Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Arranged Marriages

Phone call, last Tuesday.  It's my husband, "[Here is the part of the conversation you don't give a damn about].  Oh, and by the way," he says in a suspiciously casual tone, "I got a call from X, and he said he might be getting married on Saturday, so you should probably reschedule dinner with [our friends who most likely wish to remain anonymous]."  

"Might be getting married?"  

It turns out that Mr. X has been e-mailing a young lady in Dubai for the past few months, she had accompanied her parents to Florida this past week, and this young lady and Mr. X went out for coffee.  Before the frozen frappuccinos they ordered at Barnes and Noble could get all slushy, they were engaged to be married for the day after tomorrow.  

Welcome to the world of arranged marriages, kindly leave your notions regarding prolonged courtship at the door.

Truth be told, I'm no stranger to arranged marriages, at least if one counts my experience as one of association.  My parents' marriage was arranged, as was my sister's (sort of), many of my aunts and uncles, cousins, and, of course, friends.  So, the fact that Mr. X's nuptials were of the arranged persuasion was not what floored me.  I was more surprised by the speed.  Coffee on Tuesday, wedding on Saturday.

Interestingly, this express train to marital bliss is actually not entirely unusual in the world of arranged marriages.  I suppose having grown up in the West, I'm supposed to take the position that this sort of arrangement is archaic and perhaps a little oppressive, but I don't.

I've thought long and hard about the issue of arranged marriages, and, in all truth, it's fine by me.  (Yes, dear friends, you may go forth now in the world and happily engage in arranged marriages now that you have the coveted "Faiqa's seal of approval"!).  

The courtship phase between my husband and I lasted almost four years.  Nothing that I learned in those four years prepared me for the arguments, letdowns or blind rages that are intrinsic in any marriage.  In fact, I would go so far as to argue that the longer the courtship, the more pronounced the lie becomes that you actually know the person you are going to marry. Our prolonged courtship did, of course, afford us the advantage of being friends long before we were husband and wife.  And, I suppose, that the adamant pursuit to preserve that friendship certainly preserved our marriage on some certainly rough occasions.  

But back to arranged marriages and my pithy defense of them.  Some people argue that marriage is just a piece of paper.  I don't agree that it is just that.  Marriage is a contract, a legally binding one at that. When two people enter into this legal contract, they are, consciously or not, authenticating the superculture which has, in fact, imposed this contract upon them.  They are accepting that being someone's wife or someone's husband is defined by entities outside of the two of them.  This overtly extends to financial obligations, but insidiously refers to other BS such as who is supposed to do the dishes and who takes out the trash.  (Everyone knows husbands are supposed to take out the trash.)  

The problematic nature of a marriage that is not arranged, then, rears itself when legally married people exhibit an unwillingness to adhere to their superculture's definition of marriage.  (Why does my Mac keep underlining superculture as a typo?  Did I just make up that word?).  

Those of us who do not have arranged marriages often want to redefine what it means to be a husband or a wife.  Everything is negotiable: is it, in fact, until death do us part, and in sickness and in health?  Do I have to call your parents mom and dad?  What do you mean you're not changing your last name?  I'm not implying that this renegotiation should not be done, all I am saying is that it is potentially problematic.  (Personally, Faiqa Khan is all for renegotiation).

In the most perfect sense, an arranged marriage, in which both parties are willing participants, fully acknowledges the cultural parameters of marital definitions.  Everybody knows their part in this play, and there is likely to be little improvisation.  

Some people actually like that.  Some people like to know exactly where they stand, what is expected of them and that they can hold others accountable to a prescribed set of obligations and behaviors.  Furthermore, while those of us who did not have arranged marriages have the friendship created before our marriage to save us from our incessant bickering, individuals who have opted for arranged marriage have entire families devoted to the preservation of their marriage.  Why should we raise our unarranged marriage eyebrows at that?

As a disclaimer, I have to mention that I am firmly opposed to the arranged marriage of children and unwilling participants.  But then again, I am firmly opposed to the unarranged marriages of the same parties.  

And another thing... a lot of people like to catch hold of the idea that arranged marriages bear particularly oppressive upon the women involved in those marriages.  I'd like to counter that, barring a "forced" marriage, which is an entirely different entity than an arranged marriage, I don't think arranged marriages are any more oppressive than plain old marriages.  I'm sure that any married woman who gets her legs waxed would be inclined to agree with me.

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

A Day Off From the Internet

I was listening to Sirius BBC Radio Forum in my car a few days ago, like I do whenever the 80s station is playing Whitesnake, and some Frenchwoman named Cecille was heading that day's discussion. Truth be told, I'm not sure if she's really French or not, but she sounded French. And I don't know why that would be important, but I feel like it should be. 

Anyway, Cecille was proposing that the entire world mandate a day off from the Internet once a week. Furthermore, since most world religions approach Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays as obligatory holy days, Cecille thinks that this day off from the Internet should be during the week.

Let me repeat that for dramatic effect: an entire day off from the Internet including e-mail one weekday per week.

