Arrange marriages

sister, cousin, and I)
(left to right: sister, cousin, and I)

When I was about thirteen, my cousin was married off.  She was about seventeen or eighteen I believe.  It all started when one of the single men who was an acquaintance of both of our family, saw my cousin.  I guess he fell in love with her, but the feeling was not mutual.  My cousin was in love with someone else.  Unbeknown-est to my cousin, the man was serious in his pursuit of her.  He was bound and determine to make her his wife. 

One weekend he brought his parents and relatives to Clovis to ask her sister and brother-in-law for her hand in marriage.  Her sister agreed without my cousin’s consent.  The adults set the term of agreement for the marriage, like how much dowry he was going to give to her sister and brother-in-law. My cousin was devastated because she was not remotely attracted this man much less love him.  She was already in love with someone else, but that did not matter because once her family gave their word, it was a done deal!

A couple of weeks before the wedding, her betrothal came down from Canyon to Clovis to take her shopping for something.  I don’t even remember what for, but I think it was bed linens because I remember we looked at some.  He asked her if she liked it, and she practically snarled at him that she didn’t care. Since my cousin dragged me along, I had no choice but to go because she was my favorite and I knew she didn’t want to be alone with him. I think she was being rude to him, in hopes that he would not want to marry her.  Poor my cousin because he still did not cancel the wedding even when she tried to run away  before the wedding.

I was given the ‘honor” of washing the groom’s feet on the day of the wedding.  At thirteen, I really didn’t want to wash anybody’s knarly feet, much less those of the man my cousin despised.  However, since I was asked I couldn’t say hell no.  Sometimes it’s difficult to be an obedient Lao girl!

There was a procession of musician and people leading the groom to the bride’s house.  When the groom gets there, and before he can enter the house, I pour perfumed water on his feet after he passes the “questioning’ from my cousin’s family.  Questions like what are his intention? Why should they let him in?  Of course, this is all done goodnaturely, and they didn’t ask the most important person which was my cousin.  I’m sure she would have grab the perfumed water bowl from my hands, throw it at his face, tell him to go to hell and slam the door. However, since she was not the one at the door, she did the next best thing, she got stinking drunk on her wedding day at the feast. 

There were rumors that the guy she loved was going to attend the wedding.  I don’t remember if he did or not.  I know that he did not get married for awhile. 

What happened to my cousin is not an isolated case.  One of my good friend was about 16 when she let it slipped that she like this man from Amarillo.  Once again, he was a family acquaintenance. After she said she liked him, the planning started.  My friend said, the details were ironed out and the next thing you know she found herself married to a man who was 10 years older than her.  I recently asked her why did she give in when she was not sure.  She said, ” You know as well as I that we were raised to obey and respect our parents.  I didn’t know how to say no.” 

I believe the marriage last about a year before my friend took off and called home and told her parents that she was not coming back home until he husband was gone.  When he left she came home. 

Sixteen and absolutely no sense of style
Sixteen and absolutely no sense of style

When I was sixteen or seventeen, my dad’s best friend’s son told me a secret.  He said he heard his uncle tell his dad that he wanted to marry me because I was so sweet and such a nice girl.  I have to admit at the time I did think his uncle was kind of good looking and nice but I saw what happened to my cousin and my friend.  I decided the best way to stop his admiration was to act dumb, immature, and goofy. I didn’t think my parents would marry me off because they always told me I was not to get marry until after college.  However, I am ashamed to say, I misjudged my parents.  When the subject was brought up, my parents laughed and told everyone I was not going to get marry anytime soon since I was going college.  This is one area my parents and I agree on!

Do I agree with arrange marriages?  It doesn’t really matter because it is up to the individual to decide how they want to live their life.


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