My big fat Filipino-Chinese-Canadian wedding
I wasn’t going to write a wedding post-mortem but there are those of you have asked for an update, inquiring how feminist-me coped with the day itself and whether there was any truth to portrayal of wedding woes on movies like Rachel Getting Married and on TV shows like Rich Bride, Poor Bride.
Let’s start with the latter first. While I don’t have a drug-addicted, attention-seeking sister, a la Anne Hathaway’s character in Rachel Getting Married and though I really don’t think MOTL and I are interesting enough to merit being portrayed on these wedding reality tv shows, I can see why weddings are fodder for drama. Weddings lend themselves to high emotion and dramatic tension. The narrative script practically writes itself: with so much going on among all of the different actors involved, how can there not be? Add to the fact that you have a group of people with already pre-existing issues with each other (as in the case of families and tightly knit groups of friends), then you’ve got your money’s worth for entertainment.
That said, whatever “drama” that existed for us were of the mundane kind. There were your standard, garden-variety mishaps, such as our church singer belting out the wrong verse (and thus preventing a friend from doing her assigned reading), the hired limo arriving half an hour late (thereby vindicating my belief that wedding limos are a waste of time and money - what’s wrong with taking a taxi or public transit, people?), rearranging the seating chart at literally the final hour because of…”issues,” and dresses fitting a tad too snugly (I am proud to have eaten a 12 course Chinese banquet during our rehearsal dinner and steak and eggs for breakfast on the day itself, dresses be damned!)
All of this, though, didn’t matter, thus leading to my answer to the second query. Feminist-me coped with the wedding rather well. People kept asking me whether I had wedding day jitters. I can say, with confidence, that I didn’t. Not a single bit. It helped that I didn’t have a whole lot invested into the wedding in the sense that I’ve never fantasized about walking down the aisle and didn’t have the same expectations as others about my wedding day being the ‘most special day of my life’. So, from the outset, I wasn’t stressing about wedding details because I didn’t really care. As such, I was, by all accounts, pretty relaxed…almost too relaxed, some of my friends then observed, leading them to privately talk to me to ask whether my calmness was due to a nervous breakdown.
What were the other reasons that made me so chill? There were two reasons.
One, being PhD nerds, MOTL and I broke with tradition and asked all of our PhD friends to meet us at the grad student pub for a beer and a 5 minute “class” photo 45 minutes before the ceremony, which may have helped make me calm. Of course, I was calm even before the beer.
This leads to the second reason for why I was so laissez-faire about the entire event. I was really and truly happy, so much so that I got admonished repeatedly for trotting - and not walking - down the aisle during our rehearsal, eager as I was to be up there and get the ceremony over and done with so MOTL will finally be together. Looking at the pictures from the day itself, it struck me how my bridesmaids’ attempts to make me look like a “demure” bride, Bollywood style, completely failed because I had a big grin all throughout the day.
Admittedly, feminist-me had to restrain herself from rolling her eyes when I got asked to basically promise to give MOTL Catholic babies during our wedding vows, as per the tradition of the Canadian Catholic church. I also apparently visibly cringed when our priest introduced us as Mr. and Mrs. MOTL afterwards because I’ve long-insisted that I am keeping my last name. That said, I was mostly okay with both incidents. In deciding from the very beginning to have a Filipino-Catholic ceremony because of what this meant for my family, I knew what I signed up for. Besides, I found beauty in parts of the Filipino-Catholic ceremony symbolizing unity and togetherness, from the candle, to the chord, and to the veil. There was something meaningful about going through the same rituals that people in my family have undergone.
And I think it is this connectedness to family and friends that made the day so amazing. The entire week was happily eventful, from welcoming friends and family (including my 90 year old grandma on her first transpacific flight from the Philippines) from far away a week before the wedding to the beautiful despedida de soltera/mehendi night organized by my family and my bridesmaids two days before to my epic impromptu bachelorette party after to the rehearsal dinner and to the wedding itself. Seeing people whom MOTL and I loved from various parts of our life finally meet each other was surreal, if exciting. There were multiple reunions going on at once. There were some language barriers but ultimately, it didn’t matter because there was dancing (and lots of vino!) to break the ice.