Does anyone else think Cecille is kind of an idiot? I will ignore the most obviously idiotic parameters of her argument, such as the fact that this whole topic of discussion is akin to the "how many angels are on the head of a pin" discussion (for the record, I think there are only 3).  I will only briefly intimate that if it were up to Cecille, we would probably all be wearing loincloths, clubbing each over the head for raw meat and not using indoor plumbing.  I will, however, address Cecille's insistence that her value system be adopted by the entire world.

Miss Parlez-Vous thinks the world should stop using the Internet one weekday per week because she believes that people are not living life because they are too busy surfing the net, hanging out on social networking sites and (gasp) blogging.

Obviously, Frenchy wasn't talking about me because I live life.  And since it's 1a.m., I'm not ignoring the important people in my life in order to engage in Internet escapades.  True, the few hours of extra sleep might make me more pleasant first thing in the morning, but I think my grumpiness ultimately provides character building opportunities for my daughter and husband.  Nonetheless, I am a little irritated by Vive La Republique's complete and total lack of tolerance for people who want to be on the Internet all the time.

Frankly, people who don't like people should be allowed to avoid people if they want (does anyone else have a Depeche Mode song blaring in their heads right now?). The beauty of the Internet, French Toast, is that antisocial types can connect with people on their own terms whereas without it they might not connect with anybody, at all.

Finally, and this is the most important point of all, we need antisocial geekheads so that we can all feel good about how well adjusted we are.  Why does French Fry want to take that away from us?


Monday, July 21, 2008

Strawberry Shortcake

Did anyone else play with Strawberry Shortcake when they were a kid?  Men, before you grunt, and roll your eyes, I assume you are familiar with the fact that there did, in fact, exist a Strawberry Shortcake?  Well, she still does.  Yesterday, N. accompanied us to Blockbuster and decided to rent Strawberry Shortcake.  Apparently, she didn't think our selection of "Dogma" would be entertaining enough.

Is anyone else completely taken aback from the difference in old school Strawberry Shortcake and the newer version (released in 2002).  The top one is the newer version.  Sorry, I haven't figured out how to caption images just yet.  

Why is Strawberry Shortcake so damned skinny all of a sudden?  After watching the movie with N., I learned that there is still a fudge river in Strawberry Land and that she continues to be best friends with Ginger Snap, nemesis to all dieters, who still makes the best cookies.  So, the only conclusion I can come up with is that in the past 25 years, Strawberry Shortcake has developed a very effective, but quite possibly dangerous eating disorder.  How else can she eat all of that sugary goodness and still lose weight?  I haven't eaten anything that isn't baked, grilled or boiled in three weeks and am only down one and a half pounds.   

I watched that God-awful movie, whose name I will not tell you so that you will not even be tempted to rent it for your child,  and I had to tie my hands together so I wouldn't wolf down a box of cookies and chocolate bar.  And since I can't do that to N., I had to give her a piece of chocolate after it was over since she kept asking me for cookies and I didn't have any.

Strawberry, can I call you Strawberry?  Get some help.  You are perfect just the way you are. Why don't you move out of Strawberry Land?  I suggest D.C., Tariq tells me it's a great place to live.  Since there aren't any supermodels there, your treatment promises to be far more successful.  Best of luck.  Oh, and don't make any more movies. Please.

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Friday, July 18, 2008

Running on Empty

Did I mention that Tariq is training for a marathon?  Oh, well, he is.  And, frankly, I'm getting a little jealous of all the attention and admiring looks he's getting in our COI.  I mean, come on, it's running.  Like it's hard.  All you do is put one foot in front of another over and over again for an hour or two.  

With this wonderful frame of mind, I spontaneously decided to start running today.  No plan, just decided.  I googled "running programs," and it turns out if you have never run before, you should walk five minutes at a moderate pace and then run for a minute at a light jog.  After a week, you increase to two minutes and so forth.  Like I said, is that supposed to be hard or something?

It went a little something like this.

1:15p.m. Google search took place

1:20p.m. I geared up for my first running outing since I was about five years old.  Oh, did I mention that it was 1:20p.m.?  In the afternoon? In Florida?  Now, I'm no meteorologist or anything, but I'm pretty sure that the Florida sun is at its hottest at precisely 1:20p.m.

1:21 p.m. Moderate walking
1:25p.m. Break into a run.  Hey, this isn't so hard.  
1:25 and 1/2 p.m. Could it be any hotter out here?!  Thank the Almighty I downloaded Van Morrison on my IPOD last night or I would have to do this and listen to "Pocket Full of Sunshine."  
1:26p.m. I'm still alive and it is truly only by the grace of the Almighty.  Resume walking at moderate pace.

Oh, did I mention that I am pushing N. in one of those running strollers while I'm doing this?  I made sure to supply her with a Ziploc full of Teddy Grahams and a juice box so as to minimize any complaints of being hungry and thirsty.  The juice box and Teddy Grahams lasted about five minutes and now she's decided that she's training the Pakistani cricket team for their next match in India and she's yelling, "Faster, Mama, Faster!!"

