Happily Ever After

Wedding season has begun. I'm pretty sure most of the world experiences more weddings in the summer months than any other time of the year. In the past three weeks, I was invited to three weddings. I went to two of them and I've pretty much had my fill for the summer.

The first (a female coworker's) was the first Palestinian (or Arab for that matter) Christian wedding I've ever been to. When I lived in Egypt our dorm was across the street from the most popular wedding church in Cairo, so we heard a lot of weddings, but I never did go to one. It was an interesting experience. The church service was solemn and beautiful. There were prayers and the couple were donned with crowns and exchanged rings. We were required to stand more than I ever have in a church, but I get the feeling this is an orthodox thing rather than a wedding thing. Immediately following the service, there was a small reception outside. There was juice and cookies and people congratulated the family. Lots of hugging and kissing and well-wishing took place. About two hours later, there was a proper party held at a Christian hall close to the church. There was a hired singer with band and dancing. Two things about this party were different from others I've been to here: there were men and there was alcohol. I, personally, wasn't interested in either of those things, but they were there. Ha. It was a little bit weird for me (since I've been living here far too long) to see women in short or otherwise revealing dresses dancing with men. It was kind of nice to be reminded that it does happen, though. I guess the thing I liked about this wedding was that I felt that had I wanted to dance (which I didn't), that would have been welcomed...and I would have been able to dance with the group, not as some sort of side-show freak. Everyone was welcome to dance (or not) as they wished. Although, to be fair, I did notice that a lot of people did not dance. We left early, though, maybe once they got good and liquored up they danced? Also, people appeared to be socializing more than at other weddings I've been to. There are a million reasons that could explain this. The bride was beautiful and seemed to have a really great time. She had been not really looking forward to marriage, but in the days and weeks following the wedding, it turns out that she is enjoying it quite a lot. I'm really happy for her. Unfortunately, Ash was still in the states for both weddings, so I don't have photos of either...this behavior will soon be remedied.

The second wedding was for the son of a good friend of ours. I attended with a group of women who also know this friend, but not the bride. Being that this was a Muslim wedding, there were two parties: a women's party upstairs and a men's party downstairs in the same building. When we first entered, we were quite a sight. Palestinian women tend to dress their BEST for weddings. While we made an attempt, with our limited fashion resources, we were by far the most underdressed people there. The guy manning the door stopped and asked who invited us. Thankfully, name dropping the groom's father's name got us right in. The thing about Muslim weddings I've been to, including my own, is that they don't seem as participatory. In my experience, the basic format of Muslim weddings is that the bride and groom (the only man allowed in the women's party) alternate between sitting on a couch at the front of the room and dancing on a small dancefloor which is the center of everyone's attention. Generally, female relatives (mothers, sisters, aunts, and cousins) of the couple attend the party in formal party wear and cocktail dresses. They dance with each other and generally seem to have a great time. Everyone else at the party tends to wear what they normally wear, sit on chairs facing the stage/dancefloor and watch the family of the couple have a good time. They eat cake and go home. Certainly the family and the couple have a wonderful time, but I have to wonder if they same can be said about those in attendance.

Whenever I go to weddings here or mention to a non-Palestinian that I am married to one, I constantly get asked about it. The group of women who attended the 2nd wedding with me put me through an on-going compare and contrast to my own wedding. Honestly, I understand. I know people are curious. I just wish that my response could honestly be, "We never had one." and leave it at that. I never dreamed of having a wedding, I never even thought I would be married until I met Ash. My former roommate and I used to bond over the fact that we never wanted to get married...now we both are. I love being married. It is comfortable, fun and has brought with it a deeper love than I could have ever imagined.

Our wedding, however, was a nightmare. I felt exposed, uninvolved, a novelty rather than an active participant. Despite all our efforts to try to make an event that neither of us wanted comfortable for everyone involved, we ended up being disappointed at every turn. We ended up spending a lot of money and don't have any of the fond memories I feel we should. None of the things that I repeatedly expressed as being the important things to me happened. I wish I could just forget about it.

I've seen several episodes where Dr. Phil and Oprah deal with people like me: "Lady, seriously, move on! You have a fantastic marriage! You are happy and healthy and moving forward! Just forget about it." I would, if I didn't have to relive it all the time. It's just such a downer. I know I should just respond, "Well, it wasn't exactly what we expected, but his family had a good time", but I am finding it difficult to find the strength for that.

Part of me know that my resentment stems from this wedding, in my mind, being a symbol of everything I have sacrificed in moving here (being away from family, growing distant with friends, adapting to a new culture and temporarily giving up small pieces of myself in the process) and my inability to connect the wedding with some sort of gain. It was also one of the most betrayed periods of my time here during which I felt that all my sacrifices went unrecognized and unappreciated. I don't know if we will have a "wedding" or a big 3rd anniversary party or anything when we move to the states next year, but on some level this may be what I need. I want to celebrate with my friends and family in my way. I wish our families could have celebrated together, and I still dream of them all being together some day, but until then I think that having some time to share our love and happiness with my side is an important first step.

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