Monday, 16 January 2012

Last-Minute Maid of Honour

One aspect of getting hitched that has been at the forefront of my mind since we started the whole caper is the instant expansion to my "family". I've been nervous about cultural differences - never between me and my wife, we always try approach everything with the goal of growing together, so I'm secure in the knowledge that we can overcome anything, if we work to honour each other - but the expectations of her family have made be jittery. And in many ways I've been right to be nervous.

But there has been one amazing spark that's given me hope for good relationships with her family; that spark was the last-minute Maid of Honour.

This young woman is my wife's cousin on her father's side- a girl in whom I see so much potential. I often feel it would be so easy for that flame to be extinguished in the environment she's subject to- but she shows new strength each time I hear from/of her. She's the daughter of a wealthy paediatric surgeon, with a mother who (from outward appearances) uses her as a play-thing, and despite her mother's best efforts to push away from the ingrained urges that say "she's mine, and she (along with our properties and purchases) defines us and our standing in the community" she still falls into the habit of manipulating her. Her mother's combination of endearing and manipulative (despite some efforts not to be) is a deadly combination.

I'm told she's "come so far". Every time I engage in conversation with my immediate in-laws concerning how much she's under the thumb, I'm told not to bother because "she's already improved so much." This concerns me deeply. Firstly, it lays blame on her, rather than the oppression she's subjected to. Secondly, this pessimism parading as optimism could stunt any progress towards seeing who this woman can be. My prayers for her are that she will see through with her own dreams, never thinking to fulfil any role for the standing of the family. I would see her marry someone outside her culture- someone who will cherish her and lift her up, so she can shine like she's meant to, never pursuing money for money, but chasing love and altruism with a passionate conviction.

Let me tell you a little of her character- she likes to make people feel comfortable, she always offers assistance before anyone else, she values the relationships with those around her, she is welcoming, excited by knowledge and she's fun. And she likes to do hip-hop singing and dancing.

One morning in Penang, she took us for a tour of the street shops and historic buildings. As we travelled through alleyways in the care of our knowledgeable guide, we stopped in at various little stores, as my cousin-in-law would enquire after the store-owners' family members, with insight and affection, remembering small details about their lives. We were scheduled to tour for several hours, with a final meeting point, but her mother rang every hour for a status report, eventually cutting our time a little short.

It's probably important to note here that her family did a great deal for us in our travels, feeding us all we could manage and taking us out for exciting events and tours. As a reflection upon my own culture, it's interesting to note how much more importance we put on relationships and attitude than financial offerings- because her family really pulled out all the stops, and I wouldn't want to understate their generous efforts.

Her family, along with my wife's family and my own, spent the week before the Big Day travelling around Geelong, Melbourne and Bendigo, largely together. It came to pass that our intended Maid of Honour was... less than helpful, due to her commitments to her work and to her (apparently-not-together-but-still-living-together-and-we-mean-the-world-to-each-other) boyfriend. I suggested strongly that there was still time to get a new one, and we came to the decision that our cousin would make the perfect fit! She'd doted on us for the week prior and we knew she'd be enthusiastic (if her mother would only step back and let her handle things- which she did, praise God!) and we just knew she was the perfect choice. She'd met the best man (who was also travelling with us during that week) and they'd had fun getting to know each other. It was perfect!

And it really was. She was so kind and helpful, and my then-wife-to-be needn't have been jealous of the Best Man's wondrous efforts (which you will hear of later). We had a ball.

I'd really like to take this space to thank her for everything she did for us, and wish her all the best in her future- and I pray it truly would be her future; never fearing failure, nor striving for wealth or status. Full of joyful and meaningful relationships. 

Thanks, Aun Qi- our amazing, last minute, Maid of Honour.


  1. Nice post.

    Apart from the two spelling/malapropism mistakes.

    I would however take umbrage at the idea that we blame Aun Qi for any of this. "She's come so far" does not mean "she's climbing out of the hole she dug for herself". No. It means "she's put in a lot of effort to get away from the parochial viewpoint and gossip-mongering of Penang people and that should be acknowledged and respected".

    We (the KL kids) were always so much more self-assured, so much more confident in our abilities, and in the knowledge that our parents were not going to throw a tantrum just because we played in the mud. We also had each other to bounce ideas off, and to be silly with.

    Aun Qi never had that same stability in her early years. As an only child she was on her own, the only one of her generation in Penang. No siblings to test out theories on; fairly traditional parents who seem to alternate between hovering and ignoring; and a strict grandfather to whom respect had to be paid, ceremonies noted, and polite form kept.

    So when I say that she's done well, it's a compliment and she has my greatest respect. I am sure she will only get better. I have high hopes for her (like choosing other role models apart from Nicky Minaj? ... I'm joking), not only because she is my cousin, but also because you can see that she is neither easily led astray nor terribly needy, as some people with a neglectful upbringing can be, and that shows strength of character.

    1. Thanks! I fixed the spelling mistakes.

      Honestly, I'm referring to all the times your mother kept saying "she doesn't help matters" and "she should speak up!" whenever anyone mentions how her mother has manipulated her into doing something. She clearly doesn't have a healthy perspective on how difficult it is to deal with parents who emotionally blackmail their children.

      I wasn't making comment on your appraisal of the situation :).

      It was pretty darn nice having her as bridesmaid, wasn't it? :)

  2. My belated congratulations ! I'm glad to hear that you found someone last minute to fill those big shoes ! I can only imagine how stressful it may have been to organise a wedding and then that to have happened. She sounds lovely ;-) My best wishes to you both.