Joel is home! My little family is very happy to have him home with us and have decided no more foreign country vacations without us!
Joel is currently in bed sleeping. Darn jet lag. He’s very happy to be home, but had a great time in India. He said he will try and write a post today telling everyone all about his trip. I’ll put up pictures of all the fun gifts he brought back as well! It makes me realize just how bland and plain American style is! Everything in India is gold, sparkly, and bold. I love it!
As Joel was telling me about his trip and some of the things he learned, I found myself at odds. He was talking with me about the standard for women in India. As soon as he started, I found myself sitting up straight, my blood pressure rising, and my husband getting nervous to continue.
Let me back track a bit. Growing up, I was a little…. feminist. I’ve always struggled with the idea that woman can’t do something because of their gender. I’ve been a part of many arguments over the topic. I’ve definitely mellowed over the years, but it still rears its ugly head at different times in my life.
Joel was talking about the standard for single women in India. He began by saying they can’t smile too much, stare men in the eyes too often, and need to dress very modestly. I responded the way any “godly” wife would… What do you mean they can’t smile too much! Is it too much for men there to handle?! Luckily my husband loves me very much and just smiles when my crazy comes out. He started explaining why women can’t behave this way in India.
One day in India, Joel’s sister was in an auto with Joel and they were laughing at each other as a man walked by. As soon as he saw that she was smiling, assuming it was at him, he went straight to her car door and started to open it. He looked in the back and saw that my husband was in the seat behind her and that she wasn’t alone. He quickly walked away. What in the world was he planning on doing?!
A few days later, there was a story of a young girl that barely escaped an abduction in plain site.
If you are walking around downtown Seattle, as a woman, smiling at everyone… People won’t think or do anything other than smile back. Women here are a lot more forward than other cultures. Women here wear clothes that let men know they are interested, ask men out, ask men to marry them, buy men drinks, and feel a sense of pride in being able to do so.
If you walk around downtown Hyderabad, as a woman, smiling at everyone… You will end up in an arranged marriage by noon.
Women are expected to be much more reserved, submissive, quiet, and modest. Now before any women’s rights activists come out of the woodworks, women are perfectly happy in India. If you hear this with an American perspective, you are probably saying poor Indian women. If they heard you saying this, they would ask why?
I get nervous going to India because I feel like I will be held to certain standards as a woman married to an Indian man. Will I be expected to be an Indian wife or an American wife? Will I be seen as a stifled and suppressed wife or an outspoken American that disrespects elders at every turn? I want Joel’s family to like me for who I am and I want to be respectful. However, the measures of respect are different in every culture.
It’s common for Americans to think everyone has to bend to our way of living.
I don’t want to be like that. I want to go to India, be respectful, and be myself. Is it possible to do all three at the same time? I often find myself at odds while talking to Joel. He will let me know something I did or said to a family member could have been seen as disrespectful. I never intend to, but my idea of respect and how it is seen in India is completely different.
Sometimes blending two cultures is not easy. In fact it rarely ever is. However, my boys and my marriage has been blessed by both cultures. There are so many positives and benefits and it makes these challenges completely worth it!
I wish I could end this post saying I have it all figured out and know how to do this. Sorry. It’s not going to happen because I really don’t have the answers yet. I love my little family and I will continue to pray and talk about this with my husband so I can learn how to be the best wife and mother to my children that I can be.
I am very grateful for Joel’s family because they are all very gracious and understand that this is a work in progress. It is easy to know what to expect in a Indian marriage or an American marriage, but an Indian-American marriage… Joel and I are always learning, it’s never dull, and we love each other very much. I wouldn’t want to figure this out with anyone else.