What made me sniffly was seeing members of my family - previously living in the same city and now dispersed in various parts of the world - together again. One of the pitfalls of being part of an immigrant community is that my family only ever gets together during weddings and funerals, and seeing everyone in one room made my heart swell. I know this was also the case for MOTL.
And for me and MOTL, the wedding was also a way for us to pay tribute to our parents and family. There were battles we both lost when it came to how the day should go but once we finally accepted our family’s input, we had more fun. We’re immigrant kids with loud, happy, sprawling families, and equally loud, happy friends (most of whom, funnily enough, also come from immigrant families). People drank, people danced, people sang (especially the Filipinos) and, in more than one case, people may have gotten together. At the end of the day, that’s all we could really have asked for.
On bacon fat, documentaries, and politics: why I’m marrying MOTL despite my misgivings about the wedding industry and “marriage”
Readers of my blog know that my impending nuptials has led to a lot of existential fretting and feminist critiquing (see this, this, this, this, this, this, this, and this). In the weeks and the days leading up to the wedding, this blog has also become a way for me to roll my eyes over logistical issues (see this). Because of all of these issues, any reader would be inclined to ask the logical question: why bother getting married in the first place? Though I wrote this to explain why I’ve decided to get married, this doesn’t capture the crux of my decision to get hitched. I’m marrying MOTL because of love.
As a (pre?) millennial who is used to hiding her feelings behind a mask of irony and self-deprecation, admitting this - especially in a public forum - is difficult. I feel, though, that I owe it to those of you who read me regularly to admit that this is probably the biggest rebuttal point explaining why, despite my many misgivings, I’ve decided to get married: despite all the reasons I’ve already disclosed for why marriage and the wedding industry sucks - and because of my concurrent realization that patriarchal and outdated practices can be remodelled to fit our preferences - my love for MOTL and his for me ensures that for us, marriage makes sense.
And, readers, I love MOTL. We started as friends in the PhD program, during which we were co-survivors overcoming the tyranny of graduate school. We soon realized that our friendship had more than being “PhDs” as its basis. We both loved food! He didn’t think it weird that I keep a jar of bacon fat in my fridge to use for random recipes! We found joy in cooking together, from our disastrous attempts at replicating a genuine Chicago deep-dish pizza (our dough ended up as big as alien spaceships) to making various soups! He loves documentaries as much as I do - he is one of the few people I know who is willing to hit up three documentaries back to back during Hot Docs and together, we filmed a documentary short on immigrant hotdog vendors in Toronto that got screened in Toronto! He, well, speaks the way I speak and thinks the way I think! He is interested in politics (though we have key differences!) In our entire seven years of friendship, we have never ran out of things to say to each other, not once. Never have we stopped talking and doing things together. Back when we were friends, he is the first person I’ll call if I want to grab beers - this hasn’t changed, even today. When I’m having a shitty day, he is my go-to for drinks. This is also the case when I’m having a spectacular day and when I just want to chill.
And really, at the base of it, isn’t this what makes for a good basis for a marriage? There is no one whose company I enjoy more, whose compassion and kindness I draw more inspiration from than MOTL.
Marriage for me isn’t a leap of faith. It is, for me, a decision made with a clear head and a full heart: marriage to MOTL is the one life choice that I’ve made that I am completely certain about. We’ll definitely hit rough patches but I know that MOTL and I will bear it together with equanimity and trust. How can we not? In MOTL, I found a co-conspirator and true life partner. And that, for me, is why, ultimately, I am ok having undergone all of the aforementioned annoyances when it comes to wedding planning: the end result is that I get to marry my best friend.
What To Wear To a Spring Wedding
In the days leading up to the wedding, I have been getting emails from friends asking what to wear. Considering that it is a somewhat chilly spring here in Toronto, my friends are confounded because dressing for weather that it too cold for summer, but too warm for winter, is not an easy task. I’ve also been asked questions regarding proper sartorial etiquette, probably because people have read articles like this, which specifies wedding no-nos. Are hats and fascinators a must? Should they wear pantyhose? Is really that bad to wear black? Or white (and shades that come close)? What about pants suits?
