The modern wedding and its origin


Wedding season is upon us and Facebook is inundated with wedding and engagement photos. Everyone and their mama is getting married or engaged. It’s great to see “love is in the air,” and humans finding other humans to coexist with, for what they perceive as forever. Though some weddings are beautiful, it does often feel a little absurd and laborious. I prefer the smallness of weddings that take place in a grassy field or in city hall with a few guests sans social media. But that’s perhaps impossible as social media and weddings are closely linked now. I would argue, it doesn’t make the occasion monumental when you have ten other people doing the same thing with a different set of photos. It is an exhausting endeavor.

The idea of marriages comes from ancient societies that wanted to secure offsprings, property and the protection of bloodlines.

I wonder what makes June such a popular month to get married. I get that it’s warmer now and people are on vacation, but wouldn’t it make more sense to have a wedding in the fall or spring when it’s not unbearably hot?

I remember when my cousin came to visit in the spring, it was relatively hot because it’s the south. We bumped into a few weddings while walking in the French Quarter. The first one was in Jackson Square near the fountain. My cousin chose to bypass the guests sitting on the sides and take a photo of the bride and groom. While walking by Pirate Ally we saw another couple with their daughter listening to a minister say their vows. My cousin took a photo with the couple and their daughter, a small girl who was wearing a frilly white dress. Walking along the busy Royal Street, we saw a couple dancing, post-wedding in their own second-line. I found these encounters amusing and random. My cousin saw the weddings as a sign. I considered it a probable sequence of events, since many people celebrate their wedding in the French Quarter.

“During the Indian ceremony, we were on another floor where half the room was open to a balcony, letting in the cool fresh air.”


Earlier in the month, I went to a wedding in Florida. The groom’s family was Catholic and the bride’s was Indian-Jamaican. The ceremonies happened one after the other in an unexpected combination of perspectives on wedding ceremonies. On the one hand you had a wooden alter with hanging purple and pink flowers, the words of an ordained minister who was the groom’s grandfather and a traditional wedding melody at the end, followed by a Beyoncé song unexpectedly and somewhat awkward. During the Indian ceremony the bride wore a long red dress embroidered with gold designs and a red saree. There was a mandap (alter) with two low chairs, a red carpet, yellow curtains and bead necklaces hanging on the sides.

At the beginning of the ceremony a troupe of dancers and drummers went around dancing and playing music behind the groom, as if walking him to the altar. Then at some point he met the bride in front of the altar and they sat down, and had a Mangala Sutra link them together to symbolize bonding.

Early on Europeans, considered marriage a civil institution. After Christian theologist began writing about couples getting hitched, the Christian church became involved in the ceremonies.

Towards the end rice and popcorn was thrown at the bride and groom. Although, I could not hear much of what the priest was saying, (a fault of the microphone being to close to his face and his accent), I enjoyed watching the ceremony. The bride kept her red Indian dress the entire night, foregoing the white wedding dress. It was clear the Indian ceremony had more of a festive energy, and even the few mishaps were not awkward, but the former ceremony was framed in an ominous and devout tone: “As god is our witness,” someone said, so that it made you feel constrained. During the Indian ceremony, we were on another floor where half the room was open to a balcony, letting in the cool fresh air.


During the Florida wedding it was admirable to witness traditional elements or religious practices mixed with a modern take on marriage. Seeing these two young people from different cultures come together based on love and friendship found in a college campus is emblematic of a 21st century wedding. Not that everyone has to espouse a similar interpretation, but it’s worth taking note of how far we have come as a society. In a traditional Indian marriage  the bride would have been given away to someone who the parents picked, someone from the same religion and nationality.

The concept of marriage has always varied by culture, and it’s significance and meaning have  changed over the years.  It’s unrealistic to be attached to the idea of a “traditional marriage,” since it continues to be redefined. Marriage wasn’t always synonymous with love and friendship as it is now. Initially ancient societies used marriage for the purpose of securing land, wealth, bloodline and offsprings. And it wasn’t until 1563, when the Catholic church began calling marriage a sacred ritual to be performed in church. Flash-forward to today and we are discussing marriage equality for gay couples. I see marriage as a civil institution that is meant to protect and offer benefits to couples under the law. I don’t see it as a religious ritual, nor do I think it’s unreasonable to remain unmarried, since it’s not longer a pre-requisite to having offsprings.

