bring their wives. And I'd feel terrible to have to impose on ppl to do these tasks (which are most likely meaningless to them) for ppl who are strangers to them.

After our latest fight and my protestations of being treated like chattel, I think my mother started to see my side of things. So she started telling me about all the things she's supposed to give me, like sheets and comforters (more on that later). And she tried to make plans with me to go to the safe deposit box to pick out some bracelet and she said she'd give me her diamond earrings (which, though probably nice, I don't really need -- I'm just a simple girl so I don't need all this stuff!). She also brought up how she could give me this f'ugly wedding cake knife (more like a bread knife with a cheap blue bow glued to it) that she once bought from a store going out of business.

Regarding the bed linens, I told her it's pretty difficult to pick those out when you don't exactly have a bed yet (we don't know if we should get queen size or king), nor a bedroom. So she said it's of utmost importance to get a new bed b/c as a couple starting a new life together you must have all new things. I told her the impossibility of buying a new bed to put in a place we don't have yet and she got pretty fed up with me b/c I said I have no problem sleeping on an old bed and I'd prefer to wait to buy a new one (how to buy furniture for a nonexistent apartment? how to buy only a new bed w/o taking into consideration the rest of the pieces in the room?).

8/24 UPDATE: Yesterday we went to TJ Maxx and bought a comforter, two sets of queen-size 300+ thread count sheets, and two pillows for $162.50.

1 comment:

Plumsauce said...

Wow. That's loads of stress right there! I have never seen a Canadian Chinese wedding in which the tradition was upheld so tightly. Hope everything works out in the end.