Though I am by no means a fashion expert, having gone to a few spring weddings by now, I found the aforementioned rules obsolete. Here are my thoughts:
1. On Fascinators and hats - Whoever says that hats and fascinators are a must have obviously only ever attended British weddings. While a few of the weddings I’ve recently attended featured guests wearing cool fascinators (this was right after the Kate/William wedding), Canadian (and, for that matter, Filipino weddings) don’t really require hats and fascinators. Also, I don’t like hats. My head is quite frankly too big to fit into them. The only hats that comfortably fit my head are sombreros, which means most of my relatives probably also share the same “big head” problem, which then means that if I ask my guests to wear hats and fascinators, my relatives will only be able to wear sombreros, making the upcoming nuptials look like a Spring Break party at Senor Frogs (and that is one hell of a run-on sentence).
2. Pantyhose - As for pantyhose, they’re also not mandatory. Pantyhose stick to your legs very uncomfortably when it’s hot and also give women weirdly coloured legs when not chosen properly.
3. Black or white - As for wearing black or white (and shades close to them), I don’t really understand why this is a faux pas. I understand that some people feel that wearing white is “too close” to the colour of the bridal gown and thus those who wear white are trying to outshine the bride. Black, traditionally a colour of grief, is also construed as being too grim. (The funny thing is that both colours are, in some contexts, the colour of grief and mourning. In fact, I find interesting that brides now predominantly wear white, when some cultures see white - because of the absence of colour - as a sign of tragedy. ) For me, though I understand why traditional etiquette mandates that these colours be avoided, both perspectives seem somewhat outdated.
4. Pant suits - oh, how I love pants suit on women, especially when it is worn by the likes of Carey Mulligan and Tilda Swinton. In fact, at one point, I was contemplating wearing a trim pants suit a la Katherine Hepburn in lieu of a wedding gown but the thought of my mom, my aunties, and my grandma beating their collective chests stopped me. Also, if men can wear suits, why can’t women do so as well? Go fot it!
Moving on to the fun part of this blog post, which is on suggestions on what to wear. Considering that this will be a multicultural wedding, there will be guests wearing barongs and sayas (which is similar to what my family and I will be wearing),
kurtas, saris and salwars,
and suits and dresses.
When it comes to dresses, I have been, for the past few months, obsessed with flared dresses with sweetheart necklines and in fact wore one to a friend’s wedding last week. Not only do they nicely accentuate your decolletage, they also draw attention to your waist while also obscuring your tummy, which is perfect for when you hit up the desert buffet, amirite?
I love the detail here, from Modcloth:
And this one from Far Fetch:
I have also been obsessed with lace dresses.
Check out this lace dress from French Connection:
And this, from Adrianna Papell:
And this, from Glamorous:
Some people have asked me what elevates a simple summer dress into a dress suitable for a formal occasion. Though there is no hard and fast rule, the key is to look at the material. Generally, cheap cotton prints are seen as being a tad too casual. That said, I find that accessorizing is sufficient to ensure that seemingly casual dresses become more formal.
And so the hairstylist I hired for the wedding just cancelled…
Even for someone who deliberately chose not to make elaborate plans for my upcoming wedding, for reasons I have already disclosed on this blog, it surprises me how much time and detail is involved when planning this event. MOTL and I have both, in our university days, organized debate tournaments and so we were under the impression that organizing a wedding with less people and only encompassing one day would be easer. The difference, as we soon realized, is that planning a wedding means catering more closely to people’s specific preferences. Put differently, there is a world of difference between booking classrooms over the course of a weekend on a college campus and feeding hungry undergrads cold pizza (and if they don’t like the pizza, they can suck it) and planning an event that entails talking to numerous “vendors” (to use wedding parlance).
With five days left, when everything is supposed to be planned and all I’m supposed to be doing is getting expensive spa treatments, there are more details we have to look into. It is mildly annoying to find that tasks delegated to other people have fallen by the wayside. It is also extremely exasperating to find that last-minute bookings now need to be secured. Specifically, I just found out at 10 pm last night that the hairstylist I booked can’t make it on Friday. Then there are other logistical matters..
The funny thing about all of this is that though I am stressed, I am not freaked out. Compared to preparing for a big dissertation committee meeting or, you know, preparing for my PhD defence, wedding planning isn’t the most panic-inducing task I’ve had to do. Besides, whatever happens, even if it rains (and weather forecasts say this is likely), the day for me will be perfect. I get to party with my loved-ones and marry my favourite drinking buddy.
