We’re going through changes

Most of us get jokes and funny pictures sent through to our e-mail account a few times a week. Maybe we’ve laughed or scoffed at something like this, thinking, “Thank God times have moved on.” I know I have. So imagine my horror when I realised that in the run-up to my wedding, I was being trained and instructed in the same way. And whilst my “training” has not been as stringent or backward as the linked picture, it is most certainly based on the same ideology.

In a warped version of the Pretty Woman/Princess Diaries transformation, I am being gently coaxed from general scruffbag with no cultural nous to Asian Woman Extraordinaire, the epitome of elegance and grace. She puts on a sari perfectly! She can make herself beautiful! She has bangle sets in every colour to match any outfit! She knows the exact right thing to say at the exact right time! She has an endless supply of safety pins and hair clips! And most importantly, her chicken korma is to die for!

None of that is me. Well, not me right now but maybe me in four months. I’m going through changes and whilst buying a few bangle sets is hardly a big deal, it’s still kind of scary. I have to start acting like a grownup. I started off this transformation last Wednesday by getting my ears pierced. The way people reacted like I must be the only 24-year-old Asian girl in the world without her ears pierced (I had them pierced when I was about eight but they closed because I don’t wear jewellery). Hold up, was I the only 24-year-old Asian girl in the world without her ears pierced?

And all the aforementioned is not even the half of it. Usually, when speaking to elders, my side of the conversation goes a little something like this: “Asalam Alaikum. Ji. Ji. Ji oy, Ji na. Ji. mumble” (a slightly more polite version of: “Uh-huh. Uh-huh. Yes. No. Uh-huh. mumble“) before I skulk off. I may throw in a “Bala ni?” (Are you well?) but that’s kind of it. Now that’s hardly the kind of conversation I can hold with all the new in-laws I’ll be gaining. I’m not quite sure what the solution to that is yet but I’ll let you know if I get there.

In addition to all of that, there are all the names I have to learn. I don’t mean the names of my relatives but the names of the relation which they are to me. See, we don’t just say “sister-in-law”; there are four different words for sister-in-law: Nonond, Non-hori, Zetali, Hali. I’m going to lose you here but that translates as follows:

  • Nonond: A woman’s husband’s younger sister is her Nonond.
  • Non-hori: A woman’s husband’s older sister in her Non-hori
  • Zetali: A man’s wife’s older sister is his Zetali
  • Hali: A man’s wife’s younger sister is his Hali

And all four of those words essentially mean sister-in-law. Now throw in brother-in-law and everyone’s spouses and kids and the uncles and aunts and grandparents, etc etc etc and so on, and it all gets more than a little confusing. Now, while I know some of this, I’m still prone to describing my future husband’s brother’s wife as just that: “This is my husband’s brother’s wife” but I can’t say that because I have to say “This is my Zal”. So I pretty much have to learn all this stuff if I hope to ever pull off a conversation with a bit of panache.

In addition to all of this hoo-haa, my publishers are trying to persuade me to go and have a professional shoot done. Apparently, “everyone trades on their looks.” On one hand, I was almost offended: “What? My writing isn’t good enough to trade on its own?” but on the other hand I was flattered: “Ooh, I have ‘trade-worthy’ looks?” which kind of flew out the window when my sister proclaimed, “Those professionals can make anyone look perfect.” I agree but I delayed because at this moment in time, there are already enough people trying to make me perfect.

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