Two people getting together, believing that they are perfect for each other, while not fully knowing each other enough to predict how it will turn out, is a risky bet. You’re essentially putting all your hopes on one person. I’ve been listening to Alain de Botton as of late, on love and marriage, just to give a final bow on the wedding season. In his essay, “Why you will marry the wrong person?” He writes, “Marriage ends up as a hopeful, generous, infinitely kind gamble taken by two people who don’t know yet who they are or who the other might be, binding themselves to a future they cannot conceive of and have carefully avoided investigating.”

“But those moments when you don’t understand each other, is perhaps the best part, because you can learn something about your partner that may have remained hidden.”

“Healthier, happier lives,” in the background.

Marriage is a risky proposal whether you are in it for love or reason. Nowadays there’s usually a combination of both. Getting married solely for reason seems devoid of feeling and it takes us back to a time when people married each other for economic interest and status. Nowadays most people follow their instinct when searching for a partner, which takes us away from the archaic days when we had to marry for titles and wealth. Still, if you are getting married on pure whim and feeling, it can increase the probability that your mistake will be greater, because love can be fleeting and you have to wonder what it’s based on and if it has longevity. How you feel about your partner may not be the same 10 years down the road.

I think people inherently know that relationships require work and that it’s not always going to be filled with happiness and compromise. But those moments when you don’t understand each other, is perhaps the best part, because you can learn something about your partner that may have remained hidden. You know, you truly love someone when even your arguments are interesting and memorable. Though your partner might rile you up into a ball of cat fur, the reconciliation makes it all the worthwhile.

Finding a partner doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be compatible with you, but the success of your relationship depends on how you manage those differences, and learn to sensibly resolve conflicts. There’s a way to ameliorate those variables when searching for a partner, since people tend to go with those who are closest to their ideal version of a partner. I don’t think that version is stagnant, since it’s constantly being altered and questioned, because what you think you may have wanted in someone isn’t exactly what you need.

Sunset


There was a small dream the night before. I was on a strange block with ongoing houses. I tried to write my feelings down in my journal, on being alone at that moment, staring into the emptiness of the night under what seemed to be the beginning of sunset and the softening of the day’s humidity. But then, I saw a darkness at the end of the block, so immense and infinite that it overwhelmed me. I went inside my house, almost thinking it was a sanctuary. I found you organizing clothes and unpacking, and you started telling me about your high school days, and my thoughts moved to how different your experience was compared to mine.

Queens is home


The other day I happened to turn on Anthony Bourdain’s Parts Unknown. I hardly ever watch it, for one since it’s on CNN, and I find the dialogue over-reaching, but I guess that’s his style and it goes with the dramatics of CNN.

On this particular episode they were in Queens out of all places. The Queens of my childhood was on TV with images of Rockaway, Jackson Heights, Jamaica and other neighborhoods. Bourdain visited several restaurants and talked to business owners, residents, many of them immigrants. When they focused on Jackson Heights, I immediately recognized the place they filmed— right outside the 7 train near the street closed off to traffic. They must have filmed it during the election or right after, because there were protests that felt critical, right around inauguration. I realized I had been away from my city in the pivotal moment when people were most distraught. I was in Peru during the inauguration. I could think of no better place to be, although it did feel like I was taking the easy way out, by abandoning the place I called home since I was a child.

The Queens episode was such an emblematic one, especially within the context of the current political climate. As one friend said, it reminded her that this was always a nation of immigrants; Queens was proof that immigrants made this nation prosperous by finding economic opportunities, moving out of poverty and helping others along the way. I could see it in these neighborhoods, where people of different nationalities coexisted and found a new identity far more home. The changes from one ethnic enclave to another are often within a few blocks or segments; they don’t constitute large areas, in what is referred to as little Italy, little India, little morocco or little Korea for example. The episode reminded me of the physical smallness of Queens: all the stores next to each other, the small enclaves, the hidden stores found down a flight of stairs, the narrow corridors, the anonymous faces on the street, the silence of the train platform before an incoming train, the cool energetic breeze that is ever-present in the fall.