Top Three Coolest Literary Moms
In honor of mother’s day, I’ve listed the top three coolest moms featured in children’s books. While there are horrible mothers found in books - most notably that lascivious, murderous wretch in “Flowers in the Attic” who kept her children in the attic and fed them poisoned powdered donuts (!) - the moms below may not be as memorable but are actually incredibly inspirational.
1. Molly Weasley (Harry Potter)
While the memory of Lily Potter is what stands out for most as the ultimate testament of a mother’s love, it is Molly Weasley who I will bequeath the title of coolest mom in the Harry Potter series. Molly Weasley was the linchpin of her motley crew of ginger wizards. We all know that without Molly, the Weasleys wouldn’t be able to eat, maintain an orderly household, and even find tuition to send the kids to Hogwarts. What stands out for me, though, as the definitive reason for why Molly is badass is the way she slays Bellatrix in the final Harry Potter book. Gone is the normally placid demeanour. Out comes this, like, wickedly fierce sorceress who furiously calls Bellatrix a bitch while engaging in a wand-battle. And, because Molly has love and not hatred on her side, Bellatrix was soon a goner. (As an aside, themes of maternal love abound in Harry Potter. Haven’t you noticed this? Love is redemptive. Even Narcissa Malfloy betrayed the Dark Lord to save Draco).
2. Marmie (Little Women)
Marmie, marmie, marmie. I love marmie. Little Women was one of my favoritest books as a child. I read it over and over and over, and though I fixated on the Jo/Laurie tension and my hatred of Amy each time, I also derived much satisfaction from reading the words of wisdom Marmie dispensed. Marmie knew that Meg’s attempts at infiltrating high society was silly and superficial, that buying limes and being obsessed with such trends was a waste of time and money, and that it is always a good idea to cultivate cordial relationships with everyone, even the most beastly types (coughcoughAuntMarchcoughcough). Also, Marmie was able to run a household with scarce resources while her husband was away fighting a war. Marmie was a moral arbiter and an upstanding feminist foremother. If she was alive today, I see her being someone like Hilary Clinton or Madeline Albright since she has such a firm belief in her own convictions!
3. An-Mei Hsu’s mother (Joy Luck Club)
I know the Joy Luck Club isn’t technically a children’s book but I read it in grade four so I think it should count. In any case, the story that stood out for me the most was An-Mei Hsu’s mom, whose harrowing tale involved her being forced to become the third (or is it the fourth) wife of a rich man after being sexually assaulted. Despite being ostracized by her family and being disowned by her mother, she still went back to her village in an attempt to save her mother’s life by cutting chunks of her arm into a homemade soup, which myth says will create healing powers. Later, to ensure that her son and daughter’s standing in her household is assured, she kills herself by methodically eatingcookies laced with opium. An-Mei’s stepfather’s family is thus forced to treat her and her brother well lest An-Mei’s mother haunts them. (That’s her daughter pictured on top claiming her rightful place within the family during her mother’s funeral). While I would never claim that self-mutilation and suicide is a sign of being a badass, reading this story at a young age gave me the lasting impression of how some people, despite facing seemingly insurmountable situations, have the agency to alter the trajectory of their lives (or at least, the lives of their loved ones).
Watching today’s transit vote in Toronto Council was like…
How I feel when former students email me telling me the great things they’re now doing
Today, I received an email from a brilliant student I taught two years ago. She just got accepted into law school. Her email reads, in part:
“I’m really happy about the news and I would like to thank you for the part you played in how I developed with your engaging teaching and critical tutorial discussions.”
These are the moments that make teaching worthwhile!
“Should I continue being friends with racists?”
Since its inception, my blog ended up invariably discussing issues of race and gender frequently, perhaps because race and gender infuse my academic and activist work and also, my personal life. Thanks to the wide reach of Tumblr (and Twitter and Facebook), I’ve been lucky to get emails from those of you who are eager to share their perspectives. While I’ve had my share of hate mail, most of the messages I received have been great. Who knew blogging could be so rewarding?
I’ve also, on occasion, been asked to give advice. I’ve always personally emailed those who ask me for my insights, but I thought I’d make the following query into a blog post because I’ve received this question so often that I am starting to think this merits its own entry.
One question I frequently get asked are variations of the following dilemma:
Should I continue being friends with people who are (racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist)?
