Home > Heh, Life > My mother’s plan for me to marry a brown girl is doomed.

My mother’s plan for me to marry a brown girl is doomed.

Before I fly home for Thanksgiving, my mother tells me, “Bring a nice outfit. We’re invited to a party on Thursday night.” I ask her who’s hosting. From her answer, I establish my mother’s intent: for me to meet brown* girl(s) whom she imagines are potential wife material for me. After all, I pay attention to her stories, such as the time she returned from a dinner party at that house months ago. “Bhabi has a daughter around your age. She’s a [law/medical] student at [insert name of elite East Coast university]! I saw her. She’s very pretty!” [1]

On Thanksgiving night, we get to the party and most of the guests are already there. My family is shown to the kitchen where finger food appetizers await.

Click to enlarge.

I don’t know anyone there and I can’t see anyone my age I could talk to, so I decide to start the party hanging out with my sister in the kitchen, since (1) we’ll be able to gossip on our own a bit and (2) my sister wears amazing shoes so eventually the women WILL come by to compliment them and converse with her. And then my socially adroit sister could borrow a line from Barney to play a little game of “Haaaaave youmetmybrother?”

Within two minutes, this plan is derailed.

The host auntie [2] pries me away from our nascent gossip session to show me to the guys’ room, where her sons and those of the other aunties are watching the Cowboys game. I don’t get super excited for regular season NFL games, but I figure I’ll get to chat with people and it’ll feel like a party.

Nope, mistaken again. Everyone’s super absorbed with the game: one guy because his fantasy team’s players are involved; and, the rest because that’s what guys with peach-fuzz mustaches in high school do. I would know, I was there once. And after dinner is served, we get to watch the next NFL game. Yup, the young ladies will SWARM IN to watch football like bees drawn to nectar!!! Now, readers, don’t feel bad for me. This story you’re reading now? I drafted it in my head as the Cowboys kicked their game-winning field goal.

But! My mother is bound to be disappointed. She and I don’t always agree on what the path to happiness is, but she is certainly concerned with my happiness in life, and I am so blessed to have her care this much. So what went wrong in her plan?

The classic Bengali party segregated seating arrangement.

a VERY approximate floor plan

In the year 2011 this frippery persists, a consequence of brown people’s commitment to uber-discretion on all matters related to love combined with the Islamic prescription to avoid gender mixing that even Bengalis who are only nominally Muslim follow [3].

Let’s compare this setup to how people in the early 1800s socialized. People in the 1800s were pretty damn prudish but even they figured out how to get unmarried men and women in the same room with dinners and balls:

Entering the ballroom as a trio. Etiquette, however, forbade two-girl-one-man sandwiches on the dance floor.

The balls had strict etiquette to be followed, such as, “An introduction for dancing does not constitute a speaking acquaintance” (translation: no chitchat after the dance ends) but certainly there were structured moments in which one could, and was expected to, converse with the other gender:

And if the presumed couple couldn’t be in the same room together, how would they exchange furtive glances to fuel the growth of their budding relationship?

Well, it’s apparent that our current dinner party logistics could borrow a few improvements from Jane Austen. Thankfully, my peers have a clue. For example, I heard some of the kids talk about getting people together to play a board game after desserts [4].

So, the formula is to wait for someone to organize a board game???

Rather than form such assumptions about how this process was intended to work, I decided to flat-out ask someone who would know the answer [5]. After he emerged from his hiatus-from-the-party-to-play-video-games, I asked the host’s older son, who recently married within the tribe, “How did you meet your wife?” His answer, summarized: “I talked to an older Bengali acquaintance (his dad’s friend, it sounded like). He said he knew a girl whose family was near where I live/work in DC, so I was put in touch with them. And here we are.”

So, that’s it. My mother should be recommending me to the family friend of a prospective girl’s parents. I’ll let her know. Maybe.

Final thought: Did you like this story? Will you share it on facebook using the button below? Thanks!

[*] I use “brown” to describe my people because “Indian” is overly specific at the exclusion of “Bengali” or “Bangladeshi”, “South Asian” is too long, and “desi” (as pronounced, DAY-see) sounds silly to me, since Bengalis pronounce it more like DESH-ee. Back to top
[1] “Bhabi” is a form of address toward a married woman. Can be used endearingly by either men or women. Example: If my dad were to pour a drink for a married female dinner guest, he might say “Minnie Bhabi, here is a pepsi” as he hands it to her. Also, keep in mind that most conversations between my mother and me occur in Bengali, so they don’t always have direct translations. Back to where I was reading
[2] So brown people have this custom whereby kids are told to address the other grownups as “Uncle” and “Auntie” even if those grownups are not actual relatives. When the kids become adults, the custom perseveres as we address the adults who are a generation older than the kids. Back to where I was reading
[3] A conclusion drawn from my own experiences for now, because I didn’t find strong enough evidence in my research to provide links. But seriously, plenty of aunties are college- and grad-school-educated and watch the news – I’m sure they could contribute equally to the usual discussion of politics and current events that the uncles engage in at every party. Back to where I was reading
[4] The outcome of this idea: I don’t know. My family were among the last guests to leave, and the board game didn’t materialize before we left. Back to where I was reading
[5] I’m a scientist. Finding empirical truths is one thing I do. And since reading Ramit’s posts about testing assumptions, I’ve been increasingly mindful of when I form my own assumptions/conclusions that might not be thoroughly tested. Back to where I was reading

Bonus Content

  1. A dawg
    December 4, 2011 at 4:34 pm

    “Everyone’s super absorbed with the game: one guy because his fantasy team’s players are involved; and, the rest because that’s what guys with peach-fuzz mustaches in high school do. I would know, I was there once.”

    LOLLLL…perfectly put.

  2. Kari
    December 5, 2011 at 10:37 am

    I LOVE your sister’s shoes! And this entry, but you already knew that :)

  1. December 29, 2011 at 10:20 am

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