Jackson Heights

To many immigrants, Queens represents a starting point where anything is possible, where you can find opportunities and a feeling of being welcomed. The people who came before you, know the struggle of starting a small business without a storefront, job hunting, going to school, juggling different jobs, or learning a new language. There was a story about Korean man who had been adopted and never really knew much about Korean food, until he started his own restaurant business in America. He found his Korean roots among other Koreans in a country far away from his own. There was the story of a Mexican woman selling tamales in Junction Blvd. She made them in her kitchen. During first couple of years, she would get arrested along with her husband , since they did not have a license to sell until they bought a registered cart. In a couple of years, she turned the business into a full-time job, selling over 2,000 tamales on weekends. There was a story about a guy from Jamaica who bought a historical Irish bar in Jamaica and saved it from closing.

Being away from Queens has allowed me to appreciate it a bit more. I remember growing tired of the crowds, but now I think back to the times where I found it mesmerizing; it was a chance to feel distant yet close to the field of people walking at their own rhythm. There was something comforting about loosing yourself in a crowd.

The eateries Mr. Bourdain visited

 


 

Update: raining jobbies plus bike accident

Image: Cynthia Via

For the last few weeks it has been raining jobbies. I had applied to some in February and was getting suspicious that my phone was still silent. I should have known Mardi Gras was no time to be searching for jobs, because towards mid-March I was getting phone calls and some interviews. Albeit there was one job scam I thwarted, and I also had a bike accident that halted my energy, but overall it was a productive month including an article I published for Nola Defenders.

Everything was going well until that turn. Last week I headed to the CBD wearing my helmet, and decided to turn on St. Charles, possibly the worst idea of the week. My wheel got caught in one of the exposed rails where you could see the cement floor had parted and was protruding over the rails. My bike was wheezing by but couldn’t make it over and I fell on my left side and hit my head. I could see the gray cement for blocks. I quickly got up and the pain didn’t begin until I stepped on the sidewalk. I heard people from afar asking, “Are you ok?” I had little bright lights flashing above my eyes. No cars passed by. I noticed I had a big scrape on my left knee as a guy in a suit approached me. “Are you sure you’re ok?” He asked. I was alive if that’s what he meant, and functional to a certain degree. I walked over to Gravier St, locked my bike and went to CVS to get band-aids and Neosporin. I had some clean napkins to subside the bleeding, though it wasn’t a whole lot but it was still noticeably bloody.

My scrape is still healing but at least I’m past the terrible pain phase. After everything was over I noticed that I also had bruises on both of my legs.  The second day after the fall random headaches appeared that have faded by now, and it made me suspicious about how well I could function. I read somewhere that if you hit your head hard enough you can lose your memory or your personality may change. Days after I was noticeably tired and easily distraught, I also didn’t have much energy. I couldn’t pay attention when reading. I even found the smooth radio voices irritating. A couple of days after I went to an improv show, which had the opposite effect on me. Leaving my house was refreshing on its own and the laughs along with a strawberry beer made me feel relieved. Now I’m slowly starting to get back in action though yesterday was somewhat a lazy day, and only slightly productive with freelance work. Ever since I fell that day on St. Charles I’m less motivated to do anything but I know I have to push on.

Medicine: laughs and a strawberry beer.

When traveling


New Orleans gets plenty of tourism, and it’s no surprise friends and family come to visit. It’s always a revelation to take them to the French Quarter and the surrounding neighborhoods like Marigny and Tremé, depending on their curiosity. I find it interesting the way they perceive what is unfolding before them, often expressed in simple comments, awes of silence, the flashing of photos, the way they interact with people or their nervousness when seeing a new place. They may notice everything at once or notice nothing at all. The most annoying aspect is when you find a visitor glued to their phone and failing to interact with anything outside social media.

While some are open to everything a place has to offer, others may want to frequent the same corners they would encounter back home. And it’s not abnormal to want what is familiar, because we all want our comfort—to be in a safe, secure place that makes us happy and fulfilled, and usually those places are the ones we feel close to. On the spectrum of possibilities we search for the closest avenues to our reality, ones that would easily satisfy us. While this seems to be a practical view in the short-term, and uses time efficiently, it can also prevent us from a genuine experience that could teach us a profound lesson.