Although there are specific circumstances characterizing each person’s dilemma, the prevailing point is that tolerating the aforementioned forms of discrimination is - for a lot of people who write to me - preferable to being socially ostracized and/or losing a ‘friend’. In fact, those who write me take pains to emphasize the good qualities their friends have - that being racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist is but one aspect of their personality. Ironically, the majority of people who’ve written to me belong to the very group their so-called friends are ostracizing.
Take, for example, K’s dilemma. K is South Asian, lives in Toronto, and goes to high school in a posh private school (her words, not mine). K tells me that while she likes the people she hangs out with, she is occasionally perturbed by her peers’ tendency to approximate accents, particularly South Asian accents, in an attempt to be funny. She laughs along when her friends talk like Apu from the Simpsons, but secretly feels horrible when they do so because her parents have accents. Telling her friends to stop, for K, feels as though she will thus be ‘outing’ herself as not being part of the group but one of ‘them,’ whatever ‘them’ means. Is it worth it to break a friendship (and possibly face community isolation) by speaking up?
What I always tell readers facing this situation is that:
a. yes, their friends are being (racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic) since it is frequently the case that my readers aren’t even sure whether these actions are actually harmful or whether they are just being ‘too sensitive,’
b. they really need better friends than the ones they are hanging out with, especially if this behaviour is habitual, and
c. seriously, there are a lot of good, kind people out there who aren’t jackasses - why hang out with idiots who make us feel bad? Friendships are supposed to make us feel good, not bad. Besides, the more that they hang out with toxic people, the more their toxicity may rub off on them. Since I am a fan of second chances, my advice is to have them tell their friends to put a kibosh on all this b.s. Chances are, their friends may not realize that what they are doing is hurtful, so they’ll stop.
However, if their friends take offense and refuse to do so, then good riddance to them and move on. It’s not easy to take this stance, especially for those of you who are reading me who are still in high school and in university. But there are people out there who are kind, who care, and who you have your back.
And rest assured that I’ve done exactly this in the past. I had a friend - let’s call her WAB - who I had to cut off for this exact reason. WAB had her good qualities. She was dynamic and engaging and we had a lot of things in common.
However, WAB was also a bully. She lived with OH, a mutual friend who she constantly made fun of behind his back. She also went beyond complaining about the usual roommate conflicts spanning, you know, unwashed dishes and clutter, and secretly cast doubt on his ‘lifestyle.’ You see, OH is gay. WAB also occasionally made homophobic remarks and had a tendency to use “gay” as an adjective. When OH told him to stop doing so, she then accused him of being too “academic” and basically reiterated that it was his fault for being offended.
There were several warning signs as well. Though WAB liked being a contrarian - taking pleasure out of taking controversial stances in order to elicit a reaction from other people - there was a conversation we had that made me pause. Basically, she took the stance that it was harder to be white in South Africa than to be black, and that the discrimination white people faced in South Africa warrants them being given asylum here in Canada. Basically, she argued that blacks were “taking over” too much in South Africa, a point which I can’t even think about right now without getting angry all over again.
All of this I withstood because WAB was never directly mean to me, and, like K, did I really want to be socially castigated?
Then, the inevitable happened. I won’t delve into details but basically, I was called a racial epithet by an old white man. (And yes, folks, this happened in multicultural Toronto). I was distraught and afraid. Sure, he probably wouldn’t be able to attack me, but words do hurt. WAB, rather than having my back, basically told me to suck it up and - get this - told me that I should be more “tolerant” when old white men are racist because “they didn’t know better.”
It was then that I realized that - shared history aside - this was a friendship not worth preserving. When your first impulse is to victim-blame and not try to be a friend, then that relationship was toxic to begin with.
Those who think this all ceases after high school and college should know that there are cases when it doesn’t get better. It’s comforting to think that it will; I can see why the “it gets better” campaign resonated so much. However, those of you who are still in high school and college should note that the structures of power that enable privilege to continue unabated means that there are going to be jerks out there ‘in the real world.’ But to my readers who despair, please note that you do not have to put up with bullshit. For your self-preservation, put your energies into other activities, into finding new friends, into doing things that matter to you, and not in trying to keep up with racist/sexist/homophobic/transphobic/ableist peer groups. Life’s too short to be friends with assholes.