1:50p.m.  I almost passed out three times before the end of the walk/run, but it's over.  I'm pretty sure that I saw my neighbor's lawn guy whip out his cell phone to call 9-1-1.

"Hello, 911?"

"Yes, sir, what is your emergency?"

"Umm, there's this Indian lady lying passed out on the lawn that I mow on Fridays."

"O.K., sir.  Is she Indian or Pakistani?"

"Umm, I'm not sure.  Is that important?"
"Well, a lot of people think it is.  Never mind, what was she doing before she passed out?"


"Running?  Is she crazy?  It's 150,000 degrees outside.  What an idiot."

"Umm, 911?  Her daughter keeps yelling, 'faster, mama, faster.' What should I do?"

"Do you have a juice box and Teddy Grahams handy?"

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Who's The Boss?

Let me tell you what, working for your husband can be a total pain in the keister. (Yeah, I just used the word keister). Last night at 11:30p.m., I sat down to update this blog and Tariq came in and said, "Are you creating those social networking accounts for the site?"

"No, I'm updating my blog."

"Oh." Insert long, awkward guilt inducing silence here. "I guess you'll do that tomorrow, then?"

"Yesss," I hissed. Deep breath, stay calm, do not kill your husband. Teach your daughter, who is standing there (yes, at 11:30p.m.) how to maturely diffuse a situation that could rapidly escalate into an all out brawl.

I looked at my computer screen, then turned to him and snapped in a pretty ferocious tone "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!!"

Who came up with the calming deep breath technique, anyway? It's totally useless. I mean, why would doing something like breathing, which I do involuntarily anyway, keep me from getting mad? I proceeded with the following argument.

When was the last time your boss called you at home while you were anesthetizing yourself in front of the television to ask you if you had completed this week's work? Could I please just sit here and work on something that does not revolve around you and your goals in life? I felt tremendously victimized, and the best thing to do in a situation like this is to stand up for yourself and really assert your right to do the things that you want to do for yourself without regard for someone else's guilt inducing agenda.

So, you know what I did? I gave him a dirty look, looked back at my laptop, and logged out of blogger and started creating social networking sites for our business. (Insert anticlimactic music here). Consciously, I am a Malcolm X, don't take no crap from nobody. Habitually and reflexively, I am a dead on Joan of Arc. Viva La Martyrdom. I really showed him.

In the end we worked it out. By "worked it out" I mean that I badgered him with guilt trips until midnight, he said at least fifty-five variations of the phrase, "I'm sorry," promised never to do it again, and proclaimed me as being "Her Exalted Faiqa-ness, queen of Justice, Being Right All the Time, and General Superiority."

Working for your husband has its perks, after all.


Monday, July 7, 2008

A piece of shameless self promotion

You probably already know that we’ve been developing a new Internet business.  And guess what?  We’re live!!  Go check it out at www.crazytoe.com.

Our site caters to a market of people who are really interested in using the latest cell phones, ultra mobile personal computers, media players and other personal electronic gadgets, but are too smart to pay retail for an item that’s going to go from cutting edge to “been there done that” in a couple of months.  Our solution?  Don’t buy the latest, when you can borrow it.

We’re lending out “luxury electronics” to our customers, like the Nokia N95, HTC TyTN II, Apple iPhone, and a lot more.  If a person wants to trade up cell phones every few months, this site will prove extremely cost effective, but the real aim is to get these gadgets into the hands of people who will really love and cherish them.  Until, that is, they find a gadget that they love more.  Then, they can swap out at anytime.  It’s like a Hollywood marriage without the messy public divorce and grotesque alimony payments.

A monthly membership fee of $4.95 per month entitles a customer to borrow any of the gadgets or cell phones listed on our site for a monthly borrowing price.  And, we want to let you know, this ain’t your grandmother’s cell phone.  (Unless your grandmother is a high powered executive who owns a Fortune 500 company and is walking around with a thousand dollar cell phone.  In which case, go grandma!!).     

In addition to the bling factor of the actual gadget, our site is going to offer a greater degree of flexibility to existing cell phone users.  Basically, customers will avoid having to sign multiple year contracts to get high end cell phones at a discounted rate from cellular providers.  We don’t just offer cell phones, though.  We’ve got hard to find accessories, PDAs, and even GPS.

We’ve also initiated a recycling program for cell phones.  It turns out cell phones have all kinds of nasty metals and parts that can cause all kinds of destruction if they’re left to decompose in a landfill.  Click on the green “Reincarnation Rocks” link on the left hand side of the website.

O.K., enough talk.  If all this doesn’t sound like your thing, that’s cool.  But, could you, would you, please, forward this message along to as many people as you possibly can?  New businesses, as you know, thrive on word of mouth and positive referrals!

Again, the link is : www.crazytoe.com.


All the Best,

Tariq Hasan & Faiqa Khan