It’s not surprising to find that tourists carry their life with them, as if in a suitcase, often comparing their home to the new destination. I wish they could leave their home for a bit and explore with fresh eyes. But that can be difficult for anyone, since we are tied to the place we live, which is inevitably attached to biases. This affects how we perceive a new place dissimilar to the one we encounter everyday. A trip anywhere could be more fruitful if you go with an open mind. I have come to understand that not everyone is willing to fully immerse themselves in an experience.

Some people are initially cautious, but despite their fears do eventually jump at the chance to be active explorers. Their hesitancy quickly fades when they acknowledge that experiences don’t have to fall into two categories good or bad, and that there’s a spectrum of emotions each rich with thought. They give themselves a little more room to explore even in places they had not expected to encounter. Traveling often challenges our way of thinking in one way or other, even if we don’t want to admit it. Traveling changes us and I think that’s the whole point.

This time last year

Image: Cynthia Via

 

I’m working from home. It’s late afternoon and it’s raining outside. Mini floods have covered the outside world. I woke up early to do some stretches and went to clean the kitchen only to find a mess. I woke up to find a quarter-sized hole in my pear that had been sitting over the counter, and a blue towel left with holes. Clearly this was the work of a rat. Days ago my roommates said they heard a rat behind the wall, and the landlord had set up traps in hidden corners.

This week was the hardest to bike since I’ve been in New Orleans. The winds have been going wild, threatening to punish my bike. Earlier a 30 minute bike ride to Bywater turned out to be a long hour ordeal, granted I was already late to an event. Before leaving I went outside to the black and white cats my roommate was feeding. I petted one of them, since the rest were still estranged. The friendlier one let me scratch his rump. Who knows how long my roommate had been out here petting the cats while I lay asleep.

It was still humid at 10 a.m. when I decided to leave. My tight jeans and jacket made it uncomfortable to bike, not to mention I was wearing flats and the air was sending a fury of leaves straight for my face. This was turning out to be arduous with the dirt in my eyes and my tight jeans. By the time I made it St. Roch, I was dreading the bike ride. I took off my jacket. By now my jeans were sticky, and I would arrive late. I heard the train noise from afar.  On Press St. that inopportune train passed by or, better yet, failed to pass. It was stalling, going back and forth— not clearing the tracks. Finally it started retreating. I was free from the train, but I still felt slow in my clothes. At least the cool air was back.

 

The reality show

Photo: Cynthia Via
Krewe de Veux Mardi Gras float in New Orleans. Photo: Cynthia Via

Today I went out to finish some errands and while waiting for the streetcar, I decided on the fine idea of getting fries from a po boy place. I have no business spending money on fries, but alas, I dug into the brown paper bag for some greasy fries and kept checking my iphone, not caring about the greasy smell emanating from the bag. I was reading instagram comments on President’s Obama’s White House photographer who was shading orange bastard. Here I am digging into a bag of greasy fries, laughing that some photographer is making fun of orange face in a nuanced, classy way. Some comments included, “That’s such a great way of trolling xxxx!” or “ He’s definitely part of the resistance.” People who are anti-dufus are calling themselves the resistance. Resist always, world.

I have to try harder to keep myself away from social media. It’s ruining my concentration. Since when do I watch white house briefings? But the onslaught of lies is so comical, you almost can’t believe it’s real. This guy is our fucking president. A couple of nights before, I heard a reporter say: “at this point everything the white house says should be considered propaganda, and treat it as such.”

Before I continue rambling —I’m just going to stop myself. It’s possible that I’ve been diving head first into the news of the day for one reason to be informed, but it’s turning into entertainment and outrage, which distracts me from purposeful activity. I’m suppose to be searching for a new job, but I waste time browsing twitter and listening to the radio, or worse turning on CNN. I fear any day, a reporter’s head will blow off as they try to factually disprove statements from the white house. There was a group of panelists on CNN in sheer disbelief as they tried to make sense of Flynngate, and the recent LIESSSSSS. I have to keep reminding myself news addiction is unhealthy. I should try to concentrate on myself, and find moments of peace. Still this is American’s most wretched reality show in history, and everyone is watching. A show on how we lose our humanity. The administration is selling us entertainment (everyday is a new scandal, meltdown, alternative fact or hatefest towards the media) and we continue to watch, anticipating the next disaster because the media plays into it so well and we follow along. How will it unfold? Will the U.S. survive these unjust human right violations? Will ICE raid immigrants’ homes indefinitely? Will smog, oil spills, and climate-related deaths be considered a normal occurrence?

