Now that I am happily married to my own blue eyed gringo, I am always stricken by the differences between us and our respective families. Marriage is hard business indeed, (all that seating on pee because they won’t put the sit up, hearing them go the bathroom, or worse yet when you are warned not to go in right after they leave it…it’s hard work indeed.
Since my cousins, my sister and I are all married to men from different cultures, I never run out of things to compare notes about. We are one of those brave few who jump in a risky venture like marriage with the added variant of a cultural gap. Believe me they are never ending, from something as minor as the cartoons we watched growing up, pop culture references to something major like the holidays and how we relate to other family members.
Take for example when my Dear Husband and I started dating, my aunt and grandma where so curious they demanded I took a picture of him, they asked me about his profession, how tall he was, if he was cute and if he came from a good family. All I had to say was that he had pretty blue eyes (he insists they are green) a college degree and his parents were missionaries to guarantee the seal of approval.
I was present when Dear Husband called his grandpa for father’s day and the conversation was something like this: “I hear you have a new girlfriend” Grandpa L said. “Yes, grandpa, I do” He answered looking at me smiling and holding my hand all romantically. “Is she black?” Grandpa L asked making Dear Husband blush as I gasped with the spit I swallowed wrong.
Now I am NOT implying that my now grandpa-in-law is racist, not at all! The man is also an ex-missionary who has helped and lived with people of all races, nationalities and cultures, but the fact is, here in America marrying outside of your race or culture is still something that is worth discussing. Worth talking about. I laughed my ass off when he asked that and even more when Dear Husband said: “No, she’s Hispanic” and his grandpa said: “Ooo a hot Latina” Which I found adorable.
I have 27 first cousins, FIRST Cousins, and that does not include all the second cousins and the cousins of cousins that I also consider cousins. Dear Husband has five or six? Our differences don’t end there. Dear Husband is close to his family in such a different way I am to mine. Boundaries and privacy are practically non-existent when you are Hispanic, there are no secrets, no gossip left untold, no argument between couples that the whole family doesn’t hear about and no medical treatment that some cousin is taking that we are not all privy of. I knew the moment that one of my cousins was diagnosed with irritable bowel movement, I knew when my other cousin started treatment to get pregnant and how often and when during the day she took her shots, I knew when she got an urinary tract infection and I knew that my other cousin was suffering from an early form of ulcer.
We are so all up in each other’s business ALL THE TIME that I find it
My parents in law came to our wedding and stayed in a hotel, to what my mom said: “What for? We have a pull out couch” In a completely puzzled tone of voice, and would’ve been offended if I didn’t tell her that is just the way they are, and they were trying to be nice by not inconveniencing us. “What inconvenience? We are family now” She said and to this day I still think she thinks they thought her couch was not good enough.
Pull out couches had to be a Hispanic invention. What a better way to guarantee family members to stay over at all times! My mom’s cousins (they were raised together they are not even related!) spent 5 months each year for two years living with us. They would come in December and leave in April and stay with us the entire time. Dear Husband who was living with me at the time (IN SIN! Scandal!) had a hard time understanding that concept. He didn’t understand why someone would want to spend five months cramped in one room when there were other alternatives, hotels, apartments for rent, etc. He doesn’t understand that Hispanic families have two problems, they have a problem saying no, so even if we didn’t want them there we couldn’t say anything and we have a complete disregard for our family’s space and need for privacy.
I am sure next time his family comes over they will rent a hotel room again and stay over there while we in a very civilized way see each other for dinners and brunches and then part company at night when everybody goes their until the next morning.
In my family there is no hotel room good enough when there is an extra bed empty where cousins, uncles, aunts and grandparents can crash, there is no meeting for brunch but two hours of complete and utter bedlam while ten people try to make breakfast, talking and laughing at the same time and asking for coffee at the top of their lungs. There is no room service but an uncomfortable yet common sharing of bathroom to pee while others shower. There’s the saying “Oh mija me guindas de cualquier clavito” which roughly translates to “Oh hon you can put me anywhere” Actually if one family member were to call the other asking if it was a problem to stay over we would assume they are mad at us. “I think she’s mad at me! Why else would she call to ask and make a sarcastic question about being able to stay? What does she want? A written invitation?”
Dear Husband opened the door to find some family members at the door who were staying the night to travel to a town close by. “Oh I didn’t know they were coming” He said to me hugging everyone and giving them kisses in the cheek like he learned to do since we met. “Neither did I” I said and he just laughed at us and our utter lack of etiquette when it comes to family.
I have been blessed with the most sociable of gringos who has not one complained about the size of my family, the frequency of their visits or the volume of their voice. He talks to my cousins, teases them on facebook, argues with my uncle and seamlessly and easily became one of them. I know I envy Dear Husband’s family respect of privacy and their so sweet and nice way of trying to make things easy for everyone and not inconvenience by staying somewhere else. But I know without a doubt that when my kitchen is as busy as a bus stop with people yelling and laughing and elbows are digging everywhere and we are all driving each other crazy and being insanely loud, that if they were in a hotel across town, I would miss them terribly.