It’s sad that even if you turn this off—so as not to carry on with the next episode— the reality of the white house will continue to exist despite watching it or not. It’s matters greatly though if you take action, but how do you stay informed without drowning in current news? I keep reminding myself, to be more selective about what I choose to worry about, and make a plan about how to counteract some of those laws and executive orders that will hurt us the most. It’s tiring and stressful to be concerned about everything, when everyday there’s something more mind-boggling than the last. People should stop paying attention to the drama, and more to policy, cabinet positions, and EOs.

My drink of choice tonight was Franziskamer Weissbier.

Black Creek Trail

On the last full day in the woods, we hiked back to the beginning of the trail, knowing we would have to find a spot to sleep before dark, something preferably a half-hour before sundown, since we needed time to set up our tent. We passed wide paths, sprinkled with fallen or crooked trees on the sides, staying alert for a chance to see birds; we could hear them, but we couldn’t see them. The trail blended in with the wide forest and the undulating hills, at times going upward or downward. I wondered if sundown would be upon us soon, too lazy to check my phone, which was buried in my backpack.

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The tree trunk bridge.

I grew bored watching the trail, which had turned narrow again with lengthy trees on both sides, producing a type of tunnel vision. Sometimes one of us would trip on a cleverly hidden hole, covered by dry twigs. What followed were steep hills (though not so steep in retrospect), and since I had two sticks, I didn’t tumble down like a fat rock, considering I was carrying a heavy backpack, weighing 30 pounds. The walking sticks I found were surprisingly the right size, and sturdy enough for my weight. We walked quickly, set on finding a camping spot. We passed a decent area, but since we still have enough time, we decided to hike a little more. If we made up the distance there would be less walking the next day, which I was hoping for. Back at the tree trunk bridge I saw a flat, elevated spot just next to a small creek. The first time I walked over the tree trunk sitting above a creek with mostly pointy rocks, I thought how dangerous that people had to cross a makeshift bridge, though firmly in place, it did not give much confidence, since there was only a rope to hold onto. We settled our stuff and set up our tent on a flat area was surrounded by tall trees that didn’t overcrowd us, so we could still walk around and we had enough open space to peek at the sky. Further down there was a sandy spot, closer to the creek.

One of the casualties of this hike was a lost sock.

It was building up to be a cold night under the stars. Not even the canister’s fire kept us warm. There was a fire ban in De Soto National Forest because of the recent wildfires in nearby states so we couldn’t build a campfire. After much preparation my lentil soup was warm enough to eat. I could finally hide inside my sleeping bag. After dinner we walked through twigs, ducking under the trees, using our flashlights to illuminate the way. Finally we arrived at a spot where a tree trunk lay across the ground, allowing us to sit down and stare at the dark blue sky. I felt cold despite my gloves and sweater. I had lost all my winter resilience thanks to the warm days in New Orleans.

The sky was dotted with an unending number of stars. I tried to connect the dots in my mind to imagine a constellation of my own. I thought about the Pleiades or Seven Sister star cluster I had learned about recently. To the Incan and Andean people of Peru, the rising of the star cluster signaled the beginning of the Incan Year, but also the dimness of the stars hinted at the amount of rainfall in the next months following the month of June, which would let farmers know when to plant crops. When the thickness of the clouds obscured the Pleiades, it informed the farmers a dry season would follow, forcing them to wait. Scientists have correlated the weather pattern to El Niño. I wondered where Pleiades was now, during our fall season. Somehow with these observations of nature and Astronomy, I felt more grounded and lucid. Something as simple as sleeping in the woods under a tent allowed for a feeling of meaning and place.

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The smallest place.